Whatever you do for a living, having an online presence is a must these days. It’s not an overstatement: if you don’t exist on the Internet, it’s as if you don’t exist at all. If you’re an artist without an online presentation, someone may spot your work in a physical, brick-and-mortar gallery and buy it. But if you have a virtual, online gallery, your work can get unlimited exposure. For every physical customer, there are thousands customers online. When one looks at it that way, who wouldn’t want to build a website?
There are many preconditions an artist’s website must meet in order to get results. It should hit that perfect balance between a commercial website that people visit to buy things, and a showcase, where they go to enjoy things. For that, you will need a decent WordPress theme, since it will be the main visual aspect of your online portfolio.
WordPress Themes – Free Vs. Paid?
Like with anything else in the world, it’s hard to debate someone’s right to charge for a high-quality product. But that isn’t to say that free automatically translates to lousy quality. I would always advocate using premium themes due to their numerous advantages. However, I still admit that there are many decent free themes too.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with free WordPress themes. They are made by developers who need exposure, as part of their portfolio. Or they can be a portion of full-featured premium themes that you can get a taste of before you decide to lighten your wallet. In effect, they are a convenient practice tool for WordPress newbies. Even though WordPress is famous for being a fool-proof content management system, it still needs some drilling to get the hang of it.
Free themes come with lots of cons too. Unlike premium ones, they don’t have a lot of integrations with third-party apps and plugins, many of which normally come at a cost. Plus, you can’t always be sure as to who the creator is. And if something goes wrong, you can’t rely on full customer support. You either need some coding skills or enough patience to dig through forums in search for an answer.
However, if you’ve already decided to save yourself some money, be my guest and try them out. There are hundreds of free themes to choose from, many of which are specifically designed with artists in mind. You might also want to check out my previous blog post on Best WordPress Themes for Photographers. You might find some nice ideas there too!
Top 12 Free WordPress Artist Themes
One of the most stylish themes from my list, Aqua Portfolio is also the most minimalistic. Minimal is trendy right now, and for a good reason. It puts your creativity into focus, removing all the clutter and distractions. You know how important white space is in design? It’s because it allows the viewer’s eyes to breathe. White space is what makes a difference between pleasant and not-so-pleasant looking websites. The creators of this theme were obviously fully aware of it. The hamburger menu in the top right-hand corner won’t contain a gazillion options. It will just offer your homepage, photography or video – just enough to get you started with this free portfolio theme.
Now, if you want to go pro, there is no way to buy this theme. Instead, you can buy their Pro Portfolio Plugin, which you can then use with any of their themes. It will enable features such as image gallery, videos, and free 24/7 tech support.
Even though the creators made this theme mostly for websites within the fashion niche, it works equally well in any creative niche. It’s a feature-rich theme, even in its basic, free WordPress portfolio theme version. It has featured and hero content, portfolio, services, testimonials, logo slider, header media, social footer, multiple page and post layouts. Most importantly, you can use it to create a one-page website, so your readers wouldn’t have to jump from page to page and tab to tab. All the content is displayed right there. You can move through it simply and elegantly by scrolling up and down.
If you need to create a nice artist’s blog, this theme will show your content in a crisp and beautiful way. The free version includes limited customizations of color, posts and page layouts, banner and featured sections, recent articles and list articles, blog and footer sections. Choose from four layouts, with or without sidebar. WordPress Live Customizer lets you view any changes you’re making in real time, without having to refresh the page all the time. The threaded comments will allow for real and convenient user engagement. And all of us know how important it is to actually encourage your readers to interact.
Clean and minimalist design paired with beautiful typography is this theme’s main visual asset. Apart from being optimized for search engines and all major browsers, it’s also fully responsive, which means it will look great on any device. It features a responsive slider, custom background color and image, menus capability, as well as various theme options. The theme accentuates your featured image to grab the viewers’ attention. Apart from it, there is only a top menu and a social footer. And that’s about all you need anyway.
For those who like immersive dark colors for their website, this theme could be a solution. Child theme of Minimal Grid, it is more suitable for portfolio and artists’ websites than its parent theme. It comes with a default masonry-grid layout that displays your content in a non-obtrusive way. Compatibility with Gutenberg editor means you will be able to build new engaging content in an even more intuitive way than before. Another feature I really like is infinite scroll loading, allowing your viewers a seamless user experience.
This single-column, grid-based theme has large featured images and a post slider. You can use sticky posts to highlight your best content. As for post formats, the theme supports five of them: aside, image, video, link, and quote – perfect if you have a wide array of various media rich content. Configure up to four widget areas in the footer and customize your header and background image. There’s only one possible con that I noticed – the theme doesn’t seem to get updates frequently enough. It means you shouldn’t rely on it for a long time. Use it as a playground for a time. As soon as your budget allows it, consider getting a premium theme eventually.
A slider showing your awesome images and a few sections that tell your viewers who you are, what you do, and how to contact you – that’s pretty much all you need on your website. And this theme offers a neat way to arrange it. Unfortunately, you can’t change the basic font and colors, and you will have to use the existing widgets, without customization options. That is, if you don’t decide to splash some bucks on the premium version. But this theme is frequently updated. Therefore, it won’t pose a security threat, even if you only use the free version.
A sleek one-page website is probably the best solution for artists. It will display your featured content, bio, parallax sections, latest projects and testimonials, without the viewer having to juggle between multiple pages. The theme supports most popular WordPress plugins such as WooCommerce, Gravity Forms, Jetpack, Contact Form 7, Yoast and more, adding to the versatility. It’s also highly customizable, with unlimited color options and Font Awesome icons that you can modify and use anywhere on the site.
One of the crucial reasons why you need an online presentation as an artist is to showcase your portfolio in the cleanest possible way. The standard, four-column masonry grid is there to help your visual content glitter and shine. With its minimalist approach, this theme confirms that less is more. If you upgrade to the full-featured premium version, you will also get one column portfolio page, image and video gallery, custom portfolio page, full customer support and regular updates.
A theme with professional touch that doesn’t look cold and corporate, Integral Lite is another one-page theme on our list. Its modern design includes fancy-looking parallax effect, which will make your website that much more appealing. Here are all the sections you can take advantage of: five custom widget sections, welcome, brands, features, work and single projects sections, testimonials, services, call-to-action, about, skills, latest posts, newsletter, contact, and footer/copyright sections. Thanks to all these options, the theme is great for a wide variety of websites including photography, business, startup, portfolio, travel, blog. Basically, anything that requires some fresh air of creativity.
A child theme of Eyepress, Personal Eye offers personal details side menu, two different blog styles, responsive design, customize options, and simple masonry gallery style. If you want more features, you can opt for a premium version. What makes this theme excellent for artists is the personal details menu, which can always be visible, providing an easy way for your visitors to contact you. It’s based on Bootstrap Framework, which makes it responsive, regardless of the device from which your visitors are seeing your website.
Whether you’re an artist, photographer, illustrator, designer, or photoblogger, Hatch doesn’t leave much to wish for. The design is image-centric, with custom header and background, advanced widgets and lightbox. Also, there are theme-matching styles for contact form plugins Gravity Forms or Contact Form 7. If you ever grow tired of it, it’s easily customizable via its many child themes. And you can get a batch of those if you are prepared to shell out some money. The Theme Customizer will let you manipulate the site logo, typography, and colors.