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    Introduction

     
     

    About this document

    This tutorial should explain to newbies some aspects of creating Aston Shell Themes.
    Note, that this document is written for people, who already have some experience in skinning and work with graphical applications, so if you're a complete newbie, you'll probably have to look for some graphics tutorials first.

    You can surely start making decent Themes without even reading the tutorial (as Aston GUI lets you do this quite easily) but this won't be wiser than driving a car without even being aware of highway code. So, at least give this document a try...

    The tutorial was originally started by Taras Brizitsky aka SacRat, a member of A.R.T. group. Some additional information was added with the help of Nikita Eugenov aka Smanic/A.R.T. and later slightly reformatted by Nerio. The original SkinWiki version has been started by Rich Kulesus aka mrbiotech.

    The current version of the tutorial is mostly written/maintained by SacRat.

    Although all the rights to the original version of this document belong to SacRat and early contributors, the updated tutorial you're reading now is distributed under the terms of FDL/CC BY-NC-SA and is meant to replace SacRat's original work and become the official skinning tutorial for Aston. If you're unfamiliar with these licenses you can find links to them at the very beginning of the document. The licenses are very unrestrictive and give you a lot of freedom to modify and redistribute this work. If you feel experienced enough you can easily update this tutorial on SkinWiki.

    Note: this tutorial completely reflects the process of Aston 1.9.2 skinning.

    And, finally... Don't think this tutorial to be your theming Bible: it only contains general information and during your work you'll need other sources as well. We've removed all the redundant information in order to make it easier to read.

    Graphics tutorials

    If you need any Photoshop tutorials to help you to improve your graphics creation skills, here's the "first aid" list:

    Some of these sites can be useful even if you're an experienced Photoshop user.

    Note: Basically you can start making Aston Themes using whatever graphics editor you're familiar with, even MS Paint.

    Artists to learn from

    There're many Themes for Aston, but not all of them are innovative and fresh.
    Make sure to check "featured" Themes on the site first if you need to learn some tricks or dig for ideas. Also check works after the following artists (in no order):

    • mrbiotech - The author of some of the most extraordinary Themes for Aston. They're maybe not just for daily use but have a great artistic value.
    • - his recent works have become quite popular in the community.
    • Smanic - his "eternal beta", "My Corona" are one of the most promising Themes for Aston 1.9.2, not to mention excellent and innovative previous works.
    • Roman Osadchy - he has made just a few Themes but all of them are 100% hits with the incredible level of care about details.
    • frozzen - one of the most popular Aston Theme designers ever. His works are not innovative but always stylish and eye-candy.
    • SacRat - for some reasons some people think he made a couple of decent Themes  in the past.
    • modulis - a few interesting works with an unusual look.
    • Dmitry Prosvirnin - Gladiators' leading designer who has made several works which are now pure classics.
    • There're many, many other interesting designers waiting for their 15 minuttes of fame :)

    Basic Theme

    The simplest Aston Theme consists of the following elements:

    • Wallpaper (background picture)
    • Taskbar, Tray and state skins
    • Start button/Main Menu skins
    • Toolbar skins
    Note: this is the absolute minimum of what you should make in order to have a very basic Theme for Aston.

    If you want to make a complete Theme, you should also include the following elements:

    • Plug-ins' skins: it depends on a certain Theme's settings, the list of the installed plug-ins and Aston version
    • Cursors: you can replace the default cursors with something, which fits your Theme (actually you can use a free version of CursorXP for making better looking ones)
    • Icons: Aston is able to replace standard Windows icons although this feature is slightly limited
    • Buttons and ANK objects: you may need some buttons or even animation sets
    • AltDesk skin: as AltDesk is de facto a VDM for Aston
    • Support for several screen resolutions

    A few definitions

    • All graphics-related values are defined in pixels
    • All distances are calculated relatively to the left-top corner (of the screen, skin, shape, etc...)
    • All fonts are defined in points
    • Offsets are usually thought of as distances between the object edges
    • Bound boxes usually define areas of text labels in X1,Y1,X2,Y2 coordinates of their left-top and right-bottom edges
    • Glass is usually a semi-transparent layer, created on the very top of the element
    • Background is the bottommost element of the skin

    Just don't forget about it and the rest will be much easier :)

     
         
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