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This has been something that's bothered me for a really long time, and I thought ... Free BlackBerry Themes forum

  1. #1
    MonkeyBizIU's Avatar
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    How to make good themes

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    This has been something that's bothered me for a really long time, and I thought that with the recent release of Plazmic 4.7, now is as good a time as any to address what I feel is one of the big problems with the BlackBerry theming community, and really theming communities in general. Namely, that a pretty good portion of them look terrible.

    Now, as BlackBerry themers we're kind of hamstrung by the quirks of Plazmic, and the rather infrequent updates to add features and fix things. But, just because Plazmic is a bad development tool doesn't mean that we can't create good looking themes with it.

    When I sit down to make a theme, I ask myself two questions: "Has someone already done this?" and "Can I make it better?". When you make something, it's important that it contribute, in some way, to the community. Maybe it's a new Photoshop technique. Maybe it's new information about the way Plazmic handles certain images. Maybe it's performance limits for Composer files. All of these things add to the community, and make everyone better.

    There's a tendency for people to keep their theming secrets to themselves. It's understandable; there have been cases of people releasing themes for free, and have someone take credit for them elsewhere. But when someone asks me how I did something, I do my best to explain it, because chances have it I learned it from someone else.

    Now, if you're doing a theme that's derivative of something, like a Precision theme, or an OSX theme, or an iPhone theme, it's important to remember that you're never going to be able to duplicate what it is that you're basing your theme on. Rather, you're creating an interpretation. For an example: when I was developing PrecisionBerry, the one thing I noticed was that the caret is ugly and out of place. So, I made a new one that I thought fit with the theme better.

    If you're creating something original, you have both a lot more freedom, and a higher standard to adhere to. Because there's no original to judge from, someone looking at your theme will base their opinion solely on how it looks and functions. Pretty close doesn't cut it here; you need to be spot on and put your best foot forward. Admittedly, I don't do original themes. For whatever reason, they all end up looking like something and never come out quite the way I want them to.

    One of the most important things you can do is test. Before I ever put a theme into the wild, I test it for days, if not weeks, on my own device. After I release it, I listen to my users, try and duplicate their problems, and fix them as best I can. It's important to build a relationship with the people that use your theme.

    Moving away from theming theory and into the more technical aspects of theming, there are a few things I see a lot that make me crazy.
    - Improperly sized icons. This is a HUGE problem with people that use the Precision icons. If you're going to use them, resize them. There are tutorials that show you how to automate the process.
    - Bad color combinations. I think orange and blue looks hideous, but I know that for a University of Illinois-based theme, it makes sense. But combinations like hot pink and lime green look terrible no matter what the subject, and can make an otherwise great theme look awful.
    - Leaving elements of the original theme intact. This isn't always a bad thing, but more often than not it comes across as lazy. Certain elements that don't fit with the rest of the theme stick out and draw unnecessary attention to themselves, ruining the user experience.

    I'd invite any other experienced themers to contribute to what I've said here. Post your own thoughts and tips. Call out a few pet peeves. Let's make the community better and clear out a few bad habits.

  2. #2
    raton's Avatar
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    Okay, if all the themes out there are horrible then I guess I hereby request for Pinstack to remove the so called "themes expert" title off my username and just let me be another theme junkie. Besides, I could care less what my title says. I just make themes for myself and decide to share them here. I don't ask for anything in return. Heck, don't even comment on them if you don't want to. Okay, I'm done talking crazy. Next!
    ~via smartphone mobile.pinstack.com~

  3. #3
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    im not a theme pro but if i feel confotable with a theme that i have made for myself and i decide to share it with whoever else wanna use it i dont care if im going to get something back, not even a good commnent and i think mostly of the themes looks really nice here for me...
    When i say i have Bold family phones, I meant it, from the older to the younger, even the unborn ;)

  4. #4
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    Giving advice on theme making is always a plus. Giving opinions on how themes look and/are made is everyone's right. saying something like a pretty good portion of them are terrible can discurage new theme builders. i personally feel there are no rules or guidelines on how a theme is "suppose" to be made. Its personal creativity. and that creativity improves over time. i can honestly say i had my first few themes fall into that terrible category. But come on, who's hasnt when entering the theme game. IMHO, you heart is in the right place, but the approach can be done better. Something like, "here are some tips on building themes". not "these are terrible. Heres what your suppose to do".
    Imagine if you just downloaded Plazmic for the first time made your first theme, and read that?
    Just my humble 2 cents ya'll
    For my theme blog, remember....
    Resistance Is Futile

  5. #5
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    I actually think that all the themers beginner to pro are very good and work very hard. Just because you don't like it doesn't mean others won't. I would suggest a good place for themers to start is by trying to keep their links and images "hot" so others can enjoy their work (instead of passing judgement on others). Imagine how disappointing it is when you are attracted by a title only to enter a thread with "DEAD LINKS" and no images.
    Last edited by moderncowboy; 03-20-2009 at 09:14 PM.

  6. #6
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    Most of the themes here are NOT terrible. Now I don't make themes, but I've dl my share, always grateful for something someone has taken their time to make, post and GIVE.
    As 9 said, you've got every right to express yourself. As I have every right to say it was in poor taste and I honestly believe (while maybe its intent was to help) it'll do more harm to the upcoming theme makers.
    Does a theme have to be top down new to contribute to the community? I don't believe so.

    I believe that here @ pinstack there ARE creative, innovative and above all generous theme makers. I'll browse over 100 different (but in your opinion similar and terrible) precision or bold themes, taking the time to appreciate the "over sized" icons, knowing this person is TRYING to GIVE different users different options.

    Honestly, ill take Joe Stackers "terrible" theme any day based on his attempting to learn and please (picky) stackers any day than a "premium" theme created by someone with an outlook similar to this.

    That's my (not so) humble opinion.
    Later
    ~via smartphone mobile.pinstack.com~
    Last edited by jfcooley; 03-20-2009 at 09:22 PM.

  7. #7
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    I can appreciate what you're saying, but as 9 said I believe there are probably better ways of enlightening the community. Either way, I agree with you on some points, there are some terrible themes posted sometimes just as sometimes you find some great ones. Perhaps we can put together some sort of Theme Developers forum section where Theme Dev's can discuss technique or styles and other things that work well together and make a great theme. Who knows, we could even end up with people collaborating and using each others strengths to create amazing themes.

    I for one have NO talent or ability to create Icons. I simply cant do it, any help in this department would be supremely welcomed!
    «BlackBerry: Storm 9530»

  8. #8
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    I can see both sides of the fence here so to say. As someone who has always been into themes, but never had the ability to make them... I would have to say from reading that post from MonkeyBizIU does have some discouraging aspects to it, but also at the same time motivation.


    How I feel is, these so called "horrible" themes that are posted, usually I see are posted so they can get advice on what works and overall how to make that theme provide a better theme having experience. I would never "slam" anyone for their work, first of all because it's theirs and who the hell am I to say anything is that I have not put my time and effort into is good or bad. Secondly, because it's just going to do a bit of anything but make the other stackers or potential stackers think we're a bunch of egocentric "I'm better than you" type of garbage.


    That's not the point to this site, and not the reason I joined. Everyone on here that I have had the pleasure of talking to, or had asked for help, even a requested them, has been done... no questions asked. This is a community of Smart Phone users and not 1 person knows it all, but if you look at it as a conjunctive effort and use all of our knowledge that is what it's all about.


    Now I do understand constructive criticism but if you're going to take that approach, just make sure you're not coming off as a jerk or the "I'm better then you" type. That will get no one anywhere. We all just need to help each other and offer advice and stop being like magicians and keeping all the secrets to ourselves.


    Remember, we all start(ed) in the same spot, from scratch.


    Just my thoughts...
    "My Crackberry is faster than the Rev's Blackberry®."

  9. #9
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    My only gripe is I spend countless hours making icons, backgrounds and the like from scratch and someone who just slaps on a poorly cropped background on a basic theme gets all these comments about how AMAZING the theme is. It makes people like me highly discouraged when making themes. I make sure they're clean and neat and everything is sized correctly. I even torture my poor husband's curve and make him test out girly themes on it it just to make sure they work well and look good. I've stopped making themes for other people for the most part because I feel like here on the community people don't appreciate up and coming themers. Maybe that's just me.

  10. #10
    luciferseamus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by raton View Post
    Okay, if all the themes out there are horrible then I guess I hereby request for Pinstack to remove the so called "themes expert" title off my username and just let me be another theme junkie. Besides, I could care less what my title says. I just make themes for myself and decide to share them here. I don't ask for anything in return. Heck, don't even comment on them if you don't want to. Okay, I'm done talking crazy. Next!
    ~via smartphone mobile.pinstack.com~
    dude! you know monkey wasn't talking about you


    Quote Originally Posted by Lowercase View Post
    I can see both sides of the fence here so to say. As someone who has always been into themes, but never had the ability to make them... I would have to say from reading that post from MonkeyBizIU does have some discouraging aspects to it, but also at the same time motivation.


    How I feel is, these so called "horrible" themes that are posted, usually I see are posted so they can get advice on what works and overall how to make that theme provide a better theme having experience. I would never "slam" anyone for their work, first of all because it's theirs and who the hell am I to say anything is that I have not put my time and effort into is good or bad. Secondly, because it's just going to do a bit of anything but make the other stackers or potential stackers think we're a bunch of egocentric "I'm better than you" type of garbage.


    That's not the point to this site, and not the reason I joined. Everyone on here that I have had the pleasure of talking to, or had asked for help, even a requested them, has been done... no questions asked. This is a community of Smart Phone users and not 1 person knows it all, but if you look at it as a conjunctive effort and use all of our knowledge that is what it's all about.


    Now I do understand constructive criticism but if you're going to take that approach, just make sure you're not coming off as a jerk or the "I'm better then you" type. That will get no one anywhere. We all just need to help each other and offer advice and stop being like magicians and keeping all the secrets to ourselves.


    [COLOR=black]Remember, we all start(ed) in the same spot, from scratch.[/COLOR]


    Just my thoughts...
    agreed!!! most of my themes don't turn out nearly the way that I want them to... but they still are getting better then what i started out making...

    Quote Originally Posted by 9of13 View Post
    Giving advice on theme making is always a plus. Giving opinions on how themes look and/are made is everyone's right. saying something like a pretty good portion of them are terrible can discurage new theme builders. i personally feel there are no rules or guidelines on how a theme is "suppose" to be made. Its personal creativity. and that creativity improves over time. i can honestly say i had my first few themes fall into that terrible category. But come on, who's hasnt when entering the theme game. IMHO, you heart is in the right place, but the approach can be done better. Something like, "here are some tips on building themes". not "these are terrible. Heres what your suppose to do".
    Imagine if you just downloaded Plazmic for the first time made your first theme, and read that?
    Just my humble 2 cents ya'll
    here here! well stated 9 of


    Quote Originally Posted by pompadore View Post
    My only gripe is I spend countless hours making icons, backgrounds and the like from scratch and someone who just slaps on a poorly cropped background on a basic theme gets all these comments about how AMAZING the theme is. It makes people like me highly discouraged when making themes. I make sure they're clean and neat and everything is sized correctly. I even torture my poor husband's curve and make him test out girly themes on it it just to make sure they work well and look good. I've stopped making themes for other people for the most part because I feel like here on the community people don't appreciate up and coming themers. Maybe that's just me.
    the only thing I can really say is, don't make themes searching for popular vote... make themes that you yourself like and will use! it does not matter what people like...
    the only thing that matters in the end is what you think of the theme you just made. no one will ever know how much time you spent adjusting color, size, image after image... no one but another theme builder. we can all see how much trouble, time and energy another themer has gone through to make sure that everything lines up correctly, make sure that there are no fuzzies anywhere...

    what I'm trying to say is, don't get discouraged. Make more themes and post 'em! challenge yourself everytime. Above anything else though, HAVE FUN!!!!

    to EVERYONE!
    above anything else HAVE FUN!!!
    "If you ever lose your keys in a river of molten lava, let 'em go, cus' man, they're gone!!"-Jack Handey


  11. #11
    raton's Avatar
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    Group hug
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