How to Create Custom PS3 Themes

Why spend money on the PlayStation Store for a theme that doesn’t meet your needs when you can simply learn how to create custome PS3 themes? Thanks to a Sony’s PS3 Theme Kit, you can now create custom PS3 themes including time changing backgrounds and custom icons.

Difficulty: Intermediate

Time to Complete: 1-2 hours

Table of Contents

Step 1: Preparations
Before you can create a custom PS3 theme, you’ll need the PlayStation Custom Theme Kit. This download contains all the information you need to create a custom PS3 theme for your personal PS3 XMB Dashboard. Inside the archive file is a program that we’ll use to create the final theme file called p3tcompiler.

You can change your background without creating a custom theme. So, if all you want to do is change the image behind your icons, you don’t need this how to. Simply copy the file into your “Pictures” folder on the PS3 (Downloading directly using the PS3 Browser works also) and set it as your background.

Download the custom PS3 theme kit to the PC where you’ll make your custom images. You’ll need an image editor to modify the sample images or to create new ones of your own. Making icons is not rocket science and if you know what you’re doing, Microsoft Paint will work just as well as Photoshop, the GIMP or other complex image editors. (Actually the only thing you need a PC for is the compilation of the final theme – you can do editing on Mac or Linux as well)

Step 2: Craft your Images
The images you’ll be dealing with during this customization include the background image, icons, pointers and even the frame of the notification box.

To make this easier on yourself you might want to name the files you create to match the image names used in the “simple.xml” file that is included with the guidelines. This will make creation and editing of your theme XML file much easier.

Background Images – Up to 24 background images can be included in the theme and using the XML file. We’ll discuss later how you can enable dynamic image rotation ( the default is “on startup”).

  • Each background image must be scaled for both SD and HD viewing.
  • HD images must be 1920×1080 JPEGs.
  • SD images measure 640×480 JPEGs.
  • The image size for any background image cannot exceed 2MB.

Consider your icon placement when designing a background image for your themes. The XMB icons will take up screen real estate and need to be easily read by theme users. Also avoid putting logos or bold graphics in the center which might interfere with readability. Color choices also play a factor in making a theme readable.

Icons – You can customize and replace most of the icons on the XMB bar. There are first, second and third tier icons to consider when designing a custom theme. Icons are stored as 128×128 32-bit PNG’s and should use a transparent background (alpha channel enabled).

Four icons use a special size. The image size for the default icons of the photo file and photo folder are 170×128, and the image size for the default icons of the video file and video folder are 228×128.

When designing icons, avoid using a solid color since users can set any background they like on your theme later and the icons need to be readable. Gradients or outlined icons often work best.

Note:The full list of customizable icons is included in the Custom Theme Guidelines file.

Notification Box – You should create a custom notification box to match your theme as well. The notification image is 64×64 and should be a 32-bit PNG (with alpha channel enabled).

The Color of the default background and the font used in your theme can also be set in the XML. Check out the Guideline Specification manual for information on your color and text options.

Step 3: Create the XML File
The most difficult part of creating a custom PS3 theme (for users who are not used to writing HTML or other simple scripting code) is creating the XML file that sets up your custom content. Luckily, there is a sample XML file included in the Guidelines Download and a file that describes what every piece of code means.

To create your own XML file:

  1. Make a copy of the simple.xml file in the simple directory that was unzipped when you expanded the custom theme kit.
  2. Rename the simple.xml to the name you have for your theme.
  3. Use Notepad to edit your XML file and begin changing the values/filenames to match what you want.

Read through the “readme_e” file to find direction on how to complete your XML file.

Setting up a Changing Theme Background – Custom PS3 themes can include up to 24 background images. When you include multiple backgrounds, the PS3 will rotate through them every time the system powers up. If you wish to make the image change at a specific time (like every 5 days or on specific dates) you do this by changing the variables in your XML file.

The variables you need to change are a part of the bgimagetable and bgimage section.
The following attribute can be specified:

showtype: Specifies how to switch between multiple background images. If unspecified, the background image will be selected at random every time the PlayStation(R)3 is started up.

The possible “showtype” types are below.

  • days: Select background image according to the date on the PlayStation(R)3. When using “days”, also set the attributes “from” and “until”.
  • datetime: Select background image according to the time on the PlayStation(R)3. When using “datetime”, set the attributes “from” and “until”.

The complete information on customizing the background image behavior is included in the “readme_e” text file.

Step 4: Compile your Theme
Once you have created your images, icons, border, and XML file compiling the custom PS3 theme is straightforward. Simply drag your XML file onto the p3tcompiler.exe icon and the system will begin creating the theme file.

Step 5: Copy your Custom PS3 Theme to the PS3
Once your theme is created:

  1. Copy the result onto a USB flash drive into the /PS3/THEME folder (create these folders if they are not on the flash drive using your Windows PC).
  2. Plug the flash drive into your PS3
  3. On the PS3, select “Settings > Theme Settings > Theme” and install the theme file from the flash drive.
  4. On the PS3, select “Settings > Theme Settings > Theme” again and verify your theme is in the list of available themes.
  5. On the PS3, highlight your theme and choose “Apply”. The theme should change to your new custom theme.

Creating your own custom PS3 theme can be a lot of work. There is nothing quite like showing off your PS3 to friends or knowing that every time you fire up your system you’ll get to see exactly what you wanted every time.

The next step is to share your custom theme with others, upload it to Filefront’s free hosting.

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5 Comments on How to Create Custom PS3 Themes

Some Guy

On August 31, 2010 at 11:10 pm

This isn’t a dynamic theme. It’s just a random image display, and has been available for ages. Dynamic themes use actual 3D animation (requires the PS Dev Kit apparently).


On March 4, 2011 at 9:53 am

what we need to do is make the fukin bakground change every Fkin 5secs if not 2secs every 2 or 3 days is waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay to long make it change fast and do it NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

PS sorry i am just frustrated cus i cant get my background to change with the images i have or use a dynamic background with a video i have what a wonderful day it would be with birds singing in the trees the standard background changes but if u want custom it you have to downgrade it pffffffffffffffff this is tiering i throw my ps3 away


On August 27, 2011 at 12:19 pm

how to use showtype for date and time can u pls tell me the full syntax for bgimage ,like 1 in the morning and another image in the evening


On August 27, 2011 at 12:25 pm

@above…pls send it to my email if uu dont mind