The WordPress community is big. Really big. We're talking thousands of designers and developers, tens of thousands of writers, and millions of users, all contributing to pushing WordPress forward. And one very popular way to do this is designing and developing free WordPress themes.
Free Wordpress themes are a great way to get a blog or website off the ground – and there are countless WordPress tutorials online to help you do just that. You might want to start writing about a topic but don't want to invest the money in a custom site design on top of hosting and a domain. And once your site is up and running, there's nothing to stop you dissecting them, building on top of them and learning from them.
Unless you want to change themes every year it's best to pick something that won't look dated as design trends evolve, and Hemingway is a good option in that regard. It's a simple, elegant two-column layout with classic typography and large, readable text. Bloggers will find it ideal. Hemingway is built to be responsive, so will work on desktop and mobile.
02. SKT Full Width
This is a nice one if you've a site whose main purpose is to display images; it uses the whole browser window and lets you add discriptions via overlay text. The only thing to watch out for is whether your images will stand up to being displayed on very large screens.
If you want to fit a lot of text onto your homepage, Origin does a good job of that without looking messy or cluttered. Your articles are arranged in a column that gives each one space for a decent intro length, and the type looks great. A good choice for a site with a lot of reading.
Upright is a fully responsive blog magazine theme for WordPress that leverages big imagery and portfolio functionality to present content effectively. Featured sliders, sidebar colour pickers, and custom background images allow users to create unique websites without having to code. Upright is search engine optimised from the get-go which helps increase traffic.
Fashionista is another type-driven theme that's good for magazine-style blogs. We like the bold headlines and pleasingly busy layout that will look good on both desktop and mobile.
Illustrators, photographers and artists will love this theme: the layout has one slot for your main image and then a grid of 12 that instantly gives visitors a sense of what your work is like. It's a great use of space that fits a lot of content into one screen.
Optimizer is aptly named, as it's super easy to customise for optimum satisfaction; the most advanced theme options panel lets you customize each and every element of your site with ease. It's fully responsive and retina ready, so no need to worry about mobile compatibility. The uses are endless – from personal blogging and portfolios to services, this theme gives you so many options you can be hard picked for choice.
08. Future Lite
A clean, creative, feature-rich and multipurpose theme that would be perfect for creative agencies, creative portfolios or freelancers. The responsive layout of this WordPress theme adapts well to the screen size of different device your visitors are using. Future is also retina ready and will look sharp on high resolution displays. It's powered with custom menu, custom header, sidebar widget, featured image, theme options, nice typography and built-in pagination features.
Lightly is a clean, minimalist blog magazine theme for WordPress that puts your content centre stage. The theme's refreshing design features a home page slider and a widgetised home page that allows users to create custom layouts by simply dragging and dropping everything into place and high quality coding ensures your site performs optimally every time!
Great for storytellers, Longform is a free WordPress theme designed to be fully compatible with the powerful Aesop Story Engine plugin. It includes beautiful styles for all Aesop story modules with no code snippets or extra configuration required. Fully responsive, retina-ready and super easy to customise.
Moesia is perfect for building your business's online presence. Choose from eleven predefined blocks and build the homepage that best suits your company. Each of the homepage blocks can have a parallax background image and its own set of colours. Featuring a good selection of Google Fonts, two types of layouts for the blog page, cool animations and effects, a parallax header and much more... Make sure you have a great header image to grab attention!
12. TA Dailyblog
TA DailyBlog offers a simple and clean design with full optimisation for smartphones, tablets, desktops and any other devices. This free WordPress theme would be ideal for blogging, especially for daily or hobby bloggers who love to share their stuff. It's very flexible and fully customizable with 16 color schemes and smooth and fast user experience. What’s more, the theme is SEO friendly, with a Schema compatible structure that will make Google love your website. It supports most popular plugins, too.
Nictitate is an incredibly versatile template: from blogging and portfolios to online stores and services, this theme can be customized to fit any and all of those needs. This multi-purpose free responsive template will add a touch of class and professionalism to any site.
Create and manage your portfolio or blog with ease with this clean and sophisticated InterStellar design. With multiple portfolio page layouts, this theme's options allow you to change the layout, colour scheme, logo and add your Google Analytics code, buttons, Google maps, columns and more.
Create a stand-out website with Arcade, a lightweight and fully responsive HTML5 theme. Customise it to your taste by adding your own header image, page layout, site width and more. Each post can be distinguished with one of the eight supported formats; video, image, aside, status, audio, quote, link and gallery.
Designed specially with bloggers and designers in mind, vFlex is a stylish, free, responsive WordPress theme. Its main features include an inbuilt FlexSlider so you can simply select featured images, and an integrated VibeOptions panel, which supports logo upload, import and export settings and many other features. vFlex's responsive layout also means the theme looks great on iPad, iPhones, and other devices.
Splendio has done a great job of balancing the featured content of the page with additional added value content. You want to promote the other pages and posts on your site (to increase traction and time on site) without taking away from the reason the visitor is there in the first place. This is a difficult task that the designers and developers of Splendio have done well. The details and colours really help to make this a great blog theme.
Sometimes "Plain Jane" themes like Meeta get overlooked. However themes like this are easily converted and modified to fit your site and content. With two navigations, a featured graphic and a responsive layout, this free WordPress theme will act as a great foundation for your site or blog. However you will need to dedicate the time to customise it a bit.
Folder is a free WordPress theme with a slight retro feel to it. With a design dominated by images, this responsive theme is perfect for displaying projects and products. Features include custom project posts and admin panel, five different widgets included (video, latest work, contact form, twitter feed, recent posts), and more.
There's no shortage of modern and minimal WordPress themes available online. But YAMINTH (Yet Another Minimal Theme) and its unusual image layout caught our eye. The free theme comes with light colors, dark footer, Google Web Fonts and jQuery fade in, fade out of images. It also has an options page for easy customisation and is free for use in both personal and commercial projects.
With an unlimited selection of colour themes this theme would be appropriate for any blogger. Another feature, which has been cropping up on some of the newer WordPress themes, is the Translation-ready abilities, reaching new audiences in a foreign languages.
Like flat design and want to use large images on your website or blog? Want it to be responsive? Then as free WordPress themes go, Thoughts is probably good one to investigate.
Don't want to mess about trying to find beautiful imagery? Looking for free WordPress themes that focus on the text, to make that look beautiful instead? This minimal text-focused theme is all about seamless reading: no page loads, no interruptions, just a quick and easy way to access content.
One of our favourite sources of themes is Woothemes, and they've got a few tasty free WordPress themes as well. MyStile is a clean, lightweight WooCommerce theme, designed as a canvas which you can use as-is, or easily create a unique design to match your products. The theme is responsive as standard, and comes bundled with plenty of options and alternate colour schemes.
The Travelify free WordPress theme is inspired by nature. Fully customizable, with several Theme Options and page templates, this theme is an obvious choice for travel blogs, green thinking and adventurists.
25. Clean Retina
Clean Retina delivers exactly what it says on the tin. The theme is simple, clean, responsive and retina-ready. There is a selection of nine homepage layout options, also a large homepage slider with space for supporting text. This is one of those free WordPress themes that would work nicely for bloggers or small business owners.
26. Simple Corp
Simple Corp is a responsive HTML Theme by Site5. It includes plenty of time-saver features, so no need hunting around for plug-ins. The contact page consists of a built-in contact form furthermore and a large Google Map. Multiple colour styles can be easily accessed via the colour options tab. One of the best free WordPress themes we've seen for business, it can update a corporate website with a fresh vibe.
Photo is, you won't be surprised to hear, best suited for a photographer, as its major feature is the responsive gallery. The theme is clean with a bold header that emphasizes your logo. This is perfect if you're looking for a minimal and versatile theme.
With an unlimited selection of colour themes, as well as being SEO Optimized, this free WordPress theme would be appropriate for any blogger. Another feature which has been cropping up on some of the newer themes is the Translation-ready abilities, reaching new audiences in a foreign languages.
This free WordPress theme uses parallax scrolling. Cleverly, Balloons builds it into a minimalistic design that lets the viewer focus on the cool scrolling effect. While a small business or corporation may not get what they want out of this theme, it would work beautifully for an event or personal website.
Grid gives you the feeling you're on a site that's had a lot of thought put into its design. This free WordPress theme would work really well for a portfolio, artist or event site. It's very graphic or photo-heavy, so make sure you have the content to back it up. One plus is that this theme maintains its responsiveness quite well.
Sensitive is a fully responsive theme built using Twitter's Bootstrap framework with Metro Styled Accent. It ships with three different page templates, support for custom backgrounds and menus. It's a great option if you're looking for clean and modern, without a lot of fussy code.
Architekt's layout and minimalistic approach to design makes content (especially photos) stand out well. This is a really nicely designed and well thought-out responsive theme.
Skeleton has a lot going for it. Firstly, it's very minimal so if you know what you're doing it will be very easy for you to layer your own flavour of style and colour on it. Secondly, it's responsive, so it's ready for any and all devices. Lots of widget and featured areas makes this a very versatile WordPress theme.
Shuttershot is another free WordPress theme that lets the content speak for itself. If you have less than stellar photographs or graphics you may want to use a different theme. Allocating the entire homepage to a single image will pressure you to highlight your best work. Make sure your content can support this really well made theme before you move forward with it.
If you want to showcase images in all their glory, free WordPress theme Panoramica may be just what you're after. Its design heavily emphasizes the use of images, with its appearance fully customiseable through an extensive options panel. Panoramica also features a full-width slideshow on the homepage, perfect for grabbing prospective client's and employer's attention.
Contributions to this article from: Aaron Kitney, a freelance graphic designer and art director based in London and Vancouver. Jesse Friedman, a veteran WordPress developer. Sam Hampton-Smith, a freelance author and front-end designer/developer based in Scotland. Tanya Combrinck, who has been writing about the web for over four years.