21 Best WordPress Starter Themes for Developers in 2022

The Ultimate WordPress Starter Themes for Developers and Designers in 2022

WordPress starter themes are for developers who don’t have the luxury of time or don’t want to build a theme from scratch. They provide the foundation from which you can create a fully functional WordPress theme.

You could take a standard WordPress theme and reverse engineer it for your needs. But if you have ever done that, you know that unpicking a full design can take a little too much time and effort!

Sometimes simple is best and that’s the case here.

We have collected what we consider to be the best WordPress starter themes that combine great design with the flexibility to be able to customize it easily.

What Is a WordPress Starter Theme?

As mentioned above, a WordPress starter theme is a pre-made theme that can be easily customized to become something similar or completely different.

They can provide the basis from which a busy developer can take the outline of the theme and run with it to complete a project.

They are also useful for those wanting to learn WordPress. You can play around and experiment with them without having to learn the core code and without having to pay for a full theme.

Starter themes are valid WordPress themes but have minimal styling so you can build your own site using it as the foundation. They are designed to be expanded, improved and otherwise worked on by developers.

Some are very barebones and come with nothing but the site outline. Others will come with all the tools you need to build your site or a mixture of the two. Our list covers them both.

Which Is the Best WordPress Starter Theme?

The following table summarizes the discussion about the WordPress starter themes. If you don’t have the time to go through the entire article, skim through the table to shortlist a few themes.

Theme NameActive Installs?PricingOur Rating
Astra1,653,898+Free / Starting from $49⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Underscores100000+Free⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
UnderStrap10000+Free⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Ultimatum 100000+Starting from $55⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Basic10000+Free⭐⭐⭐⭐
BlankSlate10000+Free⭐⭐⭐⭐
Tonik10000+Free⭐⭐⭐⭐
WP Bootstrap Starter10000+Free⭐⭐⭐
Quark1,000+Free⭐⭐⭐
_tk Starter Theme1,000+Free⭐⭐⭐

1. Astra

Astra starter themes page

Astra themes are unique in that they combine already fantastic designs all ready to launch with the ability to customize them as much as you like. The range of starter templates available is impressive, as is the quality of those designs.

What’s more important for developers is the ease at which you can customize each template to suit your own needs. All use clean code, are compatible with Brizy, Beaver Builder, Elementor, Gutenberg and other page builders if you like to build like that or can be fully customized at the back end.

The hard work has been done for you with Astra. All starter templates are coded to load fast, fully compliant, tested to work on all browsers and are fully responsive. What better way to start a project?

Pros of Astra

  • Astra can be used with all popular page builders
  • 180+ Starter Templates cover almost every niche you can name
  • The theme is built for performance and speed
  • Regular fixes and maintenance releases minimize bugs and performance bottlenecks 
  • Compatible with most page builders and WordPress plugins

Cons of Astra

  • Astra comes with a long list of features that might intimidate beginners

2. Underscores

Underscores homepage

Underscores (_S) is one of the most well-established WordPress starter themes available. It is run by Automatic, the people behind WordPress.com and has been designed to provide a solid base from which you can build your own WordPress website.

While owned by Automatic, the theme has been collaboratively produced to create one of the most flexible and well-coded themes out there. It has everything you need to begin building almost any site you like with all the calls and functions you can think of in a very streamlined package.

Pros of Underscores

  • Highly recommended for experimentations in WordPress theme development 
  • Inbuilt support for WooCommerce
  • The lean design ensures minimum distractions during theme development
  • The theme is regularly maintained by the developers
  • There’s a lot of documentation

Cons of Underscores

  • The theme is not responsive out of the box
  • Underscores is not a beginner-friendly theme 

3. WP BootStrap Starter

WP Bootstrap Starter By Afterimage Designs demo

WP BootStrap Starter is another very usable WordPress starter theme. It’s based on a combination of Underscores and Bootstrap that utilizes HTML, CSS and JS to deliver a fully responsive, mobile-friendly theme for any use.

It also works with Font Awesome, WooCommerce, Visual Composer, the Elementor page builder and even Contact Form 7. WP BootStrap Starter has a GPL licence so you can use it however you like too!

Pros of WP Bootstrap Starter

  • Ideal if you wish to use BootStrap as your CSS framework
  • Based on the Underscores theme
  • Compatible with WooCommerce
  • The theme comes with premade page templates
  • A great theme for Elementor page builder 

Cons of WP Bootstrap Starter

  • Little to no RTL support
  • The theme has a significant learning curve
  • You might need to write additional media queries to accommodate custom screen sizes

4. Naked

Naked WordPress theme demo site

Naked is a WordPress starter theme designed for those who want to experiment with the design aspect of website design without the development part. The theme includes the basic outline of a WordPress site with individual pages, support for comments, responsive styling and custom options but with no design of its own.

Naked is written in HTML5 and supports custom menus and sidebars, WordPress widgets, a blog, categories and tags and everything you need to get started. The documentation is pretty good too.

Pros of Naked

  • Ideal for beginners who are just starting out with WordPress theme development
  • Fully responsive design 
  • The theme comes with all basic page templates
  • Naked supports custom sidebars, widgets, and menus
  • Extensive template comments greatly help beginners in theme development 

Cons of Naked

  • The page templates are pretty basic and require extensive design 
  • Experienced developers might find the theme too simple 

5. Tonik

Tonik WordPress Starter Theme homepage

Tonik is an open source WordPress starter theme available from its website or from GitHub. It depends on having Composer and Node installed and will require a little bit of setup to get started. Once done however, the theme provides everything you need to begin building.

In return for that effort, Tonik provides a preconfigured directory structure, Ajax support, a service container, component support, templating, theme actions and filters, shortcode support, autoloading tools and command line tools.

Pros of Tonik

  • Tonik is an ideal starter theme for experienced developers 
  • The theme comes with a pre-configured directory structure that emphasizes organization 
  • The theme is built for projects that require excellent organization and a well-defined structure
  • The central configuration means you only need to go to one location for theme-wide changes
  • Tonik comes with support for popular frontend frameworks including Bootstrap and Foundation

Cons of Tonik

  • Beginners might find Tonik a bit complex for their requirements
  • Tonik might not be a good fit for single developers or small teams 

6. Responsive

Responsive By CyberChimps demo

Responsive is a free WordPress starter theme that has a little more meat on the bones than some of these others. While still barebones, there are design elements within the theme so you’re not starting from scratch. If that works for you, this theme could work perfectly.

Responsive is more like Astra than Naked and provides some basic themes that you can import and build as you see fit. They do contain styling elements and functions but you can add, change or remove these at will. While the designs aren’t as flexible as Astra, they can work if you’re looking for a more built-out theme.

Pros of Responsive

  • The theme works with both Elementor and Gutenberg
  • Responsive is fast with a great performance out of the box
  • Responsive has a very lightweight codebase
  • You can use all popular plugins with Responsive
  • You get 15 pre built templates for faster website design and launch

Cons of Responsive

  • The free version might not be a great fit for professional projects

7. Sage

Sage WordPress Starter Theme

Sage is another very popular WordPress starter theme from Roots. This theme uses a combination of Sass, Bootstrap, Bulma, Foundation, Tachyons, Tailwind and Laravel’s Blade for templating. This provides a very powerful and flexible basis from which to build a website.

Sage has been optimized to deliver efficient building without the need to repeat stages and has tools for JavaScript error checking, Sass stylesheets, third party package support and a well-coded HTML 5 template. There’s a lot going on here but Sage is a great way to learn design or build a site.

Pros of Sage

  • Sage uses Bootstrap 4 as the default CSS framework
  • The theme is a great starting point for professional projects
  • Works with all popular page builders
  • You can replace the default Bootstrap option with Foundations, Tailwind or remove the frontend framework during installation
  • Sage supports the popular Blade templating engine to minimize repetition

Cons of Sage

  • Sage comes with a learning curve for beginners

8. Beans

Beans Theme Framework homepage

Beans is a very accessible WordPress starter theme. It was designed to serve both designers who wanted a starter and beginners who wanted something to help them get started. Beans delivers on both.

It’s a comprehensive starter theme that supports responsive content, the Ulkit front-end library and most existing WordPress plugins. It also loads quickly, has been built to be SEO friendly, works with CSS3, HTML 5 jQuery and LESS. Beans is updated regularly and continuously refined by an avid community of supporters.

Pros of Beans

  • Works great as both a starter theme or a standard website theme
  • Beans has a performance-optimized theme structure
  • Great documentation helps you out when you get stuck
  • The theme offers several great prebuilt templates to kickstart your projects
  • Beans is fully responsive and takes care of serving the proper image size for the target devices

Cons of Beans

  • Beans requires good knowledge of WordPress development 
  • The theme is overkill for small projects

9. UnderStrap

Understrap Demo site

UnderStrap is a WordPress starter theme that combines Underscores and Bootstrap 4 to deliver a smart, usable theme for any kind of project. This is a premium option with no free version but in return you get to use Understrap’s dynamic PHP and JavaScript alongside Bootstrap’s static files to be able to build almost anything you like.

UnderStrap integrates Font Awesome and combines all CSS files into minified single files. It supports WooCommerce, Contact Form 7, Jetpack and other WordPress plugins too!

Pros of UnderStrap

  • The theme is based on Underscores and brings all the features to the development process
  • The default CSS framework is Bootstrap 5 
  • The theme can be used both as a parent theme or used as a base for child themes 
  • UnderStrap works with all popular plugins including WooCommerce
  • The theme is translation-ready and you can find it in all major languages

Cons of UnderStrap

  • Using the theme in your theme development projects requires expert WordPress development knowledge

10. Quark

Quark Starter Theme demo site

Quark is another WordPress starter theme worth checking out. This version is based on Underscores and the default TwentyTwelve WordPress theme. That means it is fully compatible, flexible and includes very tidy HTML 5 and CSS3.

Quark is responsive, based on a 12 column grid and supports Font Awesome, custom headers, post templates, multiple pages, sidebars, custom media queries, the Options Framework, WooCommerce and other plugins. It is also WPML-ready.

Pros of Quark

  • The theme is based on Underscores, a very versatile starter theme in its right
  • The theme is intentionally kept lean for faster development and smooth performance
  • Because of the lean structure, you can start with theme development without needing a child theme
  • The theme is fully responsive and renders theme elements in all browsers without major differences
  • Quark is translation-ready and compatible with the popular WPML

Cons of Quark

  • TwentyTwelve, one of the two underlying themes is outdated and no longer recommended for theme development
  • Might not be a good fit for projects where developers need tools and plugins packaged within the theme

11. Bones

Bones starter theme for WordPress

Bones is a mobile-first WordPress starter theme that keeps things nice and simple. It’s a barebones design that provides the basic foundation from which to build your own website using Sass, CSS3 and HTML5.

Bones is a WordPress theme and not a framework. It doesn’t need a child theme and comes with everything you need to begin building right away. It is fully responsive, supports custom post types and most WordPress plugins.

Pros of Bones

  • Custom post types and a custom dashboard are preloaded
  • Bones is pretty lean with a particularly simple header
  • The theme is responsive and looks good on mobile devices
  • Bones is built to be fully customizable with a minimal codebase
  • The theme automatically handles older browser versions by serving an appropriate version of your code

Cons of Bones

  • Not a good fit for developers looking for a WordPress development framework

12. WP Rig

WP Rig wordpress theme

WP Rig is a WordPress starter theme designed to streamline the website design process while keeping the flexibility and power we need. It uses the drag and drop convenience of the WordPress Template Hierarchy with a well-build starter template to provide a theme and builder in one.

It works by using Babel, PostCSS, Gulp, ESLint and BrowserSync to let you develop any type of website you want with minimal effort and maximum productivity. The package is easy to use and the website has a lot of documentation to help you learn and make the most of what’s possible with WP Rig.

Pros of WP Rig

  • Lazy loading of images is included in the standard package 
  • VS Code is the preferred development editor (but you can use any editor you wish) 
  • WP Rig supports the official AMP plugin 
  • The theme takes care of code linting without needing external tools
  • Your code gets automatically minified for optimal performance

Cons of WP Rig

  • WP Rig is not an ideal fit for small and hobby projects
  • Beginners might find the feature set too extensive for their needs

13. _tk Starter Theme

themekraft homepage

The _tk Starter Theme is another mobile-first WordPress starter theme that delivers the tools you need to build your own site with no fuss and no mess. Based on Underscores and Bootstrap, the theme comes just with the WordPress files and stylesheets you need to build a fully functional website.

The theme is designed to be lightweight, work with Twitter Bootstrap 3.0, load quickly and yet be flexible enough to deliver the interactivity and engagement you want from a website. All files are free and offered under a GPL licence so you can do whatever you like with them.

Pros of _tk Starter Theme

  • You get a blank theme that you can customize to fit your project
  • You get the latest Bootstrap as the default CSS framework
  • The theme is based on the powerful Underscores theme for optimal performance
  • Lots of official documentation
  • Compatible with all popular plugins, including WooCommerce and Jetpack

Cons of _tk Starter Theme

  • The completely blank theme might not be a good fit for beginners
  • Ultra minimal theme structure means you have to do all the work for building your target child theme

14. JointsWP

JointsWP homepage

JointsWP is a clean WordPress starter theme that combines with Foundation 6 to deliver a very flexible basis to build a website. The combination is powerful, responsive, mobile friendly and ready to go. It works with Sass for efficient designing and requires no child theme to build.

It also works with Gulp so you can quickly compile your CSS, minify your JS and create efficient workflows. You don’t have to use Sass either, if you prefer to build your CSS by hand, you can do that too.

If you’re new to WordPress, JointsWP has a very useful documentation page to help you get started.

Pros of JointsWP

  • The Foundation framework is great for mobile-first website development
  • JointsWP is a great theme for building multilingual websites
  • The theme is lean enough and you don’t need a child theme to start development
  • You have the option of using either Saas or CSS for styling
  • Your development won’t be slowed down by unnecessary functions

Cons of JointsWP

  • If you’re not familiar with the Foundation framework, you might have a learning curve ahead of you

15. HTML5 Blank

html5 blank site

HTML5 Blank doesn’t get off to a good start thanks to a website with nothing but a video on it. Once you’re past that, you quickly realize the true potential of this WordPress starter theme.

As the name suggests, HTML5 Blank is an empty template made from HTML5. It supports CSS3 and has the bare bones required to build a working WordPress theme. The website is pretty useless in terms of documentation but the theme is so clean that even a beginner should soon find their bearings.

Pros of HTML5 Blank

  • The theme is built for performance and speed
  • HTML5 Blank has a super minimal design that offers a blank canvas for your projects
  • You get cleanly built templates that help you launch your website faster with little effort
  • HTML5 Blank comes with a very minimal codebase that doesn’t slow you down
  • The theme doesn’t have any shortcodes or extra functionality to bloat your code

Cons of HTML5 Blank

  • The HTML5 and CSS3 combination requires decent web design knowledge
  • Some designers might not feel comfortable with the ultra-minimal design

16. Ultimatum

Ultimatum homepage

Ultimatum is a premium WordPress starter theme with a little more to offer. It’s a bare starter theme but comes with a drag and drop page builder, support for premium extensions and a clean core that can be developed however you like.

If you want to build your own theme without having to load Gulp and other tools, Ultimatum can help. It loads into WordPress and uses the dashboard to help you access the drag and drop builder. If you have every used Astra, the process is much the same. Drag, drop, add content and save. Easy!

Pros of Ultimatum

  • The drag and drop builder speeds up the design process
  • The clean codebase ensures that your child themes are just as fast as Ultimatum
  • You can use your preferred plugins with the theme to facilitate website design
  • CSS is the default styling option for the theme
  • The theme supports custom post types and a range of custom widgets

Cons of Ultimatum

  • Some experienced developers might find the drag-and-drop builder a bit messy

17. DIYThemes

Focus diythemes

DIYThemes offers a pair of starter themes called Focus and Thesis. They are premium themes that contain the basic layouts from which you can build your own website.

This is another theme that uses a page builder. It also uses Skins, which are theme overlays and Boxes, that are a straightforward way of building sidebars. The combination means you can begin creating your website without the higher learning curve of some of these other options. Pricing is steep though.

Pros of DIYThemes

  • You can extend the core theme with the free and paid addons 
  • The themes come with great typography to simplify design choices
  • The structure of the theme emphasizes SEO and performance
  • You get a visual template editor for WYSIWYG template editing
  • The theme is fully responsive and sizes the content to the target devices

Cons of DIYThemes

  • The price of the theme makes it a poor choice for small projects
  • The add-ons based architecture means that you need to add components that might slow down your theme

18. Nebula

Nebula wordpress theme homepage

Nebula crosses the line between a starter template and a framework. It provides everything you need to begin developing with some nice extras including custom functions, filters, custom metaboxes for the WordPress admin dashboard, support for Google Analytics, Sass and a whole lot more.

Nebula does mean there are specific things to learn but also helps you learn code and development in a user-friendly way. It’s a secure framework with support for external plugins and libraries as well as the Twitter API and other interactions.

Pros of Nebula

  • Nebula is more of a framework that comes with libraries and features for faster website design and development
  • You can enable and disable specific features from the Nebula options
  • You get a fully responsive theme that is ideal for building all sorts of websites
  • You get the out-of-the-box support for Google Analytics
  • Nebula supports all popular plugins that you might need for your child themes

Cons of Nebula

  • Too extensive for beginners who have to go on a steep learning curve for the theme

19. TemplateToaster

TemplateToaster homepage

TemplateToaster goes in a different direction than some of these other WordPress starter themes. It’s an application that includes a theme generator that supports WordPress, Joomla, Magento and other CMS. It installs onto your computer and provides the tools you need to build a website with everything included.

This is a premium product with a free version that lets you experiment but won’t let you export your theme from the application. It looks like a cross between Microsoft Office and Paint.net but includes everything you need to create fully compliant WordPress themes.

Pros of TemplateToaster

  • Flexible template generator allows for extensive feature-rich themes
  • TemplateToaster uses Bootstrap as the default CSS framework
  • It generates templates that you can then tweak to fit your projects
  • The application works with all popular CMS including WordPress and Magento
  • The process of generating templates is pretty fast, thanks to the simple UI

Cons of TemplateToaster

  • Not a WordPress exclusive product and thus, bloatware could creep in

Requires download and installation in a Windows environment 

20. BlankSlate

blankslate wordpress theme

BlankSlate is exactly what the name implies. It’s a very basic WordPress starter theme with nothing but the bare bones. It was designed for more experienced developers but could provide the basis to learn as long as you have access to decent documentation.

There is very little else to say about BlankSlate really. It uses clean code, no CSS styles, is SEO-friendly and supports jQuery. If you’re looking for the barest of barebones starter themes, then BlankSlate could be what you’re looking for.

Pros of BlankSlate

  • As the name states, the ultra-minimal design essentially offers a blank slate for your projects
  • Very lightweight codebase results in blazing fast speed and performance
  • No third-party scripts burden down BlankSlate
  • You can set up the styling for your projects using the CSS framework of your choice
  • Since the theme offers bare minimum, you can simply replace the default codebase with your own for faster project deployment

Cons of BlankSlate

  • You might want to focus on theme minification 
  • Too barebones for designers who wish to customize templates for their projects

21. Basic

themify basic theme

Basic is a free WordPress starter theme from Themify. We often list their premium themes in our ‘best of’ lists and this Basic is no different, just for very different reasons.

This is another very barebones theme with the basics from which you can build anything you like. It is fully responsive, includes social media elements, supports widgets, Lightbox gallery, child themes and was written in CSS3 and HTML5.

Pros of Basic

  • The theme comes with a basic layout styling that doesn’t get in your way
  • Basic already has footers widgets that help save design time
  • Theme skins give a simple makeover to the website design
  • You can use your favorite CSS framework for shorter development time
  • You essentially get all the tools to kickstart your project

Cons of Basic

  • The HTML5/CSS3 structure is not for everybody
  • Too many out-of-the-box options could annoy experienced developers looking for a clean blank starter theme

Which Is the Best WordPress Starter Theme?

We recommend any of the WordPress starter themes in this list if you’re looking for a foundation to build or to learn. Each offers something a little different and goes about it in a slightly different way.

That said, there are two starter themes that stand out. The free starter template from Astra and Ultimatum.

Astra has a selection of free starter templates covering the very bare bones up to fully functional website themes. There are also a wide selection of pro-quality premium templates if you want to skip the development and go right to the good stuff.

Ultimatum is a premium WordPress starter theme that also offers a range of themes to choose from. It loads into WordPress and uses familiar options to help build your website. It’s the middle ground between a fully-fledged working theme and a foundation such as BlankSlate.

WordPress Starter Themes

If you’re learning WordPress development, still working on your CSS or HTML skills or want to skip the framework development and get straight to the design, any of these WordPress starter themes can help.

If you’re learning WordPress development, still working on your CSS or HTML skills or want to skip the framework development and get straight to the design, any of these WordPress starter themes can help.

You can also use simple or minimal themes; those can work as a starter theme.

Do you use any of these WordPress starter themes? Have any others to suggest? Tell us about it below!

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5 comments

  1. Lucas Walker Profile Pic

    This list has some amazing names for new WordPress developers. Using starter theme gives huge boost in productivity and saves tons of time.
    Thank you for the list.

  2. Russel Profile Pic

    As a WordPress developer, I can tell that this list has some amazing names.
    You wouldn’t go wrong if you choose any theme from this list.

  3. Alfonzo Profile Pic

    Astra is a great theme for new web designers, it has lot’s of free theme builder templates to play with.
    Defiantly recommend it to new users.

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