phpBB Template Design Guide

Welcome to my guide to phpBB template design. This guide is meant to cover all the aspects of template design for phpBB so you can learn how to successfully create your own template for phpBB2.

I assume you already know a thing or two about web design such as basic HTML and CSS. Contrary to popular belief you do not need to know how to program in PHP (the programming language phpBB is written in) in order to make templates for phpBB. PHP code is not necessary in order to create a template and it is actually even disallowed in templates you submit at

With phpBB3 on its way it may seem like a strange time to publish this guide, and yes it is, it has been waiting to be written and published for a long time now. However phpBB3’s template engine is very similar to the one in phpBB2 so the knowledge gained reading this guide applies to phpBB3 as well.

This guide doesn’t have to be read in sequence however I recommend you sit down and apply everything, it will help you gain an understanding of how it all fits together.

This document is constantly being edited and while it is a complete guide content may still be added. If you have comments or suggestions on topics you'd like to see covered please share them with me.

If you like this guide please link to it. Please note that you may neither republish this guide nor parts of it in any form or manner without permission, instead please refer your visitors here.

If you're interested in translating this guide to another language, please contact me

Part 1 - Template design basics

What you need to know

What you need to have

What you need to do

Style, Template and Theme and what the difference is

Part 2 - Creating and uploading a new template

Step 1: Finding the files

Step 2: Creating a new template and editing file references

Step 3: Installing your new template

Part 3 - Editing your new template

The parts that make up the whole

Do it with style

Variables, blocks and switches

Part 4 - Template editing continued

Changing moderator and administrator user link colors for the Who's Online list

The ICQ status image button

Multiple color poll result bars

Marking up your tpl files to keep track of them

Multiple themes per style

Some .cfg file magic

Part 5 - Exporting and distributing your template

When you're finished, test!

Exporting your template

Checking, compressing and distributing your template

Supporting your template

Some final words


List of phpBB2 Template tpl files

List of phpBB2 Template Variables