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Not everyone needs a premium theme for their WordPress website, especially in the beginning. So in this article, we will discuss some of the best free WordPress themes you can find today.
Although they are free, you need not worry about the safety or security of these themes. I have selected all the themes from the official WordPress Themes directory. Each theme undergoes a strict review process before getting listed in the directory. In effect, they can be safer than many premium themes out there.
The free themes may not have all the bells and whistles you see on the premium ones. But they offer a solid foundation for creating your WordPress sites.
Also, many of the themes given below offer premium versions as well (freemium). This ensures that there is a dedicated team for developing and maintaining the software. Also, more and more quality themes are being released each year. This increases the competition, which raises the bar for all developers, new and existing.
The following are the things I usually check in a free theme:
- How the Customizer feels: Customizer is the area where you do most of the design-related tweaks. So, it should allow enough flexibility, be it with layouts, colors, typography, etc. And at the same time, I also check how well the options are organized.
- Availability of demos/starter sites: Demos help a lot when creating a new website from scratch. These days, even free themes come with quality demo templates.
- Overall design quality
With that, let us dive into the list.
Hestia is a popular WordPress theme with over 100K active installations. Developed by ThemeIsle, it has a near-perfect 5/5 rating on the WordPress directory.
Hestia’s design is based on Google Material Design philosophy. The free theme comes with a demo home page, which is great for creating one-page WordPress websites.
The home page includes ten sections, including a hero section with a background image, portfolio area, testimonials, etc. By going to the theme’s Customizer (Customize > Frontpage Sections), you can fine-tune each of these sections to suit your needs – change images, text, buttons, and so on. You can also turn on or off each section. However, there’s isn’t a way to reorder them.
There is one thing you need to note here. To enable the demo home page, set WordPress to show a static page on the home page. Go to Settings > Reading to do that. Then reload the Customizer, and you should see Hestia’s home page. Initially, it had confused me a little as I didn’t find the homepage after opening the Customizer.
Not just one-page sites, you can create any type of site using Hestia including blogs. However, the free theme doesn’t include grid layouts for archive pages.
In addition to the theme’s core features, Orbit Fox is a recommended companion plugin for Hestia. It enables more features like social sharing, additional blocks, and templates.
Hestia also has a paid version – Hestia Pro – that unlocks more demo templates, section reordering, etc.
Initially released in 2019 by Creative Themes, Blocksy has over 30k installations and a 5/5 rating. Two Romanian developers – Sergiu Radu and Andrei Glingeanu – are the people behind the theme.
Blocksy is one of my favorite themes in terms of design quality. It comes with a well-organized Customizer that supports dark mode as well.
The great part is, Blocksy offers a lot of premium-level features in its free version. For example, five different layouts are available for the archive pages, including the grid and grid-enhanced options. The latter allows displaying alternating no. of columns while listing posts in archives.
Color palettes are another feature. All themes allow you to customize the colors in some way. But with Blocksy, it is a level up. You can define up to 15 color palettes and switch between them in one click. This is highly helpful when you are initially trying different color combinations.
Blocksy also supports drag-and-drop header & footer builder. You can drag widgets into rows. This gives more flexibility than selecting from a few predefined layouts.
The theme also has a companion plugin that you can optionally install after installing the theme. It unlocks the demo sites library, transparent header feature, and performance features.
Currently, Blocksy offers eleven starter site templates. The theme is in its initial stages, so we can expect more shortly.
In addition to the free version, Blocksy Premium offers more features like conditional sidebars and footers, mega menus, and Typekit font integration. The price is $49/yr for a single site.
Neve is another theme from ThemeIsle, which has currently over 200K installations and a 5/5 rating. As their flagship theme, Neve looks better than Hestia in many ways.
There are over a hundred demo templates on offer, out of which nearly fifty are available for free. They are offered via the Cloud Templates and Patterns Collection, a companion plugin that works alongside Neve.
Templates are available for popular page builders like Elementor, Beaver Builder, and Brizy. The default Gutenberg block editor is also supported. So when it comes to customizing your theme, choices are many.
Not just full website templates, single-page templates are also available as part of the Cloud Templates plugin. Gallery, services, testimonials, etc are examples.
Neve supports multiple layouts for archives and blogs, including list view, covers, and multi-column grid. Dark mode color palettes are also available. Drag-and-drop header/footer builder is another notable feature.
Overall, Neve is a solid choice as a free theme. There is also a Pro version, which offers more features and better support.
I had published a detailed review of Neve a while ago, please check that out too:
Hello is not a typical theme. It is meant to be used with the Elementor page builder. If you don’t know what Elementor is, it is a plugin to visually build WordPress pages.
The free version of Elementor has over five million installations. There is also a premium version that costs $49/yr for one website.
Speaking of Hello, the theme is developed by the same team behind Elementor. The purpose is to offer a base theme that works as a foundation for Elementor. You can use Elementor with other themes as well. But they often stand in the way when you want to build pages from scratch. That’s where Hello offers a blank canvas.
For the same reason, Hello is quite lightweight. The total no. or requests needed is just six, while the total page weight is less than 6KB.
Since most of the customizations are to be done using Elementor, Hello does not offer many options. The Customizer menu is limited to just four items – Site Identity, Menus, Homepage Settings, and Additional CSS.
The free Elementor plugin has a lot of features. It is sufficient for creating most websites. Whereas the Pro plugin comes with its own Theme Builder and advanced features. Since Hello does not offer any layout customizations, Elementor Pro might be required for customizing blog and archive pages.
Currently, Hello has over 800k installations. The rating is 4.5/5.
Astra is one of the most popular freemium themes available today. The free version has over a million installations and a 5/5 rating. Brainstorm Force is the team behind the theme.
The highlight of Astra is its starter sites library. There are over 150 of them, out of which nearly 50 are free. These sites are compatible with Elementor, Beaver Builder, and Gutenberg.
Recently, Astra has also released their drag-and-drop header builder. In many ways, Astra looks similar to the Neve theme we discussed above. However, on close inspection, you can find that Astra’s free version is a bit more restricted. For example, Astra doesn’t offer grid layouts for archives in the free version.
General customizations like layout, width adjustments, colors, typography, etc are available. The Pro version costs $59/yr for unlimited sites. It unlocks advanced layout options, mega menus, and eCommerce features.
Overall, Astra Free is great when you want to build websites using templates. Most of the templates work with Gutenberg, so you don’t need to use a third-party page builder either.
If you are looking for a free WordPress theme with lots of customizations, OceanWP may be the best choice. No wonder it is one of the most popular themes with over 700k installations.
The features available in OceanWP include multiple headers and scroll-to-top buttons. One disadvantage you might feel is the way OceanWP has organized the Customizer menu. Lots of options are available, but they are scattered here and there. For example, I had to search for a while to get rid of the ‘just another WordPress site’ tagline, which was put under the Page Title menu.
If that’s not an issue and you are willing to spend some time learning the theme, OceanWP is quite powerful.
The demo sites collection contains over 150 items. However, only ~13 of them are free. So it is less diverse when compared to Astra.
OceanWP requires the Ocean Extra plugin to fully work. You can install the plugin after installing the theme. There is a setup wizard, which helps you optionally choose a demo, set colors, upload a logo image, and set the site title.
The plugin adds a new Theme Panel settings page to your WordPress dashboard. The Theme Panel is where you meet most of OceanWP’s power. There is even a Custom Templates section where you can create your own layouts and save them for later use.
The Theme Panel allows you to enable/disable sections in the Customizer. It partly solves the menu clutter I mentioned above.
Unlike Neve or Astra, OceanWP depends on a lot of JS and CSS scripts to work. So it is definitely not the most lightweight theme you can find. But again, the Theme Panel allows you to switch off unnecessary scripts, thereby reducing the page size.
Design-wise, I’m not a big fan of OceanWP. But the free features are more than enough to consider it.
Released in 2020, Kadence is a relatively new WordPress theme. But within a short time, it has grown to over 70k installations.
The Customizer options are well organized. The developers have also paid good attention to details when it comes to the design.
You can save up to three global color palettes. There are some predefined palettes as well, which include dark mode. The documentation page gives detailed information on how to create custom palettes.
Kadence also offers a couple of well-crafted starter templates. Look at this Design Course template. Great typography, colors, spacing, and styling.
However, the collection is not that big. There are only ten Gutenberg templates and nine Elementor templates as of now.
The Premium version of Kadence is available for $79/yr for usage on unlimited sites.
The team is based in Montana, USA. In addition to the theme, they also offer other WordPress-related products like plugins, blocks, and a cloud platform.
Sydney is a versatile WordPress theme with a ton of free features. Initially released in 2015 and developed by aThemes, Sydney has 100k+ active installations.
Five options are available for blogs and archive pages: Classic, Classic (alternative), Modern, Masonry, and Full-width.
Here is how the archive page looks with the Modern style selected:
The site header also supports multiple styles. You can set image or video as the header background, or create a fullscreen slider header.
Overall, the Customizer offers a good number of options for most sites.
Coming to the templates, there are three free offerings – Original, Shop, and Plumber.
The Original template is great for creating business websites. It comes with a hero section with a transparent header, portfolio, and team sections. The header shrinks as you scroll down the page, which shows the attention to detail they have given while creating the templates.
Like all the other themes on this list, Sydney also has a Pro version that costs $69/yr. The Pro unlocks a total of 16 starter sites.
Airi is another free theme from aThemes, with over 20k installations and a 5/5 rating.
The theme offers six free templates: Agency, Startup, Business, Health, Lawyer, and Photography. So it is suitable for businesses, creatives, freelancers, and others.
Airi does not allow as many customizations as Sydney. But it is not that bad either. It offers four archive layouts and four header types.
The Customizer is based on Kirki Customizer Framework. So you need to install an extra plugin after installing the Airi theme.
Design-wise, it’s average, in my opinion.
The last one on this list is Zakra, a theme developed by Themegrill. It has over 60k installations as of June 2021.
Apart from the basic layout styles and options, the theme does not offer a lot of features in the Customizer.
However, it offers nearly thirty free demo website templates suitable for various niches. Some of them are the Health blog, Travel blog, Education, and Portfolio.
So if you are looking to create a new website from a template, Zakra is worth checking out.
Long gone is the time when free WordPress themes meant low quality. Recent releases like Blocksy and Kadence have really raised the quality standards.
Astra and Neve are also perfect examples of the new generation multi-purpose themes. They offer a lightweight free base theme and starter templates that work on top of it.
In fact, this trend has forced many traditional WordPress theme shops to switch to the new model. Earlier, they used to offer multiple niche themes. Now you can use just use one theme to create a variety of sites.
I hope you found the article useful.