I use free theme,even though my users nag about it a lot.
Well, I don't have any paypal account to purchase a new theme.
As for the designing, I am so not good at art. So, I don't know how to answer this question now
I use free or premium themes and then customize them myself to make them unique or stand out. I don't think that custom themes are for me as they are quite expensive and can cause trouble with other people wanting to RIP/steal it from your site for their own uses. I think that customizing premium themes is good as if you do a good job with it then it is as good as any custom theme and also makes your forum stand out alot
I wish I was talented enough to design my own theme. I'm not. I'm not even close. I think I'll stick with the free themes that they offer. It has been working all this time. It will work until it doesn't anymore.
Designing a theme at your own is not an easy task. It requires a lot of efforts for building a custom theme at your own. The person must have programming skills and control over web programming languages. Even after that, it takes a lot of time to make a theme without any errors. testing them and then finalizing it takes time. That's why a person who is in a hurry can't rely on this process. Rather he/she should buy a theme from a developer or us ea Free Theme available on the internet. In this way, the site could be launched too early as compared to building and using your own custom theme.