Adding external themes to your site

During normal Drupal development, when you're developing your website's themes, best practices would have you store a theme's files in the sites/all/themes directory under your docroot. However, what if you want a design firm to create and maintain your websites' theme files, but you don't want to provide them with complete access to your website's code?

Acquia Cloud Site Factory allows you to configure a link to an external Git repository that contains one or more themes that can be used with a Drupal website. After you connect your website to a Git repository that contains one or more themes, the themes will appear when you click Appearance in the admin menu.

Git repository requirements

When you are creating your external Git repository, be sure that it contains the following items:

  • One or more branches or tags.
  • One or more sets of Drupal theme files to use with your website. Each theme's files must be included in a separate directory whose name is the name of the theme.

Creating a theme repository whitelist

To protect hosted websites from using themes that contain settings or code that could cause issues with the websites, you can add a whitelist file of approved theme repositories to Acquia Cloud Site Factory. When administrative users attempt to add a theme repository, Acquia Cloud Site Factory compares the repository with the contents of the acsf_theme_whitelist.txt file.

To create a new whitelist file for your theme repositories, complete the following steps:

  1. Create a new file to contain your whitelist settings, based on the following conventions:
    • Enter each external Git repository on a separate line.
    • You can add comments to entries by starting lines with the number sign ( # ). The # will not be used for whitelist filtering.
    • Use the asterisk character ( * ) for wildcard entry.
    • If you do not end a repository line with an asterisk, its use is implied.
  2. Save the file with the name acsf_theme_whitelist.txt in the root directory of your code repository.
  3. Commit your code changes with the new whitelist file to your codebase.
  4. Deploy the code to your production environment.


The following whitelist file allows only theme repositories from the Acquia organization on, the Open Framework repository on, and the zen.git repository on

# Allow any github repos from the Acquia organization*

# Allow specific github repo

# Allow the Zen theme from

If you do not upload a whitelist file, or if the file does not contain any entries, Acquia Cloud Site Factory will not block any theme repositories from use.

Connecting to a theme repository

To connect to an external Git repository that contains one or more themes, complete the following steps:

  1. Sign in to the Site Factory Management Console using an account that's been assigned either the Platform admin or Site builder role.
  2. Find the website that you want to modify, open its actions menu, and then click Manage theme repository.
  3. Click Connect site repository to enter your Git repository's information.
  4. Click the Show SSH public key link to display the SSH public key.
  5. Select and copy the contents of the SSH public key field to your clipboard.
  6. Open a new browser tab, and sign in to your Git repository.
  7. Add the SSH public key to the theme repository, and configure the key to have read access.
  8. Return to the page in which you're entering your theme repository information, and then enter the following values for the Git repository that you want to use:
    • Git URL - The Git SSH URL of the theme repository (for example, [email protected]:repo.git)
    • Branch or tag - A valid branch or tag from the theme repository
  9. Click Save.

Theme repositories are compared to entries in the whitelist file based on the following parameters:

  • The [email protected] preceding the theme repository is ignored.
  • Theme repositories that begin with an exact match of one or more of the whitelist file entries are accepted. For example, a whitelist entry of would match [email protected]:repo.git.

If the theme repository is blocked by the whitelist file, Acquia Cloud Site Factory will display an error message and keep the previous theme repository settings.

If there are no error messages, your Git repository themes will be checked out for use by your website. After all of your theme files have been checked out successfully, you can view the themes by signing in to the website and clicking Appearance in the admin menu.

Refreshing your theme

Whenever you make changes to your theme files and those changes are committed to the Git theme repository, you must update your websites' theme files based on the correct branch or tag.

Use one of the following methods to refresh your theme:

  • Refreshing your theme from the user interface
    1. If you are refreshing a theme for a Drupal 8 stack, create a post-theme-deploy hook script, as described in Requirement for deploying Drupal 8 themes. This is needed to clear the Twig cache after you deploy the updated theme.
    2. Sign in to the Site Factory Management Console using an account that's been assigned either the Platform admin or Site builder role.
    3. Find the website that you want to modify, open its actions menu, and then click Manage theme repository.
    4. Select the appropriate method based on whether you are using a branch (staged websites) or a tag (production websites):
      • Branch
        Click Refresh themes.
      • Tag
        1. Click the Change site theme repository link.
        2. In the Branch or tag list, click the tag with the new theme changes.
        3. Click Save.
  • Refreshing your theme with the REST API - Send a theme notification by setting the following parameters:
    • event - modify
    • scope - site
    • nid - The node ID of the website that you want to refresh

Acquia Cloud Site Factory obtains your new theme changes from the Git repository and adds them to your website. After it makes copies of the theme files, the theme changes will appear in the website's Appearance page (and if the theme is in use, on the website itself).

Performing custom actions after theme deployments

You can use the post-theme-deploy Factory hook to clear Twig caches or perform other actions after deploying a theme. The post-theme-deploy Factory hook makes a set of arguments available to any script that the hook runs:

Argument Value
1 The hosting site group
2 The hosting environment
3 The theme scope (currently the only possible value is site)
4 The theme event (possible values: modify, delete)
5 The site domain

Using these arguments, you can create a script like the following, which runs a Drush command to clear the Twig cache on the affected site on every server. Acquia Cloud Site Factory supplies the needed host, environment, and domain values:

drush8 @$1.$2 --uri=$5 ev '\Drupal\Core\PhpStorage\PhpStorageFactory::get("twig")->deleteAll();'

To deploy or update a Drupal 8 theme from a remote repository:

  1. Create a script file with a name like ClearTwigCache, with content similar to the previous example. The script must be executable.
  2. Save and commit the script file in your code repository in the /factory-hooks/post-theme-deploy directory.

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