Getting Started with the Blueprint Theme

Published April 26, 2009

This article is also available in French, courtesy of

When it comes to starter themes in Drupal, there are two names that seem to always rise to the top: Zen and Blueprint. This article is about the latter, and how to get started with it.

Blueprint CSS Framework logo, shamelessly borrowed without permission from

So, why is Blueprint a good starter theme? First and foremost, it's incorporates the Blueprint CSS Framework, an open-source project all on its own. The framework was designed to speed up CSS development time - specifically "layout" CSS where various HTML elements are positioned on the page. It also provides "sensible typography", a stylesheet for printed pages, and other features. The "layout" aspect of Blueprint is based on a grid-based system that breaks up the page into any number of columns that are very accessible from CSS. This is where the true power of Blueprint appears.

What advantage does this give you as a Drupal theme developer? First and foremost, it cuts down on your development time by virtually guaranteeing that (providing you use the Blueprint CSS as designed) cross-browser CSS "float" issues are a thing of the past. Need a page layout that breaks up an entire page into any number of blocks? No need to get the Panels module involved, it's easy to do with Blueprint. You can Panel-fy pages without all the overhead (or learning curve).

Download, Download Again, Install, Enable

The Blueprint Drupal theme that you download from will only get you halfway there. Unlike most Drupal themes, Blueprint actually incorporates a separate open source project - the Blueprint CSS Framework. So, you'll need to first download the Blueprint theme from

download the theme from

Then go to to download the framework.

download the framework from

As with any Drupal theme, uncompress it, then place it in your "sites/all/themes" directory. Then, take the Blueprint framework file you downloaded - which usually has some crazy long name that begins with "joshuaclayton-blueprint-css-..." - uncompress it, and rename it to just "blueprint" and place it in the blueprint theme directory. When you're done, you should have a "blueprint" folder (the framework one) inside another "blueprint" folder (the theme one). Confusing enough for you?

theme directory structure

At this point, you're ready to enable the theme. Login as the site administrator and head on over to your "admin/build/themes" page and click to "enable" and make "default" the Blueprint theme.

enable the theme

After you submit the theme chooser form, head on over to the home page of your site. Assuming you're working with a fresh install of Drupal 6, it should look something like this:

default look of Blueprint

Pretty magical, eh? Okay - not really, but the point of the Blueprint theme isn't to look pretty out-of-the-box, it's to provide a solid foundation for you to build on. Mission accomplished, so far.

The Plan

So, now that you have the Blueprint theme up-and-running, what are you going to do with it? How about you create a home page with a bunch of regions that we can drop blocks in? Perhaps something like this...


Please excuse the crudity of this model, I didn't have time to build it to scale or to paint it. (bonus points if you can name the movie I just ripped off this quote from - first one to name it in the comments below wins).

To accomplish this, we need a plan:

  1. Create a subtheme of Blueprint
  2. Add the new regions to your theme's .info file
  3. Create a separate page template file for the home page
  4. Add the Blueprint CSS Framework magic to the new template file
  5. Be amazed
  6. Fame and fortune

Simple enough? Sweet. Let's go.

Create a Subtheme

Although it's not required, creating a subtheme can save you a lot of hassle down the road when it is time to upgrade your site. By creating a subtheme, you effectively separate all your customizations from the base theme. It's a good thing.

It's quite easy to create a subtheme, here's the low-down:

  1. Create a new, empty folder in your sites/all/themes directory
  2. Create an .info file

Rather than going through all the not-so-scary details, check out this page on for a quick and dirty run-through. At the end of this article, you'll be able to download my subtheme developed for this article as well.

I decided to call my subtheme "sdhft" (Super Duper Happy Fun Theme), so I created at "sdhft" directory with "" and "sdhft.css" files inside. The "sdhft.css" file is empty - it has no content - yet.

Once you're done, head back over to "admin/build/themes" and "enable" and make "default" your new subtheme.

enable sdhft

Create the Regions

According to our mockup above, we're going to need to add a number of regions to our page template. These regions will be able to accept any type of content via the "admin/build/block" page - they will be fully-functional Drupal regions.

Adding new regions to your theme is a two-step process: you need to add them to your theme's .info file and then expose those regions in a page template. We'll take care of the first step now, and the second step in the "Blueprint Magic" section below.

To add a region to a theme's .info file, simply add a new line of the format:

regions[variable_name] = label

The "variable_name" is the PHP variable that we'll call the region content from in our template file. The "label" is what the region will be called on the "admin/build/block" administration page.

It is important to note that the "variable_name" must not have any spaces or funky characters in it!

Based on my mockup, I'll need to add the following lines so that my entire "" file looks like:

name = sdhft
description = SuperDuperHappyFunTheme
core = 6.x
base theme = blueprint
stylesheets[screen,projection][] = sdhft.css

regions[left] = Left sidebar
regions[right] = Right sidebar
regions[content] = Content
regions[header] = Header
regions[footer] = Footer

regions[content_header] = Content Header
regions[content_left] = Content Left
regions[content_right] = Content Right
regions[f1] = Footer 1
regions[f2] = Footer 2
regions[f3] = Footer 3

The first block of regions I just copied from the file - the second block is based on the mockup.

Creating the Home Page Template

Next, I want to create a new page template that will only be used for my site's home page. Luckily, Drupal has some built-in smarts for doing stuff like this, so I only needed to copy the page.tpl.php from "sites/all/themes/blueprint", paste it into my subtheme's directory ("sites/all/themes/sdhft"), and rename it to "page-front.tpl.php". The "-front" is special, in that it tells Drupal to use this page template for the home page as defined on the "admin/settings/site-information" administration page.

There are other ways to name page templates to be used in other cases - more information on this is available here.

Now, here's the tricky part: at this point, your template will never been used. When creating a subtheme and overriding a template (which is what you're doing by creating page-front.tpl.php), the new template will not be seen by Drupal unless the "base template" is also present in the same directory. The "base template" in this case is the original "page.tpl.php" from the Blueprint theme. So, you need to copy "page.tpl.php" from the Blueprint them to your subtheme's folder - only don't rename it

SuperDuperHappyFunTheme Home Page!!!!

sdhft.zip4.71 KB


Great article! Been wanting to check out blueprint for some time now.

Oh and the quote was taken from none other than Doc Brown in Back to the future. Next time you watch the trilogy turn it into a drinking game by taking a shot anytime he says "great scott!"

col-content_footer span-18 last
should read:
col-content_footer span-24 last

to match the sketch of THE PLAN...
but I know plans change a lot during implementation...

but nevertheless a realy nice write up


Submitted by spuky (not verified) on Mon, 04/27/2009 - 08:54

Great piece. Finally convinced me to move away from Zen.

Submitted by Rob (not verified) on Tue, 04/28/2009 - 13:05

it is very good
if you see this site:

can you tell me how do you break up this content, it's like they have small panel. I can say 6 small container. can we do that?
how should i define the content and div tag?

I am sorry I am very new in drupal

thank you for your help

Submitted by Lewis (not verified) on Mon, 05/04/2009 - 22:36

Author comment


Your question is a bit out of the scope of this "getting started" article. It is meant to be a good place to start learning how to work with the Blueprint theme - not as a resource to learn how to create every layout using Blueprint.

Feel free to contact us for additional help for your specific issue.


when i type as you said this part
SuperDuperHappyFunTheme Home Page!!!!
but it doesn't show
either in page or page-front

did i miss something?

Submitted by Lewis (not verified) on Mon, 05/04/2009 - 23:15

OK. No one answered the trivia question yet. It's from one of my favorite movies: Back To The Future. When Dr. Brown built the replica of the town to show Marty how he would juice the DeLoean when the lightning struck the town's clock tower. You know, for the 1.21 gigawatts needed to power the flux capacitor.

Great scott I need to get a life!


Thanks for the article.

We designed a site recently using blueprint framework in drupal. However i was not using 'drupal blueprint theme' and we ended up adding lots of logic in page.tpl.php instead using template.php.

Please correct this info from your article.
Blueprint default container width is 950px and the formula is total width = (columns *40) - 10. This is clearly mentioned in "Blueprint CSS Cheatsheet" attached with the article.

Also Blueprint is not limited to 950px. You can use any size with Blueprint CSS Grid Generator. Google for the link, when i add the link spam filter is blocking my comment.

It's a great article, and just what I was looking for...unfortunately something didn't go quite right for me. I downloaded and unzipped/installed/enabled sdhft .

When I went to the home page, everything was dead up against the left hand column, and the 'grid' did not show. I went ahead and added some text in the page-front.tpl.php...and that did show up, so I know that it's reading the right file, but it doesn't look anything like your first screenshot.

If it's any help, I know that the 'container showgrid" is NOT showing the grid on my page? I went back and disabled every other theme (except blueprint). Any suggestions? I'd love to understand it.


Submitted by Mark Woodward (not verified) on Tue, 05/26/2009 - 18:17

Found The Problem

Hopefully this will help someone...if you have the problem I described above I'll tell you how I fixed it. When I had downloaded the 'framework' (you have to have that along with the Blueprint theme from Drupal) I unzipped it and renamed it to blueprint_fr for framework. The WILL NOT WORK. It must be called blueprint.

It was a bit confusing to me, but now I've got it:

blueprint (main theme folder from drupal)
------->blueprint (this is the framework folder inside of the theme folder)

Submitted by Mark Woodward (not verified) on Tue, 05/26/2009 - 18:57

Thanks for the great info and taking the time to write up this tutorial!

Submitted by Tim (not verified) on Wed, 06/03/2009 - 06:33

Quick question, how to I override blueprint.css? There are some class in the node section of the blueprint.css I need to modify. Like changing padding and margin to 0.


Submitted by Wai (not verified) on Tue, 07/28/2009 - 23:42

A quick comment on the creation of the subtheme. Writing an .info file such as the one you posted here will cause a minor problem.

The latest version of the blueprint theme does not add the css files to the "all" category, but instead to the "screen,projection" one.

So, if you write in your subtheme's info file:

stylesheets[all][] = sdhft.css

You won't be able to override anything, because the css file will be called before the regular blueprint module css files.

If instead you write:

stylesheets[screen,projection][] = sdhft.css

the css file will be included in the expected order.

Thanks for the article! I'm currently testing this, let's see if it manages to replace my current favourite, the basic theme! :-)

Great article. I've been using blueprint with Wordpress for a while now and this is big help as I dip my toe (!) into Drupal.

A tool I have used to help me figure out Blueprint is Boks. It's a small app (Adobe AIR) that lets you visually design your layout and then output the HTML and CSS. It can be found here:

Thanks again.

Submitted by thurzo (not verified) on Thu, 08/13/2009 - 12:33

I would like to know if it's possible to add a php if statement inside the page.tpl file that will let you use the same .tpl file for both a 2 and 3 column layout, depending on whether you have (for instance) a right block. If a right block is there, then it prints a span-12, if not, then a span-18.

<?php if ($right): ?>
(a middle column for content in a 3 c layout)
(a bigger left column for content in a 2 c layout)

Is this doable?


Submitted by Guest (not verified) on Tue, 08/18/2009 - 01:53

appending previous comment...

<?php if ($right): ?>
(a middle column for content in a 3 c layout)
(a bigger left column for content in a 2 c layout)

Submitted by Guest (not verified) on Tue, 08/18/2009 - 01:57

Author comment


Yes, it's possible, but this type of functionality is actually handled by blueprint in the template.php file in the phptemplate_preprocess_page() function.


how do i make the 950px width of blueprint wider? i used the blueprint css generator, and tried replacing grid.css inside the blueprint framework, but the grid images is still staying at 950.

I'm following the tutorial being given on this site as i want to have more columns on my site.

Submitted by Noah (not verified) on Sat, 09/19/2009 - 06:32

thanks! ill start reading from there. anyway everywhere i read about theme widths, there's so much topic on 960. whats with the hype anyway?

there's no much room for content if using a newspaper/magazine style layout and you get a long page, when its set that way.

Submitted by Noah (not verified) on Sat, 09/19/2009 - 09:49

Can the regions be generated using photoshop's slice tool?

Submitted by Noah (not verified) on Sun, 09/20/2009 - 22:12

I'm a bit late to this thread, but great article, loving the blueprint theme, just a quick question. I am trying to display a logo in the configure theme section for my child theme and it does not display. When I look into the page template I do not see a php statement to call $logo. Am I correct in saying that I have to code it in to get it to display?

Thanks, great tutorial, and helpful comments following.


Submitted by Robert Kopacz (not verified) on Fri, 06/18/2010 - 09:13

I think Blueprint may not include the $logo variable by default in the page.tpl.php - just add a php print $logo as normal and see what happens.

Also, make sure you have the logo box checked in the theme settings page for your active sub-theme.

This was a VERY helpful post! Will you update it once the drupal 7 version is stable? I noticed that the dev version of blueprint 6 is moving the blueprint files into the sites/all/libraries folder, instead of the confusing blueprint/blueprint folder.

Hi there

One thing (I might be wrong) but adding a border to the regions (to telp visualise the layout) can throw things out if say you have a span 18 and a span 6 which should sit on the same row - if you add the border the span 6 column will fall below.

Submitted by Jon (not verified) on Wed, 01/12/2011 - 04:01

Hi, just checking, has anything changed for the release of the blueprint 2.0 theme? I see some notes on the project page that suggest these instructions might be outdated, especially with respect to the location of the blueprint css files

Submitted by Robert (not verified) on Wed, 03/30/2011 - 10:54

You're right that the Blueprint theme now supports the libraries folder, but I believe most of the tutorial still holds. The philosophy of Blueprint hasn't changed, as far as I can tell.

In that regard, most of the meat of this tutorial would apply pretty well to most grid-based themes: Ninesixty, Fusion, Omega and others.

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