If theirs one thing Android does better than any other mobile operating system its customization. Turning your phone into what you want is the backbone of what Android provides its users. In this beginners tutorial, I will be going over how to theme your phone using nothing more than apps from the play store, while running stock.
This tutorial is only meant for those just starting out. It does not cover any custom ROMS or rooted applications.
Where to begin:
First decide what you want your home screens to do. There are loads of useful widgets and apps in the Play Store to offer more function to your device. Chances are your phone already comes with the basic widgets, such as a calendar, note taking, weather, clock, gallery and music. Look at those first and see which ones you find yourself actually using. It makes no sense to clutter a home screen with widgets you hardly use.
Wallpapers and backgrounds:
This is where the creative wheels start turning. Most themes you see on Android devices revolve around a specific background. Widget and app alignment as well as widget and app styles should flow with the background that you are placing them on. There are two very popular techniques that I have seen people use when making their own themes. They either pick a widget and app styles to match the back ground or directly contrast it.
Choosing the proper background for your device is crucial and in most cases is the first thing you will notice every time you pick up the device. Googles image search is a great tool to use but there are some other apps that can make finding what you are looking for that much easier. Apps like Picspeed Wallpaper or Zedge allow you to search for specific wallpapers that can be used on your phone. Picspeed even allows you to crop the picture you want to use so it fits perfectly. Wizardii Wallpaper is a great app that allows you to resize images that would not normally fit on your screen.
As I said earlier, you want to know what your phone is supposed to do for you before you begin customizing. This is where widgets come in. Widgets allow you to display information tailored to your liking. Most often used is a clock. Some outstanding widget applications are Beautiful Widgets, Zooper Widgets and HD Widgets. Zooper Widgets, in particular, is excellent because it comes with so many different widget options to choose from as well as a number of different customization tools for each widget.
Widgets can also add extra function. Widgets like Widgetsoid and Battery Widget Reborn are extremely effective tools that you can use. Widgetsoid offer you to make your own power toggles for different apps and radios for your device. These toggles are very similar to those found in the power controls widget in stock Android, but with added options and customization settings. Battery Widget Reborn is one of my favorites and my review can be found here.
Home Replacement Launchers:
These applications are must have for anyone wanting to change the look and feel of their phone or tablet. Home replacement launchers give the users a plethora of options to choose from.
These options can include but are not limited to
1) Home screen transition effects
2) App drawer transition effects
3) Color theme options
4) App icon replacement
5) Gesture based activities
3D Launchers are becoming more popular now despite their hefty price tag. Launchers like TSF and Next are loaded with 3D animations that give the user a lot of eye candy. These launchers often have multiple themes that can be downloaded from the Play Store at an extra cost. These themes usually come with their own icon packs and wallpapers.
Keep in mind that most Launchers have a free and paid for version. Whenever you first start making your own theme, use as many different launchers as you can till you find the one that works for you.
Icon Packs and Themes:
Icon packs and themes are applications that require a home replacement launcher to use. You can not currently change an app icon in stock Android. Don’t worry, changing an app icon is very easy and doesn’t require any special hacking or rooting.
First, find an icon pack or theme you want. These can be found easily in the Play Store. Just typing the word icon pack in the search bar will bring up the most popular ones. After some searching, choose an icon pack you like and install it. To apply the icon pack to your icons you will need to use the options in your home replacement launcher.
For this example I’ll be using Nova. You have two options. You can change all the app icons at once in the app drawer, or you can change one app icon at a time on the home screen. To change all the icons at once just go to Nova settings >look and feel>icon theme. You will see a list of the icon packs you have installed to choose from. Select which one you want and voila, all your icons in the app drawer have now changed. If you’d like to change only the icons on the home screen, long press the icon and select “edit”. This will bring up window with some options you can use. You can rename the application, enable a swipe action (Prime version only) and you can change the icon. To change the icon, just press the icon once in the “edit window”. You will be prompted to select an icon pack just like before. This time you will have to select the specific icon that you want to switch. This can be a little time consuming if you have a lot of app icons to change, but having multiple icon styles on your home screen can really help make it stand out.
After selecting a wallpaper or background, picking which widgets you want to use, choosing the best Home Replacement Launcher and the best theme/icon pack, you should be well on your way to making your device truly unique. For further inspiration check out the Android Themes Community on Google+. Below are some examples of what I have done.