When you’re just starting out online, $99-129 can be a big investment for a quality theme. However, you know that looking good online is important. You also know that having a reliable theme will help you focus on your blog instead of worrying about your theme. Today I have the solution for you. Here are 5 free Genesis child themes that work great for bloggers. You only need to purchase the Framework for $59.95 (the child theme doesn’t work without the framework).
With one of these five free child themes you’ll get all the perks of Genesis with out the higher ticket price. Why Genesis? Read this post, and this one, and this one, and this one to see why I love and use Genesis. Obviously, it’s a lot. I’ll make it easier for you – here’s a direct link to all the articles I’ve tagged with Genesis.
There are affiliate links within this post. You’re a blogger, you get it. 🙂
I searched the web high and low to find you free Genesis child themes from trusted sources. Anyone can build a child theme and offer it up for free and there are a lot of them out there. All of these themes come from highly regarded developers/designers. You will still be getting a good quality theme despite the $0 ticket price.
For the purpose of this post, I picked out child themes that I felt work well for bloggers (food bloggers, lifestlye bloggers, craft bloggers, mommy bloggers, etc) and the online creative biz owner.
Under each of the featured free theme I will tell you what widget areas are included with the theme (widget areas are small blocks designed to add functionality to your theme and make it easy to add content in those areas). I’ve included a list of the themes greatest features, my opinion of course. I’ve also noted what options are available for easy customization in the customize screen (beyond the default options) if they have any.
On to the themes!
Fresh is a free child theme from the wonderful Lauren of Restored 316. I love all the Restored 316 themes and Fresh is no exception. Here’s what I love about it.
- Footer 1 – One long column in a bold pink box at the bottom of the page. The demo shows social media icons and a subscription box.
- After Entry – a beautiful pink box located at the end of your blog posts.
- The alternating grid format is beautiful. The blog roll displays your posts with featured image
- The theme is great for collecting email addresses with the after entry widget and the footer. Most themes are incorporating an after widget area, but fresh is designed to stand out with a bold color
- There is not a sidebar, but with this beautiful theme combined with your amazing content no one will even notice it is missing.
- Beautiful read more buttons to encourage readers to do just that, read more.
- Easily change the colors of the primary color (the the newsletter capture areas, a.k.a. the after entry and footer widget areas) and the accent color (links, buttons, and more).
How to get it: Sign up for Restored316’s newsletter and get access to their freebie section. Not only will you get this fab theme, but you’ll also get cute phone backgrounds, Instagram graphics and more.
Journal is a free theme by Rafal Tomal. Rafal is a graphic designer and web developer. He is the lead designer for Rainmaker Digital (previously Copyblogger).
Primary Sidebar – the sidebar widget is actually in the form of a drop down menu. It slides in from the right side. When you change the lay out to full width content, the side bar menu goes away. Use it as a sidebar or as a menu. It does have a limited height, so keep that in mind when planning what you want inside.
- Home Top – this widget only shows up on the home page. It is a great place to put an intro, a newsletter subscription, ad if those are your thing, or other call to action.
- Your gravatar image shows up next to the title or logo at the top of your blog.
- I love the comment section. A lot of themes comment sections just look messy or have awkward spacing, Journal is beautifully designed though. The user information has a light gray background and their comment is below with a white background
- The primary menu is a black bar directly below the header. The secondary menu is directly below the primary menu and is white. I personally like the theme without a menu (use the slide in sidebar as menu).
- The featured image is a long, horizontal image. In the blog roll it shows up above the date and title. When you open up the post, it is a large background image at the top of the post.
- My favorite feature: the first paragraph of each post is designed to stand out.
- See all the typography details in this post of the demo. You’ll notice the theme even includes several different buttons. Great for your CTA’s.
How to get it: Head over to Rafal’s site and join the Designer’s Area. There’s also some other great goodies. I love his Photoshop color pallet.
Twenty Seven Pro is a newer free theme from the one and only Brian Gardner, founder of Studiopress.com.
- Sticky message – This widget area shows up after you start scrolling and stays in place, hence the “sticky” name.
- Before Header – Perfect for ads or call to action
- Before Footer – This is the only footer even though it is called the before footer. Unlike many themes out there on the market today, this footer is one long space. The demo displays an Instagram feed and it looks absolutely beautiful.
- After Entry – The theme demo displays a newsletter opt-in box here, but you could also put an ad or other call to action here.
- Primary Sidebar – you can set up a left or right sidebar. Each item added into the sidebar is outlined in its own little section.
- Don’t tell the other themes, but this one is my favorite free theme that works well for bloggers. It’s beautiful and has all the right features.
- The fonts. Brian always gets me with the fonts. I love the large serif headers. Swoon. You can check out the typography page here.
- The logo or site title is displayed in the middle of the the menu. If no menus are set up, the logo is displayed on the left hand side.
- Beautiful, yet simple lines throughout the theme add direction and design.
- Easily change the link color (changes the color for linked titles, menu links, post info links and more) and the accent color (changes the color for button hovers).
- The recommended header size is 512 x 134
How to get it: Click the download button at the bottom at the page adn you’ll have it in a few quick seconds.
If you like this theme but want a little bit more beef in a theme (and a fancy home page) you could purchase infinity pro. Or, start with this free theme until you can swing affinity pro and it will be a seamless transition.
You can also check out the rest of Brian’s free themes.
Concise is a free theme from Calvin Koepke, front end designer for Rainmaker Digital. You’re going to love this one. I just know it.
Before I go into the details of the widget areas, let’s talk about the home page. The home page is set up through the widgets, not an actual page. People always email me with questions about the home pages of their themes. Once you understand that they are widget areas you are good to go.
- Home top – this is the first row shown on the home page. It is full screen, large and beautiful.
- Home feature one, two, and three – these three widgets comprise the second row in the theme, inside the gray box. They start left to write. Great for showcasing what your blog has to offer.
- Home feature full – this is the third row down and is a full width section. The demo displays a blog feed in a grid format. You can also set it up to include the feature image, because you’re a blogger and that’s what we do. You could use this space for something else too. Feature your ebook and subscription or a blurb about you.
- Footer – the footer is the dark row at the bottom. It is set up as one long column. Tip: if you want three columns, but don’t want to dig into the code to adjust the theme, you could always use columns inside the widget following this tutorial.
- After entry – shows up after the blog post and the author box.
- The buttons. I love the strong statement they make. Click me.
- The home page. I think it is a great page to for readers to land on and for you to showcase what it is you do.
- The threaded comments look great. Not all themes rock the comments, but Concise does. The gravatars have a circle boarder around the image. It’s turquoise (or the feature color you choose) when you comment and black when someone else comments, making it easy for readers to find the authors comments.
- I like the look of the ‘categories’ button. Subtle, yet there.
- The blog feed page looks boring in the demo from a bloggers perspective, but you can set it up to display excerpts with the featured image. Go to Genesis > theme settings > content archives and then set it up to display entry excerpts and display featured image.
- The logo is displayed in the top left corner and also features your gravatar image, great for personal branding.
- Easily change the accent color, which dictates the links, buttons, and gravatar border.
- The primary menu is displayed on the right side of the menu. The drop down menu is pretty cool. Give it a try. The arrows are a nice touch, letting readers know there is more to see. There is no seconadary menu
How to get it:
Head on over and create a free account on Calvin’s site and you’ll be able to download this theme. You can also check out all of Calvin Koepke’s free themes, Minnie is another great option for bloggers.
When you purchase the Genesis Framework, it comes with its own free child theme – the Genesis Sample theme. With a few simple tweaks in the customize section you can have a great theme using just this.
- Header Right – this area appears to the right of the site title or logo. It is recommended to use this widget for “a custom menu, a search form or possibly a text widget.”
- Primary Sidebar – you can set up a right or left sidebar.
- Secondary Sidebar – this sidebar only shows up if you have the sidebar content sidebar layout selected.
- Footer 1, 2, 3 – the footer area is divided into three columns. Column one starting on the left to right.
- After Entry – content for the after entry widget shows up after individual blog posts and author box.
- Easily change the link, accent, and background colors. The accent color is for buttons. The background is gray in the demo, but you can set it to any color you’d like or you can even upload an image to use as the background. Could be cool to use a subtle texture or pattern. I like the divide the light gray gives the theme.
- There is a primary menu and a footer menu. The primary menu sits directly below the title, starting at the left side. The footer menu is centered at the bottom of the page. The demo created a menu of social media links for this area. As mentioned in the widgets, you can also add a menu to the header right area.
How to get it: Purchase your very own Genesis Framework and you’ll automatically get this theme with it.
Build your blog with the Genesis framework and a free child theme
Which free theme will you use? Go purchase the Framework, download your free theme, and then let me know when you have your theme all set up. I’d love to see it.
Here’s a quick reference for all of the themes mentioned. All themes require the Genesis Framework in order for them to work.