Learning Drupal Theming

Are you new to Drupal theming? Do you know enough about CSS to be dangerous? Are you tired of using other people's themes and editing them to fit your needs? Do you learn better by seeing versus imagining? Are you ready for a different way of evaluating and planning a Drupal theme? If you answered yes to these questions, you are in the right place.
There are several books out on the subject of Drupal theming. There are video tutorials and articles explaining the concepts of Drupal theming. I have looked at many and conceptually have an idea of what's going on. They do a good job, for the most part, providing the facts of Drupal theming. When it comes to creating the code, however, my mind just doesn't think the same way as the text I have been reading. I am a visual person, I like to see it versus imagine it. I need to see the layout unfold in front of me to get a true grasp of the process. But how do I create a visual of a theme given there are anywhere between three and 15 files working together to define a theme? The answer, start with the layout files and merge them together.
The articles below will provide, what I believe to be, a unique look at one of Drupal's more popular themes called Zen. The primary objective of the articles is to enable you (and me) to create a Drupal theme. We will start by considering the inputs, tools, and controls associated with basic theme development.

Then we will dig into all the pieces and create a method for "seeing" and understanding the task of building a theme.
As I share my learning experience with you, I am assuming you have done the following:

  • Reviewed the Drupal 6 Theme Guide.
  • Taken at least a lesson or two in CSS to understand how it works. If not, try W3Schools CSS Training.
  • Taken at least a lesson or two in PHP to become familiar with the basic syntax. If not, try W3Schools PHP Training.
  • Downloaded and unpacked Zen onto a local drive.
  • Followed the instructions on "How to build your own sub-theme (6.x)"
  • You have uploaded Zen and your subtheme to a Drupal site. (Note: if you do not have a Drupal sandbox, you can enable Zen and your subtheme and then assign it as the site admin theme so others can't see you work.)