Support » Themes and Templates » Learn Theme Design For Free?

  • Hi y’all,

    I’ve been running my site at, and I’ve recently decided to hand-craft my own theme for the site instead of purchasing a pre-built template. I have two years of programming experience (in C, objective C, and Java), and I’m comfortable with writing HTML and CSS. Code is easy for me; beautiful design is not.

    I’m wondering what type of resources you would recommend for learning WordPress theme design. Although there are plenty of books available (from Sitepoint, Smashing Magazine, Packt Publishing), I’m on a tight budget and I prefer no-cost documentation. Since I’m also traveling right now, I can’t visit a local library to borrow books, either. So I’m considering mostly cheap/free e-books and websites.

    I’ll be spending the next few days devouring the entire WordPress Codex. Unfortunately, the site appears to have lots of obsolete material and missing information. I was wondering if the Codex is sufficient for grasping WordPress, or if I needed to buy a book to really grok how it works.

    Although not technically related to WordPress, I will also need help with learning web design. I’m looking for a resource to walk-through CSS tactics step-by-step. I understand how to form CSS, but I have no experience in the little hacks that make a site look beautiful. I’m looking for a resource that walks through hundreds of examples of sample source code rather than one that merely teaches syntax.

    I also welcome any references to good art/graphics design sites. I’m also attempting to draw up the artwork (gasp). I don’t need manuals for Photoshop/Illustrator; I already know how to use them. The problem is not the tools, it’s the artist using them.

    Here are the sites I’ve bookmarked already; if you have better ones you enjoy, I’d really appreciate it. Thanks y’all!

    1. W3Schools
    2. AListApart
    3. Smashing Magazine
    4. Tuts+ Network

    [[Moved this thread over from the Miscellaneous forum]]

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  • esmi


    Forum Moderator

    I am not an expert or even an intermediate user at wordpress, but I have done 2 sites with it now. In both cases I just took free templates and tweaked them HEAVILY to meet my needs.

    Feel free to disregard my advice but this is how I have done this kind of work and it has worked pretty well for me thus far.

    1. Design and code your site (the homepage) as straight hard coded html/css. This will allow you to work, develop, and tweak the design at will without having to dig through wordpress files.
    2. Start a theme on wordpress. You can either find a premade theme that is close and pick it apart or just start your own from scratch. If you start from scratch the info on should be enough to get you started.
    3. Copypasta! Start copying and pasting your css in and tweak your classes and ids to match the wordpress ways of the rendered html code. Just remember that your code needs to be split up into a template like structure with a header, content, sidebar, and footer section.

    Hope this helps! For any other crazy site stuff the functions.php file and custom page templates should be able to handle just about anything. Good luck!

    Thanks esmi and Jagg, I guess I just have to search around. So far, I really like Smashing Magazine and A List Apart. I guess there’s probably no need to pay for books.

Viewing 3 replies - 1 through 3 (of 3 total)
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