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Emma Jane Hogbin's "Theming Drupal: A First Timer's Guide" is crystal clear, and a great introduction to anyone who is thinking about creating their own theme.
This ebook is a very efficient and easy to follow guide that will help a first-time themer quickly understand the anatomy of a theme, how to create their own theme from scratch, and how to take some of the most commonly used base-themes and begin customizing them.
Included in the ebook is some of the following critical information:
- how to evaluate existing base themes for your purposes
- how to create the essential files for your own base themes
- how to create, and code snippets for, your page.tpl.php, node.tpl.php and other tpl files
- how to customize blocks, including creating a block.tpl.php file if desired
- how to share your themes
And, amazingly, it does all of that in 29 pages!
The ebook does assume that you are comfortable with HTML and CSS.
It can be acquired here: http://www.designtotheme.com/ebooks