Did you know, that of the 217 themes available on WordPress.com, 64 offer free options such as custom headers, colors schemes and palettes, and customizable layouts? There are plenty of ways to make your blog your own without spending any money. Here’s just a few ideas to prime your creative pump.
The color choice is yours
Eight themes, including Superhero, Writr, Spun, Panel, Zoren, Fontfolio, Twenty Thirteen, and Typo, offer free color palettes you can apply. Free color palettes are denoted by the “featured” flag across them in the Customizer. To activate a free color palette, go to Appearance → Customize. Here’s what Typo‘s free color palettes look like:
If you’d like to combine a free custom header and color options, check out Vintage Camera, which offers six free illustrated cameras for custom headers and the ability to choose any header and background you like.
Options, options options
If your theme has free theme options you’ll see the menu item Appearance → Theme Options in your dashboard’s navigation. Clicking on that menu item takes you to a screen showing the options for your theme. For example, here’s the Theme Options page for Oxygen. From here, you can modify the title font family, adjust the base font’s screen size, and experiment with link colors:
Experiment with one, two, three, or four-column layouts
Check out the Theme Showcase to see themes with one-column, two-column, three-column, and four-column layouts. Experiment by checking multiple criteria. For example, did you know that there are 32 themes that have a left sidebar option and a two-column option?
Featured images = continuous inspiration
Currently, 75 free themes offer featured images, which allow you to select and showcase the image of your choice alongside your post. Go beyond featured images with a post slider and you have a rotating series of images at the top of your blog. Not great behind the camera? No worries — there are countless images available for free, under the Creative Commons licence that you can use on your site, provided that you credit the image creator.
Strut your stuff with a custom header
Adding a custom header, such as a photograph, is one way to imprint your unique style on your site. Want to customize your header photograph? PicMonkey allows you to edit images to include text, rotate and sharpen them, and adjust exposure — all free of charge.
Of the free themes on WordPress.com, 119 offer custom header functionality. Here’s Writr and TwentyFourteen, the default theme for the upcoming year, customized with header photos featuring two of my best friends. Fetching, no?
What are your tips and techniques for free customization?
Dec 4th at 6:29 pm
Every blogger needs a test blog that’s set to private and used for adventurous exploration of theme and widget capabilities. register an additional blog and change the visibility setting to private. Make it a mirror blog of your main blog by using the export /import features. Voila! You are now ready to use your mirror blog for testing themes, features, options, and new widget. Your mirror blog provides you with all the information you need to make changes to your main blog quickly and with ease. And, by periodically exporting/importing content from your main blog into your mirror blog you have also created a backup blog.
Dec 4th at 6:31 pm
This article is priceless!!! I’ve tried other blogging platforms, and not one of them has the same sense of community as WordPress.com. And, as a lot of bloggers new and old probably agree, it takes a community to build a blog.
Dec 4th at 6:35 pm
Thanks!! What I would love is a couple more holiday formats. You’ve just got one, plus some backgrounds. A couple more simple ones, just to brighten the season — would be awfully nice
Dec 4th at 7:31 pm
When I decided to blog with the Modularity Lite theme, I knew I wanted to get rid of the photograph in the background. But how to do it? Hah! Easy. I created a completely black image in Photoshop and uploaded it as my “photograph.” Now my blog looks just the way I want it.
Dec 4th at 8:33 pm
Yeah, that’s what I do with my blog. I check out the new themes as they come out with the preview to see what my blog would look like if I picked a new theme. It’s fun to try out the new themes.
Dec 4th at 10:12 pm
I switched my blog’s theme to Zoren a few months ago. Thanks for the tips! I’m heading to my dashboard right now to experiment with the color scheme.
Dec 4th at 10:19 pm
Thanks! After blogging for years, I thought I knew all the ins and outs but you taught me something I didn’t know about the Fontfolio theme! My homepage is already sporting “Paris Guimard Green”… ‘Preciate the tip!
Dec 5th at 9:34 am
Free color palets with Zoren? That’s not true. You have to pay for it.
Dec 6th at 12:06 pm
Awesome tips! a custom header definitely makes a difference. When I added mine it was like night and day.
Dec 6th at 4:57 pm
I have just colored my Twenty Thirteen Theme in blue. Very nice! Thank!
One simple technique to customize: you can use text widgets. They have many posibilities using shortcodes or ‘html’ code. For example, they can display your posts on the side bar separated by categories, tags, authors, including excerpts and more, simply using shortcodes with text widgets. Bueno Theme offers a default option to display posts separated by categories on the side bar, but not other themes. If you don’t like Bueno Theme but you like this option, you can use a text widget to customize your prefered theme. Text widgets offer this and many other posibilities to get a customized and original WordPress blog.
Dec 6th at 6:42 pm
I really appreciate the focus on free; I love how WordPress enables ALL voices to be heard (for those who are willing to put forth the effort). And I LOVE the pic of your two furry friends – so darn cute!
Dec 7th at 3:53 am
I am bookmarking this page as a reference; great tips and info are not to be forgotten! I tend to change my themes with the season, always trying to find a theme that complements the current time of year. Love the current Christmas theme!
Dec 7th at 5:48 am
Krista, thank you for these great tips! They’re very handy for busy people who might not have time to explore all of these themes and options on their own.
I use an older blog theme (for now) and like to change the background art for holidays, seasons, or to match particular articles. I enjoy being able to “dress” my blog appropriately for the occasion.
Dec 8th at 4:34 pm
i dont like the new colors or the new options.
Dec 10th at 6:25 am
Thanks for the info. I checked out “Ideation and Intent” theme and it goes on my short list to consider changing to. I don’t remember this theme. It must be fairly new?!?
NOW, if the writer of this post has any influence: WordPress could offer more three-column, magazine-type layout, free, adaptable to mobile themes. I know, I’m not asking for much… Thanks again for the information.
Dec 12th at 1:38 am
Why no plugins with these themes?
Dec 12th at 12:27 pm
I switched my photo site to Oxygen in October and really love the number of customizations that it offers. And just to set the record straight, not all of us with CC licensed photos post them to flickr! Some of us post them on our WordPress.com sites. Maybe we need a special tag?
Dec 13th at 4:28 pm
I tried it to my Zoren and default light grey with green links looks better:-)
Dec 14th at 5:48 pm
I’m pretty much a minimalist as far as “customizing” or adding bling to my blog, but I really think I’m going to have to check some of these ideas out. Thanks!