We set out to critique the best portfolio WordPress themes: Here’s what we found

Don’t go into it blind

Are you in search of the best WordPress theme to showcase your work? WordPress portfolio themes are ideal for visual businesses such as photographers, videographers, makeup artists, interior designers and fashion stylists. We took a look at some of the best portfolio WordPress themes out there and we think you’ll be pleased with the findings.

WordPress themes are pre-built designs that speed up your portfolio-building process.

 

Portfolio themes allow you to create a beautiful and visual site to promote your work to existing and potential clients. There’s a wide variety of WordPress portfolio themes available. In this post, our goal is to show you the options, discuss the must-have features you’ll want to be sure a theme has, and provide you with examples of some portfolio themes we think really shine.

The 5 best portfolio WordPress themes

  1. Modern Portfolio Pro.

  2. PILE.

  3. California.

  4. WerkStatt.

  5. Make.

First, let’s talk a little bit about what to look for in a WordPress theme for your online portfolio.

The best portfolio WordPress themes. How to choose?

Selecting a WordPress portfolio theme is one of the most important steps you’ll take when building your website. If you choose one and customize it — but it’s not coded properly — you may have to pay a developer to help you switch to a different theme.

To find the right one, consider what type of content and function you want your portfolio to have.

First step? Define your goals.

What are your goals for your portfolio?

Some questions to ask yourself before you pick a WordPress portfolio theme:

  • Why type of content will I be displaying? Video, photography, illustrations, etc.
  • What audience is your content intended for?
  • What do you want your site to accomplish? Establish your reputation, get you jobs, etc.
  • What features do you want your digital portfolio to have (social media integration, email marketing, blog, rotating images, etc.)?
  • Will you offer subscriptions or have an online store as part of your site?
  • Will you be blogging? This is an excellent way to bring potential customers to you.
  • What digital portfolios do you admire? What do you like about them?
  • Are you virtual or do you have a brick-and-mortar storefront?

Your answers to these questions will help you rule out some WordPress themes and begin to focus in on others.

Next, the free vs. paid question

Another big consideration is whether you’re willing to pay for your WordPress theme.

While you might get more features and options with a paid theme, we don’t want you to discourage you from a free theme either.

If you find your needs are on the complex side — you’d like updates to be automatic and need a phone number you can call if something goes wrong — a paid theme will most likely offer you the features you need and will be worth the price. A more advanced site is also more complex to run and manage — for complex sites, a paid theme makes sense as you’ll have a higher level of support.

A few more considerations on paid versus free:

  • A paid WordPress theme is monitored and updated regularly, meaning your theme will stay relevant, operate efficiently and retain its functionality.
  • With a free theme, you will typically be required to cite the theme’s author on your page footer. You do not ever have to credit the author on a paid theme.
  • Paid themes are often more unique and look less like a template from a design perspective, so your site will look more original.
  • Paid themes often come with a customer support in the form of live chat, email and forums — and sometimes a portfolio manager.
  • If you don’t need a lot of features, a free theme can give you everything you need and still provide a fast-loading portfolio that’s easy-to-browse.

Features to look for

When selecting your WordPress portfolio theme, you’ll want to look for themes that have the features you need. Here are some of the most popular:

Masonry, grid and list options

This allows you to vary your presentation and add visual variety in how you present your work.

Slideshows

Not everyone likes these, but if you do, they can add an interactive element to your portfolio.

Portfolio descriptions

These allow you to add a description to each item in your portfolio, including project specifications and client.

Dedicated portfolio page layouts

Customize the look of your portfolio with absolutely no coding know-how.

Galleries

This gives you greater flexibility by allowing you to display more than one image or video for each piece.

Mobile responsiveness across all devices.

This means your portfolio website will “respond” to whichever device it’s being viewed on and adapt to that format (laptop, tablet, smartphone).

Some optional features you might also want:

  • Advanced theme options.
  • Parallax sliders and backgrounds.
  • Video backgrounds.
  • Plenty of shortcodes, each with its own set of customization choices.
  • Different font options and color variations.
  • Support for popular plugins such as WPML (multilingual WordPress setup), BuddyPress (social networking), Gravity Forms (for creating forms like Contact Me) and others.
  • WooCommerce compatibility if you plan to sell work from your portfolio.

Following are five of the best portfolio WordPress themes to consider — from higher-end (paid) options to simpler free themes. Remember, you’ll need a domain name to build your portfolio. Read “Great domains for artists, designers, writers & other creative types” for tips.

1. Modern Portfolio Pro

Best Portfolio WordPress Themes Modern Portfolio Pro
This reasonably-priced theme comes with unlimited customer support.

Modern Portfolio Pro is a mobile-responsive WordPress portfolio theme from StudioPress. This reasonably priced theme is built on top of the Genesis theme framework, which makes it easy to get your portfolio up and running fast (with or without tech skills). It comes with auto updates, how-to tutorials and unlimited customer support.

2. PILE

Best Portfolio WordPress Themes PILE
This modern theme is great for anyone planning to sell from their portfolios.

PILE offers a modern, minimalist design that’s ideal for the creative professional or group. It’s mobile responsive and compatible with the universally loved WooCommerce plugin, if you intend to sell from your portfolio. PILE comes with automatic updates, lots of online help material and six months of customer support. While it’s a bit more expensive than some other themes — several hundred dollars — it may be worth it if you’re going for a unique look.

3. California

Best Portfolio WordPress Themes California
This mobile-friendly theme uses Visual Composer and requires no tech skills.

California is a reasonably-priced WordPress theme for creatives that uses the well-known Visual Composer as a page builder. It’s mobile responsive and comes with automatic updates and six months of customer support.

4. WerkStatt

Best Portfolio WordPress Themes WerkStatt
WerkStatt is reasonably priced and a good choice for those who’d like to sell online.

WerkStatt is another creative portfolio theme that is well-priced at a reasonable licensing fee. It offers all the expected features for a WordPress portfolio theme — mobile responsive, automatic updates, lots of help documentation for DIY troubleshooting plus six months of customer support (with the option to buy more). It’s also WooCommerce compatible, in case you want to sell from your portfolio.

5. Make

Best Portfolio WordPress Themes Make
Set up a beautiful portfolio with this free theme — no coding needed.

Lastly, we offer a free WordPress portfolio theme culled from the list of best portfolio WordPress themes — Make. Make is a great theme for sharing photos, videos, music and selling prints. Its toolkit lets you set up a professional portfolio site without any coding at all.

Love this theme but don’t want to handle technical details like updates and security patches yourself? Try Managed WordPress. Easy.

A portfolio that sells

Whether you’re going for sleek and minimalist or audacious and daring, start with one of the best portfolio WordPress themes for best results. Whether you opt for a free theme or a paid one, follow our tips for a digital portfolio that sells.


Also published on Medium.