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How to Create a Custom Theme and Look for SharePoint Server 2013 Sites

SharePoint Server 2013 ships with a redesigned “Theme” component and improved accessibility to tools to customize the look and feel of sites. Helpful pointers to using these newly redesigned features are still worth the time it takes to review theme. So organizations looking to customize the branding of SharePoint Server 2013 sites may want to take a look at a video tutorial authored by an expert on branding SharePoint sites, Yaroslav Pentsarskyy. The title of his tutorial on how to successfully use the look and feel tools is titled Creating SharePoint custom look/theme.

The video tutorial opens with Yaroslav defining the types of branding needs warranting production of a custom theme. Setting boundaries on where/when/how/why custom themes should be build makes sense. Why should IT teams spend a lot of time on this type of project when the objective can be achieved without building a custom theme?

The tutorial presents 5 reasons to use custom themes to brand SharePoint Server 2013 sites. If the objective of a branding project doesn’t require changes to structure templates for a page, or the addition of out of the box or custom controls to templates, or the addition of JavaScript, then building a custom theme is the preferred way to successfully deliver custom branding for sites. As well, if the objective requires coloring major elements (for example the SuiteBar), rather than specific granular elements, and customization must be propagated to “many other sites” (quoted from the tutorial), then a custom theme is the best method for the task.

The video includes a definition of “custom looks” in SharePoint Server 2013. A “custom look” contains a theme, master page, images, and even a sequence for displaying elements of the look on the page. So “custom looks” lend themselves to the type of packaging effort we discussed in the post to this blog immediately preceding this one.

Ira Michael Blonder

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