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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.

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Reader Interactions

117 CommentsLeave a Reply

  1. I’m trying to upload my theme, but it’s telling me I need to buy a business account for $300 to do that?? Help!

  2. I need some help. From the appearance tab, I have no option to add a new theme. The site I am trying to update was made with Divi (and no one knows that password for that site) – so I need to update it using one of the WP free themes.

    • It depends on the specific theme, some have demo content and others do not. It does not matter if the theme is free or not.

      Admin

  3. Hi
    I have activated a free theme from the list you provided but the website does not look same as the demo. I get a single blog page “sample page”. No other pages or anything else.

    How to fix this issue?

    • If you want the site to look the same as the demo, you would want to reach out to the theme’s support for if they offer demo content that you can import to your site.

      Admin

  4. If I want to develop a website on localhost server by premium theme,how to install the premium theme?

    • It would depend on the specific theme, you would want to reach out to the theme’s support for how they handle local installs

      Admin

  5. Hi,

    If I install a new theme after loading demo data from the first, but without creating any live content, will I have a problem installing the demo data from the new theme?

    • It would depend on the theme but for the most part, you shouldn’t have an issue.

      Admin

  6. Uhhhh…. I have following ur methods but when I go to Appearance> Theme page… I don’t see “add new” icon…. so what to do???????

  7. hi thank you for the information

    please i have a question about paid themes, could i use my licenses to design my website on localhost and then move it to live because i want to familiarise with the theme and design it the way i want before .

    have a nice day

    • It would depend on the specific theme for their limitations but you should normally be able to do that.

      Admin

    • It would depend on the specific theme. If you reach out to your theme’s support they should let you know their licensing limitations.

      Admin

  8. Hey,

    When I try to do this, the web tells me that I have to upgrate to a paid version, is there any way I can install this theme on my free account?

  9. When i download my themes for some reason it seems I am missing something. For instance the last them i downloaded and installed had a graphic next to the page title and that wasn’t there, there was a graphic on the side bad, again not there…. as well as the background color. Which was sorta lavender and as well that was not their either.. What am i doing wrong?

    • Not all themes have their demo content as their defaults. If you reach out to your theme’s support they can let you know if they offer their demo content.

      Admin

      • Ok. The themes that are with WordPress should have all the demo content there right? or is that also just for demo

        • You would need to reach out to each theme for if their demo content is available.

  10. I want to know how to open a theme on my desktop so I can work with it here as a “Local Server” and then either copy/paste a page to my WordPress site or upload with FTP. I have the theme in a zipped folder on my desk now but how do I open it and put it to work learning my way around it?

    Please help: Advanced Thanks

  11. Hello,

    I followed the instructions to upload my custom theme, however, there isn’t an “Add New” button. Any ideas?

  12. How do I maintain the graphics that comes with a theme? Themes will look very beautiful on vendor’s site but after installation, it’ll be looking boring. I’m sure there’s something I’m not doing correctly.

    • You would want to reach out to the theme’s support for if they have a method to replicate their demo content for how much of the demo content is available

      Admin

  13. Not Found

    The requested URL /index.php was not found on this server.

    Additionally, a 404 Not Found error was encountered while trying to use an ErrorDocument to handle the request.
    Please I need some help guys

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