When you plan to create a WordPress theme, You have many options. You can create a theme from scratch, use a blank, naked or WordPress starter theme, use the page builder plugins or even many drag and drop WordPress theme builders are also available.
I prefer to use blank WordPress themes also known as WordPress starter themes to start my own awesome themes.
What is WordPress Starter or blank Theme?
A WordPress Starter theme is a blank theme with minimum design, and a basic or absolutely no layout. These themes usually come with the most commonly used templates in a WordPress theme. WPBeginner
Good WordPress starter themes have all the required template files, basic CSS styles, and functions required to create WordPress themes. You don’t need to create everything from scratch.
WordPress starter themes also are known as blank or naked WordPress themes because these themes provide you with a great starting point to build any type of theme quickly and easily.
Best WordPress Starter or Blank Themes
There are many blank WordPress themes available online and some of them are from professional and experienced WordPress developers and teams.
_S commonly known as Underscore starter theme is created by WordPress.com developers while relatively a new starter theme called Base is created by the SitePoint.com team.
1. Underscore Starter Theme
One of the best and most popular WordPress starter theme that help WordPress theme developers to build awesome WordPress themes with the best practices.
Automattic (parent company of WordPress) developers use this theme to build the free and premium theme for WordPress.com themes, previously WordPress.com themes were limited to wordpress.com sites only but now jetpack premium users can install themes on self-hosted sites as well.
Default WordPress twenty-* series themes are based on Underscore starter theme. Underscore also includes support for Infinite Scroll in Jetpack.
Underscore has an online tool to generate your custom themes, Just visit http://underscores.me/ to generate your theme. You have the following options.
- Theme Name
- Theme slug
- Author URI
If you are a SASS user, You can check the _sassify! checkbox. This tool has few options but it saves your time and headache. You won’t have to change these details manually. If you will use any other starter theme, you will have to manually update Theme name, slug, and other details.
Underscore does not support any grid system, You will have to generate your own grid system or you can integrate existing grid system of your choice.
There are many Underscore and Bootstrap based themes available, If you love bootstrap, you can choose a Bootstrap based starter theme well but you will have to change the theme name, slug and other details manually (Search and Replace).
2. Base by SitePoint
The Base is relatively new WordPress starter theme from the SitePoint team. I have used this starter theme and find it really simple and easy to use. One good thing about the Base theme is that it is fully responsive and mobile-friendly by default.
SitePoint’s base is a fluid and responsive theme. This theme uses Unsemantic grid based on percentages.
This theme incorporates Unsemantic grid, Modernizr, Normalize.css, jQuery Validation, Font Awesome and two google fonts Open Sans and Dosis.
If you prefer to use icon fonts, FontAwesome has hundreds of icons and you can use all those icons.
If you are an absolute beginner and just started learning theme development, You should try the Base theme, try to use your preferred Google fonts, change the layout etc.
A readme.text file is available which explains how can you kick off your own awesome theme. You’ll need to do a three-step find and replace on the name in all the templates.
The Base theme is available at WordPress Theme Directory.
Sage claims to be the best WordPress starter theme with a modern front-end development workflow. Template markup in the Sage theme is based on HTML5 Boilerplate. ARIA roles and microformats are used throughout the templates.
Features: Sage has some awesome and very useful features.
- Sass for style sheets
- Webpack for compiling assets, optimizing images, and concatenating and minifying files
- Browser sync for synchronized browser testing
- Laravel Blade as a templating engine
- Controller for passing data to Blade templates
- CSS framework options:
None (blank slate)
- Font Awesome (optional)
It is constant development and version 9 is in active development, you will need PHP 7 to use the latest version.
You can read the getting started guidelines at GitHub page or open readme file is also has all the details.
Sage is not a good starting point for beginner WordPress developer, The getting started documentation says that you can install Sage using Composer from your WordPress themes directory.
README.md file says:
Sage is a WordPress starter theme based on HTML5 Boilerplate, gulp, Bower, and Bootstrap-Sass, that will help you make better themes.
If you are already using gulp, bower, Sass, It won’t be difficult for you to get started with Sage but as a beginner developer, you should go with Underscores, Base or any other start theme.
4. _tk – WordPress Starter Theme Based on Underscores and Bootstrap
This theme is the most seamless and minimalistic integration of the popular front end development Bootstrap Framework into the _s WordPress starter theme from Automattic.
This blank responsive WordPress theme has a simple 2 column layout with 1 sidebar widget area with numbered pagination. It supports Bootstrap version 3.3.6.
The _tk theme uses WP Bootstrap Navwalker a custom WordPress nav walker class to fully implement the Twitter Bootstrap 3.0+ navigation style in a custom theme using the WordPress built in menu manager.
An HTML5, Mobile-First starter theme for rapid WordPress development with custom post type support. This isn’t a completely naked theme. The theme has a 2 two column layout with the basic design for the post and widgets areas.
You also have the option to change the background color and image via customizer. Other starter themes do not have custom post type feature, you will have to add some additional code but with the Bones theme, you can start publishing custom content immediately.
6. Pinegrow WordPress
It is Web Editor with WordPress Theme Builder and a desktop HTML editor with support for Bootstrap, Foundation and other frameworks that let you visually build WordPress themes and convert static HTML websites to WordPress themes.
It helps you to build Theme from scratch or on top of Bootstrap/Foundation (basically you convert an HTML prototyping to a functional WordPress theme). Available for MAC, Linux, and Windows. It is a premium product.
This is an up-to-date and completely naked WordPress theme without any styles or support for the grid system. The theme is available at WordPress theme directory and currently, has 10000+ active installs.
The theme developers claim that they have carefully constructed the cleanest and minimalist theme available anywhere for designers/developers to use as a base/foundation to build websites for clients or to build completely custom themes from scratch to release faster.
Foundation Based WordPress Starter Themes
There are so many front-end development frameworks available in the market to build mobile-first websites quickly without wasting your time and money.
Even beginner developer with minimal knowledge of HTML and CSS can learn these frameworks within few days or weeks.
Foundation is one of the most widely used and very popular CSS frameworks. Some developers have integrated this framework into WordPress starter themes, If you prefer Foundation over Bootstrap or any other CSS framework, here are few themes which support Foundation framework.
JointsWP is another blank WordPress theme built with Foundation 6, giving you all the power and flexibility you need to build complex, mobile friendly websites without having to start from scratch.
JointWP was started as a fork of Bones starter theme. Foundation is one of the most popular CSS frameworks after Bootstrap, so if you are a fan of Foundation framework, JoinWP should be your first choice when building WordPress themes.
With this theme, you can use CodeKit, Grunt, Compass, Bower, and Gulp or nothing at all. You can download the SASS or CSS version of this starter theme.
This blank responsive WordPress theme has a simple 2 column layout and all the Foundation 6 features. This theme is another great starting point for beginner WordPress theme developers. Want to learn the basics visit the Documentation page.
Modern developers can use the Gulp setup and commands to quickly compile Sass files, minify JS files, watch files for changes and so much more.
FoundationPress is a starter-theme for WordPress based on Foundation 6 frontend development framework, that claims to be the most advanced responsive (mobile-first) framework in the world.
The purpose of FoundationPress is to act as a small and handy toolbox that contains the essentials needed to build any design. FoundationPress is meant to be a starting point, not the final product.
WordPress starter themes with Bootstrap Support
Here is a list of WordPress starter theme that supports bootstrap framework. Most of these free themes are available at WordPress theme directory. I have included on recently updated starter themes in this list.
10. WP Bootstrap Starter – Underscores + Bootstrap Based Starter theme
It is a WordPress starter theme based on bootstrap, Underscores and, Font Awesome. Font Awesome is a very popular and widely used icon font that has 675+ icons for scalable vectors.
This theme is available at WordPress theme directory and current has 1000+ active install. it was last updated in August 2017.
11. UnderStrap – Underscores & Bootstrap Based
This is another combination of Automattic´s _s theme and Bootstrap 4 framework. This theme has a 2 column layout so you can use it as a parent theme or starter theme for further customization.
It also includes Font Awesome support, built-in widget slider and much more you need for basic websites.
IMPORTANT: All developer dependencies are not bundled with this install file. Just download the .zip, extract it and run
npm install and
gulp copy-assets inside the extracted /UnderStrap folder.
12. – Bootstrap Basic4
This is a Bootstrap v.4 based WordPress theme with a simple 3 column layout. Developers can use this as a starter theme to build new themes very fast and easy.
This theme was last updated on February 4, 2017, and has 900+ active installation.
Bootstrap Basic 3: If you prefer to use Bootstrap version 3, You can download Bootstrap Basic v3 which has 3,000+ install.
13. WP RootStrap
WP RootStrap is a flat and minimal design theme powered by TwitterBootstrap 3.0. We can not call this theme a blank or starter theme because of it a complete theme with flat design.
It can be used as a starter theme for the development of any website. It has lots of theme hook to help developer for further development. The flat look starter theme having a lot of theme functionality to manage logo, favicon and, social media profile etc.
14. Bootstrap Four is based on Alpha Twitter Bootstrap 4, It has 600+ active installs and was last updated on November 9, 2015.
More WordPress starter themes
Genesis Framework very popular framework to build themes.