As one of the most successful premium theme shops in the business, Elegant Themes is best known for its top of the line themes and plugins. Even on this blog, we tend to talk about how best to use those themes and plugins (or themes and plugins like them) to get the most out of WordPress. But today, I’m going to do something a little bit different. I’m going to roundup some of my personal favorite, free WordPress themes.
The Best Free WordPress Themes Available in 2015
The themes I’ve collected below are all available via the official WordPress plugin repository. I selected most of them based on a combination of their popularity, user rating, and design. Those that do not have particularly high download counts or that are relatively new and untested made the cut due to unique design and/or standout plugin compatibility.
Zerif Lite is the free version of a beautiful one page WordPress theme by codeinwp. It’s great for businesses, web agencies, personal use, portfolios, and more. It’s responsive, built on BootStrap with parallax support, and sports a modern design.
It’s also equipped for ecommerce with WooCommerce compatibility, opening up even more possibilities. Finally, it comes with WPML, RTL, retina-ready graphics, an SEO friendly setup, and the option to upgrade to a pro version.
Lovecraft is a beautiful two-column blogging theme (named, I’m assuming, after the writer H.P. Lovecraft) by Anders Noren. It features a beautiful full-width image (replaced with post/page thumbnail images when on those pages), responsive design, gorgeous typography, and much more.
Hemingway is another great looking blogging theme by Anders Noren; who seems to be really good at creating beautiful themes for (and named after) writers. This particular theme features two-columns, responsive design, retina-ready assets, a full-width header image with parallax scrolling effect, custom accent color, custom logo upload, custom widgets, page templates, and more.
Storefront is the stylish and extremely extendable free WooCommerce theme by WooThemes. It’s entire purpose is to be the ultimate free theme option for anyone using WooCommerce. It’s guranteed to always have up-to-date deep integration with the WooThemes flagship ecommerce plugin.
It comes with several layout and color options, responsive design, and a growing library of premium extensions for advanced features and functionality. A great way to start your next ecommerce project for free and scale with premium tools as needed.
Longform is a stylish and powerful theme built for storytellers. It is the only free WordPress theme with full Aesop Story Engine compatibility. As far as I’m aware, it may be the only free WordPress theme designed for telling interactive longform stories. It also comes with responsive design, retina ready graphics, an advanced admin panel, compatibility with WPML, and more.
Gridsby is a pinterest style gallery theme that’s perfect for photoblogging. It has responsive design, retina ready design elements, and includes an easy method for post photos to the front page gallery. It may be simple but that simplicity gives it a great look and feel that should be perfect for inspiration gathering, photo journaling, and more.
We have one final theme by Anders Noren for bloggers. I honestly didn’t mean to get three themes by the same person in one post but I’m a sucker for a great blogging theme and he definitely delivers.
This theme uses large full-width images and transparent post title sections to make a big design statement with the standard post archive. The, each post is given the readers full attention with a single column layout with nice spacing and great typographic choices. It’s a pleasure to read on.
Next up we have Serene; the first completely free theme from none other than Elegant Themes. It’s a beautiful single-column blogging theme with fully responsive design, custom colors for individual posts, and six different post formats to choose from.
Every post is easy to read with awesome typography, big header images (or not, if you don’t want them), and text spacing that is easy on the eyes. It’s a wonderful theme for sharing and consuming content.
I’ve always been a big fan of the next two themes on this list. I’m not a blind supporter of the default WordPress themes that come out each year, but I think at least two of the last few have stood out and will hold up over time.
In the case of Twenty Fifteen, I really like how it’s set up for writing extremely readable content (no matter what device someone is viewing it on). Its design is simple and gets out of your way both as a content creator and as a blog reader. It’s also probably one of a handful of side navigation themes that I enjoy.
I’ve always admired Twenty Twelve. I think its a highly versatile theme for a free default theme; something that can be adapted to a business website just as easily as blogging. Its responsive, comes with a front page template, its own widgets, option display font, styling for post formats on both index and single views, and an optional no-sidebar page template. With a bit of customization you can really make this theme work for you.
DW Timeline is a WordPress theme with a novel design by DesignWall. Inspired by the Facebook timeline, DW’s post archive template is designed to display post like events on a vertical timeline. This would be a particularly good theme for telling chronological stories or a blogging project with a time aspect to it–such as 100 Days of Pizza (or a similar idea).
Pinnacle is a bold and versatile theme with beautiful parallax scrolling sections by Kadence Themes. It comes with a flat minimal design, fully responsive layout, and options that make it great for businesses, online stores, portfolios, or personal use. It is also fully compatible with WooCommerce.
Arcade Basic is a uniquely designed theme by c.bavota. It’s lightweight, fully responsive, and sporting big visuals combined with multiple post formats. You can use the customizer to add you own large header image as well as create engaging content with video, image, aside, status, audio, quote, link, and gallery formats.
To get the most out of this theme, pair it with JetPack, bbPress, BuddyPress, WPML, and WooCommerce.
Sparkling is a clean, minimal, and responsive WordPress theme by Colorlib. Developed using Bootstrap 3 and incorporating the latest standards of HTML5 and CSS3 (with an SEO friendly structure), Sparkling is an ideal theme for a wide variety of websites; from travel, to health, to business, portfolio, personal, and more.
It comes with options to change the theme layout, colors, fonts, slider settings, and a lot more. It is multilingual ready and optimized to work with bbPress, Contact Form 7, JetPack, and other popular free and premium plugins.
Optimizer is a multi-purpose theme by the folks over at layerthemes. It lets you customize each element without needing to touch any code: You get to choose between two site layouts (full-width or boxed); it has a beautiful image slider; easy logo upload; 600+ fonts; powerful theme options; custom CSS field; and lots of color options.
Optimizer is fully responsive–built with HTML5 and CSS3. It’s also SEO friendly, retina ready, optimized for mobile, and translation ready. It can also be easily paired with WooCommerce, bbPres, MailChimp, and Contact Form 7.
Virtue by Kadence Themes is another nice multi-purpose theme. It sports a clean modern design with a powerful options panel for customization. You can adjust the home layout, sliders, custom fields, fonts, and more without touching any CSS.
Virtue is built using Bootstrap to ensure a responsive mobile friendly website. It can be used for business, portfolio, personal site, or even ecommerce when paired with WooCommerce.
Amadeus is a simple clean blogging theme by FlyFreeMedia. It comes with fully responsive design, a parallax header image, metaslider integration, the ability to use Google Fonts, social icons, full color control, custom widgets, and more.
Oprum is a multi-purpose theme for creativity and business by DinevThemes. It can be customized easily via the live theme customizer. You can choose any colors, swap out header and background images, as well as upload a logo image, and more.
It comes ready to connect to JetPack, compatible with WooCommerce, supports post formats, and has built-in contextual help.
Harmonic is an automattic theme aimed at anyone who wants to make a statement with their bold full-width content. It’s ideal for anyone with a lot of high-quality, powerful images. A band, travel blogger, or storytelling could easily make good use of this theme.
Eighties by Justin Kopenpasah is a lovely single-column theme that can actually do more than just be a blog. For instance, it still has a sidebar and menu, but they stay hidden from site until the user clicks on one of the links in the upper corners. They then appear as stylish overlays.
You can upload a custom header image or opt to use individual featured images (from posts/pages) as the header image. Eighties also plays nice with JetPack, bbPress, and more.
I know that even though I’ve showcased twenty themes above, there are many that I’ve missed. If you have a favorite free WordPress theme you’d like to share with the community (or a recommendation based on your experience with one of the themes above) please take a few moments to share your thoughts with the whole community in the comments section below.
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