Default Stylesheet

When you use the HTML converter to generate a standalone HTML document, Asciidoctor includes a default stylesheet to ensure the HTML it produces look great right out of the box. This, in turn, gets you up and running quickly by giving you a result to preview or publish without having to do any additional work.

This page covers why the default is necessary, how to apply it, and how to build on it so you don’t have to create a stylesheet from scratch.

The default stylesheet that Asciidoctor provides is just that, a default. If you don’t like its appearance, you can customize it or replace it with a different once. Though, it’s important to understand what purpose the stylesheet serves when doing so.

Why provide a default?

As previously stated, a default stylesheet is included to provide a nice out-of-the-box experience. But there’s more to it. There are elements of AsciiDoc that require stylesheet support.

One example is to honor built-in roles, such as text-center. In order for a role to take effect, it needs a companion CSS class in the stylesheet. To satisfy the expectations of a built-in role, a stylesheet is required.

Another example is to implement list marker styles. AsciiDoc allows you to specify the marker for a list using a block style (e.g., loweralpha). However, HTML does not apply these markers by default. Rather, it’s something that the stylesheet provides.

The default stylesheet also applies borders and shading to table cells to support all combinations of the frame, grid, and stripes attributes.

Yet another example is the TOC position. To position the TOC on the left or right requires help from the stylesheet to change the layout of the page so the TOC appears as a sidebar. It’s the stylesheet that handles that task.

In order for the AsciiDoc experience to be complete when generating HTML, a stylesheet is required. The default stylesheet not only completes this experience, but also serves as a reference for the styles a custom stylesheet must provide.

Web fonts

The default stylesheet ensures that the same fonts are selected across all platforms.

By default, the browser relies on system fonts. But system fonts vary widely by platform, so users end up getting a very different experience. That’s where web fonts come in.

When the default stylesheet is used, the converter adds additional HTML to load open source fonts from Google Fonts. The default stylesheet, in turn, specifies a preference for these fonts.

The web fonts used by the default stylesheet are as follows:

Noto Serif

body text (default)

Open Sans


Droid Sans Mono

monospaced phrases and verbatim blocks

Loading and preferring these web fonts ensures everyone sees the same result.


When generating HTML, there’s nothing special you need to do to apply the default stylesheet. Asciidoctor automatically embeds it in the <head> of the generated HTML when you run the asciidoctor command.

$ asciidoctor document.adoc

Since no stylesheet is specified, Asciidoctor uses the stylesheet (located at data/stylesheets/asciidoctor.css inside the installed gem). When you view the generated HTML file, document.html, you’ll see styled HTML, as shown here:

default stylesheet

When using the API, Asciidoctor links to the stylesheet by default instead of embedding it (due to the safe mode). Yet, it does not copy the stylesheet to the output directory (it needs to be placed there separately). If it’s not already there, the browser will not be able to find the stylesheet. To solve this problem, set the safe mode to server or lower (e.g., server, safe, or unsafe) and Asciidoctor will embed the default stylesheet, like when using the asciidoctor command.

require 'asciidoctor'

Asciidoctor.convert_file 'document.adoc', safe: :safe

Disable or modify the web fonts

When the default stylesheet is used, the converter adds a <link rel="stylesheet"> tag to load web fonts from Google Fonts. You can disable this link by unsetting the webfonts document attribute from the CLI, API, or document header.

$ asciidoctor -a webfonts! document.adoc

With the web fonts absent, the browser will drop back to the fallback system fonts specified in the stylesheet. But this also provides an opportunity to use docinfo to load the web fonts from a different source.

Rather than disabling the link, you can also use the webfonts attribute to change which fonts are loaded. When set, the value of the webfonts attribute is used as the value of the family query string parameter in the font-loader URL.

Let’s say you want to use Ubuntu Mono instead of Droid Sans Mono for monospaced text. You would set the webfonts attribute as follows:

$ asciidoctor \
-a webfonts="Open+Sans:300,300italic,400,400italic,600,600italic%7CNoto+Serif:400,400italic,700,700italic%7CUbuntu+Mono:400" \

In this case, you would still need to use docinfo to instruct the stylesheet to use the new font.

Customize the default stylesheet

What if the default stylesheet is not exactly to your liking, but you don’t want to go off and create a custom stylesheet from scratch? Can you customize it? Indeed, you can.

There are at least two ways to customize the default stylesheet. One way is to add auxiliary styles using docinfo. Another way is to create a custom stylesheet, but import the default stylesheet as a starting point.

Auxiliary styles with docinfo

Adding auxiliary styles is a great use case for docinfo. The docinfo feature in AsciiDoc allows you to inject auxiliary content from a file into various places in the HTML output. In this case, we’re interested in the "head" position, which injects content at the bottom of the <head> tag.

Let’s say you want to change the color of headings (and other heading-like titles) to match the color of paragraph text. Start by creating a file named docinfo.html (head is the default location) and populate it with a <style> tag with the necessary styles.

Example 1. docinfo.html
h1, h2, h3, h4, h5, h6, #toctitle,
.sidebarblock > .content > .title {
  color: rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.8);

Now tell Asciidoctor to look for and load the docinfo file using the docinfo attribute:

$ asciidoctor -a docinfo=shared document.adoc

The <style> tag in your docinfo file will be inserted directly below the default stylesheet in the generated HTML.

Extend the default stylesheet

Instead of writing a custom stylesheet from scratch, you can import the default stylesheet and add overrides for any styles you want to change (leveraging the cascading nature of CSS). This is also a good way to use the default stylesheet, but load web fonts from a different CDN.

Let’s again change the color of headings (and other heading-like titles) to match the color of paragraph text. Start by creating a stylesheet named my-asciidoctor.css and adding an @import declaration that references the default stylesheet and the web fonts it uses (which are not included in the source of the default stylesheet). We’ll use a CDN to pull it directly out of the repository, but you can put it anywhere the browser can access it. Then add your overrides below those declarations.

@import ",300italic,400,400italic,600,600italic%7CNoto+Serif:400,400italic,700,700italic%7CDroid+Sans+Mono:400,700";
@import "";

h1, h2, h3, h4, h5, h6, #toctitle,
.sidebarblock > .content > .title {
  color: rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.8);

Now tell Asciidoctor to use your custom stylesheet instead of the default one:

$ asciidoctor -a stylesheet=my-asciidoctor.css document.adoc

Asciidoctor will embed the contents of your custom stylesheet instead of the default one. However, it will not embed the contents of the default stylesheet, so the browser is still going to go out and fetch it.

To learn more about how to apply a custom stylesheet, see Apply a Custom Stylesheet.

Are there different themes?

The default stylesheet does not provide different themes. However, you can find stylesheets with different themes in the Asciidoctor Skins project. These stylesheets take the approach of loading the default stylesheet (from a CDN), then overlaying additional styles to create a variety of themes.

To learn how to apply a custom stylesheet, see Apply a Custom Stylesheet.