14.1. The Style Manager

14.1.1. The Style Manager dialog

The Style Manager is the place where you can manage and create generic style items. These are symbols, color ramps, text formats or label settings that can be used to symbolize features, layers or print layouts. They are stored in the symbology-style.db database under the active user profile and shared with all the project files opened with that profile. Style items can also be shared with others thanks to the export/import capabilities of the Style Manager dialog.

You can open that modeless dialog either:

  • from the Settings ► styleManager Style Manager… menu

  • with the styleManager Style Manager button from the Project toolbar

  • or with the styleManager Style Manager button from a vector Layer Properties ► menu (while configuring a symbol or formatting a text).


Fig. 14.1 The Style Manager Organizing style items

In the upper left corner of the Style Manager dialog, within the drop-down menu, you can choose the style database you want to connect to. If you choose Default you will be connected to the default style database where you can find all available default style items and the ones that you saved in this database. Choosing Project Styles will connect you to the Project Style database where you can find only symbols that you saved in this database. If you created more style databases, they will be listed in the drop-down menu. There are also options to symbologyAdd Add existing style database to project and newPage Create new style database (see more Style database).

For each style database, you can organize the elements into different categories, listed in the panel on the left:

  • Favorites: displayed by default when configuring an item, it shows an extensible set of items;

  • All: lists all the available items for the active type;

  • Tags: shows a list of labels you can use to identify the items. An item can be tagged more than once. Select a tag in the list and the tabs are updated to show only their items that belong to it. To create a new tag you could later attach to a set of items, use the Add Tag… button or select the symbologyAdd Add Tag… from any tag contextual menu;

  • Smart Group: a smart group dynamically fetches its symbols according to conditions set (see eg, Fig. 14.2). Click the Add Smart Group… button to create smart groups. The dialog box allows you to enter an expression to filter the items to select (has a particular tag, have a string in its name, etc.). Any symbol, color ramp, text format or label setting that satisfies the entered condition(s) is automatically added to the smart group.


Fig. 14.2 Creating a Smart Group

Tags and smart groups are not mutually exclusive: they are simply two different ways to organize your style elements. Unlike the smart groups that automatically fetch their belonged items based on the input constraints, tags are filled by the user. To edit any of those categories, you can either:

  • select the items, right-click and choose Add to Tag ► and then select the tag name or create a new tag;

  • select the tag and press Modify group… ► Attach Selected Tag to Symbols. A checkbox appears next to each item to help you select or deselect it. When selection is finished, press Modify group… ► Finish Tagging.

  • select the smart group, press Modify group… ► Edit smart group… and configure a new set of constraints in the Smart Group Editor dialog. This option is also available in the contextual menu of the smart group.

To remove a tag or a smart group, right-click on it and select the symbologyRemove Remove button. Note that this does not delete the items grouped in the category.

The Style Manager dialog displays in its center a frame with previewed items organized into tabs:

  • All for a complete collection of point, linear and surface symbols and label settings as well as predefined color ramps and text formats;

  • pointLayer Marker for point symbols only;

  • lineLayer Line for linear symbols only;

  • polygonLayer Fill for surface symbols only;

  • color Color ramp;

  • text Text format to manage text formats, which store the font, color, buffers, shadows, and backgrounds of texts (i.e. all the formatting parts of the label settings, which for instance can be used in layouts);

  • labelingSingle Label settings to manage label settings, which include the text formats and some layer-type specific settings such as label placement, priority, callouts, rendering…

  • legend Legend Patch Shapes to manage custom legend patch shapes, which include Marker, Line and Fill geometries.

  • 3d 3D Symbols to configure symbols with 3D properties (extrusion, shading, altitude, …) for the features to render in a 3D Map view

You can arrange the Styles in iconView Icon View or in openTable List View on the bottom right side. In both views the tooltip shows a larger instance of the style. The thumbnail size slider at the left of the icons helps you adjust the actual thumbnail sizes in the dialog, for a better preview of the symbols! Adding, editing or removing an item

As seen earlier, style elements are listed under different tabs whose contents depend on the active category (tag, smart group, favorites…). When a tab is enabled, you can:

  • Add new items: press the symbologyAdd Add item button and configure the item following symbols, color ramps or text format and label builder description.

  • Modify an existing item: select an item and press symbologyEdit Edit item button and configure as mentioned above.

  • Delete existing items: to delete an element you no longer need, select it and click symbologyRemove Remove item (also available through right-click). The item will be deleted from the local database.

Note that the All tab provides access to these options for every type of item.

Right-clicking over a selection of items also allows you to:

  • Add to Favorites;

  • Remove from Favorites;

  • Add to Tag ► and select the appropriate tag or create a new one to use; the currently assigned tags are checked;

  • Clear Tags: detaching the symbols from any tag;

  • Remove Item(s);

  • Edit Item: applies to the item you right-click over;

  • Copy Item;

  • Paste Item …: pasting to one of the categories of the style manager or elsewhere in QGIS (symbol or color buttons)

  • Export Selected Symbol(s) as PNG… (only available with symbols);

  • Export Selected Symbol(s) as SVG… (only available with symbols); Sharing style items

The sharing Import/Export tool, at the left bottom of the Style Manager dialog, offers options to easily share symbols, color ramps, text formats and label settings with others. These options are also available through right-click over the items.

Exporting items

You can export a set of items to an .XML file:

  1. Expand the sharing Import/Export drop-down menu and select fileSave Export Item(s)…

  2. Choose the items you’d like to integrate. Selection can be done with the mouse or using a tag or a group previously set.

  3. Press Export when ready. You’ll be prompted to indicate the destination of the saved file. The XML format generates a single file containing all the selected items. This file can then be imported in another user’s style library.


Fig. 14.3 Exporting style items

When symbols are selected, you can also export them to .PNG or .SVG. Exporting to .PNG or .SVG (both not available for other style item types) creates a file for each selected symbol in a given folder. The SVG folder can be added to the SVG paths in Settings ► Options ► System menu of another user, allowing him direct access to all these symbols.

Importing items

You can extend your style library by importing new items:

  1. Expand the sharing Import/Export drop-down menu and select fileOpen Import Item(s) at the left bottom of the dialog.

  2. In the new dialog, indicate the source of the style items (it can be an .xml file on the disk or a url).

  3. Set whether to unchecked Add to favorites the items to import.

  4. Check unchecked Do not import embedded tags to avoid the import of tags associated to the items being imported.

  5. Give the name of any Additional tag(s) to apply to the new items.

  6. Select from the preview the symbols you want to add to your library.

  7. And press Import.


Fig. 14.4 Importing style items

Using the Browser panel

It’s also possible to import style items into the active user profile style database directly from the Browser panel:

  1. Select the style .xml file in the browser

  2. Drag-and-drop it over the map canvas or right-click and select Import Style…

  3. Fill the Import Items dialog following Importing items

  4. Press Import and the selected style items are added to the style database

Double-clicking the style file in the browser opens the Style Manager dialog showing the items in the file. You can select them and press Copy to Default Style… to import them into the active style database. Tags can be assigned to items. Also available through right-click, Open Style… command.


Fig. 14.5 Opening a style items file

The dialog also allows to export single symbols as .PNG or .SVG files.

Using the online repository

The QGIS project maintains a repository with a collection of styles shared by QGIS users. This is available at https://plugins.qgis.org/styles and can be accessed from the Style Manager dialog, pressing the search Browse Online Styles button at the bottom.

From that repository, you can:

  1. Browse and search for any style items, based on their type or name

  2. Download the style file and unzip it

  3. Load the .xml based file into your style database in QGIS, using any of the aforementioned import methods.

14.1.2. Setting a Color Ramp

The Color ramp tab in the Style Manager dialog helps you preview different color ramps based on the category selected in the left panel.

To create a custom color ramp, activate the Color ramp tab and click the symbologyAdd Add item button. The button reveals a drop-down list to choose the ramp type:

  • Gradient: given a start and end colors, generates a color ramp which can be continuous or discrete. With double-clicking the ramp preview, you can add as many intermediate color stops as you want. Click on the color stop indicator and under Gradient stop you can:

    • adjust its Relative position from the color ramp start. Also possible dragging the indicator with the mouse, or pressing the arrow keys (combine with Shift key for a larger move)

    • specify the color model to use when interpolating between colors: it can be RGB, HSL or HSV. In some circumstances, this option can help avoid desaturated mid tones, resulting in more visually pleasing gradients.

    • set the direction which the interpolation should follow for the Hue component of a HSL or HSV color specification. It can be Clockwise or Counterclockwise.

    • set the color properties

    • remove the color stop pressing Delete stop or DEL

    The Plots group provides another graphical way to design the color ramp, changing the position or the opacity and HSL components of the color stops.


    Fig. 14.6 Example of custom gradient color ramp with multiple stops


    Drag-and-drop a color from a color spot onto the gradient ramp preview adds a new color stop.

  • Color presets: allows to create a color ramp consisting of a list of colors selected by the user;

  • Random: creates a random set of colors based on range of values for Hue, Saturation, Value and Opacity and a number of colors (Classes);

  • Catalog: ColorBrewer: a set of predefined discrete color gradients you can customize the number of colors in the ramp;

  • or Catalog: cpt-city: an access to a whole catalog of color gradients to locally save as standard gradient. The cpt-city option opens a new dialog with hundreds of themes included ‘out of the box’.


Fig. 14.7 cpt-city dialog with hundreds of color ramps

14.1.3. Creating a Legend Patch Shape

To create a new Legend Patch Shape, activate the Legend Patch Shapes tab and click the symbologyAdd Add item button. The button reveals a drop-down list to choose the geometry type:

  • Marker Legend Patch Shape…: to use with point geometries.

  • Line Legend Patch Shape…: to use with line geometries.

  • Fill Legend Patch Shape…: to use with polygon geometries.

All three options will show the same dialog.


Fig. 14.8 Create a new Legend Patch Shape

Only the shape type and displayed legend patch shapes will differ regarding to the chosen geometry type. The following options will be available:

  • Shape: define the shape of the legend patch shape as a WKT string. Single and multipart geometries may be used, but no GeometryCollection.

  • checkbox Preserve aspect ratio

  • iconView Icon View or openTable List View of available legend patch shapes, filtered by tags.

When the new Shape is defined you can Save Legend Patch Shape… or press OK, which will both lead to the same dialog.


Fig. 14.9 Save a new Legend Patch Shape

Here you have to choose a name, tags to describe the shape and if it should be added to favorites.

If you press Save…, the shape is added to the list and you are directed back to the New Legend Patch Shape dialog to keep creating new shapes.