Themes & Theme files

Plate themes consist of theme files, which are only HTML files with a templating engine on top of it (extension .plate), and assets (CSS, JS, images, fonts, etc).

Themes video tutorials (Dutch):

Changing derived site themes

Derived sites are sites that use ‘library themes’ or ‘public themes’. These themes were not custom made for a particular site or client, but have multiple sites that use that theme. It is important to remember that the source theme can push updates to all derived site themes. These updates override the existing theme files, content types and content fields. If you use a ‘library theme’ for your site, you can choose to unlink it from parent theme updates. However, if you want to use the parent theme’s updates, while still being able to change your derived site’s theme, there are a few things you can do:

For theme files

You can create a child theme inside your theme. This is done by creating a folder child_theme in the root of your theme. Inside the child_theme folder you can create theme files with the same paths as the regular theme files. When your site loads, Plate first looks if there are child theme files, and serves these if there are. This way you can preserve the original theme, have updates from the parent theme, while still being able to have your own custom theme. However, if you create new theme files that are not present in the original theme, you can place them among the regular theme files, instead of in the child_theme folder. Parent theme updates only apply to theme files that are also present in the parent theme, so you can safely create new files. However, if you delete an existing file from the original theme, a parent theme update will recreate it.

Let’s say you want to change the css of a derived site. The best course of action is to create a new css file inside the original theme’s assets folder, let’s say assets/css/my-css.css. In this css file you can override the site’s css to whatever you want. To load your extra css file, you need to override the existing file where all css files are loaded. Let’s assume the optimal situation is the case, the theme builder made a partial for all assets:


  {% include "layouts/asset_files" %}


{{ 'css/existing-css-file.css' | asset_url | stylesheet_tag }}

To load in your new css file, you’d need to override layouts/_asset_files.plate inside the child_theme folder:


{{ 'css/existing-css-file.css' | asset_url | stylesheet_tag }}
{{ 'css/my-css.css' | asset_url | stylesheet_tag }}

Now you can change your site’s css inside my-css.css, without having to change the original theme, so you can safely profit from the parent theme’s updates.

child_theme/layouts/_asset_files.plate overrides the ‘regular’ layouts/_asset_files.plate. Your custom my-css.css can safely be placed among the ‘regular’ theme files, in the theme root.

For content fields and content types

Except for the content type (plural) name and title, you can change attributes of content types and content fields (including validation settings) to your liking. However, you cannot delete content types or content fields that were created by the parent theme.

Library theme builders info

If you are creating a library theme or public theme, keep the following best practices in mind:

Inline or ‘Layoutable’

What is inline content?

Inline content is everything that falls within the Plate Nested Layout component Structure, from the Post level down: Sections, Rows, Columns, Elements.

Theme files for inline content components (Sections, Rows, Columns, Elements)

Because these layout components are inline, the theme files need to be seen as snippets of code. Thus they are handled as so-called partials. That means the file name of these theme files must have a leading underscore.


What is layoutable content?

Layoutable content have their own url, like pages, categories and news articles. This is the Post layout component. This content is called ‘layoutable’ because they inherit from a theme layout (default: theme.plate).

Theme files for layoutable content (Posts)

Layoutable content theme files are not partials, so they do not have a leading underscore. There must be two theme files in the designated folder: show.plate and index.plate, one for each post type template.


Aside from the variables you can set yourself (with the assign tag for example), there are some default variables present in the theme files.

The site object for the current site.

The current post (layoutable content). Also available by calling the singular name of the content type. E.g. page or category.

The request object.

Every time the content_for tag is called for a Plate object, the name becomes a variable. If the object’s content type is that of an element, the content type singular id is also available as a variable. E.g. element and contact_form.

Theme Layouts

Every layoutable content theme file inherits from the theme Layout. This is a theme file where you put the <head> HTML tags, and all other stuff that needs to be shown on every web page of your site. The default theme layout is theme (theme file: theme.plate). You invoke the rest of the Plate content (scaffolding the Plate layout structure) by calling the {{ content_for_layout }} variable.

The layout theme files must always be placed in the layouts folder in the root of your theme. E.g. layouts/theme.plate.

You are required to include the following tag in the theme layout file’s <head>:
{% include "content_for_head" %}
This adds all Plate dependencies, like all assets used when the site is in edit mode.

Heads up! The Theme Layout is something else entirely than the Plate Nested Layout structure!


By creating the theme file layouts/404.plate you can create a custom 404 Page.


Trays are the same as sections, and have the same nested layout components (Rows, and so on). The main difference from sections is that trays do not fall inside the Nested Layout Structure. Trays only belong to the site. This way you can add a nested Layout structure from the section level down on any place you want, not just inside a Post context. This is useful for footers and headers for example. You want to have the nested layout structure here, but it doesn’t necessarily fall under a post. You can render a tray by using the tray tag.

Tray theme files

To use a tray, you need to create a (inline, so a partial) theme file for it inside the trays folder. The name of the theme file is the name of the tray. For example, creating the file trays/_footer.plate opens up the ‘Footer’ tray inside the content types dashboard, so you can add content fields to it.

Theme Templates

Certain inline content types, like sections, can have different versions. For example, a section can have a version with a slider in it, and a version with just content and a top padding of 60. These different versions are called templates. You can define templates by adding it in the theme files’s filename, separated by a dot. Like this:


The names separated by the dot, in these cases ‘slider’ and ‘background_image’ are the template names. They pop up when adding content fields to the content type. When editing/creating a section you can choose a template, and the corresponding content fields will appear automatically to the user.

As you can see there is also a ‘Default section’ template. This template corresponds to the _sections/_section.plate file name, so without a dot-separated template name. It’s always a good idea to keep the ‘default’ template around. So in the case of the screenshot, there are two section theme files: sections/_section.plate and sections/_section.cta.plate.

Heads up! Theme templates only work for sections, for now.

Theme file paths

Theme file paths for Plate layout components are structured as follows: :plural_name/:theme_file_name.:ext. In the case of Inline Layout components, :theme_file_name is the singular name of the layout component or content type.


Content Types

Theme files for content types are structured the same way, but in this case the plural and singular names are set by you, when creating content types.



Assets (CSS, JS) must always be placed in the assets folder in the root of your theme. After that you can nest folders as deep as you want. These paths are all valid:



Partials are snippets of code that can be included in other theme files, with the include tag. Partials are useful to keep your code clean and prevent unnecessary code repetition. Unlike some other theme files, you are not limited to where to put partials, except the assets folder. So the following paths are all valid: