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Using a Theme

In this tutorial, you’ll learn how to use Gatsby themes by creating a new site using the official Gatsby blog theme.


  • A Gatsby site

Note: This tutorial assumes you already have a Gatsby site to install your theme in. If you’d prefer to start with an entirely new site you can run gatsby new my-blog https://github.com/gatsbyjs/gatsby-starter-blog-theme to set up a starter with the blog theme already installed.

Installing the blog theme

Navigate to the root of your project inside your terminal and install the theme with the following command:

Configure the theme

In your gatsby-config.js file, add gatsby-theme-blog. This theme takes optional dependencies that you can find in the README. However, you won’t need to use them here.

Note: If you already have a landing page set up for your site, you may want to make use of the basePath option that will put your blog listing page at a path other than /, such as /blog.

Update your site metadata

Customize the information on your site by replacing the site metadata in the gatsby-config.js file. Your siteUrl should point to your public domain. It’s ok if you don’t have one yet, you can update it later.

Add some content

Before you can see anything, you’ll want to add some content so there is something to show.

By default, the posts are expected in the /content/posts directory, so create those folders and add a my-post.md file. Your file structure should look something like this.

Despite the md extension, my-post.md is treated as an MDX file. When using this theme, you can use md and mdx extensions interchangeably.

Inside that Markdown file, add content. The top section is called frontmatter and title and date are required fields.

Test run your site

To make sure everything is working, run your site. This command should be run in your terminal in your project’s root directory.

Navigate to http://localhost:8000 to see the landing page of your site.

Replace your avatar

At the moment, the bio on your pages shows a blank section where a picture should be. Add your own avatar by choosing the image you want, and overwriting the file located at /content/assets/avatar.png.

Replace the content of the bio

When using Gatsby themes, you can take advantage of something called component shadowing. This allows you to override the default component included in the theme with a custom one you’ve created.

The Gatsby blog theme package has a component that contains the content of the site author’s biography. The file path to that component (in the blog theme package, not your site) is src/gatsby-theme-blog/components/bio-content.js. You can find this path by looking through the theme in your site’s node_modules/gatsby-theme-blog directory.

If you look at the file tree of your site, you’ll see it looks something like this:

In the src directory of the site, there’s a gatsby-theme-blog directory. Any file placed in that directory with a path that matches the path of a file in the blog theme directory will completely shadow the theme.

💡 The name of the directory (here gatsby-theme-blog) must exactly mirror the name of the published theme package, which in this case is gatsby-theme-blog.

Open up the bio-content.js file and make some content edits:

At this point, you should have an updated avatar, updated site details, and an updated bio. You may want to re-run gatsby develop to make sure everything looks good.

Change the color theme

The blog theme uses gatsby-plugin-theme-ui to style your site. There are a number of presets available for you to make use of, or you can make your own!

If you want to use a preset take a look at the Theme UI preset listing.

You’re going to use @theme-ui/preset-funk. To start, you have to install it.

Next, update your gatsby-config.js file to pass in the preset package name.

If you want to further customize this theme you can shadow it. Create a file at /src/gatsby-plugin-theme-ui/index.js.

These colors will merge with the preset theme and override that part of the preset.

Change your prism theme

Another option you can make use of is prism styling for code blocks. There are many available from Theme UI.

In this example you’ll use prism-okaidia. Update your gatsby-config.js file with that option.

When you restart your development server you’ll see new syntax highlighting in your code snippets.

Take a look

Fire up your development server by running gatsby develop again in your terminal. Navigate to http://localhost:8000 and take a look at your blog listing page.

Wrapping up

This was a step-by-step introduction to using a Gatsby theme through looking at a specific example. Note that different themes will be built differently, to accept different customization options. To dive deeper, check out the Gatsby Theme docs.

What’s next?

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