30 Serious Alternatives to Custom WordPress Themes

August 10, 2013 · 46 comments

by Sonny M. Day


Generally, a custom made WordPress theme is more attractive than a pre-designed template because it is designed exactly to meet the needs of the user. Obviously, the preferences of the client are all taken into account by the designer down to the last detail. From the color scheme to the font, to the slideshow mechanism, to the navigation and social media buttons, all these things are agreed upon by the client and the designer. Needless to say, clients get all what they truly want with custom WordPress themes. There is, however, a serious drawback from using a custom WordPress theme. It is more expensive and time consuming. Hiring a web designer to code the website from scratch is far more expensive than buying a pre-designed theme. That is why, custom WordPress themes are not a practical solution if you are working on a tight budget, and if you want to start your small business website as soon as possible.

Fortunately, you can get immensely powerful and extraordinarily flexible WordPress themes. These are the themes that you can modify in a number of ways. The foremost themes in this category are those themes with built-in front end layout builders. On the admin panel of these themes, you can create your own layout, choose your color scheme, and select buttons and navigation elements, all in a drag and drop interface. Yes. You can change the look and the layout of your web page, even without touching the CSS and PHP codes. Also, next in line to this kind of themes, are those that do not have a template builder, but they are loaded with lots of features that can meet common layout demands and perhaps some specific needs of users. Basically, they are packed with skins, layout variations, widgets, navigation and much more.

So here, we have some of the themes that can be considered as serious alternatives to custom WordPress themes. If you like this article, please share this to your friends. We will also be happy to hear your additions and suggestion of the comment section below. Enjoy!


Disclosure: Please note that some of the links below are affiliate links and I will earn a commission if you purchase through those links (at no extra cost to you). I recommend that you do your own independent research before purchasing any product or service. This article is not a guideline, a recommendation or endorsement of specific products.

Nimble — Multipurpose WordPress Theme – DEMO


Nimble is powerful multi-purpose theme that will help you to build practically any business site, from big corporate sites with catalog of products to studio sites with portfolio, photo albums and video gallery. It is responsive and retina-ready meaning, you do not need to choose between responsive and beautiful! Nimble also have 6 slider and a revolutionary layout builder.

Avada Responsive Multi-Purpose Theme – DEMO


The Avada theme is clean, very flexible and has a fully responsive design. It is packed with options, and has powerful customization options plus lots of awesome features, amazing layer slider, awesome flex slider plugin, unlimited colors, unlimited sidebars, custom post types, 500+google fonts, 11 custom widgets, tons of short codes, 4 post types, multiple portfolio and blog layout options, ratings system, SEO optimized, and is translation ready. The clean, modern design can be used for any type of website; business, corporate, portfolio, products, etc. It also comes with free support.

U-Design WordPress Theme – DEMO


This theme is a real best seller at Themeforet. U-Design will easily help you to set any color to elements such as backgrounds, links, text, menu links, etc. The good thing is that it empowers you to completely change the look and feel quite easy and in no time. It’s a powerful theme which suits both, users with no programming background as well as advanced developers. There is a lot of great features and you can choose from over 200 fonts, including Google Font Directory and Cufón fonts. An important factor is SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and SEO actually has been made a priority when designing this theme.

MetroStyle – Responsive All Purpose WordPress Theme – DEMO


This theme can be applied to any business needs and give your website a fresh new look. The theme has lots of customization features. Easy color and image selection with many design settings can help you transform MetroStyle into a unique business selling tool. The MetroStyle theme is SEO optimized and uses only CSS for fast loading.

Inspired Responsive Business WordPress Theme – DEMO


Inspired is a responsive WordPress theme that comes packed with twenty flexible skins suited for your business website! It has a user friendly admin panel which comes with 500+ options. The developers have put their effort into the blog, portfolio, and post types, giving you TONS of options, so you are in full control of your posts.

Karma – Clean and Modern WordPress Theme – DEMO


Karma is a Premium WordPress Theme built on a highly intelligent framework. It’s the only theme on Themeforest to feature the amazing new CU3ER v1 3D slider. Whether your a wordpress pro or just a beginner, you’ll have absolutely no problems at all working with this theme.

Centum – Responsive WordPress Theme – DEMO


Centum is a premium responsive WordPress theme created for corporate and portfolio websites. It features a very clean and minimal design that is perfect for showcasing your work. It’s easy to customize with awesome features like Revolution Slider, unbranded OptionsTree panel for settings and new amazing WordPress Customizer.

Modernize – Flexibility of WordPress – DEMO


Modernize is a new era of wordpress theme. You can discover many new awesome features in this theme. For example ‘Page Builder’, it allow you to create page easily by drag-drop module. Moreover, it comes with many options on that. Also, to change color elements, it won’t be a big deal anymore, with our new admin panel, you can access to almost of all elements color. Admin panel in this theme is a real feature rich. You can also create unlimited sidebar, choosing over 350 fonts or if you want to use your own, we provide a cufon uploader. Modernize has 15 predefined background pattern but if you want to use your own background, again, we have a custom background uploader. You can also translate each elements to your language via this admin panel.

Sahifa – Responsive WordPress Theme – DEMO


Sahifa is a Clean Responsive Magazine, News and Blog Template. It is powered by TiePanel, has a drag & drop home page builder, build in review system and much more.

Sterling – Responsive WordPress Theme – DEMO


Sterling is a fully Responsive WordPress Theme built on a highly intelligent framework. It’s the perfect theme for everyone in need of a professional online presence. Whether your a wordpress pro or just a beginner, you’ll have absolutely no problems at all working with this theme.

Cardamon WP — Multipurpose WordPress Theme – DEMO


Need a great multipurpose WordPress theme with beautiful design, lots of features and ability to customize every aspect of its layout and appearance? And do all of that in only a couple of clicks? Then Cardamon WP is a good choice! Cardamon WP is a powerful theme that will help you to build practically any site: from big corporate sites with catalog of products to studio sites with portfolio, photo albums and video gallery; business, kids, beauty, medical… tattoo studio. Almost anything that you can imagine!

Prime Time – Responsive WordPress Theme – DEMO


Prime Time is built on top of the Theme Blvd framework. Use the layout builder to accomplish just about anything you can think of. Use the slider manager to create as many sliders as you want. Use the widget area manager to create as many widget areas and sidebars as you want. With just the right amount of theme options and flexibility, the power is all in your hands. And with a sleek, responsive HTML5 design, you’ll be sure no one will miss out on your new website built with Prime Time.

Swagger – Responsive WordPress Theme – DEMO


Swagger is built on top of the all-new version 2 of the Theme Blvd framework. Use the layout builder to accomplish just about anything you could ever think of. Use the slider manager to create as many sliders as you want. Use the widget area manager to create as many widget areas and sidebars as you want. With just the right amount of theme options and flexibility, the power is all in your hands. And with a sleek, responsive HTML5 design, you’ll be sure no one will miss out on your new website built with Swagger.

The Builder – Multipurpose WordPress Theme – DEMO


The Builder is a Premium WordPress theme that comes with massive and flexible features. Focused on bringing easiest system for user to build and modify their own site, both on content and layout/design! With homepage manager, you can have any layout type for your homepage. Use single Fullwidth, single sidebar-content, single content-sidebar or mix them into random layout structure. Lots of modules available to use to filled up your content.

Shoutbox Magazine – WordPress theme with Template Builder – DEMO


Shoutbox is a minimal Magazine and Blog Theme, that uses a very elegant Featured Slider for news presentation. Built on one of the most flexible WordPress Themes on Themeforest, it is equipped with a dynamic Template Builder that allows you to create stunning page layouts without any knowledge of coding . It also has a unique built in slideshow manager (no plugins needed), that supports both self hosted videos as well as vimeo, youtube, etc and comes with a content importer for faster setup.

Velvet – Minimal Business Theme – DEMO


Velvet is a minimal business and portfolio Theme, that uses a very elegant Ken Burns Slider for image presentation. Like the uPscale, it is built on one of the most flexible WordPress Themes on Themeforest. It also has dynamic Template Builder where you can create stunning page layouts without any coding knowledge. Yet if you are a developer eager to create your own PHP files the theme supports you as well with a very structured folder and file system. It has a unique built in slideshow manager (no plugins needed), supports both self hosted videos as well as vimeo, youtube, etc and comes with a content importer for faster setup.

Coalition – One Page WordPress Portfolio – DEMO


Coalition is a minimal business and portfolio Theme that is created to be used as a One Page Template. With the help of a Template Builder you can create a single page which holds all your content. The theme can of course also be used as a “normal” WordPress theme. In that case Coalition will behave like any other WordPress theme with a blog, posts, pages etc.

Bangkok Press – Responsive, News & Editorial Theme – DEMO


Bangkok Press is the most awesome News and Editorial WordPress Theme. With this theme that comes with Responsive Action, your readers can easily read your article everywhere, on there mobile or tablet. There’re more than 10 of blog option for your alternative. Moreover, you can change almost every elements color easily via admin panel. Page items are managed very easily via our awesome tool, ‘Page Builder’. Admin panel in this theme is a real feature rich.

Angular – Responsive Portfolio – DEMO


Angular comes with a plethora of options so you can modify layout, styling, colors and fonts directly from within the backend. 28 predefined skins (which are easy to modify from your backend), font and color options as well as dynamic template builder will help you create the Website you need in no time.

Propulsion – responsive business & eCommerce – DEMO


Propulsion is built on top of the fabulous woocommerce shop plugin as well as the bbPress Forum plugin. It comes with a plethora of options so you can modify layout, styling, colors and fonts directly from within the backend. 3 Slideshows, 21 predefined skins (which are easy to modify from your backend), font and color options as well as dynamic template builder will help you create the Website you need quickly.

Breakout – Responsive WordPress Theme – DEMO


Breakout is built on top of the all-new version two of the Theme Blvd framework. Like Prime time, Breakout has a layout builder that lets you accomplish just about anything you could ever think of. You can use the slider manager to create as many sliders as you want. Use the widget area manager to create as many widget areas and sidebars as you want. With just the right amount of theme options and flexibility, the power is all in your hands. And with a sleek, responsive HTML5 design, you’ll be sure no one will miss out on your new website built with Breakout.

ECOBIZ – Modern Business WordPress Theme – DEMO


ECOBIZ is clean,elegant and modern corporate and business WordPress theme that can be switched as eco/green business and portfolio theme. There’s many page templates available,6 pre-defined skins, unlimited colors, 3 slideshow types, Portfolio and Product post type with categories filter, User friendly shortcodes and more. Please explore demo site or follow below features.

Striking – Custom WordPress Themes – DEMO


Striking is an extremely powerful and flexible wordpress theme – actually a “Super Premium” theme as it has extraordinary features and coding that are not found in the normal premium WP theme. It is the theme you buy when you want to create a website in every way you imagined possible. The superb flexibility of its framework allows it to be tailored to a Blog, Portfolio, Creative, Business or almost any other kind of website one can imagine. You will not find a more comprehensive admin interface – easy enough for a beginner to grasp immediately (and includes both online and written help documentation) but with every design element of Striking fully controllable so that if you are an experienced designer you can manipulate the design in any manner you see fit – Striking includes a child theme layout for the wp professionals.

Mingle – Multi-purpose WordPress Theme – DEMO


Mingle is an amazing WordPress theme and it’s BuddyPress ready! If you’re not familiar with BuddyPress, it’s a social network plugin for WordPress allowing your website to become a fully functional community portal. BuddyPress lets your users interact through groups, forums, friends, status updates, private messaging and a lot more. It includes administration features giving you complete control of your website’s layout and design. The unique and easy to manage design ensures your site will stand out and be remembered.

King Size – full screen background Custom WordPress Themes – DEMO


King Size WP is a WordPress version of the top-selling HTML template. It’s a great Custom WordPress Theme for variety of purposes, although focused towards Photographers and those using Portfolios to display their past and present work collections. It’s another great example of photography website templates.

Continuum – Magazine WordPress Theme – DEMO


Continuum is best used for newspaper and magazine blogs, but it has a good number of custom widgets, short codes, page templates, unique sidebars, and custom menus, so it can be molded into whatever kind of site you want, like a portfolio site for example. Continuum features an extensive Feed Framework which intuitively groups and displays your posts, and lets the user sort the posts several ways depending on which part of the site they are on. Continuum fully supports and was designed specifically for WordPress 3.0+

Village – An Awesome Full screen Custom WordPress Themes – DEMO


If you love photography or general creativeness and want new interesting ways to display your work then this could be the theme for you. They have WordPress video tutorials that can guide you through how to create everything you need. The theme also has helpful hints throughout to let you know what everything does. If you want to create a unique look you will like that they have included many different modules that are unique to Themeforest, like the interactive query wall, and the floating slideshow navigation with automatic scroll.

Folioway – Premium Portfolio WordPress Theme – DEMO


Folioway is a cool WordPress simple  theme, not only its clean and elegant, it also comes with lots of features like amazing slider, unlimited colors, etc.

Duotive Three – – Complete Custom WordPress Themes – DEMO


Duotive has a lot of features that you can choose from on its admin panel. The Custom sidebar manager helps you create custom sidebars and assign them to any page or post on your website. It is great to be used in portfolio or as a blog theme of your website.

Dandelion – Powerful Elegant WordPress Theme – DEMO


Dandelion theme has very powerful admin settings included, so that it can satisfy all different needs without having to change any code. You can very easily change between page layouts, theme styles, sliders and set the theme content.

Author : Sonny Day

Sonny M. Day is a passionate SEO and web design enthusiast who loves photography, mountain climbing, snorkeling and dirt bike riding.

{ 42 comments… read them below or add one }

Markus zericii September 17, 2013 at 9:17 pm

yet another blog pimping out crappy themeforrest themes.



Lars September 17, 2013 at 11:41 pm

Markus, please share why you think Themeforrest themes are crappy


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Robert Lang July 25, 2013 at 3:47 am

Fantastic line up of web design themes using WordPress.


work from home July 20, 2013 at 9:02 am

I love what you guys are up too. This kind of clever work and reporting!
Keep up the terrific works guys I’ve included you guys to my personal blogroll.


T4 July 8, 2013 at 2:32 pm

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Yashica 80-200mm Zoom Lens May 11, 2013 at 3:03 pm

Hello, the whole thing is going fine here and ofcourse every one is sharing facts, that’s actually excellent, keep up writing.


Alex May 11, 2013 at 6:05 am

using a theme with 4000+ downloads may get your seo efforts into trouble. Which means that google can track your site is using the same coding style and your site will not be marked as unique in their index. However it’s still great to buy something for $50 and build a custom theme on top of it.


Alphonso May 9, 2013 at 8:24 pm

I love the Karma – Clean and Modern WordPress Theme, and I would like to redo my website using this theme,
Thereby making it more modern and Google friendly,
but unfortunately I have been hearing negative things about Themeforest on the web lately, just Google it! Maybe this is just for one or two things that have occurred in the past, Isolated things, I don’t know, so it makes me rather hesitant!
A lot of the info is regarding free themes, for example Encrypted code in the footer, or Base64 often used to hide malicious code in different places…
I know that Karma is a paid theme though, so that should not be a problem, and there will be support if needed.
What do you truly think about the Karma theme?
I am looking around to get an unbiased opinion of it, such as it is.


Lars May 9, 2013 at 10:20 pm

Karma is great and the high number of sales and the good rating at Themeforest is a quality parameter. I’m not sure what kind of negative things you have read, but I would not be concerned about using Themeforest. It is the largest and for me one of the most trusted places to buy a theme right now.


Hari Varrier April 12, 2013 at 8:06 pm

The MetroStyle there is exactly what I am looking for for a client. Thank you for getting the list. Oh I used your link, if it is affiliate, I hope you make some money there :)



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Philo Computing February 24, 2013 at 2:49 am

I used the Chocolate WP – Responsive Photography Theme from themeforest, (no relation) – It is an Elegant theme which prompted me to think it would be perfect for my Zombie Site!

Check out how you can take the ugliness of zombie horror and make it beautiful!


Bob February 16, 2013 at 6:05 am

I notice there was no mention of Artisteer. This package stands between the very customisable templates that you feature and a “build from the ground” up solution. I find that a truly bespoke option is a poor solution because it will not keep pace with updates to elements such as SQL database, coding languages and wordpress (or Joomla, etc etc). Also the provider of the solution may not have the resources to full test the template. Flexible templates are good as far as they go but dont have the massive amount of customability that Artisteer has. The advantages of Artisteer are that it is cheap, robust and SEO friendly.
BTW I don’t have any relationship with Artisteer other than I am a fan who loves building custom templates.


menscolo February 11, 2013 at 11:07 pm

Do you have woocommerce wordpress ecommerce with similar easily custisable and drag and drop module like the ones mention above?


César February 11, 2013 at 12:37 am

I think I need and require a graphic update for my blog, I have been using free wordpress templates so far, and I need something more appealing. What I dont understand is:

If I buy a custom template, lets say Karma, do I need to have a self hosted blog? Or how do I install a vustom template into wordpress.com??

Thanks for any help and info!


how to lose 10 pounds in 2 weeks February 8, 2013 at 12:25 pm

Very good info. Lucky me I recently found your site by accident (stumbleupon).
I have saved as a favorite for later!


Painter and Decorator in Kent January 19, 2013 at 8:00 pm

I wish I would have come across this site earlier when was doing my website. So many nice themes here. Will definitely recommend to others! Cheers!


Faiyaz Sultan January 4, 2013 at 12:55 pm

Nice collection and all of them are unique


Ready2Paint December 24, 2012 at 9:10 pm

very nice themes


Tomas December 24, 2012 at 10:11 am

Hi, great list you have there.

I would like to ask if you know of any WP Theme that works like the Max Mag – Responsive Wordpress Magazine Theme on Themeforest. I want a WP theme that doesn’t have the common boring category pages, and the Max Mag theme offers a great option. However, I’d like to know if there are other WP themes that are designed this way or even better.

I’ll appreciate any good responses. Thanks


dm13 December 23, 2012 at 3:39 am

been looking for days for ‘the perfect’ theme.. .I’m looking for one that instead of slider images, allows a custom static image to the left-center and a sidebar to the right. I also however, need the 4 columns under the slider that most of these themes show (4 = 3 isnt enough), and i also need the portfolio and blog excerpts on the page.. and footer with 3 or 4 columns. Any suggestions would be ideal.. most seem to have the image slider and thats’s not an option for me. Thanks!


John September 25, 2012 at 10:08 am

I’ve found many of these themes to be great for customisation, although I came here looking for a flexible template that I can fully customise and use for my own designs.

Would anyone be kind enough to link to a page that has some “free and flexible” HTML5 / CSS3 themes for Word Press. Thanks so much for this post though, it confirms that I am using the right themes for the jobs I get in.

As Sam said “Frame work with Good bones”, care to share your framework Sam?

I’ve made sites using some of these themes for my clients and I’ve found that in fact many of them are highly optimised for SEO and a little care and attention coupled with a bit of decent SEO and your top of Google, I can and often do get my customers to the top of Google with a new theme based website for less than £1000.

Any one can have a decent site, with rich array of features and get it pushed to the top of Google. It’s not about the Tool, it’s how you use the Tools!


M E Silverman August 28, 2012 at 3:18 am

Hi. Looking for theme that I can create literary online magazine on. I would like to look sort of like a table of contents where the viewer clicks a name and then can go to a different page to view story/essay/etc. Any suggestions?


Lars August 28, 2012 at 2:57 pm

Not sure if this is what you need but check out “Movable” and Elist” in this post (1/3 down the list) http://www.tripwiremagazine.com/2012/07/simple-wordpress-themes.html


LendingWanted August 16, 2012 at 7:52 pm

Very nice theme.. Thanks for sharing it. I love the Village one.


Jill May 3, 2012 at 3:40 pm

Even in the case of themes with a built- in layout builder I think you can’t do many modifications, some things will nevertheless look alike with themes used by others. The settings are limited, you can’t upload images, buttons, drag, resize, add/ remove elements. I prefer to do things myself, in an editor called Lubith, that works online. The default layout is based on the twenty eleven theme, but the customization that you can bring about is pretty extensive. Is easier to make an original theme in this way, I think.


Mark Simchock April 27, 2012 at 3:10 pm

“Needless to say, clients get all what they really want with custom WordPress themes. There is however a major drawback from using a custom WordPress theme. It is expensive. ”

True. But I believe there are two viable alternatives. Both of which I have used:

1) Find a theme with “good bones” (as they say in the real estate industry) and re-skin it. That is, leave the structure and functionality of the theme, supplement it with plugins and widgets, but alter and customize the design (beyond the setting built into the theme) to better match the brand. More expensive than taking it off the shelf? Yes. But less than a total ground up build. The result should be a fairly unique website which is good for the client as well as your portfolio.

2) Custom build your own theme or modify/enhance a basic theme (e.g. Twenty Twelve). The end of this exercise is a known framework that fits 80% of most needs and can be supplemented and modified on a project by project basis to cover the other 20%. The more you use your own “framework” theme (i.e., it’s known), the more productive you’ll get with it, as well as have a tool box of enhancements to pull from as various customizations are developed. Wheel reinventing is minimal.

That said, it should be mentioned that “a fool with a tool is still a fool.” Even a quick & dirty iproperty still requires the blog be updated, social media be utilized, etc. Getting to market cheap and quick doesn’t necessary guarantee ROI. For example, a $50 theme and $250 setup that doesn’t bring in a cent of biz is still $300 poorly spent.

Perhaps it’s just me but I have found that clients who are willing to make a larger investment are also willing to make a deeper commitment. They understand a lauched site is not an ends but the beginning of an ongoing process. Every project is different. Every client is different. But there is a profile to those who seek something for nothing.


Sam August 23, 2012 at 6:56 pm

Great comment Mark – couldn’t have said it any better myself.


Nadja December 27, 2012 at 9:44 pm

I was just thinking the same thing. I have so many clients who come to me because their Wordpress template doesn’t do what they want it to do, but they don’t know how to customise it/it’s not possible to customise it the way they want to. If you don’t care too much about the look and exact functionalities of your website/blog, then a template is probably fine. If you do, then a customised theme is probably the way to go…


Anders December 27, 2012 at 10:20 pm

Hi Thanks for your insight. I agree with you here! It depends on what you client wants, his budget and how much he can do by him self. If he has special needs and if he can afford a custom made website it is of cause his best choise :)


Jane September 26, 2013 at 7:33 pm

We are currently using Engage Publish (module) on a DotNetNuke site. It lacks the plugins that word press offers.

The site is for a publication (the is provided in print with the website as another component of the editorial offering).

We’d like to keep the look of the site but simply get a better CMS (such as one where we could use a Paywall plug in).

Assuming we found a reasonably good theme for word press, to what extent can it be customized to look like our current site?

What might the cost of doing this be?

Thanks in advance to anyone who offers feedback on this.


web development philippines April 27, 2012 at 9:11 am

I really like the designs! I love the themes: Pioneer and Karma! They’re the best!


Kohlsuppendiaet January 10, 2012 at 10:44 pm

My favorite is no. 1…the other ones are to dark :)


secret design art December 31, 2011 at 4:34 am

Very nice themes…


Painter in London December 26, 2011 at 5:15 am

Hi! I am new here, just found this website via other links and yea, there are a lot of things to choose from here. Thanks


house extensions in east london January 25, 2012 at 1:23 am

This is a good one , recommend to all 5 star


Painter in Islington December 1, 2011 at 9:58 pm

Thanks for the listing. I need to choose a template for side decorating business site.


Lex Koff May 25, 2011 at 10:53 pm

Wow! Templates are really cool. Thanks for making and sharing this round up !


Rick Ong May 24, 2011 at 9:36 am

Hey Andy

I usually browse ThemeForest looking at the top sellers, and this just makes it easier. Thanks for taking the time to post.

Would be great if you could also break down the top sellers by category


Painter and decorator May 23, 2011 at 4:24 pm

I used the Strike theme for my website http://www.gsdecorating.com and I thought it was pretty good I was happy with my purchase. Support is pretty good too


Andy May 23, 2011 at 9:22 pm

Hi thanks for your comment. Great to hear you have good experience with the Strike theme – by the way, your home page is good looking with a nice slider 😉


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