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For most of us with WordPress websites we like to tweak a little bit of everything to make it look just so, and the beauty of WordPress is that you are able to do this.  BUT, if you’re simply modifying the files that come with the theme then every time you do an upgrade you have to re-apply the changes that you have made.

Ever lame!

A super easy solution to make sure that your theme customizations aren’t overwritten is to create a child theme.

I know, I know, you’re not a developer and you don’t want to have to create a whole new theme all by yourself, right?  Not to worry my friend, it’s far more simple than you’re imagining.  A child theme basically borrows the files from your regular theme and acts as a holder for your customizations, so you’re not re-creating everything from scratch after all.

Here’s how you create a child theme to go along with whatever WordPress theme you’re currently using:

1. Using FTP, navigate to your themes folder and create a new folder.  You can call it whatever you want.

2. Create a text file called style.css and put it in this new folder.

3. Add this header info into the css file:

/*
Theme Name: whatever name you want your child theme to have eg. SMac’s Child Theme
Description: whatever description you want here
Author: your name
Version: 1.0
Template: twentyten  (or whatever the name of the theme is that you’re currently using)
*/

The Template field is particularly important, make sure to type the name of the theme folder exactly as you see it in the themes folder, it’s case sensitive. In the example above I’ve used twentyten as my main theme.  The Description, Author, and Version fields are all optional.

4. Add this nifty line into your css file (after the header info) to import the css info from your main theme:

@import url(“url of the main theme css file”);

Now all you have to do is add any css changes you want to this new css file in your new theme folder and anything you put here will override the main theme’s css.

5. If you want to make changes to any other theme files, eg. Loop.php, Functions.php, you can put them here too and again, anything that is here will override the main theme files.  This step isn’t necessary, the only file that a child theme absolutely must have is style.css.

6. Activate your new child theme – if all is ready you can log into your wp-admin as usual, go to the Appearance section and you’ll see your new child theme sitting there ready to be activated.  Go ahead and activate your child theme and voila!

All done!  Super simple really, if you know a bit of coding, and let’s be honest, you probably wouldn’t be fiddling around with the guts of your WordPress installation files unless you already know a bit of coding, right?

Now you’re all set to do your next upgrade, and joy of joys, all of your customizations will still be there when you’re done!  Yay!