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Beginners Guide: How to Install a WordPress Theme

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Beginners Guide: How to Install a WordPress Theme

Are you looking to install a WordPress theme? As a beginner, you probably have heard about tons of available free and paid WordPress themes. As you’re starting out, you may want to try out a few themes on your site until you find the right one that meet your needs. In this beginner’s guide, we will provide you with detailed step by step instructions on how to install a WordPress theme for beginners. We will cover three different ways to install a WordPress theme.

Before You Install a WordPress Theme

Installing a WordPress theme is easy. But keep in mind that if you activate a new theme, then it will change how your website looks and function. If you’re switching from an existing theme, then you may want to look at our checklist of things you need to do before changing WordPress themes.

Install a Theme using WordPress Admin Theme Search

If you’re looking to install a free WordPress theme from the themes directory, then the easiest way is by using the WordPress admin theme search functionality.

First thing you need to do is login to your WordPress admin area. Next, click on Appearance » Themes.

Click on Appearance Themes

Once you are on the themes page, click on the Add New button at the top.

Add New Themes in WordPress

On the next screen, you will have the ability to select from: Featured WordPress themes, Popular WordPress themes, Latest WordPress themes, search for a specific theme, or search for themes with specific features.

Search for WordPress Theme

Based on your search, you will see a single theme or a list of themes that met your criteria. In our case, we searched for the blogging theme Slipstream.

When you see the theme that you want to install, simply bring your mouse on top of the image. This will reveal the install button, preview button, and details button. Go ahead and click on the install button.

Install a WordPress Theme

WordPress will now install your theme and show you a success message along with the link to activate or live preview.

Activate a WordPress Theme

Click on the activate button, and you’ve successfully installed and activated your WordPress theme.

Note: Depending on the theme, it may add additional settings options that you may need to configure either through the theme customizer or through a separate options panel.

Install a Theme by using Upload Method from WordPress Admin

The first method that we covered only allows you to install free themes that are available in the theme’s directory. But what if you want to install a commercial “premium” WordPress theme from companies like ThemeLab, StudioPress, iThemes, etc.

Or what if you want to install a custom theme? Well in this case, you would need to install the theme using the upload method from your WordPress admin.

Start by downloading the .zip file of the theme that you purchased from a marketplace or a commercial theme provider.

Next login to your WordPress admin area and click on Appearance » Themes.

Click on Appearance Themes

Once you are on the themes page, click on the Add New button at the top.

Add New Themes in WordPress

On the next screen, click on the Upload Theme button at the top.

WordPress Theme Install Upload Theme

You will be prompted to choose the zip file that you downloaded earlier. Select the file and click Install Now.

Upload the Theme File in WordPress

Once your theme is installed, you will see a success message along with the link to activate and preview the theme.

Activate a WordPress Theme

Click on the activate button, and you’ve successfully installed and activated your WordPress theme. Depending on the theme, it may add additional settings options that you may need to configure either through the theme customizer or through a separate options panel.

Note: The theme upload functionality is only available for self-hosted users. If you’re using, then you will not see this option because it limits you. In order to use custom theme upload feature, you would need to use self-hosted (See this article that explains the difference between Self Hosted vs If you want to switch from to, then read our tutorial on how to properly move from to

Installing a WordPress Theme using FTP

If you’re feeling adventurous and want take it to the next level, then you can learn about installing WordPress themes using FTP. Remember, this is not for true beginners because it is a little bit more advanced.

First start by reading this article about how to use FTP (Video Included).

Now that you have read the article above and installed and setup your FTP program, connect to your host using FTP. You would need to go to the path (/wp-content/themes/). Once you’re there, simply upload your themme’s folder there.

Remember you must unzip the folders before you upload a theme using FTP. Once you have uploaded the theme, you would need to go to your admin area and click on Appearance » Themes.

You should see the theme that you uploaded listed there. Bring your mouse on top of that theme and click on the activate button.

We hope this step by step guide helped you install a WordPress theme on your site. This article was created using the screenshots of version WordPress 3.9. Since WordPress is constantly evolving, we will try our best to keep this guide up to date. If you notice that there is something missing, then feel free to let us know.

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Editorial Staff at WPBeginner is a team of WordPress experts led by Syed Balkhi. Page maintained by Syed Balkhi.

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  1. sandeep says:

    when iam trying to click on appearance->theme-> they were not showing add new option

  2. Dejan says:

    Every time I install a new theme the old one get derange (menu, sliders…)
    Any idea why? tnx

  3. Floramae Hallazgo says:

    Thank you a bunch! All articles thatI have read and video tutorials I have watched here really helped me a lot. Congratulations to all the people behind this. It’s really amazingly helpful.

  4. Nancy Upchurch says:

    How long does it usually take to down load your theme? I’m importing demo data & it’s been 4 hours. I’m thinking something is wrong.

    • WPBeginner Support says:

      Please contact your WordPress theme developer.

    • Yogi says:

      Hello Nancy,

      There is something wrong. I bought some themes from themeforest and they are all 60 to 90 mb in size. It took me about 20 minutes to download them. So i think that the 4 hours download (which still did not completes), there is something wrong.
      You should contact the website admin from where you are downloading the theme.

      Kind regards,

  5. Axel (Quibblehead) says:

    Do I need to be a Premium User to upload a theme?

  6. Joe says:

    Great piece keep up the good work

  7. Connor Moulton says:

    There is no button for me to press to upload a theme, what should I do?

  8. neeshu says:

    after applying theme into exiting once no slider supported with image please solve problem

  9. Harsh says:


    i have theme in my local machine which i am trying to upload on my wordpress (also on local machine) but everytime i try to upload theme.. it shows me error saying ” are you sure want to do this?” and link saying please try again which will jump me back to previous page…

    anyone know how can i tackle it???

  10. mohammed asif says:

    how can i download theme from my website .

    thank you

    • WPBeginner Support says:

      Connect to your website using an FTP Client. Go to wp-content > themes folder. Select your theme and then download it to your computer.

  11. Michael says:

    Can anyone tell me why, when I navigate to Appearance > Themes, I don’t have an ‘Add New’ button? It’s very frustrating!

  12. Eirini says:


    I have bought a theme and i am trying to upload it, but i keep getting the message

    “Are you sure you want to do that?
    Try again?”

    Am i doing something wrong here?

  13. Afif says:

    Hi. maybe you doesn’t upgrade for WP 4.3
    theres no ADD NEW button. different with the WP before.

    or it’s cause of I use the WPMU?

    FYI: it’s not

  14. Rotimi Fafure says:

    Pls, I dont get to see the add new tab on my own dashboard pls. What am I doing wrong? Not even the plugins tabs too.

  15. Victoria Martin says:

    I have just purchased a theme through Mojo marketplace (Coastal) but it won’t let me upload it and it’s saying – ‘The parent theme is missing. Please install the “genesis” parent theme’ – do I need to spend MORE money buying this too? Please help

  16. Derek Alba says:

    Thanks bro really helpfull

  17. Alex says:

    The infographic and guide article doesn’t tell me anything. Where is the stupid “Add New” button?

  18. Muriithi Alafia says:

    Thanks for the help installing the premium theme, I needed that!

  19. Unhappy Visitor says:

    Same exact problem as above visitors Allison Taylor and Felix…. There is NO “Add New” button on the WP Dashboard Screen at all!
    Can we get some help on that, please??

    • Happier visitor now! says:

      All my apologies for that!
      So newbie on WP installing platforms that I did not realize I had a .COM Dashboard instead of a .ORG Dashboard… Anyway, it seems that I had first to install the new WP 4.2 version, and after downloading the pack in my computer, there was no zip file to open and install anything… So, my problem remains… I cannot even believe when reading from WP: “the famous and easy 5 min installation”. It is more like 5 hours to me.

  20. Felix says:

    Same problem as Allison Taylor……I don’t have the “Add New” button. Is that something wordpress now omits? Could someone give me the answers i need……really would appreciate

  21. Jacqui Smith says:

    Can anyone tell me why I keep getting download failed messages every time I attempt to install a theme from the themes directory? I also get error message when I try to update the plugins.
    Thank you in advance.

  22. Sallie says:

    I like the way you instruct, makes it so much easier, clear and not too quick for comprehension
    …….. though I would like to set up a website not a blog, a place for information & room to keep adding information in the future, with possibility to ask questions if someone desires to do so, I don’t think a blog would do for that. Can you help me.

  23. Andy says:

    Should the new uploaded theme look exactly like the screenshots in the advert?

    • WPBeginner Staff says:

      No not necessarily. In order to show you all the features of a theme, the demo would have additional content or images. When you download and install the theme on your site that content does not come with the theme. So your theme may not look exactly the same.

  24. Allison Taylor says:

    I do not have the “Add New” button on my Theme dashboard, what now?

  25. 7eye Technologies says:

    I am really impressed with your post. You shared good post about wordpress theme. Your post is really nice and helpful to all newbie wordpress developers. Thanks to share useful post with us.

  26. wpthaiuser says:

    What program you use for making a screen capture in this post?

  27. Travis Pflanz says:

    For new WordPress users – also note that if you purchase/download a premium theme, the theme .zip file itself is likely inside a larger “package” which also includes documentation, source files, etc. You will need to unzip the package, then get the actual theme .zip file.

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