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Theme UI

How it Works

Theme UI combines several libraries together to form a mini-framework for styling applications.

Theme UI is built with:

  • Emotion: used to generate isolated CSS with theming context
  • MDX: used to provide custom Emotion styled components to MDX documents, without polluting the global CSS scope
  • Typography.js: optionally used for creating rich typographic styles with a simple, high-level API


The Theme UI ThemeProvider component is a wrapper around MDX's MDXProvider, which adds custom React components to context, and Emotion's ThemeProvider, which adds the theme object to context for use with Emotion.

The Theme UI ThemeProvider includes a default components object with styled components that pick up values from the theme.styles object. For example, theme.styles.h1 will be used in its components.h1 component and rendered in MDX documents.

For illustrative purposes, the ThemeProvider renders something like the following:

// for demonstration only – this does not reflect the actual source code
import { MDXProvider } from '@mdx-js/react'
import { ThemeProvider } from 'emotion-theming'
import styled from '@emotion/styled'
const themeUIComponents = {
h1: styled('h1')((props) => props.theme.styles.h1),
h2: styled('h2')((props) => props.theme.styles.h2),
// other MDX components
export default ({ components, theme, children }) => (
<ThemeProvider theme={theme}>
<MDXProvider components={merge(themeUIComponents, components)}>

Custom Components

When using the components prop to add custom MDX components, each component is wrapped with the sx prop to allow the component to pick up values from the theme.styles object.

JSX Pragma

The Theme UI JSX function wraps the Emotion JSX function, converting the sx prop to a call to @theme-ui/css. The two examples below yield the same results:

// with Emotion's JSX function
// this is typically handled with the Emotion Babel preset
/** @jsxImportSource @emotion/react */
import { css } from 'theme-ui'
export default (props) => (
color: 'white',
bg: 'primary',
fontSize: 4,
// with Theme UI's JSX function
/** @jsxImportSource theme-ui */
export default (props) => (
color: 'white',
bg: 'primary',
fontSize: 4,
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JSX Pragma