PS3 themes was one of the biggest new features added in the much talked-about firmware version 2.0, and it allows you to change the entire look of your PS3's front-end menus.
What you will already know is that Sony has, and will continue to, put new themes onto the PSN Store for you to download, which is cool. What you may not know, thanks in part to Sony's peculiar silence on the matter, is that with the use of a PC and plenty of artistic skill, you can actually make your very own themes for PS3, opening up the opportunity to make your PS3 look however you want.
There's a reason why Sony doesn't shout about it though, and we're guessing it's because it's a complete pain in the ass to figure out. There's no user-friendly program that automates it all - it's a meticulous process of image editing and file organisation.
But we've got it all figured out, so read on for the full how to...
Get the software
Your first task is getting the official theme compiler (the program that turns your images into usable themes). It's tucked away in a dark corner of Sony's official site, but to save you the hassle of finding it, just click right here to download the compiler instantly.
To make your own icons and backgrounds, you will also need an image editing tool. You can use any that you're comfortable with, although if you're after any program that's free you can try out GIMP or Paint.NET.
Editing your icons
When clicking the compiler download link above, you should have downloaded a 'PS3_Custom_Theme_v101-E.zip' file. Unzip this file, extracting the folder 'p3tcompiler_v101' onto your desktop.
In the 'p3tcompiler_v101' folder you will see a 'sample' folder, and the 'p3tcompiler.exe' program that will make your theme.
In the 'sample' folder you'll see an '01' folder. This contains a sample PS3 theme - but we're going to use the images in this folder to make our own theme, so make a copy of the '01' folder (drag it a little with the right mouse button and select 'Copy Here') and name it whatever you want. In this case we're calling it the 'Theme 1' folder.
Open your new 'Theme 01' folder to see all the images that make up a PS3 theme. All of the files will be handily named so you know exactly what they are in the PS3 menu. These are the images you're going to edit.
Also in that folder with all the images is a 'sample.xml' file. That'll be important later. For now, leave it alone.
Now to break out the artistic skills which, unfortunately, we can't give you. Choose your theme, be it Lol Cats, Batman, or even Mario if you want, and go through the images one-by-one, making your own versions of the icons and backgrounds. Now, we can't make you a brilliant artist, but there are a few important things to remember here:
1) Do not change the size (resolution), format or name of any of the image files. Just the image itself.
2) Make sure your icons are a different colour from your planned background or you won't be able to see them on the PS3.
3) Make sure you set a transparent layer around your icons or you'll end up with icons that are in horrible-looking boxes on your PS3.