Did you know that there are over 9,000 free WordPress blog themes out there to choose from?
On the one hand, this can only be a good thing.
Whether you’re figuring out how to start a blog on a budget and need a high-quality theme that won’t cost a penny, or you’ve simply found that none of the countless premium themes quite cut it, having so many options means there’s a good chance you’ll find one that’s the perfect fit.
On the other hand, finding that one perfect theme out of thousands of sub-par ones is akin to finding a needle in the proverbial haystack.
Try out any number of themes. You’ll find those that look great but function poorly, those that offer incredible functionality but look terrible, or those that are so bloated and riddled with security vulnerabilities that they’re simply not fit for purpose.
So how do you find those themes that look great and provide flawless functionality and useful features while remaining lightweight and secure?
Simple, you start here with my guide to the top 5 best free WordPress blog themes:
Top 5 Best Free WordPress Themes
Since it was first released back in 2017, Astra has quickly and firmly established itself as the best free WordPress theme around today.
Give it a try for yourself, and you’ll soon see why over 1.6 million WordPress website owners chose it for their websites.
First of all, there’s the design quality.
Astra features over 180 beautifully designed starter templates for just about every niche you can think of, including a number that have been created, especially with bloggers in mind.
The best part (and with a theme like Astra, it’s hard to pick just one best part) is that these starter templates can be effortlessly customized using your choice of page builder.
Personally, I love using Astra with the popular Elementor page builder tool as it’s the easiest to use and features a wealth of options for tweaking and fine-tuning every aspect of your site, including multiple pre-built page templates and expertly designed blocks.
That said, the theme works just as well with Gutenberg, Beaver Builder, and many more.
Elsewhere, the biggest highlight is how impressively lightweight this theme is.
Add in multiple options for displaying your blog posts (including masonry, grid, and list layouts), custom header and footer builders, and more, and it’s no wonder Astra is currently one of the most popular themes on the market right now.
Key Blogging Features:
- Multiple post layout options
- Customize blog content width
- Related posts
- Full control over header logo position
- Global color palette
- Web stories (similar to Facebook and Instagram stories)
- Basic scheme markup
- Search Engine Optimized code
- In-built social icon widgets.
Pros and Cons of Astra
- Optimized for performance with 0.5-second loading speeds
- Includes a wealth of design options to create a unique-looking blog
- Features an easy set-up wizard to launch your new site in under two minutes
- Some users report slow response times from Astra’s support team
- Some useful features like blog structure control and post pagination are limited to the pro version.
Astra Theme Pro
If you like the Astra theme but find you need a few more features than you get with the free version, you can upgrade to Astra Pro.
This costs $49 per year or $239 for lifetime use and includes additional features such as:
- Mobile headers
- Mega menus
- Advanced color and typography customization
- Infinite loading
- Date box
- Excerpt count
- Blog structure control
- Advanced WooCommerce features
- Custom 404 pages.
How to Use Astra?
1. Go to your WordPress Themes
From your WordPress dashboard, go to Appearance – Themes – Add New.
2. Select Astra
Pick Astra from the top row of options presented as shown above.
If Astra isn’t presented for some reason, simply use the search box to find it.
3. Install and Activate
Click the blue ‘Install’ button, followed by ‘Activate.’
4. Get Started
Once installed, you’ll see a bar across the top of your dashboard inviting you to get started with Astra. Click the blue ‘Get Started’ button to put your new blog together.
On the next screen, scroll down past the introductory video and click ‘Build Your Website Now.’
5. Choose Your Page Builder
As a default, the free version of Astra invites you to pick either the Gutenberg block editor, Elementor, or Beaver Builder.
For this review, I’m choosing Elementor.
6. Choose a Template
On the next screen, select “blog” from the list of options in the main menu.
This will present you with a number of free and premium blog-based starter templates to choose from.
7. Set up Basic Design Options
Once you’ve chosen your theme, you can either upload a logo or choose to skip this step and add one later.
You can also choose your color scheme and font options at this stage.
8. Tell Astara About You and Your Site
On the next page, Astra asks for some information about you, your site, and what you want to import from the starter template.
Configure this section and click continue.
With that, your new blog is launched, and you can start editing the design using your page builder or get to work on creating great blog posts.
If you liked Astra’s lightweight, performance-optimized design, integration with multiple page builders, and abundance of starter templates but found that none of those templates were quite right for you, OceanWP may be your best alternative.
Boasting over 700,00 active installations, this one offers several pre-designed blogging options, with the beautiful, simplistic layout of the “Personal” blog proving to be my personal favorite.
Though the initial setup process is neither as simple nor as straightforward as you’ll find with other blogging themes, it’s nothing anyone with even limited WordPress experience couldn’t handle.
Meanwhile, the seamless integration with a wealth of popular page builders makes customization a breeze.
However, what really stands out to me about OceanWP is that it’s one of the best free WordPress themes for bloggers who want to incorporate eCommerce features into their site.
The WooCommerce integration and range of free eCommerce features are second-to-none, making it a solid option for anyone with serious ambitions of blog monetization.
Key Blogging Features:
- Global site layouts
- Global fonts and typography customizations
- Social media icon menu
- Customizable breadcrumb options
- 4 x page title styles
- Customizable blog post layouts
- In-built metadata options
- Next/Previous/related post taxonomy controls.
Pros and Cons of OceanWP
- Features three blog post layouts (grid, large image, thumbnail)
- Allows for customizable blog post structures
- Integrates with free and premium extensions for added functionality.
- Can be a little cumbersome to set up
- Some of the free themes require premium plugins to function properly
The free version itself packs plenty of design choices and features to suit most bloggers, but if you need some extra functionality, there is a Pro version available.
Plans are priced at the following rates depending on how many sites you need a license for:
$35 p/y – 3 sites
$49 p/y – 6 sites
$79 p/y – 50 sites.
Plans include extended premium support and 14 premium features to add extra functionality such as popup logins, Instagram Feeds, modal windows, additional design customization options, and access to a wealth of royalty-free images.
How to Get Started with OceanWP?
- 1. From your WordPress dashboard, go to Themes – Add New and search for ‘OceanWP.’
- 2. Click ‘Activate’ followed by ‘Install.’
- 3. Install the OceanWP plugin (required)
- 4. Install additional recommended plugins
- 5. Follow the setup wizard to create your new blog.
Some people learn how to create a WordPress blog for the simple reason of wanting to express themselves online and share their thoughts with the world.
Others, however, harbor loftier ambitions of going all-out to create a full-scale digital publication that is frequently updated with lots of new content.
If you’re in the latter camp, you may well like the magazine-style layout of the free Poseidon WordPress theme.
Though it’s not the most popular WordPress theme out there, Poseidon more than holds its own thanks to its clear, simple design with lots of white space, which makes your content stand out.
At its heart, the theme creates a simple blog layout that isn’t all that remarkable.
Use the widget-based magazine template, however, and you’ll be able to create a dynamic news-style website in minutes, making it a perfect choice for those who want to take their blogging game to a professional level.
Key Blogging Features:
- Custom headers
- Multiple homepage layouts
- Post slideshows
- Custom featured image options
- Choose between full-width and side-bar post templates
- Custom headers
- Sticky posts.
Pros and Cons of Poseidon
- 100% responsive layouts
- Lightweight design
- Simple design makes it easy to set up in minutes.
- Limited customization options compared to other themes
- Support is only available through WordPress forums.
Like all of the themes in this list, Poseidon was chosen because the free theme works exceptionally well as a stand-alone product.
That said, you can choose to upgrade to Poseidon Pro, which offers extra features such as:
- Advanced color and typography customization
- Top navigation and social icons
- Header search
- Author bios
- Footer navigation menu and widget area.
The Pro version starts at $49 for a single site license, with a $69 3-site plan and a $49 plan for use on unlimited websites also available.
How to Use Poseidon?
- 1. Go to the themes section of your WordPress dashboard and search for ‘Poseidon.’
- 2. Install and activate the theme
- 3. Use the WordPress customizer to change the look and feel of your site
- 4. Use widgets to edit the layout of your homepage and start blogging.
4. Olsen Light
If you’re dreaming of becoming the next famous lifestyle blogger, installing the Olsen Light WordPress theme on your new blog might be a good place to start.
Elegantly designed with a stylish, minimal layout, Olsen allows you to create a blog that combines well-presented text in a range of fonts with large images ideal for creating highly visual content.
Though the theme is compatible with the likes of Elementor and Beaver Builder, the fact that everything can be changed via the standard WordPress customizer may hold lots of appeal for those who are new to blogging and want the most simple option possible for creating a beautiful blog design.
Also appealing to lifestyle bloggers is the in-built Instagram photo slider, making it a great choice for would-be influencers.
Key blogging themes:
- Search Engine Optimized code
- Embedded social sharing options
- Mailchimp integration for building your email marketing list
- Highlight posts in the homepage carousel
- Social sharing options for posts.
Pros and Cons of Olsen Light
- Includes custom widgets for added functionality
- Fully translatable to help you appeal to international audiences
- Fully compatible with all essential WordPress plugins.
- At the time of writing, the theme hasn’t been updated since September 2021, with no news on if it will be updated again.
- Doesn’t allow for sticky posts.
If you like Olsen Light’s look but not its lack of functionality, you can upgrade to Olsen Pro for just $34 per year.
This plan unlocks additional features such as:
- WooCommerce support
- 11 different layout designs
- Typography options
- Customizer color options
- Post/page element visibility options
- Sticky navigation
- Author bios.
How to Use Olsen?
- 1. From your WordPress dashboard, go to Themes – Add New and search for Olsen
- 2. Install and activate the plugin
- 3. Go to your WordPress customizer to change the look and feel of your site
- 4. Start posting.
If you’re a visual artist looking to use your blog to showcase your work, you could do far worse than using Tracks as your theme.
The best free theme for image-heavy blogs, this one places your visual content front and center so that it displays beautifully across all devices, meaning an end to the days when placing large images on your blog would ruin the user experience on mobiles and tablets.
That doesn’t mean that you can’t also create written content.
Though the typography settings are somewhat limited, the options you do have available are perfectly designed to match the bold, contemporary style of tracks, while multiple page layouts give you the freedom to share your content in a way that works best for you and your audience.
Finally, if you’re new to WordPress, you’ll undoubtedly appreciate the extensive range of tutorials and documentation, plus a same-day response from the themes development team, ensuring that Tracks offers some of the best support of any free WordPress theme approach.
Key Blogging Features:
- Content-first design puts your words and images front-and-center
- Compatible with Gutenberg and Elementor
- Social media header
- Full-width post layouts
- Custom post excerpts.
Pros and Cons of Tracks
- Features custom author bios at the end of posts
- 100% responsive design
- Responsive video embeds.
- Limited customization options
- No widget areas
If you want to expand your blog beyond the core theme, Tracks Pro offers custom fonts and colors, flexible-header images, featured videos and sliders, and page backgrounds for $49 per year.
How to Use Tracks?
- Search for the theme via the Themes section of the WordPress dashboard
- Install and activate the plugin
- Install and activate the recommended plugins
- Use the WordPress customizer to edit the design of your site and start blogging.
Choosing the Best Free WordPress Theme for Your Blog: What to Look For
In truth, the top five picks above are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg when it comes to the best free WordPress themes around right now.
Whether you go with one of my recommendations or choose one of your own, it’s important to keep the following criteria in mind when deciding which theme to use on your blog.
Style and Design
First and foremost, the primary purpose of a WordPress theme is to make your blog and its content look attractive to readers.
Naturally, then, the design of your chosen template should be a top consideration.
Some themes, like my top two picks, Astra and OceanWP, pack multiple pre-designed templates into one design so that you enjoy the freedom and flexibility to choose something that best suits your blog niche.
Whichever you prefer, be sure to look at the design and layout of both the homepage and individual post pages to ensure that they offer a style that’s right for you.
Once you’ve got your core theme in place, you’ll naturally want to customize at least some of the basic features to match your blog’s branding and make it stand out from the countless other sites using your theme.
There are two main options for doing this:
- With page-builder plugins like Elementor
- With the standard WordPress customizer.
There’s no right or wrong answer as to which is the best option.
Page builders do offer more customization options and pre-built blocks to help you create attractive posts and pages, but they also come with a steeper learning curve than you’ll find with the customizer tool.
On the flip side, while the customizer may be easier for newcomers to use, it is somewhat limited in what you can do with it compared to the likes of Elementor.
Features and Functionality
Much as in life, there’s more to blogging themes than looks.
Features and functionality also need to be taken into consideration.
After all, while blogs may be all about sharing your content with the world, the nature of the web means that you can turn your website into a dynamic platform that helps you to deliver great reader experiences and promote yourself.
Features such as seamless integration with top email marketing plugins, author bios, multiple page layouts, and social media sharing options are important for successful bloggers.
Before choosing a theme, consider what kind of features you’d likely need to design your site and what kind of functionality you’d want to offer visitors, then look for a theme that most closely matches your needs.
Sticking with the subject of design, don’t forget that almost half of all Internet usage takes place on mobile devices, meaning your site will need to be 100% responsive in order to look good and function flawlessly on those devices.
While almost all themes promise responsive design, some do a better job of delivering on that promise than others, so it may be worthwhile loading up the demo version of your preferred on your smartphone or tablet to see how it actually performs before you use it.
Did you know that Google considers the speed at which your site loads as a ranking factor when determining where to place your blog in search results?
So if you have a slowly performing site, you’re simply not going to do as well at generating organic traffic through Google as you would if you had a blog that loads almost instantly.
More importantly, a slowly-performing website is off-putting to your visitors. If pages take too long to load, readers simply won’t wait around and will hit the back button on their browser, perhaps never to return.
With that in mind, it’s important to look for lightweight themes that are optimized for performance. That way, you can deliver the best possible experience for your readers while at the same time improving your chances of moving your way up those all-important search engine results pages.
Frequently Asked Questions About Free WordPress Themes
What is the most popular free WordPress theme?
With over 1.6 million active installations, Astra is the most popular free WordPress theme around right now.
What is the easiest free WordPress theme to use?
Minimalist themes like Poseidon, Tracks, and Olsen Light come with limited features, making them easier and less time-consuming to set up and use.
Are there any truly free WordPress themes?
Yes, absolutely. While most free themes offer premium upgrades, their free offerings usually contain everything you need to create an attractive, functional, and responsive website without paying a penny.
What is the Best Free WordPress Theme to Use in 2022?
Choosing the top five best free WordPress themes out of all the countless quality options out there was no easy task. In fact, I’d say that of all the top five guides I’ve ever done; this one was the most difficult simply because any single theme could be considered the best of the best, depending on your needs.
If you’re a visual artist or designer, for example, the free Tracks WordPress theme is the best option for showcasing your designs in a responsive and attractive fashion.
If you wanted to incorporate WooCommerce into your new blog to sell products, then the eCommerce-optimized OceanWP would be your best choice.
However, if you want the biggest and most beautifully designed range of pre-built templates that are easy to customize and load incredibly quickly, look no further than the all-around best free WordPress theme on the market today, Astra.