Dynamic Theming in Angular with Angular Material

Anton Ioffe - November 23rd 2023 - 9 minutes read

Welcome to the world of dynamic theming in Angular using Angular Material, where the power of customization and responsive design converges to offer a refined user experience across your applications. As seasoned developers, you understand the impact of an application's look and feel on user engagement, and you're no stranger to the demands of branding consistency. In this deep dive, we'll be stitching together the critical aspects of dynamic theming, from the bedrock of initial setup to the elegant dance of theme switching, and the subtleties of responsive design tailored to Angular Material components. We’ll also navigate through the choppy waters of potential pitfalls and emerge with best practices that ensure your theming is as performant as it is beautiful. Get ready to transform your application with themes that adapt seamlessly to your users' preferences and elevate their experience to new heights.

Establishing Foundations for Dynamic Theming in Angular Material

When embarking on the integration of dynamic theming within an Angular application that leverages Angular Material, the initial step is to generate the application using Angular CLI. This is done with the execution of ng new theme-demo --style=scss, which sets SCSS as the styling language. This choice is crucial as SCSS facilitates complex styling with variables, essential for theming.

After the Angular application is underway, the next course of action is to add Angular Material and Angular CDK as dependencies. This is easily done through the command ng add @angular/material, which will also prompt for a theme selection. Opt to configure your theme manually, ensuring that Angular CDK is installed through this process, or alternatively, execute npm install @angular/cdk.

Creation of a specific SCSS file for Material theme customization is a methodical next step. In the src/styles directory, fabricate a material-theme.scss file. Commence by importing Angular Material theming functions using @import '~@angular/material/theming'; and initialize core styles with @include mat-core();.

In material-theme.scss, stipulate your color schemes for primary, accent, and warning colors employing mat-palette(). These base colors serve as a pivotal aspect of your theming framework. Instantiate with $primary: mat-palette($mat-indigo); $accent: mat-palette($mat-pink, A200, A100, A400); $warn: mat-palette($mat-red);. Configure your theme with mat-light-theme($primary, $accent, $warn); or mat-dark-theme($primary, $accent, $warn);, integrating the styles with @include angular-material-theme($theme);.

Culminate the initial setup by merging the material-theme.scss into the global styles.scss file. This ensures that your predefined Material styles are infused throughout the application. The import should align with the syntax @import 'src/styles/material-theme';. This pivotal step embeds the theme universally across all the application's components.

Adhering to these preliminary configurations with diligence lays a solid groundwork for ensuing dynamic theming within your Angular Material application. It ensures that all the necessary structural elements for theming are firmly established.

Crafting the Theme Variants

Within the realm of Angular Material, crafting theme variants requires meticulous assembly of color palettes and typography to form cohesive visual experiences. The cornerstone of this process lies in the craft of SCSS mixins, which streamline the application of consistent styling across multiple components. For a light theme, a mixin could be constructed as follows:

@mixin custom-light-theme($primary, $accent, $warn) {
  $theme: mat-light-theme(
    mat-palette($accent, A200, A100, A400),
  @include angular-material-theme($theme);

This mixin encapsulates combinations of mat-palette hues for a serene light theme and can be included within component SCSS files to apply these styles. The dark theme counterpart would similarly leverage mat-palette but with a focus on dark-surface compatibility:

@mixin custom-dark-theme($primary, $accent, $warn) {
  $theme: mat-dark-theme(
    mat-palette($accent, A200, A100, A700),
  @include angular-material-theme($theme);

Themes must also intelligently integrate typography to complement the color scheme, influencing readability and overall aesthetic. A typographical style can be integrated within the theme mixins with mat-typography-config. For example:

$custom-typography: mat-typography-config(
  $font-family: 'Roboto, sans-serif',
  $headline: mat-typography-level(32px, 48px, 400),
  $body-1: mat-typography-level(16px, 24px, 400)
@include angular-material-typography($custom-typography);

When dynamically shifting between the meticulously curated light and dark themes, developers should ensure the transition enhances user interaction, not disrupts it. The visual transition can be smoothed out across components by a mixin applying a transition effect to the theme containing a style rule:

@mixin theme-transition {
  background-color: 0.3s ease;
  color: 0.3s ease;

@include theme-transition;

This inclusion of smooth transitions encourages a seamless changeover, critical for maintaining user engagement during a theme switch. Through precision in theme construction and strategic use of transitions, developers create an adaptable, user-centered interface that promotes an engaging and seamless experience, effectively catering to diverse user preferences and contextual requirements.

Dynamic Theme Switching Mechanics

Dynamic theme switching within an Angular application relies on a combination of Angular's services and reactivity system. At the core lies a ThemeService, which is responsible for maintaining theme state and providing an interface through which components can toggle the theme. The service typically contains an Observable, utilizing the RxJS library, which components subscribe to for changes in the theme. When the user initiates a theme change, perhaps through a user interface control element, the ThemeService updates its Observable, emitting the new theme state.

  providedIn: 'root'
export class ThemeService {
  private currentTheme = new BehaviorSubject<string>('default-theme');

  setTheme(theme: string) {

  get theme(): Observable<string> {
    return this.currentTheme.asObservable();

Application components, especially container components, will subscribe to this Observable and will receive updates whenever the theme changes. Here's where Angular's ngClass directive plays a crucial role. As a reactive tool, ngClass can be bound directly to an Observable pipeline, enabling the dynamic application of CSS classes on the component's host element, which correspond to the theme's styles. This leads to a declarative and highly reactive mechanism for theme application.

export class AppComponent implements OnInit {
  theme$!: Observable<string>;

  constructor(private themeService: ThemeService) {}

  ngOnInit() {
    this.theme$ = this.themeService.theme;

In the template of AppComponent, the ngClass directive would be used like so:

<div [ngClass]="theme$ | async"></div>

For performance efficiency, it's important that Angular components avoid frequent style recalculations and reflows. Debouncing theme switch operations and ensuring that theme changes are batched together can mitigate unnecessary computations. This streamlines the switching process to be as smooth and efficient as possible, maintaining a seamless user experience even on devices with limited resources.

Lastly, the modular design of the theme switching functionality is a testament to Angular's architectural principles. By consolidating theme-related logic within a dedicated service and utilizing reactive patterns, developers achieve a separation of concerns that promotes reusability and scalability. It becomes straightforward to enhance or modify the theme functionality without touching other parts of the application, a hallmark of good design. Components remain slim and focused on their primary tasks, delegating theme-related responsibilities to the ThemeService. This design ensures that the application remains maintainable as it grows in complexity and scope.

Theme Responsiveness in Angular Material Components

Angular Material's dynamic theming capability is not just about switching between dark and light modes; it's about ensuring every component responds to these changes seamlessly, creating a consistent look and feel across the entire application. For instance, utilizing Angular directives such as ngStyle and ngClass, developers can effectively apply different color schemes to components based on the active theme. Angular Material components incorporate these directives, allowing styles to be conditionally set or toggled in real-time, ensuring theme colors are applied accurately and immediately upon theme changes.

To boost theme responsiveness, developers often create custom directives that encapsulate the logic required for dynamically altering styles. Such an approach keeps the templates clean and abstracts the complexity involved in maintaining the styling logic. As a result, when the theme changes, these directives adjust the styles of the elements they are attached to by binding appropriate classes or applying styles directly to the host components. This practice also aids in avoiding code duplication and enhances the maintainability of theme-related code.

    selector: '[appResponsiveTheme]'
export class ResponsiveThemeDirective {
    constructor(private element: ElementRef, private renderer: Renderer2, private themeService: ThemeService) {
        this.themeService.currentTheme.subscribe(theme => {
            this.renderer.addClass(this.element.nativeElement, theme);
            // Cleanup previous theme classes if necessary

Implementing responsiveness entails more than the application of styles. There is also a need to consider the impact on user experience. For example, when elements such as mat-toolbar or mat-card update their themes, they should do so in a way that is non-disruptive to the user. By leveraging CSS transitions, developers can ensure that the color changes are smooth, giving the application a polished feel while enhancing user immersion.

At the same time, one must apply such responsive styles prudently, avoiding unnecessary overuse of Angular's change detection cycle. Strategic use of ChangeDetectionStrategy.OnPush and pure pipes can help in reducing the performance hit that might occur as a result of frequent style changes due to dynamic theme responsiveness. It’s crucial for developers to balance the dynamic visual feedback provided by theme responsiveness with the overall performance considerations of the application.

In conclusion, theme responsiveness within Angular Material components is a multi-faceted effort that aligns with modern web development's push towards dynamic, user-centric design. Whether through standard Angular directives, custom generators, or performance-optimized change detection strategies, the pursuit of a responsive theme system should always aim to deliver an intuitive and seamless experience for the end-user.

Pitfalls and Best Practices in Dynamic Theming

One common pitfall in implementing dynamic theming is the misuse of styles' scope, often leading to unintended side effects where styles are applied too broadly or not at all where intended. For instance, placing a theme-related class too high in the component hierarchy can make it difficult to override styles for nested components. On the flip side, too-specific selectors can increase CSS complexity and limit reusability. Correcting this entails using a balance of global styles and component-specific theming:

// Global theme styles
.theme-dark {
  background-color: #303030;

// Component-specific styles
.my-component.theme-dark {
  background-color: #424242;

In this example, .theme-dark is used globally, while .my-component.theme-dark is specific to instances of MyComponent. Keeping specificity at a minimum enhances maintainability while still providing theme consistency.

Another temptation developers might face is the overuse of !important, a heavy-handed way of ensuring styles are applied. While it may seem like a quick fix, this can lead to a maintenance nightmare. A better approach is to use well-structured, specific CSS selectors and rely on the natural cascade of styles:

// Before: Overuse of !important
.theme-dark {
  color: white !important;

// After: Specificity without !important
body.theme-dark .content {
  color: white;

By increasing the selector's specificity, we achieve the same outcome without !important, ensuring that theming styles can be overridden when necessary.

Understanding the performance trade-offs is vital when toggling themes. A naive implementation could trigger expensive DOM operations, causing layout thrashing and re-rendering performance bottlenecks. Employing CSS Variables is a performant approach, as changes to variables are naturally less expensive than swapping out stylesheets or inline styles on numerous elements:

:root {
  --background-color: #ffffff;

body.theme-dark {
  --background-color: #303030;

.content {
  background-color: var(--background-color);

Here, toggling the dark theme only involves changing a variable on the body element rather than multiple style properties across various elements.

What's more is the architectural aspect of state management in dynamic theming. Storing the current theme in a service with observable state not only encapsulates the theming logic but also adheres to best practices in Angular's reactive paradigm. For example, instead of directly manipulating DOM elements to toggle themes, broadcast the change through an observable and let subscribers react accordingly:

// In ThemeService
private currentTheme = new BehaviorSubject('light');
public currentTheme$ = this.currentTheme.asObservable();

// In Component
this.themeService.currentTheme$.subscribe((theme) => {
  this.currentThemeClass = theme;

How you structure and manage themes plays a key role in the scalability and maintenance of your application. Have you analyzed whether your theming structure simplifies or complicates component styling? Are the performance considerations always accounted for while toggling themes? And how are theme-dependent styles encapsulated to prevent unexpected global side effects? Reflecting on these questions will guide you towards a theming strategy that is robust, maintainable, and user-friendly.


In this article, the author explores the concept of dynamic theming in Angular using Angular Material. They provide step-by-step instructions for setting up dynamic theming and offer best practices for crafting theme variants, implementing dynamic theme switching, and ensuring theme responsiveness in Angular Material components. The key takeaway from the article is that dynamic theming enhances user experience and can be achieved through careful integration of Angular Material, SCSS mixins, Angular services, and reactive patterns. The challenging technical task for the reader is to create their own custom theme variant using SCSS mixins and implement dynamic theme switching in their Angular application. This task encourages readers to apply the knowledge gained from the article and further explore dynamic theming possibilities in their own projects.

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