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WordPress Theme Frameworks: The top 20 free & paid options

WordPress Theme Frameworks, the most popular thing to hit WordPress since the “Premium Themes” market. Theme frameworks have their place and can be great for designers and developers who are looking for a great starting point to deploy WordPress powered websites, so today I’m going to go over 10 free theme frameworks and 10 paid theme frameworks so you can see what’s out there right now.

Free WordPress Theme Frameworks

Free is great, right? Everybody loves free. So why wouldn’t there be a ton of free WordPress theme frameworks out there? After all, WordPress itself is free so you know there’s got to be some great open source, GPL compliant themes out there for you – and there are.

Below you’ll see a list of 10 of the top free WordPress theme frameworks on the market. Used on thousands of sites, they’re definitely up to par when it comes to quality theme frameworks.

  • Sandbox – Rich with powerful and dynamic semantic class selectors, Sandbox is a canvas for CSS artists.
  • Starkers – Starkers is a bare-bones WordPress theme created to act as a starting point for the theme designer.
  • Thematic – Thematic is a free, open-source, highly extensible, search-engine optimized WordPress Theme Framework featuring 13 widget-ready areas, grid-based layout samples, styling for popular plugins, and a whole community behind it. It’s perfect for beginner bloggers and WordPress development professionals.
  • The Buffet Framework – The Buffet Framework is a theme framework designed not only for the theme developers who will be using the theme actions and filters to create the child themes, but also for the end users who would be able to add and remove what they want.
  • Whiteboard – The Whiteboard framework for WordPress is built to speed up the process of designing and developing a WordPress theme. Whiteboard does so by eliminating the time spent on a website’s generic div structure and WordPress’ back-end PHP that is common to all WordPress themes.
  • Hybrid – Hybrid is a user-friendly, search-engine optimized theme framework, featuring 15 custom page templates and 8 widget-ready areas, allowing you to create any type of site you want.
  • Carrington JAM – Carrington JAM is a bare-bones theme skeleton. It is intended for developers and designers as a starting point for building a new theme, it is not designed for end-users looking for a blog theme that is ready to go.
  • Elastic – Elastic is a visual theme editor and theme engine for WordPress and a new approach to WordPress themes. We think that theme options aren’t enough—themes should be easy for anyone to edit. We believe that user-friendly theme editing can produce developer-friendly themes, all for the price of free.
  • Roots – Roots is a starting WordPress theme made for developers that’s based on HTML5 Boilerplate, Blueprint CSS (or and Starkers that will help you rapidly create brochure sites and blogs.
  • WordPress Starter Theme – I’ve spent a few weeks toying with this “starter kit” to make it help my development workflow as much as possible. Now I’m releasing this kit to the public, untouched, for you to download. This is what I use when I begin creating a WordPress theme after the HTML-ing is done.

Paid WordPress Theme Frameworks

On the other side of the spectrum, paid theme frameworks offer something a bit extra for your buck. Most themes below will have their very own options panel built in as well as drag & drop capabilities. This is (in my opinion) what makes these theme frameworks for WordPress stand out over the free versions above.

  • Builder – iThemes Builder makes creating page layouts quick and easy. We made Builder for ourselves because we were tired of the way page templates used to work. With Builder, you can make your own page layouts in seconds without touching any code. Keep reading to learn more about the power of Builder.
  • Canvas – Canvas is our most ambitious theme to date! Every element of Canvas is highly customizable through our options panel, so you can make the design, layout and typography exactly like you want. If you are after a highly customizable blog design or just a starter theme for your next client project, then Canvas will most definitely work for you!
  • Carrington Build – Leveraging your content all across your site has never been easier. From the custom Loop Module to the Post Callout Module – drag, drop and style the building blocks to augment your pages as needed. The power of WordPress in your hands.
  • Catalyst – Catalyst isn’t your typical WordPress Theme. It’s not just a cookie-cutter template to slap on the face of your site. Catalyst is more of a design platform. It gives you the power and flexibility to create a site that’s uniquely yours. With over 800 custom options at your fingertips, what you can create with Catalyst is only limited by imagination.
  • Elemental – The Elemental theme for WordPress is a versatile powerhouse. Everyday bloggers can jump right in, configure their options and launch a professional blog. Developers and WordPress consultants using the multi-copy Elemental can rapidly build client sites in a variety of styles and deliver premium websites geared toward any purpose.
  • Genesis – The Genesis Framework empowers you to quickly and easily build incredible websites with WordPress. Whether you’re a novice or advanced developer, Genesis provides the secure and search-engine-optimized foundation that takes WordPress to places you never thought it could go.
  • Headway – Take full control of your website’s design with Headway for WordPress and its intuitive drag and drop layout creator
  • StartBox – StartBox comes with an incredibly easy-to-use, modular settings page. For users, this means a quick and painless setup for your website, for theme authors this means an incredible new level of control for your themes.
  • Thesis – Simply put, Thesis is powerful. It has a remarkably efficient HTML + CSS + PHP framework and easy-to-use controls that you can use to fine-tune each and every page of your site with a tactical precision that has never been possible before. The days of worrying about your in-site SEO are over—with Thesis, your strategy is “just add killer content.”
  • Platform Pro – Drag & Drop Design Control. Customize your site by dragging and dropping sections of content around your site. You’ll be surprised at how easy it is to look pro.

As you can see, there are a lot of theme framework options to choose from for WordPress, so it’s best to check them out and decide for yourself which one fits best.

Pick out 5 or 6 and download/buy them and test out each so you know which feels like the best fit for you.

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