I'm a little new to all this theming, particularly in 2013, so please bear with me.

I created a theme for SP2013. It's pretty similar to the default office one but with custom colours and a background image. Once I'd created the background image and .spcolor file, I uploaded them to a blank site, tested them out, and then used Design Manager in Sharepoint to export the branding as a WSP.

I have been successfully deploying this branding around different sites, but I have a major issue: the branding doesn't work with Subsites. There may be a way to do it which I'm not seeing, and if there is please advise, but it is not appearing in the themes list on 'Change the Look'.

I would have expected one of the following to be true:

  1. The theme is fully inherited from the main site by the sub site, and works out of the box. - this is not the case.

  2. The theme's existence is inherited by the sub site, but it needs to be manually activated in Change the Look. - Also not true, it does not appear in Change the Look.

  3. The WSP needs to be uploaded and activated on the sub site, too. - Also not true; when I go into the settings of the sub site there is no 'Solutions' link so I am not able to upload the WSP - is this something that should be the case?

I wouldn't mind having to upload the WSP for every site, but not even that seems doable, so I've no idea how I deploy the theme to sub sites. Hoping someone can help me out. I'm on Sharepoint Online/Office 365. The root site collection is still on 2010 experience mode, but our SP account has been upgraded and several site collections are now on 2013.

Thanks in advance for any help.

  • Well in SP 2010, there was a publishing feature when you turn it on.. It gave you MasterPages settings link in Site settings.. Where you have a checkbox to make sub-sites inherit same Master Page as the main website! I am not sure if it is available in SP 2013 Oct 2, 2013 at 8:57
  • @ArsalanAdamKhatri, I did try that. It didn't inherit :/
    – Henry C
    Oct 2, 2013 at 12:12
  • Have you tried using the background image and theme in each subsite rather than trying to use the WSP?
    – Brian P
    Oct 2, 2013 at 12:24

1 Answer 1


This sounds like a limitation of the Design Manager export process to me.

There is a list on every site called "Composed Looks" which determines what you will see on the "change the look" page. My guess is your WSP created the composed look list item on the root web only. Look at site settings -> composed looks on both your subsite and root web to verify that. You may need to create the composed look yourself by hand on every subsite where you intend to deploy this theme.

The Composed Looks list is a little picky in that you must select a master page from the current site, and the spcolor file from the root web's theme gallery. Any deviation from that, or if any link is incorrect, and the theme will not appear in Change the Look.

You are right that you cannot deploy a WSP to a subsite; it is a site-collection-level solution only.

And for what it's worth my current client is also on upgraded O365 in 2010 mode, and this process works there.

  • clarification: by that last sentence I mean that creating the composed look by hand on the subsites works in my environment. Oct 2, 2013 at 14:54

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