20 Horizontal WordPress themes for photography, art, and design portfolios in 2018

Horizontal WordPress themes are a niche category in the WordPress theme market. That being said, the sideways form factor has a lot to offer in terms of user experience – particularly when it comes to visual content. The horizontal layout works well on swipe-screen devices such as smartphones or tablets.

Intrigued by this unusual form, I decided to curate a list of 20 free and premium horizontal WordPress themes to showcase some of the potential this form has to offer. What many of the entries in this list have in common is the ability to immerse the visitor in the content. So it will come as no surprise that the majority of these themes are geared towards photographers or graphic artists.

Another common feature among these themes is the simplicity of design. Horizontal themes tend not to work well with large scale content sites. They are at their best when showcasing a collection of photos.

This list is by no means exhaustive and I will add more to it as I discover new themes. I would particularly like to add more free themes to even out the balance. So if you know of any horizontal WordPress themes that are not on my list, feel free to let me know in the comment section below and I’ll add your suggestion.

Free Themes

1. Exposito Theme

Exposito free WordPress theme

The Exposito theme, as its name suggests, is geared towards photography or artwork-based portfolio websites. The theme tries to emulate the experience of a white cube gallery with its ultra minimal design and ample use of white space. The theme is responsive and looks good across a range of form factors, small to large. What I like most about this theme is its simplicity.


2. Screen Theme

The Screen theme is a free horizontal sliding WordPress portfolio theme. The theme’s front page features a full-screen image carousel which creates a strong visual impact for first time visitors to your site. The portfolio template is grid based and the blog template is a single vertical stream of posts. This is a welcome addition to the free WordPress theme list.


3. Scroll Me Theme

Scroll Me is a free horizontal WordPress business theme. It is one of the only single-page portfolio themes with sideways sliding action that I have seen. This is the free version of a paid theme. The free version comes with 7 different sections, including a “Home” section with image carousel; an “About Us” and “Services” sections which allow you to give relevant info on your company’s activities; a “Project” section showcasing recent work; a “Client” section for testimonials; and a blog section for news items. All in all, this is a very well made theme and one of the most advanced horizontal themes I’ve seen.


4. Portra Theme

This may be an old theme (launched in 2014), but it has stood the test of time thanks to a solid code base and a simple and elegant design. The theme is responsive and would be suitable for a solo visual artist looking to promote their work. The horizontal sliding home page works particularly well on mobile and tablet devices.


5. Boardwalk Theme

Developed by Automattic, the people behind WordPress, Boardwalk is a responsive horizontal sliding theme suitable for bloggers. The horizontal aspect of the theme is limited to the homepage. All single posts have vertical layouts. This is an easy to use, minimal approach to the sideways idea.


6. Sider Theme

Sider is a photo-oriented horizontal scrolling portfolio theme. Right off the bat, I love the way content is framed in “polaroid” style, giving each image on the front page a space and look of its own. This theme is really focused on its presentation of images and I could see this working well for artists and designers. The theme supports the Google font library which means you can select from over 40 different font faces and change the look and readability of the theme. Another neat feature is the gallery template, which allows you to present multiple images in a single post. The layout of images and text blends well together. Finally, I also appreciated the double layer of navigation for laptop or desktop computer users.


Premium Themes

7. COLr Theme

The COLr theme is an ultra minimal horizontal sliding WordPress theme dedicated to photography. The theme can support text alongside the images, but works best with photos only. It comes with several variations such as white and black versions. You can also run a single page slide show or set up a simple gallery. A vertical page template is also included and the theme is fully responsive. This is definitely a contender if you’re looking to set up a photography portfolio.


8. Horizon Theme

Horizon is a portfolio theme designed for photographers and artists who want a simple but visually effective way of showcasing their work. The theme also has several interesting custom templates such as “services” and “testimonial” pages . You can also run a blog with this theme and choose from classic and masonry style post layouts. The theme developer has tried to keep functions as simple as possible thanks to a “1-click demo install” to help you learn how to use the theme. The theme also comes with adequate documentation and support. This is a simple yet sophisticated theme that does a great job of organizing and showcasing image-based work.


9. Core Theme

A lot of work has gone into making the user navigation experience slick and intuitive in the Core Theme. It’s a joy to use on tablets, more so than with a mouse on a desktop. Core not only makes photos stand out but its feature set, which includes a range of layouts, a contact form a blog section and a gallery page, makes it a viable option for a more content heavy site. It is also one of ThemeForest’s best selling themes.


10. Stuff Theme

Stuff is a horizontal scrolling tumblelog style theme. It supports text, photo, video and audio and it comes with 12 different color schemes. One of the main features of this theme is the unlimited Facebook-like content loading function, which provides your visitor with a clear stream of content. Unfortunately, the theme is not responsive, so you may want to think twice before buying it.


11. Magpie Theme

Magpie is a beautifully crafted, responsive and horizontal scrolling theme. One of its key features is the ability to add custom background images to blog posts and pages. The post content sits on top of the image over an opaque overlay. You can navigate from one post to the next via clearly defined scrolling arrows, which maintain the sideways momentum of the theme. The theme comes with 6 different colour schemes and a range of built-in templates including a blog, an archives page, a contact page and more.


12. Diablo Theme

The Diablo Theme uses a horizontal sliding masonry grid to great effect. It allows you to play with the way post entry thumbnail images appear, either using a rollover effect or displaying the post title and metadata directly. Single posts are also well laid out and easy to read in vertical style. The added left-right navigation buttons on single posts makes it simple to cycle through site content. The theme comes with several core colour schemes including light and dark variants and the blog has a range of different template styles from horizontal to metro style.


13. Camilla Theme

Camilla was designed with photographers, graphic designers and anyone who works with images in mind. The theme offers 3 different colour schemes (light, dark and red), a portfolio section, a bespoke resume template, a blog section and contact form. A lot of work has gone into the user experience of this theme. For example, new visitors are met with a small popup explanation of how to scroll and use the theme. Transitions between sections are smooth and easy to navigate. The portfolio, about, and blog pages work vertically to give users extra space to play with. All in all, this is a very professional looking theme with a solid feature set and good usability.


14. Fluxus Theme

Fluxus is a minimalist portfolio theme with vertical and horizontal layout options. The homepage presents visitors with an immersive fullscreen image slider. If you jump to the portfolio template, which is the core part of this theme, you can choose between a horizontal layout or a typical vertical grid layout. You have the best of both worlds in that sense. The blog template is also horizontal scrolling and the image sizes and layout are smaller than the portfolio template. This is key to differentiating between different types of site content. You can also choose between “light” and “dark” versions of the theme and the design is responsive and works well on all form factors.


15. Talent Theme

The Talent theme is aimed at photographers, though it could just as well be used by designers and artists or anyone looking to showcase visual material. What I like most about the theme is its atmosphere; from the home page slider to the portfolio carousel, the theme’s dark background helps give the photos a dramatic feel.


16. Regolith Theme

The Regolith theme is a business oriented portfolio theme. The demo content is setup as a real estate or travel agency type business. The front page layout brings the theme’s main elements together into a series of windows including an intro message, about sections, portfolio and blog entries. Single pages work in vertical fashion and are set against a grey background with a strong corporate visual motif. This theme would be a great option for a company website.


17. Side Folio Theme

I hesitated to add this theme to the list, since only the front page slider is horizontal scrolling, but since it’s such a dominant part of the theme’s overall design, it seemed worthy of a mention. Side Folio shows off your portfolio entries in its elegant front page slider, which serves as a springboard into the theme’s main content sections. The theme is clean and airy, perhaps with a little too much whitespace at times, particularly on the vertical scrolling pages between the main content and sidebar areas. That being said, I think the theme is simple to use and easy to navigate and is worth a look.


18. Photo Swipe Theme

The Photo Swipe Theme is designed around a sideways sliding image carousel. The carousel appears on both the front page and portfolio pages. The theme’s blog template is vertical. This is a bear bones, minimal theme that would suite a single artist portfolio. Each item in the carousel links to a vertical WordPress post. The theme is responsive and easy to set up.


19. Mantra Theme

The Photo Swipe Theme is designed around a sideways sliding image carousel. The carousel appears on both the front page and portfolio pages. The theme’s blog template is vertical. This is a bear bones, minimal theme that would suite a single artist portfolio. Each item in the carousel links to a vertical WordPress post. The theme is responsive and easy to set up.


20. Curator Theme

Curator is one of my favorite themes on this list. The designer has taken the basic horizontal scrolling template model and transformed it into a mock museum timeline that allows you to group content in chronological order. I particularly appreciate the professional feel and color palette used with this design. The theme’s key features include: full color control of text, background and accent colors; responsive layout; WordPress custom background support; control of the timeline by year, decade, century or millennium; a parallax background effect; widgets and custom logo support. All in all, this is a brilliant piece of WordPress coding.


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About the Author: Will Ellington

Originally from the UK, I currently live in Osaka, Japan, where I work in higher education. I’ve been a WordPress user since 2004 and have developed numerous projects with it over the years. Wpliving is a place to share things i've learnt along the way, and to explore innovations in WordPress too.

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