Over the last couple of years I've received many emails from wanna-be themers asking for general advice to help them get started...so I thought I'd start a thread dedicated to all those would-be themers out there where authors can share the knowledge they have gained through their own experiences in the field.
We're all here to use good themes and the more the merrier I say! Hopefully this will help newbie authors get a good start and an idea as to what being a dedicated themer entails. Soon we'll all be able to enjoy better themes.
I encourage all you experienced authors (basically any of the thread starters in the "Completed Visual Styles" section) to add something to this thread that you think would be helpful. I don't mean detailed tutorials or walkthroughs but just general tips, design philosophies, routines, best practices, etc, etc.
I'll get the ball rolling......
These are the main applications I use....
- StyleBuilder (www.tgtsoft.com): for making the Visual Styles
- Adobe Photoshop 7: for editing and creating the images
- Corel Xara X: for creating images, this program is great for creating vector graphics which look very good when you have to enlarge or shrink an image, can also export to many formats. (I used this for
creating the BlockOS icons)
- GIF Movie Gear for Icons: I use this as a utility for converting graphics from one format to another....extremely useful.
- ColorPad: This is a handy utility for getting color codes from pictures quickly.
- Axialis IconWorkshop 5.03: for making XP icon sets
- ResHacker or Restorator: for hacking windows DLL files and editing the shellstyle.dll for themes.
- Swish 2.0: for making animations e.g. Copy, Move Delete animations (with this app you can export to AVI)
- And more recently I have started using Cinema 4D XL 8 for making 3D graphics and CursorXP for compiling alpha-blended animated cursors.
I know that thats a lot of programs but you really don't need all of them. For Visual Styles, which is where I began, all I used was Photoshop and StyleBuilder. The rest are mostly for accessories.
Here are some tips from my own personal experiences (in no specific order)......
- Love your computer! Because you'll need to spend a lot of time on it.
- Do not be lazy because that is the #1 Theme Author killer in the world!
- Every author/artist needs inspiration, it could be anything...movies, games, family, cars, animals, weed, etc etc. Find out what really inspires you and be true to it. Let it motivate you.
- Play around with all the programs that you need to use EXTENSIVELY. Know exactly what you can do with them and what you can't.
- Think carefully about what you want your theme to look like, keeping in mind what the possibilities and limitations of StyleBuilder and msstyles are.
- Take a screenshot of desktop including start menu and import into Photoshop and start designing on top of that picture in layers. Design first, implement later.
- There are SO MANY resources and tutorials on the internet to help you but don't try and learn everything out there because it is way too much and it can discourage you. You must figure out exactly what you want to do then search for those specific answers. Theme related forums and
bulletin boards (like this one) are extremely helpful for this.
- Use the Search function in forums to locate answers to your problems. If you find nothing then make a post.
- Always encourage feedback! Ask strangers and friends constantly for feedback and suggestions.
- You must learn to tell what is good advice and what is bad advice. If you know for a fact the person has bad taste, kindly and politely disregard
- Don't try and do what everyone asks, you can never satisfy everyone.
- Try and make your theme unique and original but do not overdo it. Functionality is the most important thing, if it just looks cool but is not very useable then your theme will only be a novelty thing and will soon be forgotten. People who like to USE your theme regularly will remember it forever.
- Use criticism to your advantage, never take negative things that people say to heart, even if it is very insulting. This is hard to do!
- There is something to gain from every piece of feedback (except maybe for those "nice" comments
- Do not try to compete with other authors because then you start to subconciously copy them. Rather try and learn from other authors techniques and use those techniques to do your own thing, but don't ever just copy. That is being lazy.
- Use StyleBuilder to "import" other author's themes if it has something you like, and learn how they did that.
- You must always compete with yourself....always try to do something better than what you did the last time, otherwise no point in doing it.
- Don't rush anything, and don't make anything final unless you are 100% sure there is nothing more you can do to improve it. Many authors rush their work to make a "Final" release because other users pressure them, but don't listen to them, take your time and work at your own pace. None of my themes are final and I am always trying to improve them.
- Make regular backups after every significant change.
- Organize your files in a logical, easy-to-refer-to manner, I cannot stress the importance of this.
- Never give up, if you get stuck, find a solution or find a way to work around the problem. Persist! Persist! Persist!
Well thats all I can come up with now, but I'll be sure to add more tips in the future. Hope it was helpful and really hope to read many more tips from other authors.
Urm Moderators....any chance you could make this thread sticky?
Regards everyone and happy theming!!!