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10 Free Blank WordPress Themes

This is a review of the top blank WordPress theme choices.

What is a Blank WordPress Theme?

Blank WordPress themes are boilerplates that serve as a starting point for developing your own custom theme, which is why they’re also called "starter themes" and (less commonly) "naked themes".

Blank WordPress themes come with basic WordPress PHP, CSS, and HTML code and theme files already filled out for you.

Unlike theme frameworks, most of the files in a blank WordPress theme are meant to be modified based on your needs.

Why Use Blank WordPress Themes?

Blank WordPress themes speed up your workflow by reducing the amount of code you need to write. Having a skeletal foundation means you don’t have to do the same initiation process over and over every time you need to start creating a new theme.

In addition, using a blank WordPress theme lowers the chances of you forgetting critical files or code required for a theme to function properly.

Some blank WordPress themes will also have useful integrated features like responsive layouts and sample data to help you test your theme.

Below is an overview of the 10 best free blank/starter WordPress themes I could find.

1. Roots

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.

Demo | Download Page (github.com)

2. Underscores

Underscores

Underscores, or _s, 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.

Download Page (underscores.me)

3. Bones

Underscores

Bones is a free blank theme built on top of HTML5 Boilerplate. It’s responsive, and developed under the Mobile First philosophy.

WPtuts+ has an excellent Bones tutorial to help you get started with this awesome starter theme.

Download Page (github.com)

4. HTML5 Reset WordPress Theme

This blank theme helps you start off on the right track towards producing a semantic and structurally-sound HTML5 WordPress themes. For example, the post template included in the HTML5 Reset WordPress Theme incorporates the hNews microformat to help search engines better understand your content.

Download Page (github.com)

5. HTML5 Blank WordPress Theme

HTML5 Reset WordPress Theme

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.

Demo | Download Page (html5blank.com)

6. HTML5 Boilerplate for WordPress

This open source project took the popular HTML5 Boilerplate and converted it to a blank WordPress theme.

The HTML5 Boilerplate for WordPress project uses a modern HTML5 blog structure based on Opera Web evangelist Bruce Lawson’s recommended structural markup for blogs:

Source: html5doctor.com

Download Page (github.com)

7. Naked WordPress

Naked WordPress

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.

Demo | Download Page (bckmn.com)

8. WP-Flex

WP-Flex

WP-Flex is a responsive blank WordPress theme. It’s got serious features that web developers will appreciate, such as sample data for unit testing and strict compliance with the official WordPress theming guidelines.

Demo | Download Page (github.com)

9. JointsWP

JointsWP

JointsWP is built on top of Foundation 5 (a major front-end development framework alongside Bootstrap).

You have the option to use the Sass version, or just plain CSS version if you want.

Demo | Download Page (jointswp.com)

10. BlankSlate

BlankSlate

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.

Download Page (wordpress.org)

Summary Table

SiteRepoLicenseDeveloperPopularity*
RootsGitHubCustomRoots5469
UnderscoresGitHubGPLv2Automattic4254
BonesGitHubWTFPLThemble2945
HTML5 Reset WordPress ThemeGitHubUknownTim Murtaugh1091
HTML5 Blank WordPress ThemeGitHubMITTodd Motto938
HTML5 Boilerplate for WordPressGitHubThe UnlicenseZencoder748
Naked WordPressGitHubUnknownJoshua Beckman214
WP-FlexGitHubGPLv2Dennis Gaebel131
JointsWPGitHubUknownJeremy Englert82
BlankSlateGitHubGPLv3TidyThemes18

*Popularity was calculated by summing up the number of people who watch, have starred and have forked the project on GitHub as of January 7, 2014.

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About the Author

Jacob Gube is the founder and editor-in-chief of Six Revisions. He’s a front-end web developer by profession. If you’d like to connect with him, head on over to the contact page or follow him on Twitter: @sixrevisions.

This was published on Jan 6, 2014

13 Comments

Sergey Sus Jan 07 2014

Just what I was looking for… huge thanks for compiling ‘starter’ themes. No one likes to code from scratch and this certainly helps. Again, really appreciate it.

Cheers,
Sergey

Also useful and intresting WP Basis, GitHub: WordPress-Basis-Theme

Another theme I use is https://github.com/invmatt/Harmony It’s similar to Blank Slate.

Ronalds Jan 07 2014

Hmm.. didn’t know half of these existed. Although I doubt I will anything better than customized Bones, that I’m using right now, will check these out. Maybe there are some useful techniques that can be adopted.

Jeremy Englert Jan 08 2014

@Ronalds – JointsWP is actually a customized version of Bones that uses the Foundation grid and includes all of the other great features found in Foundation 5.

Jeremy Englert Jan 08 2014

A lot of great themes heres, but I’m a bit biased towards #9 ; )

Thanks for the mention!

The standard out-of-the-box theme with WordPress is always pretty nifty, although it’s a shame that they didn’t always get the CSS quite consistent enough for my liking.

Sebastien Conejo Jan 09 2014

Thank you for this post. It’s very useful. I know and like HTML5 Blank WordPress Theme ! It’s a very performed blank theme.

There’s also Reverie, which is based on Zurb’s Foundation 5

http://themefortress.com/reverie/

mommaroodles Jan 28 2014

I just installed reverie – awesome !

Roots looks nice, great selection of themes, Jacob.

Aashish Dhiman Jan 31 2014

Thank you so much that;s what exactly i was looking for months. With these I can design my own minimal blog theme without having too much knowledege of coding.

Adil Meo Feb 01 2014

thanks 4 sharing this list of themes :)

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