Shopify Themes: Choosing a Free vs. Paid Theme

Shopify Themes: Choosing a Free vs. Paid Theme

Choosing a theme for your Shopify store can be a big decision as it lays the foundation for your eCommerce site's look, feel, and functionality. Both free and paid themes have their own unique set of pros and cons, and there are several factors to consider when making your decision. 

With so many available themes, picking the right one for you can feel overwhelming. Our Shopify free vs. paid themes guide is here to help you make this decision. Learn the differences between free and paid themes, and gain insight on selecting the perfect theme for your online store.

What is a Shopify theme?

A Shopify theme is a pre-designed template that controls the appearance and layout of your online store. A theme is the look and feel of your website — the colors, fonts, layout, and features. It is the foundation for your online store's look and feel and can be tailored to match your brand and target audience. 

Factors to consider when choosing a Shopify theme for your online store

Choosing the right Shopify theme is an essential part of setting up an eCommerce store. A theme determines how your online store looks, feels, and functions, as well as its performance, design, features, customization, and ease of use. With so many options available, selecting a theme for your store can be confusing, but here are a few essential factors to consider.

  • Performance: A website's speed is crucial in user experience and search engine optimization. A slow website may result in poor user engagement and lower search engine rankings. 
  • Design: A well-designed website is critical in eCommerce. A user-friendly and aesthetically pleasing website will attract and retain visitors, build trust, and ultimately lead to more sales. Select a theme that helps your online store stand out, is mobile-friendly, and adheres to current accessibility standards.
  • Features: The features offered by your theme will dictate the level of control you have over the user experience of your store. It is important to select a theme with features that best fit your store's needs; for example, an extensive product catalog will require powerful search and filtering options and a mega menu.
  • Customization: Look for a theme with various customization options to make it your own. You’ll want to be able to adjust the theme to meet your shop's needs efficiently.
  • Support: A reliable support system for your theme is essential for maintaining a successful store and decreasing disruptions. Access to quality documentation and direct help from the theme provider is a must-have.
  • Reviews: Reviews can be a great source of information when looking for a new theme. Pay attention to the quality and speed of support, the performance of the theme, and how often it is updated. Looking at reviews from actual Shopify store owners can give you an idea of what it is like to use a particular theme in a real-world setting. You can find reviews directly on the theme listing page or external sources like Heycarson.
  • Price: The cost of a theme can vary. Depending on your budget and requirements, a free theme may be the best choice, or you may opt for a paid one. Take into account that you may incur additional expenses to install extra apps or hire a designer/developer for extra customization.
  • Where the theme is sold: It's important to consider where you purchase your theme. The Shopify Theme Store is a reliable source for quality themes as the themes are vetted and have solid requirements for features and performance. Additionally, you won't have to worry about licensing issues with themes from the Shopify Theme Store. On the other hand, there are many fake and low-quality themes on other marketplaces, such as Themeforest, so it's important to be careful when purchasing from these sources.

What’s the difference between a free and paid Shopify theme?

Two types of Shopify themes are available: free and paid.

Both are great options; the main difference between a free and a paid Shopify theme is the features and design customization options. Paid themes typically include more features, functionality, and design customization options that allow you to create a unique store. On the other hand, free themes are often more limited in features and design options and lack the same level of customization. 

Comparing paid Shopify themes to free themes

When starting an online store, you must decide whether to use a free or paid Shopify theme. A free theme might suffice initially, but we’ve found that many store owners find their site incomplete without a paid version. Here's a comparison of the pros and cons of free versus paid themes to help you make an informed decision.


No upfront cost

Free themes do not require any upfront cost aside from your monthly Shopify subscription. 

While free themes are a great place to start, you may need to invest in additional apps or hire a designer/developer to customize them. Investing in a paid theme can save you time and money in the long run as it can provide you with the extra features you need without additional add-ons.

Upfront cost

The themes sold on the Shopify Theme store range from $180 to $350 (one-time payment). It is important to note that themes purchased on other marketplaces do not meet the same high standards of quality and review that Shopify-approved themes do.


Simple design and layout 

Limited customization options. While you can customize free themes to some degree, the range of changes is limited, and your brand won’t stand out as much.

Extensive customization options

Easily brandable, more granular customization options allow you to create the perfect look and feel for your store. Examples include adding animations, enabling product details to appear when hovered over, and altering the spacing between characters.


Standard features

Merchants can find themselves quickly limited by the basic must-have features offered in free themes. While installing apps can help with adding extra customization to your theme, this often slows down page loading speeds.

Typically free themes are slow to receive meaningful feature updates.

Advanced built-in features

Paid themes tend to be more powerful, allowing for greater control over the user experience and eliminating the need for external apps. These themes may offer advanced filtering options, mega-menus, countdown banners, etc.

Top theme developers often provide regular updates and releases to ensure your theme remains the most up-to-date with the latest eCommerce best practices (at no extra cost).


Great performance

Built to prioritize fast page load time, user interface, and mobile usability, but the addition of third-party apps for extra customization may slow down the site's performance.

Great performance

Same as the free themes but better optimized for larger loads. We recommend testing the page loading speed for each theme, as the speed may vary from theme to theme.


Basic technical support 

Offer direct theme support and documentation.

Advanced technical support 

A higher level of customer service (included in the price of the theme). Read the theme reviews before buying, as the quality of customer service the theme developer agency provides can vary.


This comparison table only looks at paid themes sold on Shopify's Theme Store. Themes purchased from external sources are not subject to Shopify's review process, and their quality may not be as reliable. These external sources may offer cheaper options, but it is important to remember that the adage, "you get what you pay for," still applies.

Who should choose a free Shopify theme? 

Free themes are ideal for those new to Shopify with a limited budget and searching for a user-friendly theme to set up their store quickly. These themes serve as a great foundation to help you understand the basics and help you formulate what features your business will need.

Free themes may be right if you have a small product range/inventory and simple eCommerce requirements. 

As your brand grows, it may require you to add many paid apps to keep up with the demands of your audience or eventually upgrade your theme.

Who should choose a paid Shopify theme?

Paid themes are an excellent option for novice and experienced business owners. Even if they come with plenty of features and customization options, they are still simple to set up. Plus, they come with comprehensive support documentation and great customer service.

Their extensive range of features and customizable designs make them an ideal option for merchants seeking to upgrade and those with larger product inventories.

Unlike free themes, paid themes include many features, so you don't have to pay for apps like countdown banners or filtering and sorting tools. If your store has big eCommerce feature requirements and wants to avoid technical debt (slowing down your site with apps) and additional costs, a paid theme could be your new best friend. 

Why should you choose a paid or free Shopify theme?

Depending on your needs and budget, it's essential to weigh the pros and cons of each type of theme and decide which one is best for your store. The most common free themes offer more basic layout, sections and customization options. They usually don't include additional features like advanced image croppings, promotional banners, countdown timer etc.

A paid theme, on the other hand, usually comes with more customization options and features, making it a better choice for those seeking a more advanced online store. 

Getting a paid Shopify theme can seem expensive, especially to those new to the world of eCommerce. The cost of these themes typically range from $200 - $350, which can be a hefty amount to invest in. However, after speaking to many merchants, most recommended investing the one-time cost upfront for the paid theme rather than using a free theme and going through the hassle of purchasing and integrating apps to customize it. They found that this way ended up costly due to recurring app subscriptions fees and time-consuming due to the technicalities of integrating them to the theme. Before settling on a theme for your ecommerce store, make a list of your needs and desired features. Then, select a theme that best meets those requirements.

Going forward, picking up the best paid Shopify theme.

When it comes to deciding on the right design for your ecommerce business, the choices can be overwhelming. Should you invest in a paid theme or free theme? Here at Archetype Themes, we have the perfect themes for you!

Our Shopify Best Selling themes are fast-loading, modern, and feature powerful features, making them an ideal choice for merchants of any size. Whether you are just starting out or are an experienced business owner, Archetype Themes will help you create an attractive ecommerce store.