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I'm not new to PHP, HTML, CSS, and the like, not at all, but I'm definitely new to creating Wordpress themes. I was recommended to use the Thematic theme as a base theme and modify it using functions and CSS.

Here's essentially what I'm looking to do:

  1. Modify the header to be an image.
  2. Add a background image or images to "nicen" things up.
  3. Basically completely make the theme look different.

Maybe my line of logic is wrong, but I'm fighting the urge to copy over the PHP files defining the layout and modify them to fit. Is this the right approach? I want to basically be as free as possible to modify things dramatically. Should I just build a theme from scratch?

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It depends on your theme's target. I make all bespoke one-off sites for clients, so child themes are kind of pointless for my purposes, though I do have a base theme and toolkit I start with. Is this something you plan to distribute, or is it personal? Maybe look into something like Starkers, which is a stripped down version of the default theme, to get a good overview of the WP API and theming/template functions. I think at that point you can take a more informed look at theme frameworks to see what advantages they offer, or how they differ from the "WP Way". –  Milo May 21 '11 at 1:14
    
Thanks, this whole thing is kind of overwhelming. I have a rough design in mind, but I don't want to spend a few years on it. It's for me, so I'd just like to design as quickly as possible. –  Naftuli Tzvi Kay May 21 '11 at 1:30
    
I would start with something simple, like what Martin posted, or starkers. Have a read through the codex pages on template hierarchy, the loop, and template tags. The codex docs are a great source. –  Milo May 21 '11 at 2:00
    
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2 Answers

  1. for instance, to replace the blog title w/ an image you could.

automatic markdown is killing my formatting!

function childtheme_override_blogtitle() {   
  printf( '<div id="blog-title"><a href="%s" title="%s" rel="home">%s</a></div>', get_bloginfo('url'), get_bloginfo('name'), 'insert image tag here' );
}

a lot of the stuff in thematic can now be replaced via these special override functions. just replace the thematic in the thematic function name w/ childtheme_override. and of course, you still have filters all over the place.

  1. this sounds like a CSS question.

  2. you could start w/ NOT importing the default typography.css or not use either of the default layouts. i've seen some sites that scream "i'm using thematic!" and some where you can hardly tell. you can also move things from certain hooks to other hooks.

as a self-styled thematic expert, i have to admit that i'm almost exclusively building off of toolbox these days. i was spending too much time stripping thematic content out, so i decided to switch to a more barebones framework.

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take a look into toolbox

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Nice, thanks @Martin. –  Naftuli Tzvi Kay May 21 '11 at 1:31
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