How to Install a WordPress Theme? (Easy Step-by-Step Guide)

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How to Install WordPress Theme (Step by Step)

Are you wondering how to install a WordPress theme?  If so, then you may also be worried about how to customize your WordPress theme. Don’t worry this guide will help you through.

A theme is required on every WordPress site. So, when you first install WordPress, you’ll get a default theme installed. But you may want to change that as default themes are very simple and don’t offer much flexibility.

You can change the theme by installing a new theme of your choice. But if you’re a beginner, then you may not have an idea of how to install WordPress themes.

So, in this guide, we’ll explain the step-by-step process of installing a WordPress theme. We’ll show 3 different methods.

Things to Remember Before Installing a Theme

WordPress theme is a design layout for your website. It’s a collection of templates that gives the overall look, feel, and style of your website. In other terms, it’s the backbone and skeleton of the website.

So, you must carefully choose a theme before installing it on your WordPress site. Here are some key things to consider before using a theme.

  • Free vs Premium Theme: For a simple website, you can use a free WordPress theme. But remember that not all free themes may be good for your website. So, it’s better to check both free and premium best themes.
  • Choose a Theme from Reliable Site: Always download/install themes from reliable websites. For free themes, you can check WordPress.org. Whereas you can buy premium themes from ThemeForest, Elegant Themes, etc.
  • Check User Reviews & Ratings: Always search for themes that have good reviews and ratings by other users.
  • Features and Functionalities: Review the features and functionalities the theme provides. Also, check if it supports the WordPress plugins you need or not.
  • A Theme Good for SEO and Speed: Make sure that your theme is SEO-friendly and speed optimized.

For more, check our article on how to choose the right WordPress theme for your website.

Now let’s start with how to install a WordPress theme on your website.

How to Install a WordPress Theme? (3 Different Ways)

There are different ways to install a WordPress theme. Here, we’ll show you the 3 most beginner-friendly methods.

  1. Installing Free Theme from the Dashboard (Easiest method)
  2. Uploading Downloaded Themes to WordPress (For premium themes)
  3. Installing a Theme using an FTP Application (When 2 methods above don’t work)

Now, we’ll discuss these 3 methods, one by one. Let’s start with the easiest method.

Method 1: Installing a Free Theme from the Dashboard

This is the easiest way to install any free WordPress theme for your website. That’s because you can access the WordPress theme directory right from your WordPress dashboard. 

Now let’s go ahead and see how it’s done. 

Firstly, you need to login into your WordPress dashboard and then go to the Appearance > Themes.

Appearance Themes Option in WordPress Dashboard
Themes Option in WordPress Dashboard

Next, you’ll see the ‘Manage Themes’ page. To add a new WordPress theme, you should simply click on the ‘Add New‘ button.

Add New Themes from Dashboard
Add New Themes from Dashboard

After that, you can see the search field at the very top right-hand side. There, you can search for the name of the theme that you want to install. For example, we searched ‘Zakra’ which is a powerful free WordPress theme.

Once you have found your theme of choice, then simply click on the ‘Install‘ button.

Search for Theme in Search Field
Search for Theme in Search Field

After installing it, click on the ‘Activate‘ button and you’re done!

Activate the theme
Activate Theme

After this, you’ll see the ‘New theme activated’ message on your screen. Now, you can start customizing your theme by clicking on the ‘Customize‘ button.

New WordPress Theme Activated
New WordPress Theme Activated

Or you can click on the ‘Get started with Zakra’ button if you want to import a demo of the theme. If you installed another theme, then you may see this or not, depending on the theme’s features.

Pretty simple right? Well, this is how you install a free WordPress theme into your site.

Using ‘Feature Filter’ to Find a Perfect Free Theme

Sometimes, you may not actually decide which theme to use. In such a case, you can use the ‘feature filter’ option in WordPress.org for free themes. It’s helpful if you know what features you would like to have in your theme.

Feature Filter Option
Feature Filter Option

In Features Filter you can search for the theme based on:

  • Subjects (such as Blog, E-Commerce, Portfolio, Entertainment, News, and others).
  • Features (such as Accessibility Ready, Custom Background, Custom Colors, Editor Style, Footer Widgets, Custom Logo, and others).
  • Layout (such as Grid Layout, One Column, Right Sidebar, Left Sidebar, and others).
Apply Filters for Themes
Apply Filters

Then once you have checked all the boxes of your desired criteria, click the Apply Filters button. After that, WordPress will display only the themes that fit your requirements. So, you can pick and install a theme with ease.

Method 2: Installing a Premium Theme from Upload Method

Right now you might be wondering if you want to install a theme from outside of the WordPress directory.

For example, if you bought a premium theme from a marketplace like ThemeForest. At that time, you won’t be able to install it using the first method. Because the above method is only for the free themes available on WordPress.org, the official themes repository. 

In such a situation, you can install a premium WordPress theme using the Upload Method from your WordPress admin. You can install even the free themes using this method. But you need to have the theme zip file downloaded on your computer.

So, the upload method is simply useful to install already downloaded themes. Now, let’s see how to install themes using this method.

First of all, download the theme of your choice to your computer. For example, we purchased the Divi theme and downloaded it in a .zip file format.

Divi Theme Downloaded in ZIP format
Divi Theme Downloaded in ZIP format

After that, you need to log into your WordPress dashboard. Then go to Appearance > Themes and click Add New.

Add New Themes from Dashboard
Add New Themes from Dashboard

Then, at the top of the page, you would see the “Upload Theme” button and then click on it.

Upload Theme Option
Upload Theme Option

Now, select the Choose File option and then find the.zip file that you have just downloaded on your device.

For this tutorial, we have used Divi from Elegant Themes. Once the uploading process is completed, click on Install Now

Choose File from your Computer
Upload File from your Computer

After that, the installation will complete in a few seconds. Then, you’ll see the theme on the ‘Themes’ page. Click on the Activate button to finalize the change. 

Divi Theme Installed, Now 'Activate'
Divi Theme Installed, Now ‘Activate’

After a few seconds, you’ll see theme activated message. After that, you can start customizing your theme.

That’s it! It’s pretty simple to install a premium WordPress theme also. 

Method 3: Installing a WordPress Theme via FTP Software

This last method is slightly less user-friendly for beginners as you need to know how to configure an FTP client. This method is useful if you’re having difficulty installing themes via the above-mentioned methods.

 FTP (File Transfer Protocol) is a type of software used for transferring files from one system to another over the internet. It also provides you with access and management functionalities for your website files on your host.

Now, let’s go ahead and see how to install a WordPress theme using the FTP method.

Preparing FTP Connection for Theme Upload

Step 1 – Download Your Theme

First, you need to download the theme that you want to install on your local computer. If the theme file in zip format, then you should extract the file into a normal folder.

Avada Theme Extracted Folder
Avada Theme Extracted Folder

Step 2 – Install an FTP Client

Next, you need to install FTP Software for establishing an FTP connection. There are different FTP clients like FileZilla, Cyberduck. WinSCP. You can install any one of these just like installing any other application on your computer.

Here, we’ll be using FileZilla in this tutorial. Here’s how the FileZilla application looks like when you first open it on your computer.

FileZilla Interface
FileZilla Interface

Step 3 – Create an FTP Account

You can create an FTP account from your web hosting account’s control panel; cPanel or an admin panel. So first, login to your hosting account and find the ‘FTP’ option.

FTP Accounts Option in Bluehost
FTP Accounts Option in Bluehost

Next, create your FTP account by entering a username and password. If you don’t know how to set up or forgot your FTP credentials, then contact your web hosting provider. 

Establish FTP Connection & Upload Your Theme

Now that you’ve WordPress theme on your local device, FTP account created, and FTP application installed on your device, you’re ready to start installing theme via an FTP connection. Let’s begin.

Step 4 – Connect Your Website Server via FTP Application

Open your FTP application. Here, we’ll open FileZilla. After that, you should enter your hostname, FTP username, password, and click the ‘Quickconnect‘ button.

Connecting cPanel with FileZilla
Connecting cPanel with FileZilla

When connected, you’ll see your site’s files appear under ‘Remote site‘, on the right side of the panel. You can see the screenshot below for reference.

Server Connected with Local Computer
Server Connected with Local Computer

Step 5 – Locate Your Theme on Local site and Theme Directory on Remote Site

Now that your FTP connection is established, you can transfer files between your local computer and remote site, your site’s server. To install a theme, all you need to do is transfer your theme file to your WordPress server.

So, first of all, browse through your local site folders and locate where the theme file is. For example, it’s in the ‘Downloads‘ folder in the C Drive.

Locate Your WordPress Theme on Local Site
Locate Your WordPress Theme on Local Site

Next, you should also open the folder on your remote site where you want to upload the theme. Go to /wp-content/themes/ folder. Inside there, you’ll find folders for all the themes that are currently installed on your website. 

Open Themes Folder on Remote Site
Open Themes Folder on Remote Site

Step 6: Upload the WordPress Theme

Now, it’s time to upload the theme. To do so, you can simply right-click the unzipped theme folder on your local site and click on the ‘Upload‘ option. For example, we’re uploading the popular Avada theme here.

Upload Theme to Remote Site
Upload Theme to Remote Site

Alternatively, you can drag the theme folder and drop it inside the /wp-content/themes/ folder in your remote site. For example, you can view the screen recording below.

Uploading WordPress Theme via FileZilla
Uploading WordPress Theme via FileZilla

After a while, you’ll see the ‘Transfer finished’ message. It means WordPress theme upload is complete.

Now, go to your WordPress dashboard and open the Appearance > Themes page. There, you’ll see the theme you just installed. Now click on the Activate button and you’re done!

Avada Theme Installed, Now 'Activate'
Avada Theme Installed, Now ‘Activate’

Hence, these are the three different methods for installing a theme into WordPress. 

How to Customize Your WordPress Theme?

The next important task after installing a theme in WordPress is customizing the theme. Customizing means changing various styling options, like colors, fonts, logos, and more.

What’s best about WordPress customizer is that you can customize your site with real-time previewing of your changes. That’s why it’s also called the ‘live WordPress customizer’.

As mentioned above, you can start customization by clicking the ‘Customize’ button right after a theme is activated. Or, you can go to your WordPress dashboard and click on Appearance > Customize.

Access Customizer from Dashboard
Access WordPress Customizer from Dashboard

Or else, if you’re already viewing your website when you’re logged in, then click on the Customize link in the admin bar at the top of the screen.

Access Customizer from your Site
Access WordPress Customizer from your Site

Some of the themes have a ‘Theme Options’ panel in the admin menu. You can also customize the theme from there. We mainly get this in premium versions. 

As per the WordPress.org theme standards, all the settings should be inside Customizer and they are not allowed to add theme options settings in different places. 

WordPress Customizer has various options, like global, header, menus, widgets, etc. It may look something like this when editing global settings.

WordPress Customizer Global Settings
WordPress Customizer Global Settings

You can make changes and click on the ‘Publish’ button at the top to save the changes.

How to Update Your WordPress Theme?

It’s important to keep your theme updated because it makes sure that your theme will support the latest version of WordPress. Also, having an outdated theme will lead your website to get exposed to security threats and vulnerabilities.

You can easily check for updates using WordPress’s built-in update system. It automatically shows you the notification in your dashboard if there’re updates available.

You can check for updates by going to the Dashboard > Updates and then scroll down to the Themes section.

Theme Updates Available Notification
Theme Updates Available Notification

Now select the theme you wish to update or simply select all the themes and click the button Update Themes.

Updating WordPress Themes
Updating WordPress Themes

Alternatively, you can also update themes individually.

For that, go to Appearance > Themes and pick the outdated themes which will show you a message (like New version available. Update now) at the top of the theme. Then simply click on the link Update Now to update the theme.

Update Theme
Update Theme

That’s it, as easy as it sounds.

Enable Auto-Updates for Your WordPress Themes

Also, you can enable auto-updates for your WordPress themes. If you enable this option, WordPress will automatically update your themes when a new update is available.

To enable auto-updates for your themes, go to the ‘Appearance>Themes‘ page from your dashboard. And simply click on the ‘Theme Details’ button or anywhere on top of the theme.

Click on 'Theme Details' Option in WordPress Dashboard
Click on the ‘Theme Details’ Option in WordPress Dashboard

Next, you’ll see a new popup window appear with the theme details. On that page, you can see the ‘Enable auto-updates‘ option. Simply click on that option.

Enable Auto Updates Option for WordPress Theme
Enable Auto Updates Option for WordPress Theme

That’s it! Now, WordPress will automatically update your theme.

How to Uninstall a WordPress Theme?

It’s always a good practice to remove the themes that you aren’t using on your website. In this way, it makes the website more secure and even makes it faster at the same time.  

There can be several reasons why you might want to remove the theme from your website. Some of them are:

  • You’ve just installed a new WordPress theme for your website and now you want to get rid of the old one.
  • Keeping them installed on your server takes a larger storage size. And because of that, your security plugin may take a long time to scan your site.
  • Not compatible with your WordPress version.

Hence always uninstall the unused theme from your website. Because it not only saves your valuable server storage but also improves your website’s performance.

Uninstalling a theme via the WordPress dashboard is super easy. As you just have to go to Appearance > Themes and there you’ll find a list of themes that are currently installed on your site.

Then, from that list select the theme that you want to delete and then you can view the details of that theme.

And, at the lower right-hand corner, you’ll see a Delete button. Simply click on that button to completely uninstall the theme.

Delete Theme
Delete Theme

At last, it’ll ask for confirmation, and just click OK to safely remove the theme from your site.

Ask Confirmation to Delete a Theme
Click OK to Delete the Theme

FAQs About Installing WordPress Themes

Here are some frequently asked questions about installing WordPress themes.

i) How many themes can I use at a time?

You can only use one theme at a time. As you can only activate one theme at a time. However, you can install as many themes as you want.

ii) Can I upload themes to WordPress.com?

You cannot upload themes on WordPress.com because it limits you from doing it. You can only use the themes that are available on WordPress.com.

At the same time, you cannot modify it too. You can add custom CSS and fonts to your theme by paying an additional $30. And that’s all nothing more you can do. But with the highest-paid plans, you can add your theme. So, find the plan in which you will get the option to add the custom theme. 

See our complete guide on the difference between WordPress.com vs WordPress.org for more details.

iii) Where do I find the WordPress themes to install on my website?

You can find thousands of free WordPress themes on the official theme directory. But in the case of premium themes, you need to install/download them from trusted websites. Some of the most popular commercial theme providers are Elegant ThemesThemeForestThemeGrillThemify, etc.

Also, check our lists of best WordPress themes and free WordPress themes.

Wrapping Up

We hope this article has helped you with how to install a WordPress theme. We believe that you can now install both free and premium themes onto your website without any hassle.

If you’ve any further queries about how to install a WordPress theme, then please leave a comment below. We’ll try to get back to you as soon as possible.

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Written By SiteSaga Editorial
SiteSaga Editorial is a team of highly experienced writers, marketers, and web developers led by Sunita Rai. We're here to help beginners get online with their self-made websites or blogs and succeed.


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