Not all free WordPress themes are premium, just as not all premium themes are free. Free, of course, means you get the theme at no cost, and that matters because a good theme can cost a bundle.
A free premium WordPress theme, in contrast, means it comes from an established developer and has features that rival those of premium on-purchase themes. There are virtually hundreds, if not thousands of free WordPress themes but a lot fewer free premium WordPress themes.
The Upside and Downside of Free WordPress Themes
The main attraction of free WordPress themes is, of course, that they are free. That is big deal for start-up online businesses and individuals looking to create a presence online. A free theme is also a major plus for big online businesses looking to get a good theme from which to develop their own, more sophisticated custom site, without having to remain tied to an outside developer.
Free WordPress themes also come with the advantage of an almost endless choice. There are over 2,600 free themes in the WordPress Theme Directory alone, making it possible to cross-pollinate, adapt and enhance a free theme into just about anything – all at no cost.
And free does not necessarily mean low quality. Some free premium themes are in fact quite sophisticated, current and features loaded. Some even have impeccable support. The reason is that some major developers create good free themes as a brand marketing strategy – to demonstrate, free of charge, their good faith and expertise. The marketing logic, which often works quite well, is that plenty of small businesses that begin with free themes eventually upgrade to premium themes – and naturally tend to stay with the developer they are used to.
The problem is that lots of free WordPress themes are rudimental, providing only basic features. Or they are poorly supported even when they are reasonably sophisticated, making them vulnerable to bugs and quickly out of synch with the fast evolution of technology.
How to Identify a Good Free WordPress Theme
We have trawled the internet looking for the best free premium WordPress themes. Our criteria has been straight-forward. We believe a good free WordPress theme should have adequate features for the type of site it aims to serve. Generally, that means also having most, if not all, the standard features of modern themes. The list: multimedia integration, color and layout options, social media integration and responsiveness. Plus multiple browser compatibility and localization feature.
A good free theme should also be current – less than 2 years old – or recently or regularly updated. And, of course, it should have good support.
Here we sample, in no particular order, our choice of the top 10 free premium WordPress themes:
Serene Free Premium WordPress Theme
The Serene is a free premium theme by Elegant Themes, a major themes developer with impeccable credentials. It is a blogging theme and, in the developer’s own words, a simple and spacious theme.
No surprise then that the serene theme is up-to-date and has superb support. It is code-compliant to the latest World Wide Web Standards, W3C, and gets frequent security checks. It also has most of the features you would need for a blog.
The key features of the Serene are:
- Multimedia versatility with 6 post format support – article, quote, video, audio, gallery and links formats.
- Multi-browser compatibility.
- Good customization for a blog site.
- Social media support through easy configuration.
The one sticking downside is that, while the Serene Theme will display reasonably well on mobile devices, it is not fully responsive.
OneEngine Free Premium WordPress Theme
OneEngine is a popular free theme from an emerging theme developer, Engine Themes. It is a multi-purpose theme that is particularly suited for portfolio or blog sites – and has already seen over 31, 800 downloads.
The OneEngine is limited by being a one page theme – not a problem for a blog or portfolio theme but limiting for a multi-purpose theme. But beyond that, the theme is a big hit because it is well supported, current and impressively feature-packed for a free theme.
The highlights of OneEngine free premium themes features are:
- It is highly customizable with a back-end built on Redux Theme Option Framework – one of best theme options manager that allows extensive tinkering with theme options, including import/export of content, error handling and settings.
- It is fully
- It has unlimited color schemes, a form feature and 60 animation effects.
The notable downside is that, despite being a multi-purpose theme, the OneEnmgine is not eCommerce functional.
Vantage Free Premium WordPress Theme
The Vantage WordPress theme is another very popular free and premium Wodpress theme with over 300,000 downloads already. It is the creation of SiteOrigin, a developer with over 39 themes under its belt.
The big plus for the vantage theme is that it is a well supported, multi-purpose theme that works just fine for anything from blog and portfolio sites to a complex online business. Reason: it incorporates a choice of plug-ins that pretty much cover all the basic needs of an ecommerce website.
Notable features of the Vantage free premium theme are:
- A custom page builder that comes bundled with a variety of widgets for easy site customization.
- The page builder also integrates plug-ins from other developers, such as the free version of the Meta Slider by Matcha Labs – and the premium version if you decide to pay for it.
- The choice of plug-ins includes a WooCommerce plug-in that makes the theme essentially ecommerce enabled.
The stand-out downside: The vantage works reasonably well in mobile gadgets but is not fully responsive.
WPeden Free Premium WordPress Theme
The WPeden WordPress theme is one of the truly premium multi-purpose free premium themes. It is a free product of the interestingly named Multi-Purpose theme developer – that’s right, they are simply called MultiPurpose – with a portfolio of over 40 premium themes.
The WPeden is a sophisticated theme with most of the key features a blog, portfolio, corporate and eCommerce site. The key features are:
- >It is fully responsive.
- It is retina ready – able to display high resolution graphics and videos.
- It supports multiple post formats, including video, audio, chat, quote, gallery, image and aside.
- It is customizable with unlimited color and 3 page templates.
The notable downside: The WPeden was created in September 2013 but it not clear whether it has since been updated.
iTheme Free Premium WordPress Theme
As the name suggests, the iTheme2 free WordPress theme is an upgrade of a previous free theme, the iTheme. The original version was by N.Design Studio while the iTheme2 is the creation of Themify, one of the best rated theme developer majors.
That means, naturally, that the iTheme2 theme is well supported and current. But the really interesting quick-facts about the iTheme2 are two. First, it is a technology theme, best suited for hi-tech start-ups. That’s a rarity of sorts and possibly explains the Apple style i-Something name choice.
Secondly, the iTheme2 integrates the Themify Framework, the signature engine of all themify themes and a big reason why this developer has shot to the top league of WP themes developers. The Themify Framework gives the theme a variety of important features. The key features:
- Fully responsive
- Social media integration
- Customizable slider to highlight whatever content your pointer rests on
- Threaded comments
- Multiple-level dropdown menus
- 3 Layout options – default with sidebar, full-width and content only – plus 3 theme skins.
The noticeable downside: the iTheme2 is free for download and unlimited use but comes without Photoshop .psd file and forum access.
Zippy Free Premium WordPress Theme
Zippy free WordPress theme is a small business theme that emphasizes products displays and works well for a service website. It is a creation of MageeWP, one of the rising WordPress theme developer stars with 11 themes to its name by the last count.
The Zippy is current. It is built with the latest theme core technology and standards, HTML5and CSS3. It is also reasonably customizable with images and patterns flexibility of navigation styles and backgrounds for, among others the header and footer. The key features of the Zippy are:
- It is fully responsive
- Has top slideshow in the home page and a robust sidebar
- supports wide range of widgets and multiple social icons
- Has footer widget options
The downside: Despite being a business theme, Zippy does not have eCommerce integration as a standard feature.
Point Free Premium WordPress Theme
The Point WordPress theme is easily one of the best free WordPress themes around, with practically every key feature of a premium theme. It is one of four free themes from a major developer, mythemeshop.
The Point is a multi-purpose theme able to serve just about any type of site. It is also quite flexible, thanks to an easy options panel and, crucially, includes access to mythemeshop’s custom widget library that serves the developer’s premium, not-free themes. That makes it a free theme that is noticeably unlike the usual free themes.
As expected of a theme from a major developer, the Point theme is also well supported and up-to-date. The key features of the theme are:<
- It is fully responsive
- >Has options panel that makes it easy to customize
- It is SEO optimized – a rarity in free themes
- Has ‘related posts’ and post meta information boxes and styled widgets as a standard feature
- Complies to HTML5and CSS3 standards
- It is translation ready
Multi Web Design Free Premium WordPress Theme
As its name suggests, this is one of the few premium WordPress themes that targets web designers. The theme also works well on photographer or videographer portfolio sites.
The Multi Web Design theme is a rich imagery theme from the unusually named Crocoblock ecommerce WordPress themes club with a choice of over 100 themes. That basically assures the theme good support and technical currency.
But the defining feature of the Multi Web Design theme is that it comes with the Cherry Framework – a theme engine that makes it highly customizable and features loaded. The key features are
- Multi type post formats – testimonials, services, team info
- >Full Responsiveness
- Zooming effect and Google map
- Social sharing buttons
- An easy admin panel to customize and manage the theme
- A big variety of short codes to add more functionalities such as lists, audios, videos
- Compatible with WooCommerce – although not integrated as a standard feature
GavickPro Magazine Free Premium WordPress Theme
The GavickPro Magazine theme is a very current theme – less than a year old – with the added advantage of being a Joomla theme. Joomla is an open source web content publishing management system (CMS) with a huge module library of features and tools.
The Joomla connection also gives the GavickPro Magazine theme a good support base and reliability. But the theme has its own character, most notably, an intuitive navigation with clear menus and 3 –column, clickable tile layout that is particularly suited for a magazine theme.
The key features of the theme are:
- support for third-party tools
- multiple lists including archive blogs
- links by categories
- user profile and registration forms
The downside: the GavickPro Magazine theme is not easy to fully assess because it has no demo link.
Starter Free Premium WordPress Theme
The starter is an increasingly popular free portfolio theme by Themium, an emerging developer with evident promise. It is a current theme that was released on the last day of 2013 – and has chalked over 8,000 downloads since.
The strong point of the Starter theme is that it is quite sophisticated for a portfolio theme designed to introduce new entrants to online site management. It is a one page theme, which makes it easy to manage with a matching admin panel. Even its features are few but adequate, including:
- Multiple post types – team, slider, projects and client posts
- Fully Responsive
- Easy admin panel that that simplifies preset colors for background, header and footer.