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Simple Strategies to Pick a Drupal Theme

I often get asked for advice about picking a Drupal theme. Themes are extensions of the Drupal content management system which allow a site admin to quickly change the look and feel of their site. You just download the theme you like, install it, select it, and your whole site has a new design.

However, like finding high quality Drupal modules there are some good rules of thumb to follow in your theme search.

Strategy 1: Find A Drupal Theme Close to What you Want

This is the simplest solution. I like to review the screenshots on the Drupal Themes page. Some themes don't have screenshots, but those are often lower quality anyway. If you see a theme that sounds good or looks good, the next stop is to head over to the Drupal Theme Garden which has live demos of all the themes. You can test things out without installing them. This is also a great place to browse the themes.

Often, though, a theme that looks close will quickly fall apart on installation and fixing it can take more work than modifying a solid base theme. So, if you find that your "close enough" theme is falling apart, you might need to take a new strategy.

Strategy 2: Modify a Solid Base Theme

Zen and Bluebreeze are a great base theme. Change a few images, a few colors, a few css properties and you can be all set. For the more "old school" folks who like table-based designs the previous standard was the Box Grey theme.

Ok, but what if you have a great design, you don't want to fight with anyone else's styles you just want to build up your theme.

Strategy 3: The Solid Foundation

So, you're already a designer and you are comfortable with CSS and you want a blank slate to start from. Great - use the Hunchbaque theme by Al Steffen (aka zarabadoo). This is a solid base theme, but is just black on white to begin with.

Strategy 4: Build it from the Ground Up

Check out the theme developer's guide in the handbook. From there you can build very precisely whatever you want.

Other tips? What other themes do other people like? What are your strategies for building themes?

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Hunchbaque or Zen?

Interesting post. In fact, the ease of CSS-only theming with Zen is one of the reasons I chose Drupal as the CMS for my forthcoming website.

Hunchbaque has only recently come to my attention and it strikes me as similar to Zen in its purpose. What are the differences between Zen and Hunchbaque? Which is better for what purpose?

sure - hard call

Yeah, they are similar. The real difference in my mind is that zen (or bluebeach) are reasonably attractive right out of the box. Hunchbaque is as plain as you can get. It has basically no styling whatsoever. If you install hunchbaque you have just signed up to completely build your CSS and you'll want to do it in short order because interacting with a hunchbaque site is just not much fun. Of course, once you theme hunchbaque it can be as glorious (or horrible) as your design. But you'll likely never want to use hunchbaque just on its own. That's the major difference to me - Zen and Bluebeach can be installed and left alone for a while.

Thanks for the link to the

Thanks for the link to the Drupal theme garden. I am trying to find a theme for the Drupal site I am setting up (my first) and I knew there had to be a place similar the the Wordpress codex. For some reason I found you first!!!


I've looked at the Tapestry theme, and I've had some decent luck with it. Any thoughts?