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Beginners Guide: How to Install a WordPress Theme

Are you looking to install a WordPress theme?

There are thousands of WordPress themes available (both free and paid). As a beginner, you may want to try out a few of them on your site until you find the right one.

In this beginner’s guide, we’ll share detailed step by step instructions on how to install a WordPress theme. We’ll cover three different ways to install a WordPress theme, so you can choose the method that works best for you.

Beginners Guide: How 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 WordPress website looks and functions.

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.

If you are installing a theme when starting a new WordPress website, then you are good to go.

Bonus Tip: See our list of the best and most popular WordPress themes.

Video Tutorial

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If you don’t like the video or need more instructions, then continue reading. Simply click the links below to jump to the section you need:

If you’re looking to install a free WordPress theme from the WordPress.org themes directory, then you can explore this directory from inside your WordPress dashboard.

To browse the directory, log in to your WordPress admin area. Next, go to the Appearance » Themes page and click on the Add New button.

Installing a new WordPress theme

On the next screen, you can choose from: Popular, Latest, or Favorites.

If you already know the theme that you want to use, then simply type its name into the ‘Search themes…’ field.

Add a new theme WordPress toolbar and search

Clicking on ‘Feature Filter’ will allow you to sort themes based on different characteristics.

You can sort themes by subject, specific features, and layout.

Filter the WordPress theme results by feature

Based on your search, you will see a list of themes that meet your criteria. In our case, we searched for the popular Astra theme.

When you see the theme that you want to install, simply hover your mouse over the theme’s image. This will reveal the Install, Preview and ‘Details & Preview’ buttons.

Go ahead and click on the Install button.

Install a new WordPress theme

WordPress will now install your theme.

When your theme is ready, WordPress will show a success message.

How to install the Hestia WordPress theme

WordPress will also display ‘Activate’ and ‘Live Preview’ buttons.

To start using this theme on your WordPress website, click on the Activate button. You’ve now successfully installed and activated your WordPress theme.

If you visit your site, it will now be using this new theme.

Some themes have additional settings that you may need to configure.

For instance, your theme may ask you to install some must have WordPress plugins, download demo data, or review its settings.

You can follow the onscreen instructions. As you can see, the Astra theme adds an ‘Astra Options’ section.

The Astra option settings

You can also edit your theme using the built-in WordPress theme customizer.

To do this, select Appearance » Customize.

The WordPress theme customizer

For more details, see our guides on how to use the WordPress theme customizer like a pro.

Method 2. Install a Theme by using the Upload Method from WordPress Admin

The first method that we covered only allows you to install free themes that are available in the WordPress.org theme’s directory.

What if you want to install a premium WordPress theme from companies like StudioPress, Elegant Themes, or Themify?

Or what if you want to install a custom theme? Well, in this case, you would need to install the theme by uploading it to your WordPress account.

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

Next, go to the Appearance » Themes page in your WordPress admin area and click on the Add New button at the top.

Adding a new WordPress theme

This will take you to the Add Themes page showing featured free themes.

Since you already have the theme you want to install, simply go ahead and click on the ‘Upload Theme’ button.

The WordPress upload theme button

You can now click on ‘Choose from’ and select the .zip file that you downloaded earlier.

Then simply click on the Install Now button.

Uploading a theme zip file

Once your theme is installed, you will see a ‘Theme installed successfully’ message.

You’ll also see links to preview or activate your theme. To start using this theme on your WordPress website click on Activate.

Installing a WordPress theme from a zip

If you visit your website you should now see your new theme in action.

Some themes add extra settings that you may need to configure. Depending on your theme, you may need to make these changes in the WordPress customizer or through a separate theme options panel.

In the following screenshot, you can see the Hestia Options menu. This is a special theme options panel that you can use to configure the Hestia WordPress theme.

The Hestia options panel

Note: The theme upload feature is only available for self-hosted WordPress.org users. If you’re using WordPress.com, then you will not see this option because it limits you.

In order to use the custom theme upload feature, you need to use self hosted WordPress.org. For more details, see our comparison between WordPress.com vs WordPress.org.

If you want to switch from WordPress.com to WordPress.org, then read our tutorial on how to properly move from WordPress.com to WordPress.org.

Method 3. Installing a WordPress Theme using FTP

If you’re feeling adventurous and want to take your skills to the next level, then you can learn about installing WordPress themes using FTP.

Remember, this method is not for true beginners because it is a little bit more advanced.

First, you need to download the theme .zip file to your computer. After that, you need to unzip the file.

This will create a new folder with the theme’s name on your computer. We downloaded the free version of the Hestia WordPress theme.

Extracted WordPress theme files

Now that you have the theme files, you are ready to upload them to your website.

To do that, you’ll need to connect to your WordPress hosting account using an FTP client. If you need help, then see our guide on how to use FTP to upload WordPress files.

Once connected, you need to go to ‘/wp-content/themes/’ folder. Inside, you’ll see folders for all themes currently installed on your website.

Uploading WordPress theme files via FTP

You can upload your new theme by adding it to this ‘wp-content/themes’ folder.

Select your unzipped theme folder from your computer. You can then drag and drop this theme folder into your website’s ‘themes’ folder.

Uploading a theme using FTP

Once you have uploaded the theme, switch back to your WordPress dashboard. Then go to Appearance » Themes.

You should now see the theme that you just uploaded.

To use this theme on your website, simply hover your mouse on top of that theme. Then click on the Activate button.

Activating an uploaded WordPress theme

FAQs About Installing WordPress Themes

The following are some of the most commonly asked questions about installing WordPress themes.

1. How many themes can I use in WordPress?

You can only use one theme at a time. However, you can install as many themes as you like. Not all installed themes on your WordPress website are active.

As soon as you activate a WordPress theme, it automatically deactivates your previous active theme and makes the new theme your active theme.

2. What is a child theme in WordPress?

A child theme in WordPress is a sub-theme that inherits all the functionality, features, and style of its parent theme. To use a child theme, you’ll need to install both parent and child themes on your website, and then activate the child theme.

For more details, see our guides on how to create a child theme in WordPress and how to install a child theme in WordPress.

3. Can I build my own WordPress theme? 

It is possible to create a custom theme for WordPress. Even better, you can design, build, and publish your own theme without having to write any code.

To do this, you just need a WordPress plugin.

SeedProd is the best WordPress page builder plugin in the market. You can easily create completely custom pages for your website using SeedProd’s drag and drop builder.

The SeedProd page builder plugin


You can also use SeedProd to build your own WordPress themes. For more details, please see our guide on how to easily create a custom WordPress theme.

4. What is a WordPress theme framework?

Theme frameworks are highly optimized WordPress themes that are designed to be used as a parent theme.

Intended for advanced users and developers, these theme frameworks contain several code and speed optimizations that help other developers quickly build upon them to create their own themes.

Genesis by StudioPress is the best example of a WordPress theme framework. For more information, see our article on WordPress theme frameworks.

5. Premium vs Free themes – Which one I should use?

If you are just starting out on a limited budget, then we recommend choosing a flexible free theme. See our pick of the best free WordPress themes for blogs and best free themes for business websites.

If you can spend a little more, then choose a premium theme. These themes come with priority support which comes in handy particularly for beginners.

For more on this topic, see our guide on free vs premium WordPress themes, or check out how much it really costs to build a WordPress website.

6. How do I choose the best theme for my website?

There are so many WordPress themes out there and most of them are designed by professionals so they look really great.

This makes it a bit confusing for beginners to choose the perfect theme for their website.

We recommend keeping it simple. Choose a minimalist theme that closely resembles the finished design you have in mind. Make sure that the theme looks great on mobile and run a website speed test on the theme’s demo site.

See our beginner’s guide on how to choose the perfect WordPress theme for your website. You may also want to take a look at our expert pick of the best web design software.

7. Can I use the same theme I have seen on another WordPress site?

If it is not a custom WordPress theme, then you can find and use the same theme on your own website. See our guide on how to find out which WordPress theme a site is using.

We hope this step by step guide helped you install a WordPress theme on your site. You may also want to see our guide on how to make money online from your new WordPress website, and the ultimate guide to boost WordPress speed and performance.

If you liked this article, then please subscribe to our YouTube Channel for WordPress video tutorials. You can also catch us on Twitter and Facebook.

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Reader Interactions

117 CommentsLeave a Reply

  1. Thankyou. Unfortunately (i wont mention the website), dosent actually show you how to install the themes properly. They give you a brief look over, but not actually how to do it step by step. Sometimes, its what you need, thanks again.

  2. Hi, I uploaded a new theme and activated it. But i am unable to visit the particular site. One default theme is showing. Why? How can i visit the site which i uploaded?

  3. Pity you don’t make it very obvious at the start that you are ONLY working with WordPress.org

  4. So I just followed these instructions to add a theme and after the theme uploaded successfully and I clicked “Activate”, I received a Parse error. How do I now undo this issue? Thanks!

    • Hey Morgan,

      You can undo this by connecting to your website using FTP or File Manager in cPanel dashboard. Once connected, go to wp-content/themes/ folder and delete the theme you were trying to install.

      Admin

  5. I have dowloaded the Pro version of my basic free wordpress theme because the Pro version unlocks more features for colours and design. In my free theme it said : Go Pro. So that’s what I want to do.
    However when I upload the pro version through WP theme installer, it says installation failed because there is already a folder with that name. Do you think the Pro zip file has the same name as the free basic version?
    What should I do? Use an other theme for a few minutes and de-install the free basic theme first? And then install the pro zip file? I’m unsure what to do. And will deinstalling it from my wordpress theme collection also deinstall it from my host server?

    • You would want to first reach out to the theme’s support to ensure they do not have a recommended method to change to the pro version as it could have the same name.

      Admin

  6. Hi
    I found a new theme that I have downloaded and subsequently installed onto my WordPress site for under Add Themes> upload theme. I want to activate it and move no contents from the existing site. I intend to have it the way it is. Any advice?
    Thanks in advance

  7. I bought a premium theme which I tried to upload to WordPress localhost. It keeps giving me this message;

    Warning: post content length of 26678057 bytes exceeds the limit of 8388608 bytes in unknown on line 0

    Are you sure you want to do this?
    Please try again.

    What could be wrong? And how can I rectify it?
    Thanks

  8. Hi, I am having issues here.. I have followed all this site’s steps to get my website on wordpress.org. I have a domain I bought a while ago, transferred it and have it successfully hosted now on BlueHost. I just purchased a WordPress premium theme for $125 (which is p expensive..) and I can’t get the .zip file anywhere.. Also, it auto installed onto the example.WORDPRESS sites instead of my wordpress.org Bluehosted nerdvegan.com and I have no idea how to switch it since there is nowhere to download the .zip file. Also, having multiple sites listed in and of itself is messing me up, how do I get rid of everything but just the example.com that is on wordpress.org? please help!~ thank you in advance!!

    • Hi Kristy,

      Please contact the theme shop you purchased the theme from to help you find the ZIP file you need to install. Once you are certain that you have the theme’s zip file on your computer. Go a head and login to your WordPress website where you want to install the theme. Go to the Appearance » Themes page and then click on the Add New button. Next, you need to click on the upload button to upload the theme file from your computer.

      Please see the screenshots in the article above.

      Admin

      • I am on WordPress right now and there is no button to add a theme as the screenshots show. Did their pricing models change? Does it require a premium version now to be able to do this?

  9. I will installed wp in my Linux fedora 24 64-bit laptop wp theme add button is hide never to see my localhost site

  10. hi i tried using all the options but still installation of new theme fails, what might the problem be???

  11. I am using a free plan wordpress theme. And i have download a new theme I liked. When I tried to install the new, there was no upload button. How can I install the new one?

    Thank you

  12. I just purchase my premium plan with my domain name and storage space (that whole package). When going to appearance>themes, there is no add new button? Recommendations?

  13. Thanks for the article. I have a few questions as I’m a bit confused. I already have a live website hosted by Inmotion hosting. I wanted to change the design so I found a theme on Envato by Themeforest, the provider was Themezaa – and I bought the theme I liked. It was a wordpress theme. After I bought, I realised I don’t know the difference between a normal theme and a wordpress theme. I found out that I can only use this wordpress theme I bought from a wordpress editor – which is fine by me as I’m not a coder (I only received a 3 month online course on html and css circuits) so I know a bit about editing html and css. Now that I bought the wordpress theme, I’m thinking, can I simply download the wordpress editor, keep my existing host (inmotion hosting), install this new theme, edit the contents and colors and then when I’m done simply connect my domain to my new website?
    Is this how I’m suppose to do it?
    or do I need to cancel my existing host, and start paying wordpress.com to host my website as I’m using their editor? Can you please let me know how this works?
    Selin

      • Hi
        I also I found a theme on Envato by Themeforest that I have downloaded and subsequently tried to upload onto my WordPress site for under Add Themes> upload theme and it does not want to install. It just says: “Error: fail to upload.” Any advice?
        I then went to load it through the C-Panel- I loaded the Zip file, unzipped it and went to my dashboard. The theme box comes up empty, I pressed activate and the theme shows up only as HTML.
        Suggestions?

        Thank you
        Lorna

        • Hi Lorna,

          Please see your theme’s installation instructions. Some theme developers on themeforest actually send you package which has documentation, PSD files, and theme itself is a separate zip file inside the main folder.

  14. If you don’t have the domain name or hosting still can you make the website on WordPress? After finishing the design can we buy the hosting and domain? Is it possible?

  15. It doesn’t matter what one believes they know. Or .. How much of whatever it may be they THINK they know.

    With an open mind to receive an understanding. One may even amaze themselves of how easy life can be. :-)

    I Didn’t realize just how easy it was to install a theme I purchased. I’ve been at this marketing THING 8+ years. And I still don’t know everything there is to be successful online/

    Thanks!

    WP Beginners for simplest advice for installing my “purchased” theme.

  16. I have clicked in appearance>theme. But i didn’t found add new button. Please help me sir. Make new and updated article.

  17. 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.

  18. 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.
    Thanks

    • 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,
      Yogi

  19. Hi…

    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???

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

  21. Hi,

    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?

    • Please do change in ur php.ini file
      upload_max_filesize = 64M
      post_max_size = 64M
      memory_limit = 400M
      file_uploads = On
      max_execution_time = 180
      search these and change in php.ini file

  22. 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 wordpress.org not wordpress.com

  23. 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.

  24. 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

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

  26. 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??

    • 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.

  27. 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

  28. 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.

  29. 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.

    • 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.

  30. 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.

  31. 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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