Some theme development sites will release a full but encrypted theme where some of the php code has been base64 encoded I strongly suggest that you do not do this and if you are really interested in keeping some of your propitiatory code secret that you find a better php encryption method.
Once you have completed your basic design you will need to make sure your theme has the basic features required to be listed in the WordPress.org theme directory.
NEVER release an alpha or beta version of your work. Any errors that are fixable should be fixed prior to uploading and any feature you can not fix should be eliminated and used in a future version.
Since every install of WordPress ships with generic themes you should use them as a reference of features. Personally I do not like some of the coding in the base themes but they are provided as proof of concept and functionality. They are the best place to start but you shouldn’t copy them.
Once you believe you have most of your functionality figured out you will want to double check by using the Theme Review page. http://codex.wordpress.org/Theme_Review
No matter how well you have designed your theme expect to take at least a day reviewing your theme and all of the functions before you upload it.
TESTING is a must and you should try to find a few people to try your theme before you go public with it.
You should download the sample database and use it on your install. You can find it here.
It is important that you use this sample data because this is the same data that will be used to review your theme before it goes live.
Uploading Your Theme
Just because you upload your theme does not mean it will get included. Many other people are developing themes and although there is not an extremely stringent process for inclusion don’t expect it to be automatic.
Once you have reviewed and tested your theme you can upload your theme at
This will require an account and that you are logged in.
What about Copyright?
Although you can retain your copyright and include information in your theme to attract people to your other selections the themes that you upload to WordPress.org must be licensed fully under a GPL-compatible license.
If you do not know the limitations of GPL then you should read it carefully before you release your work to the world.
However be realistic unless you are encrypting large chunks of code there is no real way to protect a theme from being reused or copied.
Keeping Your Theme Up To Date
If you build a theme that is very specific in its use of calls, plugins or setup you may find that a new version of wordpress could cause errors or total loss of function.
It is up to you to maintain your updates and test your theme with new versions of wordpress … if you don’t your theme could be removed and it is also highly likely that it will get forked.
Releasing a free functional version of your professional theme that includes more features is a great way to get people interested in your themes.
It is really difficult to say what theme will be accepted by a large number of people but you want to build one that is easy to manage and modify for design reasons.
Also expect to answer a few questions now and then about your themes and put up a few faq pages to help users fix problems without the need to email you.