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In my opinion, one of the best ways to learn about wordpress theme development is to take one of the many clean and nicely layed out free themes and start customizing them yourself.

With this hands on approach with a working model, you have the ability to see for yourself what is happening to the theme with each of the changes that you make. The guesswork becomes less guessy when you have an established functionable framework to start with, and then the tweaking teaching takes you through each step of the personalization process.

With this practical application approach, the bits of theoretical learning that you may have acquired through reading and oral presentations fall into place and begin to make sense to you in a whole new way. So here I have tried to focus on those themes that have outstanding layouts and builds while still leaving you room for plenty of personal customization.

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Freemium

The Freemium theme was designed by Paul Kadysz and developed by Dariusz Siedlecki. Its clean look and level of customization makes it the perfect choice for either a business or personal blog.

freemium

Features

  • jQuery menu
  • quick submitting to web2.0 websites support
  • flickrRSS plugin support
  • threaded comments support
  • feedBurner subscribe via email support
  • a lot of advertising spots (125×125, 120×600, 300×250)
  • 2 widget ready sidebars

Download Freemium | Demo

Elegant Grunge

Elegant Grunge is an unwashed yet crisp WordPress theme designed by Michael Tyson and inspired by wefunction.com. Customization options include per-page and per-post configuration to turn on and off features such as automatic image framing, and a global configuration interface allowing you to turn on/off the RSS link, set your own copyright message, or add your own extra header content.

elegantgrunge

Features

  • Very configurable sidebar: Choose from no sidebar, a right sidebar, or two right sidebars
  • The option to select a custom image as the header
  • A ‘feature’ footer that you can add widgets to.
  • Automatic surrounding of all images with a frame packed with eye-candy that makes images really pop out.

Download/Demo Elegant Grunge

Irresistible

Irresistible is a visually-rich personal blog, with a little bit of a multimedia focus, incorporating video-options and widgets. It includes a widgetized sidebar, with some Irrestible-specific custom widgets to allow you full control over what happens in your sidebar

irresistible

Features

  • Use as a standard blog or use the customized homepage layout
  • Integrated banner ad management;
  • Seamlessly integrated video player;
  • 9 different colour schemes to choose from

Download Irresistible | Demo

SuperFresh

SuperFresh is a 3 Column theme with 2 widget-ready sidebars and a featured post section in the main page. It’ is compatible with up to WordPress 2.8 and has been tested in Firefox, Internet Explorer 6 & 7, Opera, and Safari.

superfresh

Features

  • about me section in the sidebar which link to the about page.
  • customized gallery page
  • Special comment fields with avatar.
  • Alternative formatting for comment fields.

Download SuperFresh | Demo

Just Lucid

Just Lucid is a clean and professional looking layout with separate stylesheets for 800px width, as well as 1024px width (the default). The sidebar and footer are both widgetized and ready to go.

justlucid

Download Just Lucid | Demo

Modicus

Modicus is a very flexible theme which includes an optional home page as well as both a 2 and 3 column layout.

modicus

Features

  • Minimalist: Very clean, spacious and easy to read.
  • Fast: Lightweight, for speed.
  • Ad-friendly: The columns are sized specifically to accept standard ad formats.
  • Easy to install: You can install without plugins, though five plugins are recommended and included.

Download Modicus | Demo

DailyPress

DailyPress is a theme developed specifically for those people who update their blogs daily.

dailypress

Features

  • Widget Ready Sidebars
  • Tabbed Content
  • Banner Ad Ready
  • Minimalistic Color Scheme
  • Social Bookmoarking Options

Download DailyPress | Demo

Versatility Lite

Versatility Lite is a two column, ad-ready, widgetized theme with a bit of a grungy feel making it perfect for band websites.

versatiltylite

Features

  • Featured Post Section
  • Drop Down CSS Menus
  • Integrated Related Posts
  • Social Bookmarking Buttons

Download Versatility Lite | Demo

Rewire

Rewire is an SEO optimized theme with a simple style and straight forward presentation. The PSD files are also available for download to allow for easier customization.

rewire

Features

  • 3 Columns
  • Thumbnails on Posts
  • Gravatar on Comments

Download Rewire | Demo

Subtly Made

Subtly Made is just that. This subtle theme is a free, 2-column, widget-ready layout.

subtlymade

Features

  • Wigetized Sidebar
  • Social Media Icons
  • Integration with Flicker

Download/Demo Subtly Made

Portfolios and Galleries

Linquist

Linquist is a simple, portfolio oriented theme, without all the usual blogging clutter. While technically based on the Sharpfolio theme featured below, I felt it was distinguishable enough from the original to feature on its own.

linquist

Features

  • 2 color styles – light & dark
  • style switcher
  • built-in simple lightbox
  • gravatar support
  • an options page to set up all these things

Download Linquist | Demo

Sharpfolio

Sharpfolio is a WordPress theme designed to enable Web Designers, Graphic Designers, Photographers, Motion Designers, Artists or any creative professional to showcase their work in a simple, clean, beautiful portfolio. Sharpfolio aims to focus primarily on your work, because after all, this is what’’s most important.

sharpfolio

Download Sharpfolio | Demo

Snapshot

Snapshot provides two different layouts allowing you to choose between a personal portfolio/photoblog for your own work or a design gallery for showcasing best-of collections.

snapshot

Features

  • Three Unique Color Schemes
  • An Integrated Theme Options Page

Download Snapshot | Demo

Fotofolio

Fotofolio is a wordpress portfolio style theme designed specifically for photographers. The name pretty much says it all.

fotofolio

Features

  • Easy and simple to use
  • Automatically resize image for Thumbnail and preview
  • Jquery Integrated for Featured Photos and Previews
  • Theme Options for easy configure
  • Editable homepage slideshow category and numbers

Download Fotofolio | Demo

Portfolio Press

Portfolio Press is a dark-colored theme suitable for anyone who wants to create a quick portfolio or wants to showcase his work through WordPress.

porfoliopress

Features

  • CSS/XHTML Validated
  • Easy to Modify Code
  • Gravatar Functionality
  • SEO Optimized
  • Tested in Firefox, IE7, IE6 and Opera

Download Portfolio Press | Demo

CSS Gallery

CSS Gallery is a theme for webmasters who want to build a CSS showcase or simply a web gallery. Once again, the title tells it all in this clean and minimalist theme.

cssgallery

Features

  • Built in Tagging
  • Google and Sidebar ad ready
  • valid CSS/XHTML

Download CSS Gallery | Demo

Gallery

Gallery is a beautiful, free, gallery-style Thematic child theme for WordPress that is extremely flexible and can be used as a starting point for design galleries and portfolios.

gallery

Features

  • WordPress 2.7 compatible
  • jQuery hover effects
  • ‘Save to Delicious’ and ‘Tweet This’ links
  • Flexible footer widget area
  • Integration with WP-PostRatings, Contact Form 7, and BuySellAds plugins

Download Gallery | Demo

CSS Gallery Theme 2.0

CSS Gallery Theme 2.0 is a re-tooled version of the CSS Gallery theme, for webmasters whose focus is on building a CSS showcase or web gallery. With an uncomplicated elegance of design, this crisp layout is a wonderful jumping off point.

cssgallery2.0

Features

  • Integrated Plugins
  • Valid XHTML and CSS
  • Search Engine Optimized Sidebar Titles
  • Custom Layout / Design to Display Gallery Images
  • Logo .psd integrated

Download CSS Gallery Theme 2.0 | Demo

Monochrome Gallery

Monochrome Gallery is a free widgetized theme for WordPress built with the Blueprint CSS framework.

monochrome

Features

  • Author Archives page
  • AJAX Slideshow
  • Categorized posts with thumbnails

Download Monochrome Gallery | Demo

WPESP

WPESP is a “minimalist” Theme based on the idea of portfolio created by DAILYWP. The Theme is a starting point in the creation of portfolios, using WordPress as CMS. This design is fully customizable depending on what the user needs.

wpesp

Download WPESP | Demo

Magazine

Premium News

Premium News – This theme may be a bit rough around the edges (in terms of its looks), but they have used the same solid base for all their subsequent themes, so it seems to be a functional favorite. Enjoy this themes’ minimalistic beauty and make it your own today!

premiumnews

Features

  • Integrated Theme Options (for WordPress) to tweak the layout, colour scheme etc. for the theme
  • Built-in video panel, which you can use to publish any web-based Flash videos
  • Automatic Image Resizer, which is used to dynamically create the thumbnails and featured images
  • Custom Page Templates for Archives, Sitemap & Image Gallery
  • Built-in Gravatar Support for Authors & Comments
  • Integrated Banner Management script to display randomized banner ads of your choice site-wide
  • Widgetized Sidebars
  • Featured Posts panel on the homepage using jQuery technology to display / hide the posts
  • Animated horizontal drop-down menu’s for category navigation

Download Premium News | Demo

Magazeen

Magazeen is a bold magazine 2 column theme designed to place the main focus on typography, grids and the magazine-look. A fantastic base to allow the content to shine through.

magazeen

Features

  • jQuery image showcase
  • related posts drop down effect
  • featured and recent posts

Download Magazeen | Demo

Digital Statement

Digital Statement is a simple theme with a massive amount of room for the user to customize the layout to suit whatever needs they have to meet.

digitalstatement

Download Digital Statement | Demo

The Morning After

The Morning After was created based on a brief survey on the WordPress forums which asked people what they would want to see in a unique magazine-style theme…and the people have spoken.

morningafter

Features

  • Clean grid-based design
  • Detailed documentation regarding installation, usage and customisation
  • Support for WordPress widgets
  • Three-column home page
  • “Featured” post highlighting
  • Associating images/thumbnails with recent posts (with automatic thumbnail generation)
  • Customisable logo/header image
  • Support for WordPress’s in-built image wrapping classes and galleries
  • Threaded comments (WordPress 2.7+ only)
  • Support for asides
  • Support for Gravatars
  • Option for readers to email posts to friends
  • Option to switch to a print-friendly view to print posts

Download The Morning After | Preview

Grid Focus

Grid Focus is a three column widget enabled WordPress 2.6 or 2.7+ compatible WordPress theme, featuring a prominent navigation bar with room to share important pages. The latest update is completely optimized and stripped of any unnecessary code allowing for complete customizability.

gridfocus

Features

  • supports three independent widgetized sidebars + more
  • Primary – Index: Middle column rendered for index, archive, and page templates
  • Primary – Post: Middle column rendered for single post template
  • Secondary – Shared: Third column persistent on all templates
  • Threaded comment replies (WordPress 2.7 only)

Download Grid Focus | Demo

Linoluna

Linoluna is a simple and neat theme for a magazine-styled blog. The theme uses the WordPress’ template tags quite extensively but still, it is very easy to work with. Linoluna best suits a multi-author WordPress blog.

linoluna

Features

  • Tabbed Navigation with 4 tabs (Viewed, Commented, Top Rated & Emailed)
  • Slideshow Animation for Featured Articles
  • Statistics Inside Each Post
  • Integration with the Plugins WP-PostView, WP-PostRating, WP-Print, and WP-Email

Download Linoluna | Preview

Mimbo

Mimbo is a clean, customizable magazine-style theme for WordPress. It i’s also a simple framework which can be easily modified with child themes.

mimbo

Features

  • Featured Categories
  • 125×125 Ad Support
  • Multi-Level Dropdown Menus
  • Custom Sidebar Conditionals
  • Gallery, Inline Image & Caption Styling

Download Mimbo | Demo

Jello Wala Mello

Jello Wala Mello is a news / magazine-styled WordPress theme created specifically for multi-media sites, while still maintaining its customization.

jello

Features

  • A sub-page design for single post view
  • Integrated Domtab
  • Separated Comments and Trackbacks through Domtab
  • Flexible sidebars that change location and styles depending whether you’re viewing the front page
  • Widget-ready sidebars

Download Jello Wala Mello

Branford Magazine

Branford Magazine is a fashionably designed theme with a subtly stylish layout. With a lead article header that breaks down into a two column cascading post setup, containing both a featured article column and a column of user defined categories with a featured post under each category listing, this theme is a wonderful base to start with.

branford

Features

  • Tabbed Navigation with 4 options
  • Multi-level Drop-Down Navigation

Download Branford Magazine | Demo

Scarlette

Scarlette is an elegant magazine theme designed around light and bright colors. This theme is suitable for any niche. The theme layout is stylish and dynamic content elements are built into it.

scarlett

Features

  • Multi-level dropdown javascript navigation menu
  • Custom sliding elements with images
  • Site wide customizable 125 x 125 custom banner ads
  • Tabbed content area
  • Three widgetized sidebars
  • Breadcrumb navigation
  • Custom theme option page in the admin panel

Download Scarlette | Demo

Specialty

Crafty Cart

Crafty Cart is a free theme that integrates with the WP e-Commerce plugin turning your wordpress site into an e-Commerce store. The default layout and theme are perfect for selling hand crafted items but it could also be customized to fit whatever style you need.

craftycart

Features

  • clearly organized code for easy styling and customization
  • Full Widget Support
  • Separate Pingbacks

Download Crafty Cart | Demo

Gamezine

Gamezine is the latest free magazine wordpress theme for gamers, from jinsona designs. The theme has a dark grunge design with a fixed width 3 column layout. The theme is perfectly suitable for gamers and with some modification it will fit into any niche.

gamezine

Features

  • Custom theme option page in the admin panel
  • Widgetized, dual sidebar
  • customizable top games section on the sidebar
  • Javascript thumbnail slider which links to posts of specified category
  • Site wide customizable 125×125 banner ads

Download Gamezine | Demo

LaunchPad

LaunchPad is a theme designed for announcing the launch of an upcomming site. Instead of putting up a tacky “Under Construction” page (does anyone still even use those?) or allowing your host to use the domain for advertising, use the space to advertise your own site that is to come. It integrates with Feedburner so visitors can sign up for updates and is fully customizable.

launchpad

Features

  • Theme Options Page
  • Integration with FeedBurner
  • Professional design and typesetting
  • GPL Licensed—it’s free and you’re free to mess with it

Download Launchpad | Demo

Notepad

The Notepad theme allows you to turn WordPress into a small business or personal professional website. It also comes with a simple blog to go along with the site but its main focus is giving you a full, search engine friendly site.

notepad

Features

  • Clean and crisp simple website look
  • Use WordPress to manage everything, including a Theme Options tab for address and contact information
  • Highly customizable
  • Integrated blog component
  • 13 pre-built color styles

Download Notepad | Demo

WP Coda

WP Coda is a very professional looking coda style slide theme for WordPress. It was created by Greg Johnson by modifying several already-existing code snippets and implementing them into his own design which mimics the page sliding functionality of the very popular Coda website. I highly recommend previewing the demo for the full effect.

wpcoda

Download/Demo WP Coda

Ocular Professor

Ocular Professor is a photoblogging theme for WordPress that features large images, gallery support, and threaded comments for WordPress 2.7+. It has been tested in OS X (with Firefox, Safari, Camino, and Opera) and in XP (with IE 7, Firefox, Safari, and Chrome).

ocularprofessor

Features

  • A widget-enabled footer with special styling for all default widgets
  • A “Featured Post” section that, when enabled, allows posts to sit outside the normal flow of blog posts
  • Special formatting, such as drop-caps and image captions
  • Author comment highlighting

Download Ocular Professor | Demo

WP-CRM

WP-CRM is a WordPress system for creating a basic Contact Manager using a combination of plugins and a theme written with BluePrint CSS.

wpcrm

Features

  • Add contacts from the front end of WordPress – no need to go to the admin screen.
  • Associate an image, note history and company with each contact.
  • Google map contacts address.
  • Fully hcard / vcard compatible.

Download WP-CRM | Demo

Androida

Androida is a business template based on Android phone niche. The theme comes with an optional blog layout giving users the option to choose between a business template layout and a regular blog template layout.

androida

Features

  • Featured Content Glider
  • Featured Posts
  • Featured Video
  • Banner Ads
  • Widgetized Sidebars

Download Androida | Demo

Prologue

Prologue allows you to create your own Twitter like microblogging platform.

prologue

Features

  • Threaded comment display on the front page
  • In-line editing for posts and comments
  • Live tag suggestion based on previously used tags
  • A show/hide feature for comments, to keep things tidy
  • Real-time notifications when a new comment or update is posted

Download Prologue | Demo

Agregado

Agregado is made unique by its built-in lifestream module and contact form with custom control panel options.

agregado

Features

  • Lifestream module with carousel
  • Custom archives page
  • Animated js dropdown menus
  • Built-in contact form module with AJAX sent/fail message
  • Built-in drop caps for lead paragraphs
  • Numerical pagination on archive and search pages
  • Author-highlighting for comments
  • User profile module
  • Widgetized bottom bar on homepage
  • Widgetized sidebar on single post pages
  • Print stylesheet
  • ‘More in this Category’ sidebar module
  • Control panel options for lifestream and contact form

Download Agregado | Demo

Delta

Delta is a WordPress theme designed with churches in mind. Including a few additional header images with the download, this theme is designed to allow for maximum user customization.

delta

Download Delta | Demo

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