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Last week I spent a little time putting Blockbase to the test. I had some explorations into warping text and images using CSS and SVG filters gathering dust, and I thought it would be fun to explore pulling those into a highly-opinionated block theme.

In the past when I’ve done a theme experiment like this, I’ve generally started with something like the emptytheme generator in the WordPress theme-experiments repository. This provides you with just the required files for building a block theme, so it’s a good minimal way to get started.

This time around, I used Blockbase. While it doesn’t yet include a quick generator script like emptytheme does, there is one in the works. In lieu of that, I just created a child theme like I normally would: by adding style.css, functions.php, and index.php files. I also copied over the child-theme.json file from the in-progress Quadrat theme, since I knew that would get me started.

My work in child-theme.json was very brief — I just changed a few variables and used Blockbase’s compiler script once. Then I copied and pasted over the block style effects from the plugin mentioned above.

Once that was all in place, I jumped into custom templating. I created just two templates, plus a custom header that featured a video loop of me waving at the camera (but filtered into oblivion using the tools at photomosh.com). I used a “Warped and Stretched Photocopy” block style on the header’s text, and “Photocopy” style on the featured images. Combined together, this created a highly stylized look and feel, reminiscent of (for better or for worse) the old days of Flash animations:

This all worked pretty well in the editor too! Due to a combination of Gutenberg limitations and browser bugs, I ran into an issue getting my SVG filters loaded into the Site Editor’s iFrame, but aside from that, things looked just like the frontend:

The filters did work great in the post editor though, so I can show you how that’s supposed to work by loading the header there:

In the end, the filters bug is not really a fault of the theme, and something I’m sure I could resolve if I choose to devote some more time to this exploration.

The theme is obviously a little over-the-top, but that was really the point of the experiment! I’m amazed I was able to fold my earlier block styles work into such a distinctive, full-featured theme with minimal effort.

Overall, I found that the benefit to using Blockbase was peace of mind. Compared to starting fresh or using emptytheme, Blockbase ensured that I had a fully-functional block theme immediately. It already contained extra templates for pages like 404 and search, and it was full of little CSS fixes for things that full-site editing just doesn’t quite support yet.

This eliminated a lot of extra busywork, and allowed me to dive right in and focus on the theme-building aspect that’s most exciting for me: the theme’s design and creativity.

The code for the theme is over here in case anyone would like to poke around:

https://github.com/Automattic/themes/tree/try/glitchy-theme-experiment/glitchy

I look forward to seeing Blockbase spark the creation of many more themes!