Create a Custom Theme

Formatting a beautiful, professional quality book is easy with Atticus, and you can set up a custom theme in just a few clicks. This tutorial will guide you through the entire process and give you all the tools you need to set your book apart from all your competition.

Atticus Themes and Presets

With your book open in Atticus, click Formatting from the top center and make sure Theme is enabled from the top of the left navigation panel.

Atticus has 19 presets for you to choose from, or you can Create a New Theme from scratch. 

If you want to customize a preset theme, you will choose the theme you’d like to start with and click the Edit Theme to the top right.

Screenshot of the Edit Theme button to customize preset Atticus themes
Right click to Open image in new tab for a larger image.

Next, work your way through each section, setting your preferences as you go.

Chapter Heading Settings

The Chapter Heading Settings will dictate how the title area of each chapter is displayed. 

Add a check mark to each of the Visible Chapter Details you would like to display in each chapter:

  • Number: Atticus offers you the ability to automatically add chapter numbers to each chapter within the body section of your book. You can use this in addition to a chapter title, or on its own.
  • Title: If your chapter has a title, check this box to have it displayed on the page.
  • Subtitle: If your chapter has a subtitle, check this box to have it displayed on the page.
  • Image: If you would like to add an image to your chapter headings, check this box to set your options and choose your image(s)

Each element you check will open more options for you to customize.

For Number, Title, and Subtitle, you will choose the font, alignment, style and size. For Number specifically, you can also choose the view.

Screenshot of the Chapter Number settings
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Chapter Heading Image

If you enable Image, you can decide whether you want to have the same image displayed on every chapter of your book, or if you would like to upload individual images for each chapter. 

When Use Individual Chapter Images is toggled on, you will upload the images in each individual chapter, after finalizing your theme. 

If you want the same image for every chapter, you can upload it here. 

Screenshot of the chapter heading image choices - either individual chapter images or upload one single image to use as the header for all chapters
Right click to Open image in new tab for a larger image.
Background Image

If you would like the image to display across the entire page, behind the text of your print book and extending to the very edges of the page (full bleed), choose Background Image under placement settings. 

NOTE: eReading devices do not allow images to be displayed behind the text of a page, so if you choose Background Image, it will only show in the Header portion in the ePub version of your book.

You can adjust the opacity of your image, choose if you would like to have light text or the default dark text, depending on your image, and set the image to either extend only to the margins or full bleed.

Screenshot of how to insert a background image so it fills the full printed page, has light or dark text, and either reaches only to the margins or has full bleed
Right click to Open image in new tab for a larger image.
Image Element Placement

If you prefer to use an image element instead of a background image, you can choose where you would like the image to display, in relation to your Chapter Number, Title, and Subtitle.

You can also set the size and alignment of your image element here.  

screenshot of how to add and adjust and image element in a chapter heading
Right click to Open image in new tab for a larger image.

Paragraph Settings

First Sentence refers to the first sentence in every chapter. You can enable Drop Caps and or Lead in Small Caps.

NOTE: If you have either of these options enabled and they don’t appear to be showing in your chapter, make sure you do not have a blank space before the first line or letter in the body section of your chapter.

When to Use the First Sentence Formatting will allow you to either only use the Drop Caps/Lead in Small Caps at the very beginning of each chapter, or after each Scene break.

Throughout your book, you can set your paragraphs to start either with an indent or and extra space between each one.

NOTE: If you choose Indent, the first sentence of any chapter and after each scene break will not be indented, as per industry standard.

NOTE: To override an indent at any point in your book, press SHIFT ENTER at the end of a paragraph, before the line you would like to start without an indent.

screenshot of the paragraph setting options within Atticus
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Heading Settings

Atticus supports subheadings H2-H6, providing you with the flexibility to structure your content with various heading levels. With some creative thought, you can use these headings not only for organization, but for adding text and paragraph styles to your content.

Screenshot of the Headings Settings within the theme customization options of Atticus.
Right click to Open image in new tab for a larger image.

You will set your style choices in the theme settings, and apply the Heading styles to your text from within the Writing editor. You can easily select your preferred subheading level by using the dropdown menu located in the toolbar.

Screenshot of a highlighted section of text in a chapter in the Writing editor of Atticus, and a drop down list of the Heading 2 - 6 options. The preview shows the custom style for H4.
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If you’re importing a document from Word, Atticus will automatically recognize Word default styles Heading 2 thorugh Heading 6. Heading 1 will import as your Chapter Title.

If you leave the headings at their default settings and do not customize them in the theme, they are sized as follows:

  • Heading 2: 1.2 times the size of the Body Font
  • Heading 3: 1.15 times the size of the Body Font
  • Heading4: 1.12 times the size of the Body Font
  • Heading 5: 1.09 times the size of the Body Font
  • Heading 6: 1.07 times the size of the Body Font

Note: What you see in the Writing Editor is not how the headings will export. Always refer to the previewer for a more accurate representation and proof your exports carefully to be sure you’re 100% confident with the final results.

Scene Break Settings

If you use scene breaks in your book, you can choose to separate scenes with an image, without an image (and extra large space will be used), or with no visible scene break.

If you use an image, you can choose one from the options Atticus provides, or you can upload your own image. You’ll be able to adjust the size of the image according to its width.

screenshot of the scene break setting options within Atticus
Right click to Open image in new tab for a larger image.

Notes Settings

If you have notes in your book, either Footnotes you imported from your source .docx file, or notes you created within Atticus itself, you can set their location here. 

You can choose to have all your notes appear at the end of each chapter or at the end of the book for either ePub or Print. 

The print version of your book also has the option to use Footnotes, which will appear at the bottom of the page they are listed on. Since eBooks don’t use “pages,” footnotes are not an option for the ePub version.

NOTE: Every eReading device is slightly different and the rule for the notes will be somewhat dependant on the device the book is loaded to. For example, some devices will use the exact settings chosen here, but others will be more interactive, displaying a pop-up of the note when tapped. 

screenshot of the note setting options within Atticus
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Print Settings

Under Print Settings, you will start by setting the font family you will use throughout your book. If you would like to create a Large Print theme, you can enable that here as well. 

Selecting “Large Print” will automatically adjust your font, font size, line spacing and text alignment to meet international standards for large print books.

The Header and Footer will add pagination and common reference points such as the title of your book, your author name, and/or the chapter title. This will be automatically added according to the information in your Book Details and/or chapters. You can choose a layout using the scroll bar underneath the thumbnails, and you can set the font and size below that.

Screenshot of the print setting options for book themes in Atticus
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NOTE: If you have the page number in the header, it will not show on the first page of any chapter or page type in your book, and the Chapter Heading will override it. If you have the page number in the footer, it will appear on all pages in your book unless you hide it on specific pages or chapters.

Next, choose a Trim Size for your book. Atticus has a color coding system to help you choose a trim that will be available with your preferred publisher, Amazon’s KDP or IngramSpark. They are also popular trim sizes, accepted through most major printers.

screenshot of the trim sizes current available within Atticus
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Advanced Settings

The default Advanced Settings will adhere to industry standards, but you are welcome to adjust as you prefer for your book. 

determined by the individual device for eBook versions.

We recommend leaving the Margins at the default setting unless you are printing a book less than 150 pages. However, if you choose to change them, the Inside margin should always be larger than the Outside margin, to allow for the Gutter or crease of the books spine. 

Indents are set to 0.15″ or 3.81mm by default, but you can adjust this to be larger, if you prefer. The size of indentation you choose will be applied to all indents within your book, including your standard paragraph indentation and any hanging indents you may have applied to stylize your text.

Justified and Hyphens are settings specifically for the print version of your book, as these will both be

The Font Size and Line Spacing will be universal throughout your entire book.

Keep Options will control whether your scene break images and/or Subheadings are “kept” with the following paragraph, should the paragraph be pushed to the next page.

Layout Priority

Layout Priority refers to the bottom of each page throughout your book. This is one of the most difficult formatting features to program on an algorithmic book level, and is one of the main reason professional book formatters charge considerably for their time and effort. 

  • Widows and Orphans: In book formatting, widows are short lines or single words at the end of a paragraph that appear alone at the top of a page, while orphans are short lines or single words at the beginning of a paragraph that appear alone at the bottom of a page, both of which are generally considered undesirable. If this setting is enabled, Atticus will ensure they do not happen, but it may come at the cost of the occasionally unbalanced page. 
  • Balanced Page Spread: A balanced page spread refers to the even distribution of content, space, and visual elements across two facing pages in a book layout to create a harmonious and aesthetically pleasing design. Most particularly, the last line on both pages will be equal when this setting is enabled, but it may come at the cost of the occasional widow or orphan.
  • Best of Both (Recommended): This is the Atticus algorithm that will prevent widows and orphans whenever possible, but adjust for page balance as much as possible, without compromising the overall layout to a great degree. It is as effective as possible, but may not be absolutely perfect at either, all of the time.
Right click to Open image in new tab for a larger image.

Save as New Theme

Once you’ve worked your way through all the settings and have your theme designed, you must click Save as New Theme from the very top of the page. Give your theme a logical name, and it will appear in your Theme options throughout your account. 

Screenshot of the Save as New theme button in Atticus
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If you try to navigate away from the Theme page before you’ve saved it, Atticus will give you a pop-up warning asking if you really want to “Leave the custom theme builder? It seems like you are trying to leave the theme builder without saving your changes.” 

If you Leave without saving, your theme will not save and you will have to start from the beginning again.

Once saved, you can click the three dots beside the title, underneath the thumbnail image, to Edit, Rename, Duplicate, or Delete at any time. 

You can also click the Heart at the bottom right of any theme to have it appear at the front of the list for easy access.

Screenshot of the heart icon to save a theme as a favorite in Atticus as well as the three dots to edit or delete a custom theme
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Chapter Heading Settings

Once your theme is saved, there are a few additional page or chapter level settings you can adjust as needed. 

If you click Content from the top of the left navigation panel, you should see the content in the center of your screen and the previewer to the right. 

Screenshot of the combination view in Atticus, showing both the Writing area and the Formatted preview
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Click on any page or chapter and, just underneath the title, you’ll see a gear icon. Here, you can override the theme settings or choose additional preferences for the single chapter alone. 

If you have used a chapter image, you can hide it in single chapter or pages. You can also hide the page number, the entire chapter heading area, as well as the Header and Footer.

If you are creating a special page type, you can hide the first sentence formatting and, if you do not want this page or chapter to show in the Table of Contents, you can hide that as well. 

If you have chosen to use Individual Chapter Images in your theme, you can click the link to Add Chapter Heading Image underneath the title, and choose the images you would like to show on a chapter by chapter or page by page basis.

Screenshot of the gear icon menu in each chapter that displays the chapter level formatting options
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Hopefully, you’ve found this tutorial a helpful, comprehensive guide to creating a customized theme in Atticus. By following the steps outlined, you will design a visually appealing, professional quality book that stands out from your competition.

Last Updated: 08/28/2023

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