CKAN Documentation 2.0.4 documentation »

Theming and Customizing Appearance

After installing CKAN, the next step is probably to re-theme the site. There are a few different ways you can do this. Ranging from simply changing the logo and adding some simple CSS to writing a extension that will fully customize the look and feel of your instance.

Here are the two main ways you can customize the appearance of CKAN:

  1. Edit CKAN config options
  2. Create Custom Extension

Edit CKAN config options

This method is best if you simply want to change the logo, title, add a little custom CSS and perhaps customize a few templates. There are two types of config options you can set to customize your instance. You can set options within your CKAN config file or edit your Instance sysadmin settings.

CKAN config file

You can change both some of your front end settings and template settings from within your CKAN config file.

If you wish to change the site title, description, logo, favicon, etc, then you should consult the CKAN Configuration Options > Front-End Settings documentation.

If you wish add images, customize templates or add extra stylesheets then you should read the CKAN Configuration Options > Theming Settings documentation.


If you are planning on customizing you CKAN instance beyond the settings provided here it is recommended that you read the Create Custom Extension documentation.

Instance sysadmin settings

When you login to CKAN as a sysadmin user, you’ll see a link to the Administration page where you can edit your CKAN config options. Here are the basic config options you can change on the Administation page:

  • Site Title: This is the title of this CKAN instance. It appears in the page title and various other places throughout your CKAN instance.
  • Style: Choose from a list of simple variations of the main colour scheme to get a very quick custom theme working.
  • Site Tag Logo: This is the logo that appears in the header of all the CKAN instance templates. If you want to add a custom logo we recommened you do it here.
  • About: This text will appear on this CKAN instance’s about page. We support markdown within this field.
  • Intro Text: This text will appear on this CKAN instance’s home page as a welcome to visitors. Again markdown is supported here.
  • Custom CSS: This is a block of CSS that appears in <head> tag of every page. If you wish to customize the templates more fully we recommend using the extension method of customizing your CKAN instance.

Create Custom Extension

This method is best for you want to customize the HTML templates of you CKAN instance. It’s also more extensible and means you can make sure you keep your custom theme as seperate from CKAN core as possible.

Here follows the main topics you’ll need in order to understand how to write a custom extension in order to customize your CKAN instance.

Customizing the HTML

The main templates within CKAN use the templating language Jinja2. Jinja2 has template inheritance which means that you don’t have to re-write a whole template in order to change small elements within templates.

For more information on how to exactly change the HTML of your CKAN instance: please read the Templating > Templating within extensions documentation.

Including custom Stylesheets, JavaScript and images

Within CKAN we use a resource manager to handle the static resources that are required by any given template. In order to include a stylesheet or a JavaScript document you should tell the resource manager of its existence and then include it within your template.

For more information on how resources work within CKAN and how to add custom resources to your extension: please read the Resources > Resources within extensions documentation.


The main CKAN theme is a heavily customized version of Bootstrap. However the core of Bootstrap is no different in CKAN and therefore people familiar with Bootstrap should feel right at home writing custom HTML and CSS for CKAN.

Customizing the JavaScript

Within CKAN core we have a concept of JavaScript modules which allow you to simply attach JavaScript to DOM elements via HTML5 data attributes.

For more information on what a JavaScript module is and how to build one: please read the Building a JavaScript Module documentation.

Customizing the CSS

To customize your CSS all you really need to know is how to add a stylesheet as a resource. Beyond that it’s purely writing your own CSS and making sure it’s included on the correct pages.

For more information on how CSS works in CKAN core: please read the Front End Documentation > Stylesheets documentation.


In CKAN core we use LESS to pre-process our main CSS document. We do this to make the core CSS more maintainable (as well as to offer different basic colour styles on our default theme). It’s not necessary that you do the same, but we’d recommend using something like it if you plan on customizing your CKAN instance heavily.