In my search for the best of the bunch, I installed about 30 offerings (out of the hundreds I looked at) and after trying them out and changing my mind a couple of times I finally settled down with a theme. This took me months, so I’m going to save you the bother and present the five free WordPress portfolio themes that made my own particular shortlist.
SimpleFolio – The Best All-Rounder
Despite being a tricky free WordPress theme to set-up, SimpleFolio byis worth the hassle. For your troubles you’ll get a clean and easy-to-navigate theme with a separate portfolio section (with the option to exclude portfolio posts from your blog) and a home screen to die for.
If you like the look of this theme and fancy giving it a go, then you’re going to need a little help. There’s a fantastic little guide over at edit the style.css file to suit your personal tastes.which guides you through the ins and outs of setting up and maintaining your new portfolio. As always with WordPress, you can
Vikiworks Infinity – For Social Media Types
For an aesthetically pleasing, majorly customizable portfolio that’s plugged in to Flickr, Twitter and Delicious, look no further than Infinity by Vikiworks. The free WordPress theme follows a three-fixed column style, and whilst not being widget ready could probably be modified with some serious Notepad’ing.
There are two PSD files to download as well as the theme, which makes customization in Photoshop that little bit easier. Blog posts themselves are presented in two thumbnail cover-style columns to the left of the page, so if you’re not bothered about separating your work and your blog then this one’s for you.
For the more courageous there’s a sister theme called Mashup based on Infinity, only with widgets and a style switcher. The developer has appealed for help in completing it, and needs guinea pigs willing to give it a go. If you’re not averse to beta testing, you can download Mashup.
FolioGrid – For Speed-Freaks, Designers, Photographers & Artists
This sharp looking offering from FrogsThemes has a little something for everyone. Utilising the tried-and-tested grid layout, the theme comes in a variety of colours and is easily altered with some handy CSS. All the styling is done through the theme’s stylesheet, meaning you really can open up and customize this one.
The menu lives at the top of the page, and is always accessible from anywhere on the site, making it a cinch to navigate. There’s some lovely use of jQuery for slick transitions, and the theme is widget-ready. For a fast and lightweight WordPress portfolio, FolioGrid does the job.
Fullscreen – For Style-Conscious Photographers & Videographers
One thing to look out for is some issues with the menu not displaying correctly in older versions of Internet Explorer, though some of you won’t really care (and those that do can customize, of course).
Images can be implemented into posts using the WordPress media gallery, which makes for easy posting. If you want your photo or video work to be the main focus of your site, then this theme will honour your wishes.
Contrast – The Black Sheep
SmashingMagazine once hosted a typographic layout competition for WordPress and Tumblr themes, and Paul Linder’s Contrast didn’t win. But that doesn’t matter, because it’s awesome all the same.
Using nothing but XHTML and CSS, it’s lightning quick and beautiful to look at. Presenting you with a straight-up black and white home screen, Contrast is designed to be left as a portfolio rather than a blog as well.
As the focus is on text, many writers, copy-editors or web designers may find this appealing, though the minimalist design could suit anyone. It’s bold, unique and quick.
Have you used any of these free WordPress themes? Got another favourite we’ve not featured here? Spread the word in the comments! Are you a photographer? Check out our very own photography PDF manual by Bakari — The Essential Guide To Digital Photography.