Free professional WordPress themes always come in handy. Whether you are looking for some design inspiration or professional coding solutions — in both cases you can learn a lot, you can apply them and you can build customized designs upon them without reinventing the wheel all the time.
However, to create a unique design, sometimes it’s not enough to change colors or increase font-size of a theme designed by other designers. The uniqueness of a theme is all about little details, some personal touches in the play of link colors, footer and header. Therefore in most cases it’s useful to think of free WordPress themes as a playground for your imagination.
In this article we present 20 fresh free high-quality WordPress themes. Unfortunately, over the last months they haven’t gained the popularity they deserve which is why they are now featured on Smashing Magazine. All themes can be downloaded, customized and used for free — in personal or/and commercial projects. Please read license disclaimers carefully before using the theme in commercial projects — they can change from time to time.
You might also want to take a look at our previous selections:
- 100 Excellent Free WordPress Themes
Together with hundreds of other designs, these themes have been manually selected, installed and tested over the last weeks. They all can be downloaded, customized and used for free in both personal and commercial projects.
- 83 Beautiful WordPress Themes
An overview of beautiful, but rather unknown themes you might have missed.
- 21 Fresh, Usable and Elegant Themes
A quite pretty selection of elegant yet well thought-out themes.
- 10 Fresh and Clean Themes
The beauty of these themes lies in their clean look supported by a legible content presentation.
- …and please take a look at Dr. Web’s free WordPress Themes
Well, let’s dive in.
Free First-Class WordPress Themes
1. Going Global WordPress Theme [ preview ]
A stylish 2-column theme with a streamlined container and a ‘global’ motif. It is vibrant and exciting and might suit for both corporate and personal blogs. There are two adslots in the sidebar for graphic banner ads.
2. Balance Black
A clear 2-column theme with excellent use of typography. You might need to replace Croatian buttons with social bookmarking buttons. No preview is available.
3. Leopress [ Demo ]
The tiger is striking again; now in WordPress. This 3-column WordPress theme looks exactly like the user interface in Mac OS X Leopard looks like. The navigation is also similar. Have fun tweaking the Leopard for your needs.
5. Probama Theme [ Demo ]
Politics isn’t our realm and we don’t promote Obama here, but this theme is very nice. Built-in control panel options allow easy management of images, video, podcasts, latest-post highlighting on homepage and other RSS info. This truly professional theme can be developed further for your personal needs.
7. Tiny Studio [ Demo ]
This theme was designed to match the concept of a small design studio. This theme uses custom fields to display the top 10 latest artworks in the Latest Artworks section.
9. Rio Theme
Easy, fast, minimalistic but a powerful appearance. “It gives your blog the look it deserves and says: You don’t need any overloaded layouts to compensate anything. Be yourself!”
10. Summernight WordPress Theme [ preview ]
This theme attempts to catch the feeling of a long, exciting summernight and lets you tell your adventures with big, eye-catching pictures. Quite provocative, but hey – it’s all about the unique style, right? Easily customizable and best used with dark, patterned backgrounds.
13. Textback WordPress Theme [ preview ]
“Snow-white, bright and incredible clear; this wordpress theme is the perfect choice for everyone, who is sick of crowded and uncreative designs and wants to take a deep breath. Who wants a restart. Because this is the job of the winter: To be a recommencement.”
14. Balance White
A light version of Balance Black; a clear 2-column theme with excellent use of typography. You might need to replace Croatian buttons with social bookmarking buttons. No preview is available.
15. NT-Musicgirl [ demo ]
You can do so much out of it. A WordPress-theme in retro-look. Slim columns, stylish design. You might want to increase the font-size and improve the design of forms, though.
16. Facebook Layouts [ demo ]
A WordPress-theme similar to the original Facebook’s design. You can also easily change colors. “As simple as the Facebook design itself, this theme brings it all together. “
18. The Massive News “Mobile Edition” WordPress Theme [ demo ]
“The popularity of the iPhone and iPod Touch are on the rise, and I felt it just made sense to create a WordPress theme that is built entirely for optimized viewing on both devices. The Massive News Mobile Edition WordPress theme does just that, bringing you all the perks of WordPress to boot.”
19. The Unstandard WordPress theme
“The Unstandard WordPress theme is released / shared with the intent of breaking the typical blog mold. Farewell to the blase reverse chronological text heavy front pages, and hello to visuals & imagery to lure visitors deeper into your website / blog. A WordPress theme comprised of a – grid aligned – images for forward facing pages, and clean textual presentation on the inner pages.”
20. Chronicles [ demo ]
“In the literary sense, chronicle is a written record of events presented in order of time, and updated regularly over a prolonged period. This is a dark-brown colored, fully validated, widget-ready, 3-column theme with rounded edges all around it.”
Bonus: WordPress Admin Themes and Experiments
The default Admin WordPress theme isn’t as user-friendly as most designers would like it to be. That’s why some developers design WordPress Admin User interfaces. The results are indeed, user-friendly.
WordPress Tiger Administration
“For several reasons, I didn’t want to touch the XHTML framework of the admin, but instead relied on the power of CSS2 to manipulate the presentation. The whole package has been wrapped up into a single plugin. Just install and activate. The new design will be immediately visible.”
We’ve featured this theme already, but it fits perfectly to this post. The menus are rearranged; main menus are down left and sub menus are placed across the top. To install the theme download the zip file, extract the contents and upload the whole ‘wp-admin-fluency’ folder to your web server. Then go into your WordPress admin and go to the ‘plugins’ page, activate ‘Fluency Admin’ and you will instantly be using the theme.
Prologue [ Demo ]
“We’re fans of Twitter around here, but while the format appealed to us it really just whetted our appetite for something more, like a way for each of us to share short messages about what we’re doing or working on internally, or private messages between groups of folks.”
WP Contact Manager [ demo ]
WP Contact Manager is a different kind of theme for WordPress. With a little bit of work (outlined in detail below) it turns WordPress into a contact manager. You can add contacts through the regular admin interface, tag contacts, search them and more.