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Kevin Basset
Kevin Basset

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Differences between background_color and theme_color in a PWA manifest

Every PWA has an app manifest. Within that document, you can define two key colors: the background_color property and the theme_color property. While the official W3C specs provide definitions for these properties, their practical applications might not be immediately clear. In this article, we'll delve into where and how each of these properties is used in practice.

About background_color

Let's start with the background_color. This property plays a crucial role in the visual presentation of your PWA on various platforms.

Android generates a splash screen for your app based on the background_color specified in the manifest. This creates a visually cohesive experience for users during the initial loading phase.

Android splash screen based on background_color

If you use Progressier, this color is also automatically used for the splash screens on iPhones and iPads.

same background_color and theme_color on an iOS splash screen

This background_color parameter also controls the color of the body of a desktop app during its loading phase.

background_color vs theme_color in desktop PWA

About theme_color

Now, let's explore the theme_color, which serves as the manifest equivalent of the theme-color HTML meta tag. Its primary role is to control the color of the status bar on your PWA.

Same meta tag theme-color and manifest theme_color

theme_color is used while the app is loading. After the initial loading phase, browsers typically look to the theme-color in your code. If both exist, the meta tag property takes precedence.

Different meta tag theme-color and manifest theme_color

In essence, the theme_color property in the manifest mainly influences the status bar's color during the splash screen phase. For post-loading color adjustments, it's more convenient to rely on the theme-color meta tag, which can be easily modified on the client side.

Note that the theme-color meta tag can also affect the URL bar's appearance in light mode. In dark mode, most browsers automatically choose a dark shade for the URL bar and its surroundings.

My Recommendation

To simplify your PWA development, consider using the same value for theme_color as you do for background_color. This approach ensures a seamless splash screen experience.

This recommendation becomes particularly evident when you look at the splash screen of this gag/demo app with different manifest theme_color properties.

Same theme_color and background_color

Different theme_color and background_color

If you want to change the color of the status bar after the splash screen has disappeared, simply modify the theme-color meta tag in your app's HTML:

Alternatively, with Progressier, this is how it works:

Screenshot of the Icons and Colors section of the Progressier dashboard

  • Fill color controls background_color and theme_color in your app manifest (so you get a perfect splash screen).
  • Status bar color controls the theme-color meta tag after the splash screen has disappeared.


In conclusion, understanding the roles of background_color and theme_color in your PWA manifest is crucial for ensuring a consistent and visually appealing user experience across platforms.

While background_color sets the stage during the loading phase, theme_color is most useful for controlling the status bar color during that same phase. For post-loading adjustments, opt for the theme-color meta tag, and consider using tools like Progressier for effortless color management.

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