Picking the right theme is one of the biggest decisions you’ll face when creating your WordPress site. Luckily, there have never been more lightweight, top-quality, totally free themes out there to chose from.
In this piece we’ll run through 33 of the very best options with an eye on standout design throughout.
The Eighties theme grabs the eye immediately with an extremely prominent header image, and backs that initial impact up with nicely considered default typography options that naturally lead the eye down the page. It’s an excellent option if you’re looking to set up a stylish blog in a hurry.
The main menu and sidebar are set up to be revealed only when they’re actually needed which makes it a solid choice on devices of any size. The theme is translation-ready, includes RTL language support, and there is a sister plugin available to help style bbPress forums.
The one slight knock against it is that it’s perhaps overdue for an update, but there’s no disputing the quality of the current version.
GeneratePress boasts over 400,000 downloads with a solid five-star rating on the Theme Directory, and it’s not hard to see why. Weighing in at under 1MB zipped, it’s an impressively stripped down theme that still manages to more than deliver in terms of styling and functionality.
GeneratePress is fully responsive, translatable, and compatible with WPML, WooCommerce, bbPress and BuddyPress. Customization is a snap via the Customizer and there are a host of hooks and filters available if you want to tweak things yourself via code.
[vimeo 141487668 w=735 h=413]
In contrast to many free themes, GeneratePress has comprehensive and well-presented documentation online along with active support forums.
A range of commercial add-ons is also available in the form of GP Premium if you are looking to take the free version of the theme to the next level.
The WordPress default themes have been steadily improving on both the design and functionality front for the last few years. They’re always an excellent option when you’re looking for a bloat-free theme that’s guaranteed to be high-quality and give you a slick design base to expand from.
Twenty Fifteen was something of a high-water mark for blog-based design, and Twenty Sixteen (also by Takashi Irie) maintains the standards set by its predecessor.
A nicely implemented responsive grid gives you the perfect framework for making your content pop on all devices and, as a default WordPress theme, you’re naturally covered when it comes to translation and integration with most major plugins. Twenty Sixteen won’t blow your visitors away out of the box, but it’s hard to beat as a free, lightweight, easily customizable foundation for further styling.
Law firms aren’t exactly the first group that spring to mind when you think of stylish, fast-loading websites, but that could be set to change with aTheme’s Quill. It’s a responsive theme designed specifically with the legal profession in mind and makes intelligent use of custom headers, front page blocks and its support for Font Awesome icons.
All theme options are tweakable via the Customizer and powerful CSS3 animations are subtly used to give some life to what could otherwise be very dry content. The theme is also optimized for Contact Form 7 support to give you the best possible chance of chasing down those valuable leads.
The aReview theme from aThemes is another solid and stylish free theme that admirably fulfils a niche need. In this case, it’s targeted at users looking to put together a good-looking review site, possibly with a view to cashing in on some affiliate riches down the line.
Five custom widgets are provided – including a handy top-rated widget to highlight your product picks – and there are built-in review modes for products, movies, and games. You’ve also got the option of including author bios.
The one slight mark against the theme is the relative lack of recent upgrades, but if you’re looking for an option for a product review site that will look pretty slick right out of the box, this one is well worth exploring.
Our final selection from the aThemes list of free themes is Intro, a stylish and lightweight business theme suitable for both individuals and companies.
It’s got support for an eye-catching animated text header, easy layout of the home page via custom blocks, and parallax headers and backgrounds. As with many of the free aThemes offerings, there is online documentation with video tutorials for you to refer to.
Perfetta is a responsive, food-focused theme that’s perfect for putting together a simple but stylish site for a café, bar, or restaurant.
The overall intent is to let your content speak for itself by putting the focus on posts in a one-column layout rather than extraneous bells and whistles. You’ve got two widget areas to play with alongside support for featured images and a social icons menu.
The majority of configuration can be carried out via the Customizer and there’s decent online documentation available also. If you’re a budding food blogger or looking to put together a slick online presence for a food-related business, Perfetta is well worth a look.
Made by Automattic, Illustratr is a pared down, responsive portfolio theme aimed primarily at designers and photographers. If you’re looking to showcase recent work, this modern-looking one-column theme can have you displaying your wares to the world in no time.
A custom Portfolio content type enables you to stylishly present your work on even the smallest of screens. A large number of social icons can be easily integrated into custom menus in order to give well-designed shoutouts to your portfolio work on sites such as Dribbble, Github, and Flickr.
As you’d expect from an Automattic theme, RTL language support, featured image, and flexible header options come as standard and the theme is fully translation ready.
Baskerville is an extremely slick, responsive and retina-ready masonry theme from Sweden’s Anders Noren. The masonry design can be turned to a number of uses and lends itself to magazine style layouts as well as image-focused blogs.
Confident typography and full support for all nine post formats mean your content is bound to shine from the get go and you can take advantage of three custom widgets to showcase Flickr, Dribbble and video content. As a nice additional touch, Baskerville includes a contributor template page you can use to quickly showcase individual writers if you’re running a site that relies on multiple contributors.
Pinterest has exploded in popularity over the last number of years and its card-based layout is a natural fit for all sorts of image-heavy content. The responsive and retina ready Garfunkel theme is a simple and clean way of transforming your WordPress site into a Pinterest-style affair.
Garfunkel includes support for six distinctively styled post formats and enables you to highlight custom content such as links and quotes. Logos and background images can be easily altered via the Customizer and the theme comes with support for Jetpack’s Infinite Scroll built in.
The Lingonberry theme is a stylish but minimal one-column, responsive and retina ready theme that’s perfect for bloggers looking for a simple but eye-catching foundation to build their sites on. If you’re a fan of many classic Tumblr designs over the years, this pared down approach to content could be a perfect fit.
Gadgetry is a free theme from ThemeFuse which really delivers in terms of design while packing in a lot of functionality. Custom page templates, a slick HTML 5 animated slider and a nicely integrated option for changing accent colors sitewide give you plenty of possibilities for showcasing your content appropriately.
A number of back end modules covering elements such as the built-in contact form, sidebars and shortcodes are there to ease your life as a site owner. Take the underlying Fuse Framework for a spin by popping over to ThemeFuse’s TestLabs area which lets you step through any of their themes in detail.
You can also take advantage of a one-click install of demo content to get your site instantly looking like the impressive Gadgetry demo site.
[vimeo 97907725 w=735 h=413]
The basic version of the theme is free, but you’ll need to shell out $25 for the Pro version to access premium support.
Another Automattic production, Syntax is aimed squarely at those who are concentrating on heavily text-based content, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less visually impressive.
The theme is designed with writing and reading in mind and really strips away unnecessary elements to keep distraction at a minimum. Large, easy to read and beautifully spaced typography within a one-column format means your writing will be grabbing all the attention. A nicely integrated horizontal reveal menu gives your readers discrete access to navigation options with a single click.
If you’re looking for a free blogging orientated theme with some of the panache of platforms such as Medium, Syntax is an excellent choice.
Zerif Lite is one of the most popular free themes on the WordPress Theme Directory and boasts over 80,000 active installs. The theme is built on Bootstrap and comes fully WooCommerce and WPML compatible out of the box.
As an SEO-friendly option with parallax and full screen image support, Zerif Lite makes an excellent starter theme for both personal and small business sites. A more fully featured upgrade is also available in the shape of Zerif Pro which retails at $99.
A range of Zerif Lite child themes targeting specific niches are available in the Theme Directory including ResponsiveBoat and Zerius.
Wedding sites are a booming niche as more and more of the planning surrounding the big day moves online. Unite from Colorlib is a stylish, responsive WordPress wedding theme that includes WooCommerce support if you’re looking to take care of a gift list to boot.
Unite is translation ready, optimized to integrate smoothly with popular plugins such as Contact Form 7 and Jetpack and offers easy customization of colors and graphic elements to match the look and feel of the wedding in question. Documentation covering the basics of installation and configuration is available online.
Fans of material design will appreciate the effort that’s gone into making Sparkling fast, functional and eye-catching.
The flat design of Sparkling lends itself to all manner of sites and would work equally well on portfolio, blog or magazine implementations. The theme is compatible with WooCommerce and integrates well with other leading plugins such as Gravity Forms, Contact Form 7, W3 Total Cache, WPML, bbPress and many more.
You’ll find dozens of options available to tweak via the Customizer in this Bootstrap-based theme, many of which are detailed in the online documentation.
Catch Base from Catch Themes gives you a clean responsive base from which to build out your own designs. Customization via the Customizer is straightforward and a number of free child themes such as Clean Journal and Catch Adaptive show the range of uses it can be put to.
If you’re looking for a stylish and performant free theme for your WooCommerce site, why not go straight to the source? The Storefront theme from WooThemes offers you bulletproof WooCommerce integration and a hefty degree of future-proofing when it comes to worrying about future updates of the e-commerce plugin.
Storefront is based on Automattic’s Underscores starter theme and ships with a flexible, nestable grid system and Schema markup for enhanced SEO.
Storefront takes being lightweight seriously and deliberately excludes any extraneous shortcodes, sliders, or page builders so you can be sure you’re getting a stripped down set of carefully considered options that just work right out of the gate.
As referenced above, Underscores is well worth a look in its own right if you’re after a solidly designed starter theme with very little additional cruft to bog you down.
If you’re choosing Underscores as a starter theme, you’ll benefit from its strict adherence to WordPress standards and lessons learned by the Automattic team in putting together themes that have to perform for literally millions of users across WordPress.com.
This is one where you’ll have to roll up your sleeves and dive into the code to bend it to your will, but the effort is more than worth it – the majority of free and premium themes developed by Automattic in the last couple of years have Underscores at their base somewhere.
Check out the 1000-hour head start tutorial for first steps and WP Tavern’s interview with Konstantin Obenland for more background information.
Fashionistas is a straightforward, Bootstrap-based, stylish theme perfect for getting a fashion blog up and running in record time.Clean typography, Google Font support, easy customization, and five custom widgets (including options for Flickr and tabbed content) combine to give you all you need to make a mark in the world of
Clean typography, Google Font support, easy customization, and five custom widgets (including options for Flickr and tabbed content) combine to give you all you need to quickly make a mark in the world of haute couture.
Pure & Simple from Styled Themes lives up to its name and provides a good-looking, clean, responsive theme with plenty of room for customization.
Multiple page templates and blog layouts, along with theme options that can be tweaked via the Customizer, put you in control without overwhelming you with options. The theme is also fully optimized for Jetpack to enable you to take advantage of wider functionality without hassle.
Extensive setup tutorials are online to get you up and running and a premium version of the theme (including support for bbPress and WooCommerce) is available for $39.
Forever is another Automattic production and is targeted at the wedding site niche. A clean bold design gives you more than enough room to showcase the key elements of the big day without drowning in detail, and you can easily take advantage of custom headers to make the design your own.
The Spacious theme from ThemeGrill is a multi-purpose responsive theme that keeps the look and feel of your pages lightweight and pleasing to the eye while offering a lot of flexibility behind the scenes.
Spacious ships with four layouts, two extra templates for business sites and contact pages, and five custom widgets aimed at commercial sites. The online demo will give you an excellent overview of how these play out in a live setting and cleanly laid out documentation is there to walk you through first steps.
A pro version of the theme with support for WooCommerce and WPML is also available for $55.
Hueman is a slick, responsive theme from Alexander Agnarson that’s perfect for blogs and magazines. Flexible layout options enable you to easily experiment with sidebar and widget options and the theme shapes up particularly well on retina screens.
Hueman is well set up for child theming and the integrated OptionTree plugin makes setting your options a breeze.
Customizr is an incredibly popular free, responsive theme that’s flexible enough to be put into service on a blog, e-commerce, magazine or small business site.
With over a million downloads, 100,000+ active installs, and a consistent five-star rating, you can be pretty sure you’re in good hands with this excellently supported theme.
As befits its name, you can customize over 130 options directly via the Customizer and more advanced tinkering is possible via the Hooks API. Customizr plays nicely with WooCommerce, bbPress, Jetpack and many other popular plugins and provides comprehensive online documentation.
A pro version of the theme is also available with pricing starting at $44.95 for a single site license.
CyberChimps are known for their range of high-quality premium themes, but they’ve also got a number of excellent free themes available for download with the pithily named Responsive near the top of the list.
Responsive gives you a flexible and lightweight foundation to build out any type of site on top of, and includes nine page templates, 11 widget areas, and four menu positions for you to play with. The theme works smoothly with WPML, WooCommerce and most leading plugins and a premium version with more advanced built-in customization options is also available.
The Fruitful theme from Fruitful Code is a classic combination of simplicity, elegance and power. You’ve got a custom theme options panel to fly through most configuration options, full support for all WordPress 4.0 post formats, and a generally clean and crisp look and feel that works across a multitude of site types.
Fruitful has already been translated to Spanish, German and Russian and also integrates nicely with WooCommerce, BuddyPress, WPML, and Contact Form 7. You can get more of a feel for the possibilities by browsing the online documentation and live sample sites.
Graphy by Takao Utsumi is another one for the typographic purists and gives writers of all genres a stylish and fully functional base to showcase their words.
Graphy is based on Underscores, supports translation and is already translated into Japanese, German, French, Portugese and Swedish. You’re free to perform basic customization via the Customizer, add custom headers, and integrate with popular plugins such as Jetpack and Contact Form 7.
Our final theme Auberge takes some stylistic cues from the likes of Squarespace and serves up a fresh responsive helping of design goodness that’s perfect for restaurants and food-related websites across the board.
The theme is set up to integrate well with the popular Beaver Builder page layout plugin and also works nicely with Jetpack so you’ve got a range of wider functionality to lean on when dialing in your designs.
Auberge is another popular theme that’s based on Underscores under the hood and is excellently documented. It’s a solid, lightweight theme that looks great across all devices by default, but that leaves you plenty of room to customize.
A premium upgrade at $39 unlocks WPML support and options for stylishly integrating recipes into your site.
We’d love to get your take on the latest options out there. Are there stunning lightweight themes we’ve missed? Get in touch via the comments and let us know!