WordPress 3: Creating and Editing Custom Themes
Illustration by John Hersey

Reviewing assets and resources and creating a mood board


WordPress 3: Creating and Editing Custom Themes

with Chris Coyier

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Video: Reviewing assets and resources and creating a mood board

It's time for us to dig into some real design work in Photoshop. First, let's explore what Widget Corp. has provided to us as assets for this project. If you have access to the exercise files, all these assets will be available in this chapter 01_02 folder here in the Assets folder. So they've given us a logo, they've given us some product images, and they've given us some text files. Let's go ahead and open up that logo by dragging it to Photoshop icon in our dock. Now I say they gave this to us, but of course, Widget Corp.
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  1. 6m 44s
    1. Welcome
      1m 19s
    2. Using the exercise files
      5m 25s
  2. 40m 42s
    1. Reviewing the client spec and deciding on WordPress
      6m 50s
    2. Reviewing assets and resources and creating a mood board
      8m 41s
    3. Building a home page mockup
      11m 26s
    4. Finishing the home page
      12m 27s
    5. Planning the rest of the site
      1m 18s
  3. 1h 8m
    1. Starting with a base project
      3m 6s
    2. Writing HTML code for the home page
      12m 6s
    3. Starting the CSS: Creating the header and basic style structure
      11m 28s
    4. Styling the Navigation panel
      10m 59s
    5. Styling the sidebar
      7m 55s
    6. Styling the home page, pt. 1
      8m 20s
    7. Styling the home page, pt. 2
      8m 17s
    8. Finishing the CSS
      3m 14s
    9. Moving on: One page is enough
      2m 43s
  4. 1h 56m
    1. Setting up WordPress and MAMP on a Mac
      6m 7s
    2. Setting up WordPress and WAMP on a Windows computer
      5m 38s
    3. Modifying important settings
      6m 26s
    4. Starting with a blank theme template
      4m 35s
    5. Introducing template file structure
      4m 55s
    6. Breaking up the HTML
      9m 53s
    7. Building the sidebar
      3m 54s
    8. Building the navigation
      7m 20s
    9. Showing one recent post
      4m 1s
    10. Fetching external content
      8m 23s
    11. Creating a custom home page
      3m 30s
    12. Introducing custom fields
      5m 23s
    13. Creating custom product pages
      9m 52s
    14. Creating custom category pages
      15m 39s
    15. Creating the blog home page
      5m 39s
    16. Creating a single blog entry page
      4m 15s
    17. Implementing comments
      5m 57s
    18. Finishing the home page
      4m 45s
  5. 34m 17s
    1. Will this work with WordPress?
      3m 10s
    2. Using JavaScript in themes the right way
      8m 35s
    3. Implementing something fun with JavaScript
      7m 53s
    4. Introducing plug-ins
      6m 31s
    5. Setting up security
      8m 8s
  6. 2m 7s
    1. Goodbye
      2m 7s

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Watch the Online Video Course WordPress 3: Creating and Editing Custom Themes
4h 28m Intermediate Nov 03, 2010

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

In WordPress 3: Creating and Editing Custom Themes, author Chris Coyier shows how to build a custom WordPress theme from scratch and satisfy common client requests. The course covers steps necessary to build a theme using a complete workflow with Photoshop, HTML, CSS, and WordPress 3.0. Also included are tutorials on enhancing a WordPress site with JavaScript, using plugins, and ensuring site security. Exercise files accompany the course.

Topics include:
  • Building a design in Photoshop
  • Converting Photoshop design to HTML and CSS
  • Setting up MAMP on Mac and WAMP on Windows
  • Moving HTML and CSS into a WordPress theme
  • Building navigation
  • Using custom fields
  • Creating a commenting system
  • Using JavaScript and plugins
Developer Web
Chris Coyier

Reviewing assets and resources and creating a mood board

It's time for us to dig into some real design work in Photoshop. First, let's explore what Widget Corp. has provided to us as assets for this project. If you have access to the exercise files, all these assets will be available in this chapter 01_02 folder here in the Assets folder. So they've given us a logo, they've given us some product images, and they've given us some text files. Let's go ahead and open up that logo by dragging it to Photoshop icon in our dock. Now I say they gave this to us, but of course, Widget Corp.

is a fictional client of ours and really this file came from iStockphoto. So really cool looking logo though, isn't it? One of their needs that we established earlier was that they wanted their website to really be clear that they're widget making company, no ambiguity about it. And this widget logo really does that for us already. If we use this properly in the design, there will be no doubt about that they're widget making company. So through meeting with them and reading this text that they gave us and looking at these product images, we've kind of gotten a feeling from them that kind of a relaxed corporate looking site is going to be the way to go for them.

Now, these product images, let me go ahead and show you these. They give us three for each one of their products. So I'm going to go ahead and drag these three down into Photoshop, so you can just see what they gave us. There is a large version, a regular size version, and a mini version, if we need it. So in these product images and in their logo you can see some grays and light blues and kind of some relaxed colors that will probably work pretty well for the design as we move forward. If we were to go with red and bright yellow and like a guy surfboarding on the homepage of the website, it's probably not going to jive very well with their corporate feel and their logo that already exists and stuff like that. No need to rock the boat there.

A great technique when starting a new design from scratch is to use what's called a mood board. And a mood board is just a design file. It literally could be a piece of paper, but it could be a Photoshop file as well. It is kind of a scrapbook of little bits of design that you kind of think are cool or appropriate for the mood of the site. So I have here in this Ideas folder as part of the exercise file, the file called Example Mood Board. I'm going to double-click and open up that in Photoshop. Now this, what you're looking at here, has nothing to do with Widget Corp.

and the project that we're going to be moving forward with. It's just an example of what a mood board could be. So it's just these swatches of color around, there are some typography exploration, there is images in the background, you can see this top image is blurred out, and we have some blurred text that kind of go with that. There are some textures going on and some different kinds of fonts with opacity. Just lots of stuff going on here. It doesn't look like a finished design at all. It's just giving us a feel for something, like maybe this design here is kind of an urban thing, as we can see some buildings and some underground kind of stuff going on here. It's just a feel.

So we're going to do that for Widget Corp. with our own mood board. So I am going to make a new file in Photoshop and give it some kind of arbitrary pixel dimensions here. We're just kind of playing around, and we just get this white canvas. And the white isn't so bad really. I mean, white is chill and relaxed and corporate. No problem with that. So maybe the content of our site will be on white, but we should work on a background. So let me just grab the Rectangle tool and just make a square here that will be representative of our background.

Maybe we'll make it kind of neutral gray color, a darker gray. Now when you have two flat colors like this next to each other, it's a little boring. It's a little flat. Let's give that background a little bit of noise, just to loosen it up a little bit and provide a little text here. And then now we can give it a whole bunch of noise, but that would be annoying and a little over the top for us probably, but since we're kind of going for chill, so just a very-very light amount of noise can kind of go a long way for visual interest. So that's kind of neat, kind of imagining our content over here and this being our background over here.

Now they did give us this logo, so let's open that up in Photoshop. I can grab our black arrow tool and just drag it over to our other project here. I am going to press Command+T to resize this thing. Command+0 to get my resize handles all in the screen, then hold Shift as I resize this, just so it's a more manageable size. That's all I'm doing here. Now, one of the first things I notice is that this logo is looking good on dark as well as white. So it's a kind of interesting that way. Not that our logos are able to do that, so that's kind of neat.

Another thing I often like to see in these mood boards is separators or way to partition content from one another. In a corporate site like this, one pixel rules I think are pretty neat. So let's grab one of those. I grabbed our Line tool. I'm going to hold Shift and draw straight line. And that's kind of nice. That might be a way to separate our header from our footer, or blog post from each other. I am not sure yet. And when I see one pixel lines like that, a lot of times I'll think of Helvetica Neue, in their Ultra Light font. I think that's really nice.

We could just go ahead and type WIDGET CORP in all caps and that font really reminds me-- It looks itself like a one pixel line, so that's kind of neat. We can just play around here. We're not exactly designing their website right now, even though this is kind of starting to take shape a little bit. We're just kind of dropping stuff on the page and getting a feel, getting a mood. That's the whole point. Now, as we are playing around with mood or we're looking around an iStockphoto, we found this file. I'm calling it mailmarks here.

And I'll press the Spacebar just so we can take a peek at it, and it has all these like stamps and stuff that looks like it came from the Post Office, pretty neat stuff. I was thinking, maybe this could work in our design, you know. It looks corporate-y to me, just in that corporations get and send mail and stuff. I think this would work. Most of the site is going to be pretty sterile and clean, but having a few kind of rough edges like this might be kind of neat. So I'll go ahead and open that up in Photoshop and maybe we'll just grab like one of these postmarks or something and drag that in there.

I'll grab the Lasso tool and just draw a really loose selection around that and grab our black arrow and just drag it over here. Just so we have a reference to it, just anywhere in here. Maybe we'll grab some more stuff, just in case, for playing around. I'm just lassoing around in this area in this JPEG file we have, dragging that over to? I'm not sure. I mean those are looking pretty humongous, so again, I've selected their layers and pressed Command+T. So I can resize them and then just holding Shift.

Holding Shift will keep their dimensions straight as I resize, so that they don't get distorted. That might work. We'll see. I could even see knocking them down in opacity a little bit, so they're not as strong on the page. Playing around with color is also important in your mood board. I can grab the Rectangle tool here, and just kind of maybe draw some bars in here and pick some colors. Now sampling colors from already existing elements on the page might be a good idea. Their logo has all kinds of blues in it.

Since it's gradients, there is light blues towards the top and dark blues towards the bottom, really dark blues, and that's kind of neat. We could base our color scheme off of their logo. There would be no problem with that. I want to grab that bar and drag it to the page down here to duplicate it, and then grab my black arrow and just move it. So we can pick another color, maybe another blue. It's kind of neat. I'll duplicate it again. We're just playing around with colors, playing around with feel.

We don't have to stay in all blue. That would be boring if we did that, so we could branch out. That actually that's working for me. That looks kind of neat. Just playing around with color, playing around with different graphical elements, using their logo, setting up some background textures here, playing around with typography. That's what a mood board is all about. So let's go ahead and save this as our mood board, and we'll use this later as we start building out the actual design structural files.

Find answers to the most frequently asked questions about WordPress 3: Creating and Editing Custom Themes .

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Q: What prerequisite skill do I need to be successful in this course?
A: This course is set at the intermediate/advanced level. You’ll do best if you have a good knowledge of Photoshop, plus a good grasp of PHPHTML, and CSS.

Q: The index.php file that the author is working with in Chapter 3 doesn't match mine after the "Building a sidebar" movie. It appears to change between the "Building a sidebar" and "Building the navigation" movies. What code am I missing?
A: The author makes some changes off screen between several movies in this title, simply because there is so much material to cover. These changes are provided in the exercise files.

However, if you are following along without the exercise files, you catch up to him by adding the following code to your index.php file, directly after the <?php get_header(); ?> line:

<div id="main-content">

Near the end of the file, just before  <?php get_sidebar(); ?>, add a closing div tag, </div>, to complete the div wrapper.

The resulting code will look like so. You may also copy and paste this into a new file and save it as index.php.

<?php get_header(); ?>

<div id='main-content'>

    <?php if (have_posts()) : while (have_posts()) : the_post(); ?>

        <div <?php post_class() ?> id="post-<?php the_ID(); ?>">

            <h2><a href="<?php the_permalink() ?>"><?php the_title(); ?></a></h2>

            <?php include (TEMPLATEPATH . '/inc/meta.php' ); ?>

            <div class="entry">
                <?php the_content(); ?>

            <div class="postmetadata">
                <?php the_tags('Tags: ', ', ', '<br />'); ?>
                Posted in <?php the_category(', ') ?> |
                <?php comments_popup_link('No Comments »', '1 Comment »', '% Comments »'); ?>


    <?php endwhile; ?>

    <?php include (TEMPLATEPATH . '/inc/nav.php' ); ?>

    <?php else : ?>

        <h2>Not Found</h2>

    <?php endif; ?>

<?php get_sidebar(); ?>

<?php get_footer(); ?>

Q: How do I load my custom theme once I have finished?
A: Copy the Custom theme folder to your new WordPress installation and put it in wp-content > themes. Then you can activate the new theme and work with it from there.
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