Click here to Skip to main content
15,359,463 members
Articles / Web Development / HTML
Posted 5 Jun 2008


39 bookmarked

ASP.NET: Themes

Rate me:
Please Sign up or sign in to vote.
3.67/5 (7 votes)
5 Jun 2008CPOL4 min read
Working wtih themes in ASP.NET.


Using themes is a cool and easy way to create a consistent look and feel across a page or an entire website. By using themes, you can easily customize your server controls with predefined looks that come with the .NET Framework, or you can create your own themes for your own look.


Themes are a way to counter the problems faced when creating a layout for server controls and giving them the same look and feel throughout the entire application, with as little effort as possible. Default or Global themes are contained in a special folder inside the framework, and can be declared in the source as well as class files. Custom made themes are saved inside the predefined "App_Themes" folder inside ASP.NET applications, making them easier to manage and use according to your needs. The essential part of themes are skin files with the .skin extension. Besides skin files, a theme can be composed of styles sheet .css files as well as images for added support for the layout of the website.


A skin file has the file name extension .skin, and contains property settings for individual controls such as Button, Label, TextBox, or Calendar. Control skin settings are like the control markup itself, but contain only the properties you want to set as part of the theme.

<asp:button runat="server" BackColor="lightblue" ForeColor="black" />

You create .skin files in the Theme folder. A .skin file can contain one or more control skins for one or more control types. You can define skins in a separate file for each control, or define all the skins for a theme in a single file.

There are two types of control skins: default skins and named skins:

  • A default skin automatically applies to all controls of the same type when a theme is applied to a page. A control skin is a default skin if it does not have a SkinID attribute. For example, if you create a default skin for a Calendar control, the control skin applies to all Calendar controls on pages that use the theme. (Default skins are matched exactly by control type, so that a Button control skin applies to all Button controls, but not to LinkButton controls or to controls that derive from the Button object.)
  • A named skin is a control skin with a SkinID property set. Named skins do not automatically apply to controls by type. Instead, you explicitly apply a named skin to a control by setting the control's SkinID property. Creating named skins allows you to set different skins for different instances of the same control in an application.

Global Themes

Built-in default themes are stored under the installation path of the .NET Framework:

%SystemRoot%\Microsoft.NET\Framework\VX.X.XXXX\ ASP.NETClientFiles\Themes\

The actual name of the subdirectory labeled vX.X.XXXX changes according to the build of ASP.NET. Themes defined in this path are visible to all applications running on the machine. You can also create your own global theme by saving it in a subfolder of the \Themes\ folder in the above directory.

Creating Page Themes

  1. In the Solution Explorer, right-click on the web site name and point to Add ASP.NET and click Themes.
  2. Visual Studio will create a App_Themes folder automatically.
  3. Create a subfolder of the App_Themes folder and name it accordingly.
  4. Add Skins, Cascading Style Sheets, and Images as needed.

Adding a Skin file to a Page Theme

  1. In the Solution Explorer. right-click the name of the theme and click Add New Item.
  2. In the Add New Item dialog box, click Skin File.
  3. Type the name of the .skin file in the name box.
  4. In the .skin file, add the control definition using a declarative syntax, only include properties you want to set for the theme. The definition must include the runat="server" attribute and must not include the ID="" attribute.
<asp:Button runat="server" 
 Font-Size="10pt" />

You can create as many or as few .skin files in the theme folder, but typically, you would only create one per control. You can define only one default Skin per control. If you want more, use the SkinID attribute in the skin's control declaration to create named Skins for the same control.

<asp:Label runat="server" ForeColor="#585880" 
   Font-Size="0.7em" Font-Names="Verdana"
   SkinID="LabelHeader" />

<asp:Label runat="server" ForeColor="#585980" 
   Font-Size="0.6em" Font-Names="Arial"
   SkinID="LabelFooter" />

Adding Cascading Style Sheets to a theme is the same as adding a skin, except in the Add New Item dialog box, you select Style Sheet.

Applying a Theme to a Web Site

  1. In the application's web.config file, set the <pages> element to the name of the theme, either page or global.
  2. ASP.NET
    <pages theme="ThemeName" />


  3. Set a style sheet theme to be subordinate to the local control properties, and set the styleSheetTheme attribute instead.
  4. ASP.NET
    <pages styleSheetTheme="ThemeName" />

Applying a Theme to an Individual Page

Set the Theme or StyleSheetTheme attribute of the @Page directive to the name of the theme.

<%@ Page Theme="ThemeName" %>
    <%@ Page StyleSheetTheme="ThemeName" %>

Applying a Named Skin to a Control

Set the control's SkinID property.

<asp:Calendar runat="server" ID="DateSelector" SkinID="LargeCalendar" />


In conclusion, I hope this information was helpful to you. Themes are a nice way to create a consistent look and feel across websites quickly and easily.


This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under The Code Project Open License (CPOL)


About the Author

United States United States
No Biography provided

Comments and Discussions

GeneralMy vote of 4 Pin
Alireza_136212-Sep-13 20:33
MemberAlireza_136212-Sep-13 20:33 
GeneralThis is not a code sample Pin
greenemj20-Oct-11 3:35
Membergreenemj20-Oct-11 3:35 
Generalstylesheet theme "crash" with meta tag Pin
nicole220211-Mar-10 19:33
Membernicole220211-Mar-10 19:33 
GeneralThemes vs style sheet Pin
Anurag Gandhi10-Jun-08 2:44
professionalAnurag Gandhi10-Jun-08 2:44 
Generalnice and informative. Pin
Rajib Ahmed5-Jun-08 16:58
MemberRajib Ahmed5-Jun-08 16:58 
GeneralExcellent Article Pin
marinaccio5-Jun-08 13:18
Membermarinaccio5-Jun-08 13:18 
GeneralI fell this article is incomplete Pin
Jcmorin5-Jun-08 11:14
MemberJcmorin5-Jun-08 11:14 
I run a few web site, I've already look at theme but never implemented in any sites because I don't have enough information or sample. After reading your article I feel the same things.

Somehow with no live or download-able example, it's hard to say this article is complete about theming for ASP.NET
GeneralRe: I fell this article is incomplete Pin
merlin9815-Jun-08 11:52
professionalmerlin9815-Jun-08 11:52 
GeneralRe: I fell this article is incomplete Pin
JamminJimE6-Jun-08 1:53
MemberJamminJimE6-Jun-08 1:53 
GeneralFormatting and insufficient content Pin
#realJSOP5-Jun-08 6:27
mva#realJSOP5-Jun-08 6:27 
GeneralFormatting broken Pin
leppie5-Jun-08 3:46
Memberleppie5-Jun-08 3:46 

General General    News News    Suggestion Suggestion    Question Question    Bug Bug    Answer Answer    Joke Joke    Praise Praise    Rant Rant    Admin Admin   

Use Ctrl+Left/Right to switch messages, Ctrl+Up/Down to switch threads, Ctrl+Shift+Left/Right to switch pages.