If you are looking to build your own WordPress theme, either for releasing publicly or for your own or a client's site then a great way to start is by using a blank starter theme. Having all the required files in place along with some required styles and functions gives you a great head start - why start from scratch when there are some brilliant starter themes where someone else has done the heavy lifting for you - that's part of what makes our open source community great, we are all free to build on other people's work as long as we also share what we create with others.
In today's post we will be looking at 20 great starter themes and frameworks you can download today and use as the basis for your next theme.
WordPress Starter Themes
Roots is an excellent open source WordPress starter theme. It’s built with HTML5 Boilerplate and Bootstrap (if you don’t need it, you can replace or remove it). It also has Grunt files for quickly compiling LESS code and combining your CSS and JS files. A nifty feature of Roots is its Theme Wrapper, which helps you avoid having to write the same code in multiple files. Check out themes built using Roots at the Roots Gallery. Get started with Roots by heading over to the project’s official docs.
Underscores is a free blank WordPress theme developed by Automattic, the creators of WordPress. It has five layout templates. Unfortunately, Underscores doesn’t have a pre-built responsive layout, so you’ll have to create one. The tutorial series by ThemeShaper (a major WordPress theme development company) will help you learn how to create WP themes using Underscores.
Bones is a mobile-first blank starter theme to use as the basis of your own themes, it is not a framework so you do not need to create a child theme to use it. Includes support for SASS and includes a custom post type example.
Download » Get Hosting »
This blank WordPress theme is great for people who want to learn how to develop themes. The Naked WordPress theme is commented in-line so that as you’re building your WordPress theme, you understand what’s actually going on. It’s like a WordPress tutorial + starter theme combined.
BlankSlate is probably the most simple, minimalist blank/boilerplate theme you can get your hands on. BlankSlate is the middle ground between creating WordPress themes entirely from scratch and using a big starter themes like Roots or Underscore.
A starter theme for Sass. This theme is most actively supported at http://missybunnie.com/forums/forum/sassy-starter/
Download » Get Hosting »
This is a Web-performance optimized blank WordPress theme for developers. The HTML5 Blank WordPress Theme comes with useful custom theme functions such as a dynamic sidebar as well as boilerplate code for using WordPress’s Shortcode API in your themes.
A responsive drag-and-drop platform for professional websites based on HTML5 and CSS3. PageLines will help you do amazing things faster & easier than ever before. Designed by PageLines in California.
Download » Get Hosting »
Responsive Theme is a flexible foundation with fluid grid system that adapts your website to mobile devices and the desktop or any other viewing environment. Theme features 9 Page Templates, 11 Widget Areas, 6 Template Layouts, 4 Menu Positions and more. Powerful but simple Theme Options for full CMS control with easy Logo Upload, Social Networking and Webmaster Tools etc.
Our 2015 default theme is clean, blog-focused, and designed for clarity. Twenty Fifteen's simple, straightforward typography is readable on a wide variety of screen sizes, and suitable for multiple languages. We designed it using a mobile-first approach, meaning your content takes center-stage, regardless of whether your visitors arrive by smartphone, tablet, laptop, or desktop computer.
In 2014, our default theme lets you create a responsive magazine website with a sleek, modern design. Feature your favorite homepage content in either a grid or a slider. Use the three widget areas to customize your website, and change your content's layout with a full-width page template and a contributor page to show off your authors. Creating a magazine website with WordPress has never been easier.
An important thing about a theme framework should be the ultra clean, simple design that gives way to a vast array of customization possibilities, layout and features. Backbone is developed with the new and veteran WordPress users in mind and we will pack this framework with vast array of customization possibilities, layout, features and first rate SEO optimization for ease of use and expandability. As a theme framework, Backbone is loaded up with unprecedented level of control and flexibility. Backbone gives so much flexibility and ease in building each type of website, speeding up the process of designing and developing a theme without sacrificing the quality of the end-result. Backbone is a valuable asset for theme developers and WordPress users. That’s why we are giving each detail extra care and attention. In short, we want you to actually able to do whatever you like.
WordPress Theme Frameworks
Thesis is one of the most popular premium theme frameworks, used on over 42,712 websites. There are two licenses, with the less expensive one only allowing use on a single website (the developer license can be used on an unlimited number of your own sites, with additional license fees for use on client websites).
Thesis is powerful. It has a remarkably efficient HTML + CSS + PHP framework and easy-to-use controls that you can use to fine-tune each and every page of your site with a tactical precision that has never been possible before. The days of worrying about your in-site SEO are over—with Thesis, your strategy is "just add amazing content".
Gantry is a comprehensive set of building blocks to enable the rapid development and realization of a design into a flexible and powerful web platform theme.
A fast and slick theme framework which provides a rich tool set to develop cross-platform themes.
Genesis is the most widely recommended framework in this collection. Even if you’ve never seriously considered buying a framework before, you’ve probably heard of it. This is because it strikes perhaps the best balance between affordability and power. The framework itself is lean, secure, SEO friendly, future proof and highly customizable. It is designed to always be used with a child theme – it is up to you whether you use one of the many offered by StudioPress or create your own. The Genesis framework is more for intermediate and advanced developers, although keen hobbyists can become proficient relatively quickly. Complete beginners can use it, but will probably want to stick to an off-the-shelf child theme. I would recommend the Genesis framework to intermediate and advanced developers who want a trusted platform on which they can build new child themes and sell them or churn out new client sites.
Use Headway to build any layout you can think of, customize any page, add colors, fonts, and more; all with the power of the Headway Visual Editor. Headway Themes includes a ton of features for both developers and designers, and can be customized even without coding knowledge. While it’s definitely among the more expensive premium frameworks out there, it’s also among the most fully-featured and user-friendly.
Thematic is a free, open-source, highly extensible, search-engine optimized WordPress Theme Framework featuring 13 widget-ready areas,960.gs grid-based layout samples, styling for popular plugins, and a whole community behind it. It’s perfect for beginner bloggers and WordPress development professionals.
Thematic is a theme framework by WordPress theme developer, Ian Stewart. Thematic is completely free; from forums to child themes, everything is free!