I'm not sure how much of this is Stardock's fault. (very little, I'm sure, though there do seem to be some really strange skin studio design decisions...)
I've come to the conclusion that Windows Vista is absolutely TERRIBLE as a platform when it comes to skinning. I don't have the money for it right now but I'm thinking about removing Vista from my laptop entirely and either installing XP or Win7. Or even both.
There are just SO MANY parts of Vista that are either unskinnable, or they seem to have very limited skinning options. And yes, I'm going to list some examples...
First of all, there's the command bar...
This monstrosity isn't content with having annoying icons that you can't change (or at least, I don't think it's possible), but you are also unable to edit the font. I could put up with that if the font didn't have that God-awful blurry outer glow on it. It makes it very hard for skinning. Not only that, but the color of the font itself is tied directly to your active window background color. So if you want a truly dark skin that includes dark window tables, you are practically forced to create the lightest command bar possible, and as you should be able to see from the above image, even that doesn't always work.
The next evil little section of the GUI that limits your creativity is the navigation pain.
No, that wasn't a typo. It really is a pain. As far as I can tell, you are unable to change the color of the text for this pane (though I could have overlooked it somewhere). Not only that, but you also are restricted from changing the text on the folders button. As if this weren't bad enough, there is absolutely no way to change the color or design of the grabber bars on the right side of this pane, and apparently even background behind "Favorite Links". It makes this particular panel so ugly, I've been forced to keep it out of sight and out of mind. It may be a non-issue for lighter skins but for those of us who like a darker feel, it's a nightmare!
Those two alone would be enough for me to give Vista the "Official Skillet Stamp of Disapproval" but Vista (and probably the other OSs but I haven't really skinned for those) go on to make changing the system colors almost impossible. This is the part where I don't know how much of it is Stardock's fault. There are tons of colors for text and borders and tables and half of the are allocated to the same one color. As an example, I can go back to the Command bar example.
As you can see in the picture of the Command Bar above, the text is black. Fixing that is simple enough... you just change the active window background color! Oh... but look what happens then...
Oh look. The Command bar is fixed. But something is terribly wrong with that sound menu now. And that isn't even half of the things that get changed when you edit the window backgrounds. Even the color of some of the text in Photoshop was changed.
This particular problem makes me wonder why more of the colors in Skin Studio aren't able capable of being changed separately. I mean, there's no reason for the command bar text and the window backgrounds to be linked together in any way. The only reason I could see for this being so is that they're somehow linked in Vista. But if you can change them at all in Skin Studio, should you not be able to change them separately as well?
It's a quandary. One that I've been pondering a lot and getting increasingly baffled by. I don't really want to live in a world where it makes sense. Because if it makes sense in that world.. what else would make sense? A picture of Darth Vader standing in the ocean pouring water from a pitcher into a jug?
I should hope not.