The open source model has, over the last 20 years, proven that collaborative development is one of the best ways to incorporate the newest ideas and latest concepts into design.
In fact, the open source model, which began with programmers, has been so successful that it is currently being applied in government, media, education and private business. But despite these new applications, the unique combination of the open source model with the universalism of web design remains one of the ideal applications of open source. This pervasiveness of the open source spirit in web design now means that you can use open source software to design both graphics and your CSS and HTML, and you can also use the dozens of reliable open source code resources or thousands of templates to base your own designs on. In this article we highlight 100 open source web design tools, resources, and templates.
The Best Directories of Free Open Source Design Templates
There are tons of free design template directories on the net, but sorting through all of them can be a very tedious process. Instead, we suggest that you start with these four, which we consider to be the best free open source design template directories online.
- OSWD: Over 2,000 of the best freebie web design templates. Also allows for search capability by color, contrast, validation, and other categories.
- OpenWebDesign:A large and active community of individuals who share free web design templates. Includes regular design contests and a sub-category of most popular designs to speed up your search.
- Open Designs: Headed by a non-profit board, the open design community has almost 600 designs which have been vetted and moderated by the community’s volunteer board. Also includes a relatively active forum where designers can share tips and resources.
- CSS Tinderbox: CSS Tinderbox prevents you from having to “reinvent the wheel” by providing very basic, yet solid, CSS/XHTML design templates from which you can build off of.
Open Source Web Design Programs
Why pay for software if you can find it free? Usually, the answer is that the free stuff just plain isn’t any good. You won’t find that to be the case with the open source web design software programs in this section, however, which are all the best of the best.
- Nvu: An open-source web authoring system to rival FrontPage and Dreamweaver. (Linux, Windows, and Mac)
- Cssed: A CSS editor featuring auto completion, syntax highlighting and validation. (C, C++) (Linux)
- Quanta Plus: A top-notch HTML editor and web development for the K Desktop Environment.
- Bluefish: An HTML editor for programmers written using GTK, designed to save the experienced webmaster some keystrokes. (C) (GNU/Linux, Unix)
- GIMPShop: The open source replacement for Photoshop. (Mac, Linux, and Windows)
- Inkscape: The vector graphics application which may spell the end for Adobe Illustrator.
Complete Design Templates
If you want to get off the ground with your website quickly, then you may want a complete template that requires minimal tweaking. In this section we highlight some of the best complete template resources on the web. These templates include not only the CSS, but also the (X)HTML and in some cases the graphic files to get your site up as fast as possible.
- TemplateNavigator: The largest catalogue of free website and flash templates, along with quality preview shots.
- TemplateBox: Over 300 freebie website, logo, banner, and flash templates to complement their collection of paid offerings.
- Template Monster: A small but very high-quality set of web, flash, and blog templates.
- Art for the Web: 75 freebie templates. Pretty good place to look if you’re looking for something slightly out of the ordinary.
- Free CSS Templates: A 206 template strong resource which is frequently updated with new submissions.
- Effex-Media: Free website templates designed by designers, this massive list is categorized by website type and includes user reviews of many of the templates.
- DotcomWebDesign: Hundreds of free templates, some of which are really top-notch. However, the categorization is a little arbitrary so be ready to spend some time manually searching.
- Themebot Design Templates: This site has some design templates, but not very many. There is a good amount of free themes.
- Groovy Lizard: Personal page templates (commercial use must buy a license)
- Interspire: Freebie web, Frontpage and Dreamweaver templates
- Joyful Heart Designs: Personal page templates generally with floral designs.
- OpenSourceTemplates: Free CSS and xhtml open source website templates and Web 2.0 designs.
- Ricky’s Web Templates: 50+ freebie templates, graphics, and buttons.
- Free CSS Templates: A dozen full-featured fully functional CSS based templates.
- FreekTemplates.com: A collection of business, cars and bikes, and hosting templates.
- Template Perfection: 200+ freebie templates with quite a few non-english oriented templates.
- TemplateWorkz: 48 freebie web templates, along with some basic logo and newsletter templates.
- Zymic: 80 freebie templates (HTML Pages + CSS + Images + PSD Files + Blank Images Files).
- OpenSourceTemplates: A community-driven CSS and xhtml open source template design showcase.
- Freelayouts: HTML and Flash templates.
- FreeCSSTemplates.org: Over 100 freebie CSS templates.
- Free Layouts: Complete list of hundreds of HTML, flash, and CSS templates.
- Free Templates Online: Dozens of easily customizable templates categorized by theme.
- Free Website Templates: A large collection of templates that don’t require a reciprocal link.
- Six-Shooter Media: Free CSS and xhtml open source templates.
- Free Flash Template: Web templates and intros with tons of special features.
- Layouts4Free.com: Free web layouts with search capability.
- Solucija: Free XHTML / CSS website templates already setup and sorted by commercial use.
- MasterTemplates: Professionally designed free website layouts along with PowerPoint templates.
- TemplateWorld: Free, tableless, W3C-compliant web design layouts designed by Template World designers.
- Painted Pixels: Free web page templates, buttons, and background tiles for non-commercial use.
- CSSFill: A selection of CSS / XHTML based layouts and templates by Michael Strand.
- ThemesBase: Templates organized by popular content management, blogging and forum systems.
- Arcsin Design Templates: 22 Freebie XTML and CSS Templates
- Snakeye Web Templates: 20 templates with a focus on Dreamweaver and Fireworks.
- Steve’s Templates: Dozens of templates, free with link back.
- GordonMac.com: Free CSS templates along with some freebie PHP scripts.
- Web Design Helper: Full page templates including the graphics and code.
- Webmaster Resources: 25 free web templates.
If you’re looking for the freedom to create something entirely original but just want some of the basic layout taken care of, this section is for you. The templates below are pure CSS, leaving you a clean slate from which you can add the design, graphics, and text as you see fit.
- Layout Gala: 40 CSS tri-color layouts to help you pick a format.
- AndreasVilkund.com: Free Templates by designer Andreas Viklund.
- CSS Template Directory: A collection of CSS formatted page templates, developed and distributed by different designers.
- BenMeadowcroft.com: Top-notch templates by Ben Meadowcroft, mixed in with a few spoof pages and experimentation.
- Mollio: A set of basic CSS templates that that also have some sample basic content to speed things along.
- Real World Style: CSS layouts organized by format type.
- Little Boxes: CSS template arrangements with quickly accessible code.
- The Layout Reservoir: Simple, straightforward, and manipulable 2 and 3 column layouts.
- Protagonist Web Resources: A list of 43 tableless layouts to go along with the other protagonist resources.
- Glish: CSS Layout Techniques by Eric Costello which have been stripped down to the bare essentials.
- FU2K: CSS layouts designed for Netscape 4 compatibility.
- Position is Everything: Tableless design resource with CSS bug workarounds.
- ThreeColumnLayouts: The ultimate 3 column layout resource list.
- ssi-developer: Two column CSS template samples with recommendations.
- MIS Web Design: Fancy Paragraphs with CSS.
- Ruthsarian Layouts: Freebie-CSS layouts ranging from basic to complex arrangements.
- A List Apart: CSS: Practical CSS Layout Tips, Tricks and Techniques
- Code-Sucks.com: Creating 1, 2, 3, and 4 column layouts.
- Particle Tree: Dynamic resolution dependent layouts.
- Project Seven: Fluid CSS Layouts
- MyCelly: A collection of 16 basic layout templates.
- Ideas: 12 free CSS templates.
- CSS Library: Dynamic drive’s tableless CSS layouts.
- IntensiveStation: A collection of all new basic CSS templates.
- IronMyers: A collection of layouts with full Grade-A browser support for IE6, IE7, Firefox, Opera, Safari, and more.
- The CSS Playground: Cutting edge CSS demos by Stu Nicholls’
- WordPress Theme Viewer: Collection of searchable themes organized by columns, colors, rounded corners, and other categories.
- Fluid 2-Column Template: A fully usable “fluid” template, meaning that the design expands and contracts with the window size.
- Avinash 2.0: 12 Free CSS Templates
Automated CSS Tools and Generators
This set of resources isn’t for those that want to create something entirely unique. But if you aren’t a strong coder and just want to get the job done, these automated CSS code tools will let you create CSS at the push of a button.
- CSS Creator: Select the form colors, number of columns, html version, and press a button. Presto, a CSS template for your page.
- Inknoise: The layout-o-matic: fill out the form and out pops your CSS.
- Strange Banana: Simply refresh the template generator until you get the style you like, then save the page which has your CSS embedded in the header.
- Nidahas: A CSS-based form template.
- Maketemplate: A PHP – HTML – CSS template generator for two column layouts.
- IBDjohn: CSS template generator for three column layouts.
- CSS Creator: Easy to use CSS layout generator with options for fluid or fixed width floated column layout.
- PsycHo: Your own psychogenesis, your own template.
- Firdamatic: Tableless 2 or 3 column layout generator.
- WordPress Theme Generator: Online generator creates custom unique WordPress themes.
Blog Themes and Templates
Designing blogs has become so popular as a subset of web design that we thought they deserved their own separate section. In this section, we highlight some of the best open source weblog template sources.
- SmashingMagazine: 83 Beautiful WordPress Themes You (Probably) Haven’t Seen
- Kaushal Sheth: Elegant WordPress themes.
- ErraticWisdom: Textpattern templates
- Scribez: 10 Best WordPress Templates.
- pinkdesign: Free diary / blog templates
- Textgarden.org: The official site for themes designed for Textpattern.
- Blogger Templates: A collection of Blogger templates on a wide variety of themes.
- Blogfashions: A collection of free Movable Type compatible blog templates.
- FinalSense: High-quality templates for Blogger.
- WP Themes: WordPress themes all designed by Sadish Bala.
- Drupal Theme Garden: Showcase of themes available for Drupal 4.7x and Drupal 5.x.
- Weblog Design: A small number of high-quality weblog templates.