well, i have made some progress. I believe that using an Omega based theme (omega subtheme) is a good way to go. there are a few things to look for in your choice.
- “responsive” theme, meaning it will work well with mobile and tablet. a must these days, if not the first requirement
- three column layout – google the “rule of threes” to see some cool design tips on what your eye wants
- 960 degrees. this will give you a lot of flexibility
since you are learning drupal, i believe that you have to accept the learning curve that goes with it. that means making a choice based on flexibility and not “out of the box” features. if you want “out of the box” go with some other CMS: Wordpress or Joomla.
Learn CSS. If you are pretty good at IT anyway, you can learn CSS. i think this is the most important part that you can do.
Learn some Jscript and specifically learn some jquery and look for some free sites that will instruct you on how to integrate jquery with drupal. here is a good link – http://drupal.org/node/1043920
Komodoedit is a good code editor for any of this stuff. and free.
Learn GIMP. it is tough. it’s a pain but it is free and it is worth it. look to youtube for some tutorials on how to use it.