Angular Material Theming with CSS Variables

In this quick guide, we will learn how to modify theme for Angular Material 18 with CSS variables

4th June, 2024 — 5 min read

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> In this quick guide, we will learn how to modify theme for Angular Material 18 with CSS variables. ## Creating Project with Angular Material 18 ```bash npm i -g @angular/cli ng new angular-material-theming-css-vars --style scss --skip-tests --defaults cd angular-material-theming-css-vars ng add @angular/material ``` And select answers as below: ```bash ? Choose a prebuilt theme name, or "custom" for a custom theme: Custom ? Set up global Angular Material typography styles? Yes ? Include the Angular animations module? Include and enable animations ``` ## The define-theme mixin Take a look at `src/styles.scss`. Notice the usage of `define-theme` mixin: ```scss // Define the theme object. $angular-material-theming-css-vars-theme: mat.define-theme( ( color: ( theme-type: light, primary: mat.$azure-palette, tertiary: mat.$blue-palette, ), density: ( scale: 0, ), ) ); ``` We are going to make changes in above code later on to achieve customizations through CSS custom properties. ## CSS custom properties emitted by theme mixins To further customize your UI beyond the `define-theme` API, you can manually set these custom properties in your styles. For example, take a look at below code snippets: ```html Some content... Some sidenav content... Enable admin mode ``` ```scss @use '@angular/material' as mat; $light-theme: mat.define-theme(); $dark-theme: mat.define-theme(( color: ( theme-type: dark ) )); html { // Apply the base theme at the root, so it will be inherited by the whole app. @include mat.all-component-themes($light-theme); } mat-sidenav { // Override the colors to create a dark sidenav. @include mat.all-component-colors($dark-theme); } .danger { // Override the checkbox hover state to indicate that this is a dangerous setting. No need to // target the internal selectors for the elements that use these variables. --mdc-checkbox-unselected-hover-state-layer-color: red; --mdc-checkbox-unselected-hover-icon-color: red; } ``` Notice that we are change colors of checkbox through `--mdc-checkbox-unselected-hover-state-layer-color` and `--mdc-checkbox-unselected-hover-icon-color` CSS properties in `.danger` class. These CSS custom properties emitted by the theme mixins are derived from [M3's design tokens]( This approach requires you to inspect each and every component, find out the needed CSS custom properties and then change them. But, there is a better and scalable way to achieve theme customizations. ## Using `sys` variables There are total 3 properties (a.k.a. dimensions) allowed in `define-theme` mixin. 1. `color` - [Optional] A map of color options 2. `typography` - [Optional] A map of typography options. 3. `density` - [Optional] A map of density options. With `color` and `typography` maps, apart from main properties, Angular Material team has introduced a new property called `use-system-variables` of type boolean. Let's use the in our theme mixin: ```scss $angular-material-theming-css-vars-theme: mat.define-theme( ( color: ( theme-type: light, primary: mat.$azure-palette, tertiary: mat.$blue-palette, use-system-variables: true, // 👈 Added ), typography: ( use-system-variables: true, // 👈 Added ), density: ( scale: 0, ), ) ); ``` After above, we will also need to include 2 more mixins: ```scss :root { @include mat.all-component-themes($angular-material-theming-css-vars-theme); @include mat.system-level-colors($angular-material-theming-css-vars-theme); // 👈 Added @include mat.system-level-typography($angular-material-theming-css-vars-theme); // 👈 Added } ``` If you inspect the output in browser, you will notice that majority of the Angular Material CSS Custom Properties (`--mat-*` and `--mdc-*`) now read values from `--sys-*` CSS variables. Take a look at below screenshot for example: ![browser inspector showing usage of sys variables]( This means that we can simply change a particular set of `--sys-*` CSS variables to achieve the theme we want. But, what are all the possible sys variables? ### All possible sys variables The `--sys-*` variables are generated for 2 dimensions: color and typography. So, all the sys variables should be supporting all possible values of color and typography. And to get all the possible values, we can simply take a look at [Reading color roles]( and [Reading typescale properties]( ![embedded video]( ### Finding and modifying right sys variable So, if you want to modify color role `primary`, you would modify `--sys-primary` variables. Similarly, for `surface`, `secondary`, `on-primary`, you would modify `--sys-surface`, `--sys-secondary` and `--sys-on-primary`. And for typography, to change `body-large` level's `font`, we would modify `--sys-body-large-font` variable. ### Changing `mat-flat-button`'s color and background color Let's take an example of `mat-flat-button`. Let's use it in `app.component`: ```html Flat Button ``` ```ts import { Component } from '@angular/core'; import { MatButtonModule } from '@angular/material/button'; // 👈 Added @Component({ selector: 'app-root', standalone: true, imports: [MatButtonModule], // 👈 Added templateUrl: './app.component.html', styleUrl: './app.component.scss', }) export class AppComponent { } ``` Now, you can simply go to browser, open the inspector, and simply change `--sys-primary` and `--sys-on-primary` variables to see the changes: ![embedded video]( ### Using `@material/material-color-utilities` library Another way to change sys variables is using the [`@material/material-color-utilities`]( Let's install it: ```bash npm i @material/material-color-utilities ``` Next, we will use it's `argbFromHex`,`themeFromSourceColor` and `applyTheme` functions to generate all sys variables. ```ts generateDynamicTheme(ev: Event) { const fallbackColor = '#005cbb'; const sourceColor = ( as HTMLInputElement).value; let argb; try { argb = argbFromHex(sourceColor); } catch (error) { // falling to default color if it's invalid color argb = argbFromHex(fallbackColor); } const targetElement = document.documentElement; // Get the theme from a hex color const theme = themeFromSourceColor(argb); // Print out the theme as JSON console.log(JSON.stringify(theme, null, 2)); // Identify if user prefers dark theme const systemDark = window.matchMedia( '(prefers-color-scheme: dark)' ).matches; // Apply theme to root element applyTheme(theme, { target: targetElement, dark: systemDark, brightnessSuffix: true, }); const styles =; for (const key in styles) { if (, key)) { const propName = styles[key]; if (propName.indexOf('--md-sys') === 0) { const sysPropName = '--sys' + propName.replace('--md-sys-color', ''); sysPropName, ); } } } } ``` Lastly, we will add the `input` to allow user to change the colors: ```html Change Seed Color ``` Now, if you look at the output, observe that all the `--sys-*` colors are generated dynamically according to Material 3 design specs. ![embedded video]( ## Conclusion We learned that `define-theme` mixin emits custom CSS properties like `--mdc-checkbox-unselected-hover-state-layer-color` and `--mdc-checkbox-unselected-hover-icon-color`. And we can change them to modify the theme. But, a drawback would be you will have to find out such properties for each and every components. Next, we saw that it is also possible to modify a set of `--sys-*` variables to achieve the desired customizations in theme. With `--sys-*`, we have access to color roles and typescale properties for all typography levels. Lastly, we learned the usage of `@material/material-color-utilities` library and how it is very much helpful in creating the dynamic themes. ## Live Playground
Dharmen Shah
Written by Dharmen Shah

I have around 8+ years of experience in IT industry. I have got opportunity to work at different companies with different technologies, mostly focused on Front-end, like Angular, React, Next, vanilla web stack (HTML, CSS, JavaScript).

You can find me on Twitter, Linkedin and Github.

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