Awesome (and Free) Theme Options You Might Not Know About

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:

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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.

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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:

Oxygenoptions

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?

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What are your tips and techniques for free customization?


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Krista

31 Comments

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  1. boo1031

    I’m going to do that to day thank you for posting this!

    Like

  2. ktayd13

    My tip is that if it has options, play with it! Check out every available possibility! I check out every new theme as it comes out to see what my page would look like with it. I experiment with sticky posts, colors, headers and everything else. It helps you to figure out what your style is and evolve your page. Obviously you don’t want to waste time changing your theme every week…your readers might not appreciate it, but, with the Live Preview, there is no reason to not try things out when you have the time :) After much experimenting, I finally decided to change my site to the Splendio after having the Forever theme for almost a year, and I am loving it. It looks crisp, clean, and ready for the new year!

    Like

  3. Tom

    My tip is to always add widgets to the sidebar. This makes your site look professional and makes your readers stay on your site.

    Like

  4. David Bennett

    I just wish there was a way to take out or modify the #303030 horizontal dividing lines in Writr. They are not body background, but something else and they are – in my opinion – too wide and dark, and mess up an otherwise lovely theme (and yes, I am using the theme at the moment).

    Like

    • Kathryn

      Hi David, those horizontal lines can be removed with a bit of custom CSS. If you’d like help with that, please feel free to post in the CSS Customization forum: http://en.forums.wordpress.com/forum/css-customization

      I’ll also pass along your suggestion to Writr’s developer to consider for a future Theme Options update.

      Thanks for the feedback, and I’m sorry your comment fell through the cracks!

      Like

      • David Bennett

        Thanks for the reply, Kathryn.

        It seems to me that sometime after I made my comment here, the Writr theme HAS been updated.

        You can see this for yourself by taking a look at the demo. Also, I am using the theme on the test site and it shows the updated dividers between posts.

        I see that on your own site at krpresner.com you have the old styling between posts.

        When you go into themes on your site, does it say there is an update available for Writr?

        Like

        • Kathryn

          Hi David, just to be clear, are you using Writr here on WordPress.com, or do you have a self-hosted install on your own hosting?

          If you need help with the self-hosted version of Writr, it actually has a dedicated forum over on WordPress.org, which would be the best place to post a question:

          http://wordpress.org/support/theme/writr

          If you need help with the WordPress.com version of Writr, it would be easier to help you one-on-one in the support forums. If that’s the case, would you mind posting there and coming back and providing the link to the thread here so I can take a look? Thanks!

          http://en.forums.wordpress.com/forum/themes

          > When you go into themes on your site, does it say there is an update available for Writr?

          No, because it’s hosted here on WordPress.com, where software updates are done behind the scenes automatically. :-)

          Like

          • David Bennett

            Hi Kathryn,
            I have Writr on a test site here on WP.com.
            It’s at http://iusethisfortesting.wordpress.com

            Also, just now I downloaded the Writr theme from WP.com (it says it’s version 1.0.7) and installed it on one of my self-hosted sites and I notice that the double-black-lines between posts are no longer there in this latest version.

            The bottom line is that my original comment about the unappealing double black lines between posts is no longer applicable because the updated theme looks much nice now – in my opinion, of course.

            The bottom,bottom line is that here on WP.com I have switched to the Zoren theme :-)

            Like

  5. timethief

    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.

    Like

    • Krista

      Great tip, Timethief! I have a couple of test blogs that I use for just this purpose, all in my dogs’ names. :)

      Like

  6. warrenlevine

    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.

    Like

  7. Teepee12

    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 :-)

    Like

  8. Linda Grashoff

    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.

    Like

  9. Matt George

    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.

    Like

  10. christrocks

    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. :)

    Like

  11. Paris Paul P

    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!

    Like

  12. 3FM Megahit

    Free color palets with Zoren? That’s not true. You have to pay for it.

    Like

    • Krista

      There are three free color palettes available on Zoren. If you go to Appearance > Customize, you’ll see them with a banner that says “featured,” across them.

      Like

  13. Stephen K.

    Awesome tips! a custom header definitely makes a difference. When I added mine it was like night and day.

    Like

  14. Daniel Capilla

    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.

    Like

  15. Stef

    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! :)

    Like

  16. Joanna Aislinn

    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!

    Like

  17. wildninja

    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.

    Like

  18. jjeess21

    i dont like the new colors or the new options.

    Like

  19. jeremiahjames2013

    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.

    Like

  20. djtyler

    Why no plugins with these themes?

    Like

    • Kathryn

      Hi there, the shared WordPress.com platform comes with several dozen pre-installed plugins. If you need a special plugin that isn’t available on WordPress.com, then a self-hosted WordPress installation is always an option. You can learn more here about the difference between the two flavours of WordPress here: http://en.support.wordpress.com/com-vs-org/

      Like

  21. JenT

    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?

    Like

  22. Rea.A

    I tried it to my Zoren and default light grey with green links looks better:-)

    Like

  23. Grace

    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!

    Like

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