Here is a nice article on MSDN that details end-to-end the process of branding a publishing site. Real World Branding with SharePoint 2010 Publishing Sites written by Andrew Connell and Randy Drisgill, both SharePoint MVPs.

It starts off with the starter master pages which I highly recommend: Starter Master Pages for SharePoint 2010 by Randy Drisgill

The article is a good base to start learning SharePoint 2010 branding. One thing that needs to be added to this is the removal of the ribbon from anonymous view which you can see in my article here.

Have fun branding!