The Complete Guide to Shopify Themes

This page is under construction. Expect to see much more useful information shortly!

Which theme should I get? 

It's a question I get asked a lot. The answer is that it depends on a variety of factors - your industry, how many products, how much text, your product photography, not to mention the actual design aesthetic.

The goal of this page is to help you make a better choice, on your own. I want to you to be aware of the differences between themes, so that you know what to look for.

Skip ahead if you just want a list of my recommended themes.

Must-know basics about Shopify Themes

Shopify Themes work differently from Wordpress, Squarespace, or other CMS's and platforms. Here are some things you must know.

1. Look for Shopify 2.0 Themes, don’t buy outdated themes

Shopify released a huge update in 2021, called Shopify 2.0. Themes that are made for the new Shopify 2.0 architecture are marketed as such. On the official theme store they will have a special green badge saying “OS 2.0”.

But it’s still possible to find themes that are for the old Shopify theme structure. Do not make the mistake of buying an old, outdated theme. You would be missing out on a lot of flexibility and features that make it easier for you to add content and make a more unique store design.

Shopify 2.0 is the future, so if you’re starting a new store now, there is no point in getting a Shopify 1.0 theme.

Read more: What is Shopify 2.0? All the main features explained.

2. The free Shopify themes are all practically the same theme - Dawn

Dawn is the default theme that you start with on Shopify ever since July 2021.

There are several other free themes released by Shopify that all have almost identical code and settings. The only different thing is the settings they come with by default.

These are the themes - Crave, Sense, Craft, Refresh, Ride, Colorblock, Taste, Studio.

These are all practically the same theme, and simply by changing the settings in the theme editor you can make Dawn look like any of these.

So if you’ve already set up your store using Dawn and you’re thinking of switching to another free theme, don’t bother.

This is good news though, if you like customizing your theme by following tutorials like mine.

I use Dawn to demo everything, and if you’re using Refresh theme for example, you will find the settings and code are identical, making it easy to follow along.

2. Shopify Themes store some of your content

This is an important note for when you update your theme or switch to a different theme.

Some parts of your store are in the Shopify database - like products, collections and blog posts.

Other parts are actually written into your theme. And you will lose those parts when you change themes.

Here is a quick summary:

Content stored inside the Shopify Admin:

These parts stay the same no matter which theme is applied to your store.

  • Products - titles, descriptions, images, etc…
  • Collections - titles, descriptions, banners, etc…
  • Blog posts
  • Static pages e.g. ‘About Us’
  • Navigation menus

Content stored inside the Shopify Theme:

These are parts you added via the theme editor. When changing themes you will lose them, so you need to copy-paste to move them across manually.

  • Everything on the Home page - sections, text, images, settings.
  • Sections and blocks you added on other pages via the theme editor.
  • Header settings
  • Footer settings
  • Fonts and Colors for the entire store

Where to buy Shopify Themes?

When you buy a Shopify theme, you want certain guarantees:

  • Some kind of tech support from the developer
  • Good documentation or an instructions page for using the theme features.
  • Updates or bug-fixes coming out every few months at least.
  • An email or chat that you can use to contact them.

To get all these, you need to buy from a major marketplace or reliable theme development company.

1. The official Shopify Theme Store

This is the first place to look. Themes here are tested by Shopify themselves, to make sure they meet speed and quality standards.

There are only a couple downsides to buying from the official theme store:

  1. There is a limited number of themes. At the time of writing, there are only 102 themes on the official theme store. This might seem like a lot, but they are all for different categories and not every theme is suitable for every store. You might actually be choosing between 10-20 themes realistically.
  2. They are quite expensive. Ranging from $100 to $350. In the long run this isn’t a lot, but new stores will go through many changes in the first few months of operation. And it certainly can be annoying to spend $300 on a new theme, only to realize a month later that you should have got a different one.

All that being said, the official theme store is the place where most beginners should buy from. It’s simply the safer option. You are more likely to find a reliable and bug-free theme here, and you will get great customer support.

2. Pixel Union & Out of the Sandbox

These are two famous companies (now merged) that have been making Shopify themes since the beginning, and are the market-leaders today. They make well-known themes such as Turbo, Superstore, and Flex.

You can buy most of their themes from the official Shopify Theme store too, but they have a few themes that are available only directly from their websites. These are  “flagship themes” i.e. they are packed with way more features than a regular theme, and are a bit more expensive.

You can get 10% off on all their themes by using my discount code “FAST10”.

3. Themeforest and TemplateMonster for third-party themes.

These are the two biggest theme marketplaces, where you buy third-party themes that are not affiliated with Shopify. Any developer can create a theme and post it up on these marketplaces.

You can find some really interesting themes here. They are usually packed with way more features than official theme store themes, because they are more competitive - they want to stand out.

Some of them even have Shopify Apps that are made to perfectly integrate with the theme and extend its features, like Fox Kit for Minimog theme.

They are also generally cheaper than the official store, so you can experiment with different themes a bit more, and it isn’t such a big deal for you to switch themes because you didn’t just drop $300 on your first theme.

On the other hand, these marketpaces don't have the rigorous testing and quality-control of the Shopify theme store. So you have to be careful. Always check the ratings, reviews and comments.

Don't worry though, you are pretty safe when you buy the most popular themes with thousands of sales like Ella, Minimog, and Wookie.

So it really depends on what kind of store owner you are. If you are risk-averse and want something that ‘just works’ then you might want to get a theme from the offical theme store. On the other hand, if you are very hands-on and like experimenting, you might prefer third-party themes.

The best Shopify Themes in 2023

Here are some of my favourite themes. Not in terms of design (that's opinion), but rather the sections, blocks, and settings that they come with. In short I like themes that give you lots of control.

Broadcast

One of the most fully-featured and thoughtfully made themes I've used.

Some of the features that stood out to me: 

  • Built-in pop-up block that you can use for a newsletter or simply to give some info. You can also set it for specific pages.

Impulse

Impulse is one of the most feature-packed and modern themes with great filtering, a large mega-menu, and plenty of customizable promo sections that are very flexible.

The aesthetic of Impulse is probably best-suited to the fashion industry.

Dawn & free themes

Themes made by Shopify themselves.

Pros

  • Dawn is probably the most popular theme simply because it's the default theme.
  • Built by Shopify so you know they're up to scratch with pagespeed and overall quality / reliability.
  • Lots of tutorials from the community (e.g. my channel), because it's the default theme.

Cons

  • Kind of lacking features, not enough variety in sections & blocks.
  • All the free themes are kind of the same theme - it's just Dawn with different looks/presets.

Debutify

This is a theme that's been highly recommend by influencers, especially in dropshipping circles.

I have mixed feelings about it. On one hand I dislike how heavily promoted it is.

On the other hand, I'm very impressed with how much it can do. It's like a theme with lots of apps rolled into one.

You get various features like upsells, bundles, swatches, back in stock buttons, sticky add to cart, stock indicators, and more, all included.

This is something you would usually need lots of different apps for.

Updating Shopify Themes

Updating your Shopify theme can be a hassle depending on which apps you have installed and whether you had any custom coding work done on your theme.

Is it important to update your Shopify Theme?

Ok so first of all updating your theme in Shopify is never a must.

It’s not like Wordpress, or even your iPhone - where an update means better security, protection from hackers and viruses etc…

A theme in Shopify is just a skin, just a design., It doesn’t really affect security. So it’s not important to regularly update in that sense.

That being said, apart from the design, updated themes come with performance improvements - better loading speed and SEO features. And many more sections, blocks and elements that you can use.

So generally it is important for your online presence to update at least every 1-2 years.

Should you update to Shopify 2.0?

If you are still using an older Shopify 1.0 “vintage” theme, then yes.

It is definitely worth it because it is a big update to the entire Shopify platform that gives you much more control over your store.

In most cases this is going to be a manual update though. The process is something like this:

  1. Install new version as unpublished theme.
  2. Manually copy across theme settings and sections via the theme editor.
  3. Re-install any app code (in Shopify 2.0 this is done by adding app sections & blocks).
  4. Publish your new theme

So you will of course keep store data like your product descriptions, collections, page content and blogs. That will remain untouched and display perfectly in the new theme.

But for example, you would lose all the home page content, because that was added via the theme editor. So you need to manually copy & paste that across.

Often this just leads to you redesigning your homepage though, because of the many new options you will find in the updated theme.

How to update your Shopify theme (without losing changes)

Let’s say you are moving from a Shopify 2.0 theme to a newer version of that theme. How do you update?

Shopify now has an automatic update feature. When there is an update, you will see a line under the theme name saying something like “Dawn version 7.0.0 available”.

When you click on it, it checks that you havent had code changes done to your theme, that everything is compatible with the new version, and if it is there will be a green checkmark saying “Your theme's content, settings, sections, and templates will automatically be included.”.

Updating with this option will automatically copy across all your settings and content from the theme editor to a new unpublished theme. Just double check it all copied ok and then you can publish.

Updating a theme with custom code changes

If you have any code changes done to your theme, either by yourself or a developer, then you might not see the green checkmark offering to update your theme.

In this case, you only have two options:

1. Use the Theme Updater app.

If you are using a theme from Out of the Sandbox, Pixel Union or Archetype Themes, then you can use this app to update. It’s smart enough to detect code changes and move them across.
It won’t work 100% of the time, but its always worth a shot. If it doesn't work you need a developer to help.

2. Hire a developer to help.

If you already hired someone to make the code change in the first place, then just ask them to help you move it across to the new theme.
This should be cheaper than it cost to make the change in the first place. Mostly of the time it is a copy & paste, but sometimes it is more difficult because of changes in the new theme. I usually charge for around 1-2 hours.