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How to Create Different Themes for the Same Thesis Website

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This member asks what is the best way to create different themes for the same website. The objective is to replicate a website but to entirely change it’s appearance. I discuss the default method of doing that in Thesis, I show how I organize a Thesis based skin and I discuss child themes.

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Video Transcript

I just have one last quick question, if you don’t mind.


I’d like to create different looks/themes for just one of my websites and is there a good way to manage, for example, we’ve taken this through your steps of creating your e-store and we’ve designed that look so can I somehow save that?  And then work on something else and if I decide to change the background or the theme back, it’s just a one-click kind of thing.  Is there a way to manage that so that I can switch some things, the themes… the different themes using just one website?

Yeah, now interesting question.  The easiest way for you to do that would be for you to have separate CSS style sheets and one of them would be custom.css and the other one would be custom.cssred or something like that and you would just change the name of those style sheets so that if you had version 1 it would be named as custom.css then that css would apply.  And then if you wanted it, you could change that name and rename version 2 to custom.css and then that would apply.  That’s the easiest way to sort of answer that question in this context.

But the other way to do that is to use child themes.  And I am definitely going to be talking about child themes.  In fact, I thought I was going to be talking about child themes here a little bit today but I don’t see that question so maybe not.  But the whole… I didn’t realize that WordPress or that Thesis allows for… Thesis 1.8 incorporates WordPress Child Theme engine but it does.  And since it does, you can actually create completely separate child themes that you can use the themes which would switch back and forth on.  Now I haven’t done that yet, and I haven’t even tried it with Thesis since I learned about it. But I understand the concept from other places and when I get the chance to teach this, you’ll be able to see your child theme as one of these things in here and you could activate one child theme and it’s the same Thesis installation but it would look one way or you could go back and activate the other child theme and you could switch back and forth this way.  And that’s the long answer and one I need to work on developing teaching how to do, but that’s how everybody else does it.

So there’s basically 2 options.  I can either create a separate css file and PHP… custom function.php file for each theme or I could do the child theme.


Well I’m definitely going to do that.  I think it’s almost been a secret that you can do it.  You know, just for grins I’ll show you how I have been working on it myself up until this morning.  You know, there are all these different skins that you can apply that you can buy and apply to Thesis.  And in order for that stuff to work you have to take their files and put them in your custom folder and make changes to all of your custom settings in order for that stuff to work. So, I worked on my own system for doing that with this solo skin I showed on Saturday.  And one of the things I’ve done is… let’s see Thesis. 1.8 and then custom… and then what I did was, I actually created these skins with solo skin and true self skin… these are 2 separate skins.  I created these skins to be entirely standing alone and so in order for these things to run it doesn’t affect the custom functions.php and it doesn’t affect the custom CSS.  They work on their own – you have to call them from custom functions.php but instead of all the funny stuff in custom functions.php that you were used to, all you have is if this file exists then it’s included, and once it gets included, then it loads all the rest of the skin.  Well, that was my way of getting around the rigmarole of making a Thesis skin.  But the child theme is going to make that all much easier.

Okay.  Yeah, because I’ve been trying to upload skins to use and I haven’t had… it’s not too hard but I haven’t had a great luck with it and you know, the best way to manage skins.  Now I see how you do it, you put it under your custom folder and then…

Although I programmed this to do that.

Oh okay.

It doesn’t necessarily work otherwise. You know, you have to plan it that way.

I think I’ll wait until you have the spoils so I don’t mess up my files.  Okay, perfect.  Appreciate your time, Rick.  Thanks a lot.

2 Comments… add one

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2 comments… add one
  • Paul G. February 13, 2012, 6:13 am


    I was just watching this to find out the difference between “skins” and child themes… I’ve actually created a quick guide on the child theme idea for Thesis.

    You can see it here if you’re interested:

    I’m just about to post an update about this for Thesis 1.8.3 release too as there were a couple of problems.

    Thanks for the video!

    • Rick Anderson February 15, 2012, 8:36 am

      Paul, I’m looking forward to giving your system a try.

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