Agriculture Design System
Design System for the Export Service

Creating a custom theme

How to create theme for your brand in the React component library.

Our Design System has tokens for spacing, typography, borders, and colours. The colours used in our design system come from a Theme, which is a structure (schema) of colour tokens that semantically describe how they will be used. A Theme is made up of light and dark palettes, which are made up of backgrounds, foregrounds, and system colours. The full schema can be found at the bottom of this page.

In this guide, we will go through how to make a new Theme for AgDS.

Token usage guidelines

Each foreground, background, border, and system colour has a specific purpose. To learn more about how to use these colours, see the Tokens page.

Palettes and inheritance

Each Theme has a dark and light palette. These can be used to divide an interface into sections. For example, the header and footer for this website uses the dark palette to make them more prominent, while the content area in between uses the light palette.

Palettes are selected by setting the palette prop on a parent Box, Flex or Stack. The palette is inherited by all of that element’s children.

In the example below, change the palette prop in the parent Stack to see this behaviour in action.

Open in Playroom, opens in a new tab
	// Change this value from "dark" to "light"
	// to see how palette inheritance works
	// the 'body' background token changes with the palette.
	// So depending on the palette, either the lightBackgroundBody
	// or darkBackgroundBody token will be used
	<PageAlert tone="info">
		<Text as="p">
			Add <code>palette='light'</code> to the parent Stack in this code example,
			to see how palette inheritance works.

	<Card clickable shadow background="bodyAlt">
			<Stack gap={0.5} width="100%" flexWrap="wrap">
					<CardLink href="#">Orange Meat Works</CardLink>
				<Text as="p">
					<VisuallyHidden>Type: </VisuallyHidden>
					Record keeping (Minor)
					<Text color="muted" fontSize="xs">
						<VisuallyHidden>{'CAR ID: '}</VisuallyHidden>
								<VisuallyHidden>{'Status: '}</VisuallyHidden>

What is actually happening? Our tokens are defined using CSS variables. When the palette is set on a container, it overwrites the CSS variables within that container. So child components which expect foregroundText token will receive lightForgroundText or darkForegroundText depending on the palette chosen within that context.

Creating a custom Theme

We will now go through the technical steps of defining a new Theme. We will assume you are implementing this in an existing NextJS application that already uses AgDS.

In your app, create a file called theme.tsx…

// theme.tsx
import { Theme } from '@ag.ds-next/react/core';
export const myTheme: Theme = {};

… then import that into your application’s Core component.

// pages/_app.tsx
import { Core } from '@ag.ds-next/react/core';
import type { AppProps } from 'next/app';
import { myTheme } from '../theme.tsx';
export default function App({ Component, pageProps }: AppProps) {
return (
<Core Theme={myTheme}>
<Component {...pageProps} />

The default theme in AgDS is GOLD, based on the former Australian Government Design System. If you are building an experience within the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, then you probably want to extend the ag-Theme.

// theme.tsx
import { Theme } from '@ag.ds-next/react/core';
import { Theme as agTheme } from '@ag.ds-next/react/ag-branding';
export const myTheme: Theme = {

Now you can define your tokens!

// theme.tsx
import { Theme } from '@ag.ds-next/react/core';
import { Theme as agTheme } from '@ag.ds-next/react/ag-branding';
export const myTheme: Theme = {
lightAccent: '#00558b',
darkAccent: '#00558b',

Typescript should help you by autocompleting token names. See the full schema.

Tips for picking colours

A Theme should include a range of neutrals for foreground (text), background, and borders. These should be used to create contrast between elements. For example, a dark background with a light foreground, or a light background with a dark foreground.

You need to make sure all colours have the correct levels of contrast between foreground and background colours. They should meet the WCAG 2.1 AA contrast guidelines. You can use the WebAIM Contrast Checker to check your colours.

We recommend referencing our Colour tokens page to see our colours and how they are used in AgDS.