LaTeX customization

The latex target does not benefit from pre-prepared themes like the html target does (see HTML theming support).

Basic customization

It is available from via usage of the Options for LaTeX output as described in The build configuration file (backslashes must be doubled in Python string literals to reach latex.) For example:

# inside
latex_engine = 'xelatex'
latex_elements = {
    'fontenc': '\\usepackage{fontspec}',
    'fontpkg': '''\
\\setmainfont{DejaVu Serif}
\\setsansfont{DejaVu Sans}
\\setmonofont{DejaVu Sans Mono}''',
    'geometry': '\\usepackage[vmargin=2.5cm, hmargin=3cm]{geometry}',
    'preamble': '''\
\\cftsetpnumwidth {1.25cm}\\cftsetrmarg{1.5cm}
    'fncychap': '\\usepackage[Bjornstrup]{fncychap}',
    'printindex': '\\footnotesize\\raggedright\\printindex',
latex_show_urls = 'footnote'

More advanced customization will be obtained via insertion into the LaTeX preamble of relevant \renewcommand, \renewenvironment, \setlength, or \definecolor commands. The 'preamble' key of latex_elements will serve for inserting these commands. If they are numerous, it may prove more convenient to assemble them into a specialized file mystyle.tex and then use:

'preamble': r'\makeatletter\input{mystyle.tex}\makeatother',

or, better, to set up a style file mystyle.sty which can then be loaded via:

'preamble': r'\usepackage{mystyle}',

The build configuration file file for the project needs to have its variable latex_additional_files appropriately configured, for example:

latex_additional_files = ["mystyle.sty"]

The Sphinx LaTeX style package options

The 'sphinxsetup' key to latex_elements provides a more convenient interface to various style parameters. It is a comma separated string of key=value instructions:

key1=value1,key2=value2, ...
  • if a key is repeated, it is its last occurence which counts,
  • spaces around the commas and equal signs are ignored.

If non-empty, it will be passed as argument to the \sphinxsetup command:


New in version 1.5.


  • Most options described next could also have been positioned as sphinx.sty package options. But for those where the key value contains some LaTeX code the use of \sphinxsetup is mandatory. Hence the whole 'sphinxsetup' string is passed as argument to \sphinxsetup.

  • As an alternative to the 'sphinxsetup' key, it is possibly to insert explicitely the \\sphinxsetup{key=value,..} inside the 'preamble' key. It is even possible to use the \sphinxsetup in the body of the document, via the raw directive, to modify dynamically the option values: this is actually what we did for the duration of this chapter for the PDF output, which is styled using:


    and with the svgnames option having been passed to “xcolor” package:

    latex_elements = {
        'passoptionstopackages': r'\PassOptionsToPackage{svgnames}{xcolor}',

Here are the currently available options together with their default values.


These options correspond to what has been so far the default LaTeX rendering by Sphinx; if in future Sphinx offers various themes for LaTeX, the interface may change.


LaTeX requires for keys with Boolean values to use lowercase true or false.


The dimensions of the horizontal margins. Legacy Sphinx default value is 1in (which stands for {1in,1in}.) It is passed over as hmargin option to geometry package.

Here is an example for non-Japanese documents of use of this key:

'sphinxsetup': 'hmargin={2in,1.5in}, vmargin={1.5in,2in}, marginpar=1in',

Japanese documents currently accept only the form with only one dimension. This option is handled then in a special manner in order for geometry package to set the text width to an exact multiple of the zenkaku width of the base document font.


For a 'manual' type document with language set to 'ja', which by default uses the jsbook LaTeX document class, the dimension units, when the pointsize isn’t 10pt, must be so-called TeX “true” units:

'sphinxsetup': 'hmargin=1.5truein, vmargin=1.5truein, marginpar=5zw',

This is due to the way the LaTeX class jsbook handles the pointsize.

Or, one uses regular units but with nomag as document class option. This can be achieved for example via:

'pointsize': 'nomag,12pt',

in the latex_elements configuration variable.

New in version 1.5.3.


The dimension of the vertical margins. Legacy Sphinx default value is 1in (or {1in,1in}.) Passed over as vmargin option to geometry.

Japanese documents will arrange for the text height to be an integer multiple of the baselineskip, taking the closest match suitable for the asked-for vertical margin. It can then be only one dimension. See notice above.

New in version 1.5.3.


The \marginparwidth LaTeX dimension, defaults to 0.5in. For Japanese documents, the value is modified to be the closest integer multiple of the zenkaku width.

New in version 1.5.3.

default true. Boolean to specify if code-blocks and literal includes are framed. Setting it to false does not deactivate use of package “framed”, because it is still in use for the optional background colour (see below).
default true. Tells whether long lines in code-block‘s contents should wrap.

default true. Tells whether long lines in parsed-literal‘s contents should wrap.

New in version 1.5.2: set this option value to false to recover former behaviour.


default true. Allows linebreaks inside inline literals: but extra potential break-points (additionally to those allowed by LaTeX at spaces or for hyphenation) are currently inserted only after the characters . , ; ? ! /. Due to TeX internals, white space in the line will be stretched (or shrinked) in order to accomodate the linebreak.

New in version 1.5: set this option value to false to recover former behaviour.

default \textcolor{red}{\textvisiblespace}. When a long code line is split, space characters located at end of the line before the break are displayed using this code.

The default is:


It is printed at start of continuation lines. This rather formidable expression reserves twice the width of a typical character in the current (monospaced) font and puts there a small red hook pointing to the right.

Changed in version 1.5: The breaking of long code lines was introduced at 1.4.2. The space reserved to the continuation symbol was changed at 1.5 to obey the current font characteristics (this was needed as Sphinx 1.5 LaTeX allows code-blocks in footnotes which use a smaller font size).


This specification gives the same spacing as before 1.5:

default {rgb}{0.126,0.263,0.361}. The colour for titles (as configured via use of package “titlesec”.) It must obey the syntax of the \definecolor command. Check the documentation of packages color or xcolor.
default {rgb}{0.208,0.374,0.486}. A colour passed to hyperref as value of linkcolor and citecolor.
default {rgb}{0.216,0.439,0.388}. A colour passed to hyperref as value of filecolor, menucolor, and urlcolor.
default {rgb}{1,1,1}. The background colour for code-blocks. The default is white.
default {rgb}{0,0,0}. The frame color, defaults to black.
default \fboxsep. The separation between code lines and the frame.
default \fboxrule. The width of the frame around code-blocks.
default 5pt. The separation between contents and frame for contents and topic boxes.
default 4pt. The width of the lateral “shadow” to the right.
default \fboxrule. The width of the frame around topic boxes.

default {rgb}{0,0,0}. The colour for the two horizontal rules used by Sphinx in LaTeX for styling a note admonition. Defaults to black.


The actual name of the colour as declared to “color” or “xcolor” is sphinxnoteBorderColor. The same “sphinx” prefix applies to all colours for notices and admonitions.

default {rgb}{0,0,0}. id.
default {rgb}{0,0,0}. id.
default {rgb}{0,0,0}. id.
default 0.5pt. The width of the two horizontal rules.
default 0.5pt. id.
default 0.5pt. id.
default 0.5pt. id.
default {rgb}{0,0,0}. The colour of the frame for warning type admonitions. Defaults to black.
default {rgb}{0,0,0}. id.
default {rgb}{0,0,0}. id.
default {rgb}{0,0,0}. id.
default {rgb}{0,0,0}. id.
default {rgb}{1,1,1}. The background colour for warning type admonition, defaults to white.
default {rgb}{1,1,1}. id.
default {rgb}{1,1,1}. id.
default {rgb}{1,1,1}. id.
default {rgb}{1,1,1}. id.
default 1pt. The width of the frame.
default 1pt. id.
default 1pt. id.
default 1pt. id.
default 1pt. id.
default \mbox{ }. LaTeX macros inserted at the start of the footnote text at bottom of page, after the footnote number.

default \leavevmode\unskip. LaTeX macros inserted before the footnote mark. The default removes possible space before it.

It can be set to empty (BeforeFootnote={},) to recover the earlier behaviour of Sphinx, or alternatively contain a \nobreak\space or a \thinspace after the \unskip to insert some chosen (non-breakable) space.

New in version 1.5: formerly, footnotes from explicit mark-up (but not automatically generated ones) were preceded by a space in the output .tex file hence a linebreak in PDF was possible. To avoid insertion of this space one could use foo\ [#f1] mark-up, but this impacts all builders.

default \sffamily\bfseries. Sets the font used by headings.

As seen above, key values may even be used for LaTeX commands. But don’t forget to double the backslashes if not using “raw” Python strings.

The LaTeX environments defined by Sphinx

Let us now list some macros from the package file sphinx.sty and class file sphinxhowto.cls or sphinxmanual.cls, which can be entirely redefined, if desired.

  • text styling commands (they have one argument): \sphinx<foo> with <foo> being one of strong, bfcode, email, tablecontinued, titleref, menuselection, accelerator, crossref, termref, optional. By default and for backwards compatibility the \sphinx<foo> expands to \<foo> hence the user can choose to customize rather the latter (the non-prefixed macros will be left undefined if option latex_keep_old_macro_names is set to False in

    Changed in version 1.4.5: use of \sphinx prefixed macro names to limit possibilities of conflict with user added packages: if latex_keep_old_macro_names is set to False in only the prefixed names are defined.

  • more text styling commands: \sphinxstyle<bar> with <bar> one of indexentry, indexextra, indexpageref, topictitle, sidebartitle, othertitle, sidebarsubtitle, thead, emphasis, literalemphasis, strong, literalstrong, abbreviation, literalintitle.

    New in version 1.5: the new macros are wrappers of the formerly hard-coded \texttt, \emph, ... The default definitions can be found in sphinx.sty.

  • paragraph level environments: for each admonition type <foo>, the used environment is named sphinx<foo>. They may be \renewenvironment ‘d individually, and must then be defined with one argument (it is the heading of the notice, for example Warning: for warning directive, if English is the document language). Their default definitions use either the sphinxheavybox (for the first listed directives) or the sphinxlightbox environments, configured to use the parameters (colours, border thickness) specific to each type, which can be set via 'sphinxsetup' string.

    Changed in version 1.5: use of public environment names, separate customizability of the parameters.

  • the contents directive (with :local: option) and the topic directive are implemented by environment sphinxShadowBox. See above for the three dimensions associated with it.

    Changed in version 1.5: use of public names for the three lengths. The environment itself was redefined to allow page breaks at release 1.4.2.

  • the literal blocks (code-block directives, etc ...), are implemented using sphinxVerbatim environment which is a wrapper of Verbatim environment from package fancyvrb.sty. It adds the handling of the top caption and the wrapping of long lines, and a frame which allows pagebreaks. Inside tables the used environment is sphinxVerbatimintable (it does not draw a frame, but allows a caption).

    Changed in version 1.5: Verbatim keeps exact same meaning as in fancyvrb.sty (meaning which is the one of OriginalVerbatim too), and custom one is called sphinxVerbatim. Also, earlier version of Sphinx used OriginalVerbatim inside tables (captions were lost, long code lines were not wrapped), it now uses there sphinxVerbatimintable.

    New in version 1.5: the two customizable lengths, the sphinxVerbatimintable, the boolean toggles described above.

  • by default the Sphinx style file sphinx.sty includes the command \fvset{fontsize=\small} as part of its configuration of fancyvrb.sty. The user may override this for example via \fvset{fontsize=auto} which will use for listings the ambient font size. Refer to fancyvrb.sty‘s documentation for further keys.

    New in version 1.5: formerly, the use of \small for code listings was not customizable.

  • the section, subsection, ... headings are set using titlesec‘s \titleformat command. Check sphinx.sty for the definitions.

  • for the 'sphinxmanual' class (corresponding to the fifth element of latex_documents being set to 'manual'), the chapter headings can be customized using fncychap‘s commands \ChNameVar, \ChNumVar, \ChTitleVar. Check sphinx.sty for the default definitions. They are applied only if fncychap is loaded with option Bjarne. It is also possible to use an empty 'fncychap' key, and use the titlesec \titleformat command to style the chapter titles.

    Changed in version 1.5: formerly, use of fncychap with other styles than Bjarne was dysfunctional.

  • the table of contents is typeset via \sphinxtableofcontents which is a wrapper (whose definition can be found in sphinxhowto.cls or in sphinxmanual.cls) of standard \tableofcontents.

    Changed in version 1.5: formerly, the meaning of \tableofcontents was modified by Sphinx.

  • the bibliography and Python Module index are typeset respectively within environments sphinxthebibliography and sphinxtheindex, which are simple wrappers of the non-modified thebibliography and theindex environments.

    Changed in version 1.5: formerly, the original environments were modified by Sphinx.

  • the list is not exhaustive: refer to sphinx.sty for more.


As an experimental feature, Sphinx can use user-defined template file for LaTeX source if you have a file named _templates/latex.tex_t on your project. Now all template variables are unstable and undocumented. They will be changed in future version.

New in version 1.5.