Best starter or base themes for Drupal 8 right now.

[NOTE: this article is over a year old, and is not current, we will be doing an update soon.]

If you're like me you probably didn't want to have to dig through every theme on D.O. looking for the best one for your Drupal 8 project. Unfortunately before today, I haven't found anything as up to date as this research.

For the purpose of this study we are only interested in base themes or starter themes. Themes that already contain their own visual design are actually less useful starting points, and therefor not a focus of this study.

TL;DR

My conclusion, the rise of responsive framework has led to the demise of the custom base theme model. Without using frameworks there's no way for a team of one or even a few maintainers to produce a theme of as high of quality as the projects that are using Bootstrap, Foundation and the more loosely coupled projects that use components like Neat, Bourbon, Bitters. Themes that rely on their own custom CSS and hardcoded CSS preprocessors inside the theme will likely turn out to be less maintainable as viable projects in the long run. For instance Zen, Omega and Fusion, all extremely popular long standing Drupal base themes are at time of this writing, are incomplete.

Other encouraging developments that will become more wide spread is less reliance on Ruby based CSS preprocessors, in favor of LibSass which is said to be up to 4000% more performant.

Scroll down or use the links in "Theme" column for even more in depth notes.

Theme Project page 8.x Historical Active installs Status
Zen https://www.drupal.org/project/zen 8.x-7.x-dev 125228 Not working*
Omega https://www.drupal.org/project/omega 8.x-5.x-dev 88399 Needs work*
Bootstrap https://www.drupal.org/project/bootstrap No official release 71532 Working, recommended*
Adaptivetheme https://www.drupal.org/project/adaptivetheme 8.x-1.x-dev 58441 Needs work*
Fusion https://www.drupal.org/project/fusion 8.x-1.x-dev 20,945 Needs work*
Tao https://www.drupal.org/project/tao 8.x-3.x-dev 19,668 Not working*
Basic https://www.drupal.org/project/basic 8.x-1.x-dev 6272 Working*
ZURB Foundation https://www.drupal.org/project/zurb_foundation 8.x-5.x-dev 3550 Working, recommended*
Forty Two https://www.drupal.org/project/fortytwo 8.x-1.4 133 Working*
Neato! https://www.drupal.org/project/neato 8.x-1.0-beta8 75 Working, recommended*
Beginning https://www.drupal.org/project/beginning 8.x-1.0-beta3 182 Working*
Xtheme https://www.drupal.org/project/xtheme 8.x-1.x-dev 135 Working*
Ombak https://www.drupal.org/project/ombak 8.x-1.x-dev 44 Needs work*
Mbase https://www.drupal.org/project/mbase 8.x-1.0-alpha1 12 Working, Recommended*

*my status notes

Not working: The theme gave a WSOD (white screen of death) or mostly didn't load.

Needs work: There was at least one error on the page when I loaded the theme.

Working: The theme loaded with no errors.

Working, recommended: The theme loaded with no errors and subjectively I would consider using it.

A recommendation doesn't necessarily mean it's ready for production, most of these themes are dev releases or at best beta, and most are in heavy development. But if your the type of person who is considering using the Drupal 8 beta to build stuff, then doing a little development to get everything is probably a given.

 

Zen

Status: Not working

Still in planning stages https://www.drupal.org/node/2052399. D8 Zen has had a branch pulled, but if you have a look at the code, it is still completely D7.

  • Project page: https://www.drupal.org/project/zen

  • Maintainer: https://www.drupal.org/u/johnalbin

  • Current version: 7.x-5.5

  • Last update: 2014-Apr-30

  • Active installs: 125,228

  • Core concepts/principles:

  • Preprocessors: Sass

  • Responsive: mobile first, responsive layout with a fluid grid system

  • Modular: Yes

  • Taskrunner: Gulp

  • Starting templates/layouts: Yes

  • Icon set: Glyphicons Halflings set

  • Extras/Add-ons: None bundled, but many third-party plug-ins are available.

  • Unique components: Zen Grids

  • Documentation: Good

  • Drush Support: Yes

  • Browser support: Firefox, Chrome, Safari, IE8

 

Omega

Status: Needs work

The Drupal 8 version of Omega Five has been 'stalled' momentarily while work on the Drupal 7 version is wrapped up and brought to a stable release. Now that Drupal 8 has a Beta release, the D8 version of Omega will be updated again soon, and new features added based on updates from the D7 version.

  • Project page: https://www.drupal.org/project/omega

  • Maintainer: https://www.drupal.org/u/himerus

  • Current version: 8.x-5.x-dev

  • Last update: 2014-Jun-25

  • Active installs: 91,227

  • Core concepts/principles: Omega is a base theme framework aimed at themers who want to gain full control over the theme through code, rather than a user interface

  • Preprocessors: Sass

  • Responsive: yes

  • Taskrunner: Omega has a phpsass complier built into the theme.

  • Starting templates/layouts: Yes

  • Icon set: Glyphicons Halflings set

  • Extras/Add-ons: None bundled, but many third-party plug-ins are available.

  • Unique components: ...

  • Documentation: Good

  • Drush support: Extensive

  • Browser support: Firefox, Chrome, Safari, IE8+ (you need Respond.js for IE8)

 

Bootstrap

Status: Working, recommended

“Bootstrap is the most popular HTML, CSS, and JavaScript framework for developing responsive, mobile first projects on the web.”

This is a development branch. The project page notes "Please note that this branch is probably severely broken. It is strongly recommended to wait before using this branch or even creating issues regarding it."

However I found that Bootstrap actually looks pretty good out of the box, I'm wondering why the maintainer hasn't actually published at least a dev release on D.O.? I imagine they are just too busy working hard on the theme:)

  • Project page: https://www.drupal.org/project/bootstrap

  • Maintainer: https://www.drupal.org/u/wundo

  • Current version: no published D8 release

  • Active installs:71,532

  • Core concepts/principles: Sleek, intuitive, and powerful mobile first front-end framework for faster and easier web development.

  • Preprocessors: Less and Sass

  • Responsive: Yes

  • Taskrunner: Grunt

  • Starting templates/layouts: Extensive

  • Icon set: Glyphicons

  • Extras/Add-ons: None bundled, but many third-party plug-ins are available.

  • Unique components: Jumbotron

  • Documentation: Extensive

  • Drush support: No

  • Browser support: Firefox, Chrome, Safari, IE8+ (you need Respond.js and html5shiv.js for IE8)

 

Foundation by ZURB

Status: Working, recommended

Zurb likes to call Foundation “The most advanced responsive front-end framework in the world”. I don't know about all that but I can say that this theme is well laid out. With some basic but solid theme settings

8.x-5.x: Is the currently in development and the least stable branch. They ask to "please hold off on filing bug issues". But i found that the theme installed at least initally was workable and likely ready for testing in the broader community.

  • Project page:https://www.drupal.org/project/zurb_foundation

  • Maintainer: https://www.drupal.org/u/ishmael-sanchez

  • Current version: 8.x-5.x-dev

  • Last update: 2015-Aug-03

  • Active installs: 3,550

  • Core concepts/principles: RWD, mobile first, semantic.

  • Framework size: 326 KB

  • Preprocessors: Sass

  • Responsive: Yes

  • Taskrunner: Node.js & Grunt.js

  • Starting templates/layouts: Yes, basic coverage

  • Icon set: Foundation Icon Fonts

  • Extras/Add-ons: Yes

  • Unique components: Icon Bar, Clearing Lightbox, Flex Video, Keystrokes, Joyride, Pricing Tables

  • Documentation: Good. Many additional resources are available.

  • Drush support: Yes, create sub-themes

  • Browser support: Chrome, Firefox, Safari, IE9+; iOS, Android, Windows Phone 7+

 

Adaptivetheme

Status: Needs work

I'm looking forward to what this theme has in store for us. Unfortunately the theme generator is currently throwing a WSOD.

Currently AT is in heavy development for D8 and is very close to a beta release - this is total rewrite and uses a radically redesigned layout system that allows very find grain control over the responsive design, responsive menus, drop menus, off canvas, slide menus and many other features. The theme also includes a theme generator, so no more fiddly copy/pasting code or command line magic to get started, just generate a new sub-theme.

  • Project page:https://www.drupal.org/project/adaptivetheme

  • Maintainer: https://www.drupal.org/u/jeff-burnz

  • Current version: 8.x-1.x-dev

  • Last update: 2015-Aug-16

  • Active installs: 58441

  • Core concepts/principles: Panels, Display Suite and Gpanels are fully supported with many options for displaying panel type layouts in mobile.

  • Preprocessors: Less and Sass

  • Responsive: Yes

  • Taskrunner: Grunt.js

  • Starting templates/layouts: Extensive

  • Icon set: None

  • Extras/Add-ons: None bundled, but many third-party plug-ins are available.

  • Unique components: ...

  • Documentation: Good

  • Drush support: In theory the theme generator eliminates the need for drush to create sub themes.

  • Browser support: Firefox, Chrome, Safari, IE8+ (you need Respond.js for IE8)

 

TAO

Status: Not working

For some reason the maintainer has pulled a dev branch for D8, looking at the code, it's actually a D7 theme.

Tao is a base theme for Drupal that is all about going with the flow. It is not meant for general-purpose use, but instead takes care of several tasks so that sub-themes can get on with their job.

  • Project page:https://www.drupal.org/project/tao

  • Maintainer: https://www.drupal.org/u/mahyarss

  • Current version: 8.x-3.x-dev

  • Last update: 2014-Jul-09

  • Active installs: 19,519

  • Core concepts/principles: Gets out of the way

  • Preprocessors: No

  • Responsive: possibly

  • Taskrunner: No

  • Starting templates/layouts: Just the basics

  • Icon set: None

  • Extras/Add-ons: ...

  • Unique components: ...

  • Documentation: Some in the readme.txt

  • Drush support: No

  • Browser support: ...

 

Basic

Status: Working

If you want to really stripped down lean theme to start with basic is going to be a good choice. Basic uses Bourbon, a comprehensive library of sass mixins that are designed to be simple and easy to use. No configuration required.

Basic 8.x version is currently in active development. Most of Basic's core functionality is available though we need help with converting all of our preprocess themes! Please help to test the theme and commit patches.

  • Project page:https://www.drupal.org/project/basic

  • Maintainer: https://www.drupal.org/u/stevek

  • Current version: 8.x-1.x-dev

  • Last update:2015-May-2

  • Active installs: 6,272

  • Core concepts/principles: HTML5, SASS, Responsive grid base theme.

  • Preprocessors: Sass ready with Bourbon mixin library, Grid Framework provided by Bourbon Neat

  • Responsive: Yes

  • Taskrunner: Grunt js

  • Starting templates/layouts: The basics

  • Icon set: None

  • Extras/Add-ons: None bundled, but many third-party plug-ins are available.

  • Unique components: ...

  • Documentation: README.txt

  • Drush Support: Yes

  • Browser support: Chrome 10, Firefox 29+, Internet Explorer 9+ (visual grid is IE 10 only), Internet Explorer 8 with selectivizr (no media() support), Opera 9.5+, Safari 5.1+

 

Fusion

Status: Needs work

Fusion is a quite popular base theme, and it appears allot of progress has been made, however there is no official release for Fusion for D8. And the current dev version is throwing a WSOD. Fusion has it's own custom styles. It's grid is based on a 12 or 16 column 960px, so it may be getting a little long in the tooth.

  • Project page:https://www.drupal.org/project/fusion

  • Maintainer: https://www.drupal.org/u/poieo

  • Current version: 8.x-1.x-dev

  • Last update: 2014-Oct-17

  • Active installs:20,945

  • Core concepts/principles:

  • Preprocessors: None

  • Responsive: Yes

  • Taskrunner: None

  • Starting templates/layouts: Yes, basic +

  • Icon set: none

  • Extras/Add-ons: Skinr, Fusion Accelerator, several completely skinned themes.

  • Unique components: ...

  • Documentation: Good https://www.drupal.org/node/629408

  • Drush Support: No

  • Browser support: Firefox, Chrome, Safari, IE8+ (you need Respond.js for IE8)

 

FortyTwo

Status: Working

FortyTwo looks promissing, minimal style included that would need to be replace. Decent theme settings included and Drush sub theming support, make this a quick one to get off the ground.

The road map has a Demo theme included as sub theme; and an Admin theme included as sub theme; I like the idea of having a matching admin theme, which gives a more unified feeling between front of the site and adminstratration. But that sounds like allot of work and much more to maintain so we shall see what happens with that.

  • Project page:https://www.drupal.org/project/fortytwo

  • Maintainer: https://www.drupal.org/u/fabianderijk

  • Current version: 8.x-1.4

  • Last update: 2015-Dec-01

  • Active installs: 133

  • Core concepts/principles: Clean starting point unsatisfied by other themes like Zen or Omega.

  • Preprocessors: Sass

  • Responsive: Yes

  • Taskrunner: Gulp

  • Starting templates/layouts: Extensive

  • Icon set: Glyphicons Halflings set

  • Extras/Add-ons: None bundled, but many third-party plug-ins are available.

  • Unique components:

  • Documentation: README.txt

  • Drush Support: Yes drush fortytwo [name] --machine_name=[machine_name !OPTIONAL] --description=[description !OPTIONAL]

  • Browser support: Firefox, Chrome, Safari, IE8+ (you need Respond.js for IE8)

 

Neato!

Status: Working, recommended

Neato! Was just released by one of the long time maintainers of the zurb foundation theme. this is definitely one to have a look at. No fancy theme settings just straight ahead theming with http://neat.bourbon.io

Neato is a theme based on the Neat grid system, incorporating Bourbon and Bitters to make grid theming with semantic markup easy and sensible.

Gulp and Bower are also included to assist in setting up for theme editing, and are required to pull in and manage assets. A Drush command and STARTER theme is included to get started right away.

Edit the starter theme, or cd to the theme directory and run “bower install”, then run drush ngt "your_custom_theme_name". More details in the readme.txt of course.

  • Project page:https://www.drupal.org/project/neato

  • Maintainer: https://www.drupal.org/u/kevinquillen

  • Current version: 8.x-1.0-beta8

  • Last update: 2015-Aug-17

  • Active installs: 87

  • Core concepts/principles: Neat grid system, incorporating Bourbon and Bitters to make grid theming

  • Preprocessors: Burbon based Sass theme

  • Responsive: Yes

  • Taskrunner: Gulp

  • Starting templates/layouts: Yes

  • Icon set: None

  • Extras/Add-ons: None bundled, but many third-party plug-ins are available.

  • Unique components: ...

  • Documentation: minimal docs for the Drupal theme, well documented framework http://neat.bourbon.io

  • Drush Support: Yes

  • Browser support: Chrome 10, Firefox 29+, Internet Explorer 9+ (visual grid is IE 10 only), Internet Explorer 8 with selectivizr (no media() support), Opera 9.5+, Safari 5.1+

 

Xtheme

Status: Working

If your interested in grunt taskrunner bourbon based theme, xtheme would be a good choice.

Templates are light, and Xtheme packages overridden template files. They are adapted versions found in Mothership https://drupal.org/project/mothership

Xtheme uses grunt, so you'll need to install grunt first http://gruntjs.com/getting-started.

Next inside the theme directory do: npm install, then: grunt sass or grunt watch.

  • Project page: https://www.drupal.org/project/xtheme

  • Maintainer: https://www.drupal.org/u/frankbaele

  • Current version: 8.x-1.x-dev

  • Last update: 2015-Apr-15

  • Active installs:135

  • Core concepts/principles:

  • Preprocessors: Less and Sass

  • Responsive:

  • Taskrunner: grunt

  • Starting templates/layouts: just the basics

  • Icon set: none

  • Extras/Add-ons: None bundled, but many third-party plug-ins are available.

  • Unique components: ...

  • Documentation: Fair

  • Drush Support: No

  • Browser support: Chrome 10, Firefox 29+, Internet Explorer 9+ (visual grid is IE 10 only), Internet Explorer 8 with selectivizr (no media() support), Opera 9.5+, Safari 5.1+

 

Ombak

Status: Needs work

Not much to say, i ran into an error on the initial load of the theme and had to stop there, This theme hasn't been updated in over a year. Ombak Theme by Node10 is a free responsive Drupal 8 theme based on Foundation Framework.

  • Project page: https://www.drupal.org/project/ombak

  • Maintainer: https://www.drupal.org/u/frankbaele

  • Current version: 8.x-1.x-dev

  • Last update: 2014-Aug-26

  • Active installs:44

  • Core concepts/principles: Based on Zurb Foundation

  • Preprocessors: SCSS

  • Responsive: Yes

  • Taskrunner: None

  • Starting templates/layouts: Yes

  • Icon set: Glyphicons Halflings set

  • Extras/Add-ons: ...

  • Unique components: ...

  • Documentation: just a README.txt

  • Drush Support: No

  • Browser support: Chrome 10, Firefox 29+, Internet Explorer 9+ (visual grid is IE 10 only), Internet Explorer 8 with selectivizr (no media() support), Opera 9.5+, Safari 5.1+

 

Beginning

Status: Working

If your looking for a simple theme without all the complexity this might be a good starting place.

The project page states "The Beginning theme has to be considered as a blank canvas. This theme is for designer artist. Designers can begin theme designing, web designing without worrying about theme structure, layout and responsiveness as per device width. This theme is for those design artists who want to simply focus on graphic elements, colours, and styling. Very easy to customize without learning any new stuff. Designer don't even need to be understand Bootstrap framework to customize this theme"

Grammer aside, the above statement sums it up pretty well. If i was going to recommend Drupal 8 to someone, who i knew didn't want to have to do any coding, and they wanted a theme that was very flexible, I might point them to Beginning.

  • Project page: https://www.drupal.org/project/beginning

  • Maintainer: https://www.drupal.org/u/itapplication

  • Current version: 8.x-1.0-beta3

  • Last update: 2015-Mar-18

  • Active installs:12

  • Core concepts/principles: Bootstrap Based, no coding

  • Preprocessors: None

  • Responsive: Yes

  • Taskrunner: none

  • Starting templates/layouts: Just the basics

  • Icon set: None

  • Extras/Add-ons: ...

  • Unique components: none

  • Documentation: Documents coming soon.

  • Drush Support: No

  • Browser support: Cross-browser compatible : works in Firefox, IE (>9), Opera, Google Chrome, Safari etc.)

 

Mbase

Status: Working, Recommended

Because It has extensive theme settings and has a quite simple external layout generator, and with essentially templates already created for nearly every possible output, Mbase probably a good choice for designer types who would rather not have to do any coding.

Mbase is a modern base theme for Drupal 8. Developed to make themers life easier. Themers can create quick layout, child themes are easily color-able, animate-able, iconize-able. Mbase is Bootstrap based theme, with lots of Drupal goodies already finished for you.

Create child theme in minutes using CMSbots external drag and drop tool http://cmsbots.com/drupal-8-theme-generator. Add quick and complex animation, without coding, color-able with color module. Bootstrap based, Icons and more.

The one caveat is the external layout tool is still in beta, so there is a waiting period to get the themes you design.

  • Project page: https://www.drupal.org/project/mbase

  • Maintainer: https://www.drupal.org/u/quardz

  • Current version: 8.x-1.0-alpha1

  • Last update: 2015-Jul-24

  • Active installs:12

  • Core concepts/principles: A great choice for the non coding tinker.

  • Preprocessors: None

  • Responsive: Yes

  • Taskrunner: None

  • Starting templates/layouts: Extremely extensive

  • Icon set: Glyphicons Halflings set

  • Extras/Add-ons: None bundled, but many third-party plug-ins are available.

  • Unique components: ...

  • Documentation: Documents coming soon.

  • Drush Support: No

  • Browser support: Firefox, Chrome, Safari, IE8+ (you need Respond.js and html5shiv.js for IE8)