34 Free WordPress Theme Frameworks and Starter Themes (With A Comparison Chart)

WordPress offers a huge space for creativity and flexibility when designing and developing new websites.

Any type of website can be built on top of it: from blogs to newspapers, corporate websites to landing pages and even social networks. All you need is a theme coded to handle that functionality.

WordPress Theme Frameworks

Yes, WordPress theme development. That is an easy process for experienced hands who knows the capabilities of the application and familiar with its functions and "not too hard" for others.

To simplify developing new themes, there are awesome WordPress theme frameworks and starter themes that you can use as a base for skipping the repetitive steps and begin with an optimized playground.

Here are the 34 free and good-quality ones that will save your time from searching them. And, in the bottom, you can find a comparison table for these WordPress theme frameworks.

 

Roots

Roots

The main power of this framework is its extremely clean WordPress code output, clean head and URLs (even for the head, CSS and JS paths).

Upon its activation, it automatically applies many useful customizations (like creating a homepage, defining the permalink structure, etc.).

Roots has 2 widget areas and it includes Blueprint CSS, 960.gs, the 1140px Grid, Adapt.js, Less Framework 4, Foundation by Zurb, and Bootstrap by Twitter.

Skeleton

Skeleton

It is a theme aimed at helping you build simple, uncluttered, useable, and mobile-friendly websites.

Skeleton has styling for typography and form elements + includes simple tabs and accordions.

The theme is based on and inspired from Skeleton Responsive Boilerplate, Theme Options Framework, Thematic Framework, Formalize and TwentyTen Theme.

P.S. There are also optional styles for bbPress and Jigoshop.

Bones

Bones

Bones is a theme following the mobile first approach that has a detailed + organized CSS, in-depth documentation with tutorials and details on every level.

There are 3 versions:

  • classic
  • responsive
  • HTML version for projects

Many useful features exist including page navi, breadcrumbs, related posts and HTML5 video with fallback.

It is based on 960.gs, 320 and Up Extension, HTML5 Boilerplate.

Gantry

Gantry

Gantry has a detailed admin interface with 65 base widget positions and 38 layout combinations that provide a huge space for customization.

There are lots of built-in features including the CSS and JS compression, speed-optimized codebase, several widgets and gizmos such as font-sizer, Google Analytics, to-top smooth slider, IE6 warning message, etc.

Starkers

Starkers

Starkers is a completely naked  WordPress theme built to be a starting point for theme designers.

It’s a stripped-back version of the ‘Twenty Ten’ theme that is bundled with each WordPress download.

The theme is based on YUI Reset and it is totally unstyled.

Wonderflux

Wonderflux

Wonderflux is a solid, easy to update and flexible platform you can use for any WordPress project.

It has location-aware template parts that allow you to concentrate on the content, not the code.

The framework comes with a fully dynamic CSS grid system, simple administration controls and over 100 display hooks.

Reverie

Reverie

Reverie is a HTML5 WordPress framework based on ZURB's Foundation and HTML5 Boilerplate.

It can almost be used out-of-the-box. There are 2 widget areas; sidebar and footer and 2 menus (top navigation menu and footer information menu). Also works with bbPress 2.0.

Thematic

Thematic

Thematic is a good option for using as-is or as a blank WordPress theme for development.

There are built-in with styles for popular plugins and many theme filters + hooks are available.

The theme has 13 widget areas + multiple layout options and it is strongly advised to use a child theme for customization.

Whiteboard

Whiteboard

Whiteboard focuses on simplicity and includes only the core WP functionality.

it supports WordPress features such as manageable menus, background, and header image besides featured images, several widget areas, and more.

The framework uses LESS for mobile support and responsive outputs. The code is lightweight + well-commented and there is support for child themes.

Presswork

PressWork

The big thing that separates this PressWork from others is its unique front-end editor.

Google fonts selector is integrated to this front-end editor to easily select your fonts. A PSD file is included to customize the design and it has 2 widget + 2 menu areas.

Constellation Theme

Constellation Theme

The Constellation theme is a great base for any WordPress-powered website.

It has the styles for creating responsive pages, has a HTML5 code and comes with a flexible grid system.

The theme is based on the HTML5 Boilerplate.

TwentyTen Five

TwentyTen Five

This theme is an HTML5-powered version of the default WordPress TwentyTen theme.

It is cleanly coded, using the theme and integrating new features on it is pretty easy.

Elastic

Elastic

There are several important stuff behind Elastic: a visual theme editor, a theme engine, and a set of protocols that link these two.

It aims to bring a new approach to editing and creating themes which both developers and end-users will find easy to work with.

Flexible

Flexible

Flexible is a carefully-coded child theme of the default Twenty Ten theme and built-with any browser size in mind.

It has a Facebook FanGate integration and packed with Themekit (which is a plugin for plain simple customization via WordPress editor).

WP Paintbrush

WP Paintbrush

WP Paintbrush comes with a built in front-end editor that enables anyone willing to quickly create a unique design for their website.

The editor has a drag 'n' drop interface for placing theme sections, comes with fixed or fluid layouts and much more.

Html5 Shell

Html5 Shell

mimoYmima has implemented an improved body tag that includes many valuable information about the page loaded.

There are smart sidebar disabling methods which could come handy, several @font-face examples and dynamic sidebar + custom template examples packaged with the framework

The code is commented clearly for easing the production process and it uses Modernizr + HTML5 reset css

Gantry is based on 960.gs.

Hybrid

Hybrid

This framework has many custom widget areas, widgets, hooks, shortcodes, page templates and many options to easily customize your website.

It is being improved continuously and has a community growing around it.

HTML5 Reset

HTML5 Reset

This blank theme focuses on making a solid HTML5 compatible starting point for WordPress theme development.

It also has some additional features such as built-in analytics and starter CSS declarations for basic WP elements.

HTML5 Reset is based on digwp.com's Blank WordPress Theme, Modernizr and HTML5 Reset.

The Buffet

The Buffet

The framework has many SEO features including breadcrumbs and jQuery improvements such as comments form validation, SuperSleight for IE6, superfish menus or jBreadcrumb.

It is also compatible with many plugins and fully localized, ready for translation.

The theme includes 960.gs and Blueprint CSS.

Simon

Simon

This framework includes useful options such as free icons, typography, breadcrumbs and form designs.

There are also multiple post formats to ease theme customizations.

It has support for widgets, child themes and comes with a clean code.

Handcrafted WP

Handcrafted WP

This one may not count as a framework, but it is an almost-naked starter theme with many useful features such as cleaner head code, integrated analytics, support for menus, post formats and custom post types.

The theme also has a widget-ready sidebar and dashboard.

Handcrafted WP is based on Toolbox Starter theme and HTML5 Boilerplate.

ToolBox

Toolbox

If you want to make your own theme and want it to be ready for HTML5, ToolBox may satisfy your needs.

It is a blank theme in plain and semantic HTML5 markup with almost no CSS.

Thematic-html5boilerplate

Thematic HTML5Boilerplate

This is a WordPress theme using HTML5 Boilerplate and based on Thematic ToolBox (and other Thematic themes).

H5 Theme Template

H5 Theme Template

H5 includes a full pack of theme files and folders with each file having all the latest WordPress functionality.

It is built with easy customization and personalization in mind and serves as a solid starting point for your next HTML-5-based theme.

Brave New World

Brave New World

This theme has no layout and styling except the modified version of Eric Meyer’s reset CSS and a baseline typography.

Although it is such a plain theme, it is built with HTML5, WAI-ARIA in mind and supports hCard + hAtom microformats.

1140 Fluid Starkers

1140 Fluid Starkers

This theme is the combination of Starkers + the 1140 CSS Grid and great for anyone looking for a responsive naked theme.

Indeziner

Indeziner

Indeziner is a starting point for creating websites using WordPress with no hassle.

It has a fully customizable homepage, almost every section can be enabled/disabled and bundled with a slideshow, gallery page and Flickr integration.

Blank Themes

Blank Themes

Blank Themes offer 1, 2, 3 column blank themes to start from with the variations of sidebar locations.

There is also a blank portfolio theme that can be easily customized and used for your own portfolio.

rtPanel

rtPanel

rtPanel has a developer centric framework which is useful for developers willing to tweak codes with hooks and functions.

The framework also provides control over content and design for anyone who is not so familiar with coding and web-development.

Sandbox

Sandbox

Sandbox and various other themes from plaintxt.org provide a strong and clean structure with rich semantic classes powered by dynamic functions and microformats.

The themes are minimal and can be good starting points for new themes.

Suffusion

Suffusion

Suffusion is a cross-browser theme with a bunch of options.

It has 19 widget areas, one/two/three column, fixed-width and flexible-width formats, 10 pre-defined templates, 18 pre-defined color schemes, 2 customizable multi-level drop-down menus, featured posts, a magazine layout, tabbed sidebars, widgets for Twitter, social networks, Google Translate and more.

Foundation

Foundation

Foundation is a blank starter theme that has all the core features needed to creating a new theme.

It is a nice kit for developing responsive websites, uses Orbit as a content slider and based on ZURB's Foundation Framework + HTML5 Boilerplate.

StartBox

StartBox

StartBox is a theme framework that makes rapid web development and WP theme creation simple for both designers and developers.

It comes pre-loaded with customizable theme options, several widget-ready areas and custom widgets, 6 pre-defined layouts and a comprehensive documentation.

Yoko

Yoko

Yoko is a modern three-column blog theme and it comes with a custom social links widget and shortcodes for text columns, info boxes and highlighted text.

It also provides various post formats and uses Google Web Fonts.

 

Comparison Of WordPress Theme Frameworks

Themes Capabilities
HTML5 Responsive Mobile SEO Admin Int. Micro formats IE Hacks Basic Styles
Roots Exists Not Exists Exists Exists Exists Exists Exists Not Exists
Skeleton Exists Exists Exists Not Exists Exists Not Exists Exists Exists
Bones Exists Exists Exists Not Exists Not Exists Not Exists Exists Not Exists
Gantry Not Exists Not Exists Exists Exists Exists Not Exists Not Exists Exists
Starkers Not Exists Not Exists Not Exists Not Exists Not Exists Not Exists Not Exists Not Exists
Wonderflux Not Exists Not Exists Not Exists Not Exists Exists Not Exists Exists Exists
Reverie Exists Exists Exists Exists Not Exists Exists Exists Exists
Thematic Not Exists Not Exists Not Exists Exists Not Exists Not Exists Not Exists Exists
Whiteboard Exists Exists Exists Exists Not Exists Not Exists Not Exists Exists
Presswork Exists Exists Exists Exists Exists Not Exists Not Exists Exists
Constellation Theme Exists Exists Exists Exists Not Exists Not Exists Exists Exists
TwentyTen.. Exists Not Exists Not Exists Not Exists Not Exists Not Exists Exists Exists
Elastic Not Exists Not Exists Not Exists Not Exists Exists Not Exists Not Exists Not Exists
Flexible Exists Exists Exists Not Exists Not Exists Not Exists Exists Exists
WP Paintbrush Exists Not Exists Not Exists Exists Exists Not Exists Exists Exists
Html5 Shell Exists Exists Exists Exists Not Exists Not Exists Exists Not Exists
Hybrid Not Exists Not Exists Not Exists Exists Exists Not Exists Not Exists Exists
HTML5 Reset Exists Not Exists Exists Not Exists Not Exists Exists Exists Not Exists
The Buffet Not Exists Not Exists Not Exists Exists Exists Exists Not Exists Exists
Simon Not Exists Not Exists Not Exists Not Exists Exists Not Exists Not Exists Not Exists
Handcrafted Exists Not Exists Exists Not Exists Not Exists Not Exists Exists Not Exists
ToolBox Exists Not Exists Not Exists Not Exists Not Exists Not Exists Not Exists Not Exists
Thematic-html5boil. Exists Not Exists Not Exists Not Exists Exists Not Exists Not Exists Not Exists
H5 Theme Template Exists Not Exists Not Exists Not Exists Not Exists Not Exists Not Exists Exists
Brave New World Exists Not Exists Not Exists Not Exists Not Exists Exists Exists Not Exists
1140 Fluid Starkers Exists Not Exists Not Exists Not Exists Not Exists Not Exists Exists Exists
Indeziner Not Exists Not Exists Not Exists Not Exists Exists Not Exists Not Exists Exists
Blank Themes Exists Not Exists Not Exists Not Exists Not Exists Not Exists Not Exists Exists
rtPanel Not Exists Not Exists Not Exists Not Exists Exists Not Exists Exists Exists
Sandbox Not Exists Not Exists Not Exists Not Exists Not Exists Exists Not Exists Exists
Suffusion Not Exists Not Exists Not Exists Exists Exists Not Exists Exists Exists
Foundation Exists Exists Exists Not Exists Not Exists Not Exists Exists Exists
StartBox Not Exists Not Exists Not Exists Not Exists Exists Not Exists Not Exists Exists
Yoko Exists Exists Exists Not Exists Exists Not Exists Exists Exists
  • Emre Camasuvi

    I used Foundation by Drew Morris. Easy to use, easy to configure; needs a nice documentation though.

    Will try roots and reverie themes, later.

    Nice comparison chart, Devrim! Keep up the good work.

  • isabelle

    Ok, but which one would you recommend ?

    • http://www.stild.com/ devrim

      Recommendation is actually very hard, because every designer / developer has different ways of solving issues and walking the path.

      If anyone wants a front-end editor; there is “presswork”, “elastic”, “wp paintbrush”. If you hate bloated theme options and front-end customizations you should probably avoid them.

      “roots” has an interesting approach which is very useful if don’t want your visitor or customers to know that you are using wordpress for them, it cleans the code accordingly.

      Therefore I tried to give as much information as I can to let people decide for themselves.

      I, myself, don’t like theme options and detailed admin pages or front-end editors for starters. If you are going to code the theme yourself and you need mature, clean, stable and modern starter / framework which is covering your back, so that you don’t think about the basics over-and-over again, there is “skeleton”, “roots”, “reverie”, and “bones”.

      I recently created a theme using “skeleton” for a friend, and it was a breeze.

  • Connie

    1) you forget to loist wehther the themes offer localization, support language files

    this is important!!!

    2) Suffusion is one of the mightiest themes / frameworks I ever met and worked with…

  • http://www.flashr.org Ivan Ilijasic

    Awesome article :) Thumbs up!

  • http://www.creativemanner.com ozgur coruhlu

    Hangisini onerirsin Devrim. It seems Reverie the one covers most of these features

  • http://mynethome.net/blog Sayontan

    Suffusion does have an admin interface (I am assuming that is what “Admin Int.” is) which is probably the most extensive and powerful amongst all free themes and more powerful than several commercial theme – yet you have listed it as NOT having one? It also has inbuilt SEO options amongst other things.

  • http://www.webresourcesdepot.com Umut M.

    @Sayontan,

    Just updated the details about Suffusion accordingly.

    Thanks so much for that.

  • http://www.murtazakanpurwala.tk murtaza

    Roots is a great theme to develop on

    Thanx for share

  • http://www.jng-web.com Creation sites internet Dijon – Référencement

    Awesome article :) +1

    The same article with Joomla can be wonderfull

    Thanks for this article

  • http://rtpanel.com/ Rakshit

    Hello Devrim.

    Nice compilation and comaprison of WordPress Theme frameworks, I must say. Kudos.

    Thank you for considering rtPanel in your post.

    I represent rtPanel Theme framework as a lead developer. I would like to put forward my stand for SEO capabilty of the rtPanel.

    rtPanel is nicely integrated with “WordPress SEO by Yoast” plugin (http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/wordpress-seo/). We do not want to lock-in any user in our theme framework. So we deliberately avoid running into plugin territory. Yoast plugin being a matured plugin fulfills the SEO requirement of rtPanel.

    We are constantly enhancing the functionality of rtPanel to make it a robust WordPress theme framework.

  • http://tween.ir/ Hassan

    I have tried all of the starter themes & frameworks listed above, and in the end I settled on Gantry. I have to say that, Gantry is a theme framework, so, supporting HTML5 or Microformats depends on the theme that is using Gantry, not Gantry itself.
    BTW, one of my favorite themes is missing here! ATOM theme by digitalnature.eu which later on changed to Bootstrap: http://digitalnature.eu/themes/bootstrap/. It is packed with features to make themeing easier and more powerful.

  • http://www.arkamedia.co.id Arka Media

    Hello :)
    Thank you for sharing the beautiful themes :)

    Really much appreciated.

    Warm greeting from Indonesia.

  • http://highfxmedia.com Kurt

    I tried Reverie a few months ago, but found it wasn’t quite ready. I’m using Foundation from Drew Morris for a couple of projects. It’s been interesting learning how to use a responsive theme.

  • http://onlelo.blogspot.com Aries

    woww.. thats nice 😀 i want to download “Bones”. Thank you for sharing these.. 😀

  • http://www.gudangparfum.com Amara

    Hi, nice template collection..btw i’am in search of template for perfume kinda things, any helps on where can i find the good ones? any helps would be appreciated, thanks

  • http://catzie.net Catzie

    Your comparison chart is very helpful. Thanks.

  • http://pixelpinch.com/ Abhash Bikram Thapa

    This is one of the best researched article I’ve found for the starter kits. Thanks Devrim. But now I’m really confused on what to use.

  • http://techthumbs.com Johan

    Great article. Great list indeed.
    The same article with Joomla will be really hepful.

  • nic

    This comparison table is EXACTLY what I needed.

    I get so tired of all these lazy-ass “Here’s a list of a bajillion theme options” that just copy and paste the description from the theme’s homepage without providing any sort of real input on how they compare/contrast.

    Tip’o’the hat to ya’.

  • http://kjjangonline.blogspot.com Sash

    Wow, what an effort! Thumbs up for the comparison chart.
    Very helpful article also. Thanks!

  • Ali

    Hey Devrim,
    Amazing article – I was hoping I can get some help here – can you tell me if “constellation” theme is any good – I’m building a site that requires custom postypes/metaboxes/ wpml and bbpress – roots and Reverie looks really good – but I want to keep it simple and as close to wordpress as possible. Please advise.
    Thank you,
    Ali

  • http://corg.us corg

    Excellent post and chart! However I do believe ‘roots’ IS responsive, in contrast to the comparison chart, unless i’m missing the definition of responsive … changes format based on window dimensions as seen in their demo http://demo.rootstheme.com/ … ?

  • http://simonechacham.com.br Simone

    Excellent article, thanks a lot! I’ve found a starter theme called underscore, did you try it?

  • http://www.yatramantra.com/ yatramantra

    You rockz man.Expecially thank for that last comparison table.:)

  • http://www.brnomat.cz Brno

    Best List!!

  • Sergio Ocaña

    Is there any reason why Responsive (http://wordpress.org/extend/themes/responsive) is not included on this review? Any comments on it?

  • http://www.motgio.com Mot Gio

    Love skeleton, cool base theme for who love HTML5.
    It help me build website with HTML5 quickly :)

  • http://galaxytab3.us/ Tina from Galaxy Tab 3 US

    Excellent list. I prefer woothemes though.

  • http://www.prepract.com bishwas

    But still I have a doubt that whether I should stick to blogger or jump to Workpress. This article got me into more of my doubting myself.

  • http://www.geekyard.com Geekyard

    Nice collection buddy :) Am gonna start building a WP template using this skeleton. 😛

  • http://jarrodvaughan.tumblr.com/post/55671731429/wordpress-development-helps-in-promoting-web-business Lars Franklin

    From all of these I like the presswork theme, it looks simple and elegant with grey in the background with green in combination. Good thing is that it has good number of customization option which as a free theme is great.

  • http://amadolcfn.bravesites.com/entries/general/exactly-how-hostgator-could-assist-you-produce-a-fantastic-website Angelica

    Remarkable! Its truly awesome paragraph, I have got much clear
    idea on the topic of from this article.

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