Ghost is one of the most popular open-source content management systems and has been adapted by many bloggers, businesses, and content creators in the last couple of years. Compared to other systems out there – looking at you, Wordpress – its admin dashboard is simple and intuitive. The biggest problem with Ghost, however, is the fact that there aren't as many themes available as with other content management systems. Given the smaller market, this really shows when you look for free Ghost themes, which are less lucrative for theme developers.
So, let's have a look and see what free themes are currently out there and where you can get them.
Key Features To Look For in a Free Ghost Theme
When you choose a free Ghost theme, there are a few key features I would look out for. Ghost CMS has been around for about a decade now and many of its capabilities evolved over time. If you want to use the most recent features, have a look out for these:
Since Ghost 3.0, the Ghost team has slowly rolled out memberships, newsletters, and paid subscriptions. By now, this is one of the key elements of Ghost and drastically sets it apart from its competitors.
With a theme that supports memberships, has native sign up forms included, and can display custom tiers for paid subscriptions, you are all set to take your blog to the next level.
Speed & Performance
Ghost is fast – incredibly fast, to be precise. Yet, the actual performance of your website heavily depends on your theme. If the theme developers load lots of external libraries, big image files, or videos, your website will ultimately be slow – even though you use a powerhorse like Ghost.
But testing a theme's speed isn't that simple, since this can also depend on your own internet connection, location, and potentially even browser plugins. If you want to get an objective understanding, head over to pagespeed.web.dev and put the URL of the theme's demo site in there. I'd say, anything above a score of 85 can be considered good. Below that, you might need to adapt a few things yourself to speed it up. Anything below a score of 50 shows that the theme hasn't been optimised properly. Responsiveness
It should be a given by now, but unfortunately, there are still a few Ghost themes out there that aren't really optimised for smaller screens – they are not "responsive". If you're planning on optimising your Ghost blog for search engines, make sure your free Ghost theme adapts to different screen sizes, since this is one of Google's key ranking factors.
As a general rule of thumb, a theme's mobile navigation should be intuitive and the content should be displayed in an easy-to-read format. If you can't find a mobile menu, that's a sign that the theme isn't optimised for mobile devices.
Check if the theme you are considering offers custom settings. Ghost isn't a visual website builder, but theme developers can include up to 20 customisation options. This gives you control of how your Ghost CMS website will look
See if you can find any information on what custom settings the theme has and how they affect the style of your website.
Finally, the theme needs to be visually appealing for you and reflect the tone and style of your publication. There is no point in making sure all the points above are met, if you end up with a free Ghost theme that just doesn't look and feel nice to you.
So, choose a theme that you like 😉
Popular Free Ghost Themes
So, let's jump in and have a look at some of the best free Ghost themes out there. These themes have been carefuly selected based on the criteria laid out above. If you feel like a theme is missing let us know!
Official Ghost Themes
Since most free Ghost themes are published by the Ghost Foundation themselves, let's have a look at some of our favourites from their collection first. All of these themes can be installed directly from within Ghost. All you need to do is go to Settings, then look for "Design & Branding" and choose the theme you want to use.
Source is the newest official Ghost theme and one of our all-time favourites. The Ghost team has really done an amazing job at crafting this masterpiece. Style-wise it's clear that the idea was to create a classic blog layout – and we love it.
If you want to have a look yourself and download the theme, have a look here: https://ghost.org/themes/source/
Thinking about running a podcast? Well, the Episode theme has got your back! It's probably one of the easiest ways to launch a website for your podcast. It also supports memberships, so how about creating a paid subscription for behind-the-scenes?
Have a look and try the theme yourself: https://ghost.org/themes/episode/
Bulletin is an awesome minimal newsletter theme – and a bit less traditional than the usual "form-on-top-and-content-underneath" designs we see nowadays. Side note: when my wife launched her newsletter on Magic Pages, we initially used the Bulletin theme to get everything online within an hour or so. She has since changed the theme, but Bulletin worked brilliantly for her.
Here's the link to see it in action: https://ghost.org/themes/bulletin/
Here are some free Ghost themes created by third-party theme developers. To install these, you usually need to download a zip-archive that you can then upload within your Ghost design settings. Look out for further instructions directly from the theme developers.
Verdin is a free theme for personal blogs, published by Iris Themes. We love the clear lines and the contrast in the theme. The best part: it even has support for membership tiers. That's something we usually don't see in free themes.
You can have a look at the theme and download options here: https://iristhemes.com/themes/verdin/
Liebling is another popular free Ghost theme. It was created by Eduardo Gomez and can be used for setting up a personal or corporate blog. For a free theme, it is extremely versatile and supports all the latest features of Ghost.
We love the Attila theme because of its focus on content. No fuzz – just content. If you're looking to set up a minimalist blog with Ghost, Attila is a great choice, in our opinion. The only downside, in our eyes, is the fact that it doesn't support memberships – you can, however, still add signup forms in the posts and pages you create within Ghost.
Bonus: Free – But Magic Pages Exclusive Themes
Now, we also want to introduce you to the three themes we have developed for our customers here at Magic Pages. Admittedly, they are only available if you're hosting your Ghost CMS website on Magic Pages, but then they are completely free.
If you're already a Magic Pages customers, simply go to your Design & Branding settings in Ghost and you will find these three themes there, alongside all official Ghost themes.
The Vienna theme is a classic magazine or blog layout with lots of contrast and options for imagery. It also connects to Ghost's memberships and lets you start a subscription business with just a few clicks.
Here's a demo, so you can experience the theme yourself.
For all those who want to start a newsletter on Magic Pages, we have created the Berlin theme. It is focussed on showing your latest issues, as well as converting visitors into subscribers. Natively, the newsletter functionality integrates with Ghost, of course, however, one of our customers, Christine Trac, has also hired us to adapt the theme to integrate her existing ConvertKit account.
Here is the demo for the Berlin theme.
Last, but not least, we released the Kyiv theme for all service providers, freelancers, and coaches that are using Magic Pages to host their Ghost websites. Some of them have told us that there aren't any Ghost themes that aren't focussed on content publication and well – they were right. So, with the Kyiv theme, we want to give them an opportunity to showcase their services.
Have a look at the Kyiv theme here.
In conclusion, there are a lot of different free Ghost themes out there. We hope this overview of themes will help you find the perfect one for your project!