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.
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 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 WordPress theme on a new site, then you are good to go.
If you don’t like the video or need more instructions, then continue reading.
Install a Theme using WordPress Admin Theme Search
If you’re looking to install a free WordPress theme from the WordPress.org themes directory, then the easiest way is by using the built-in theme search functionality.
The first thing you need to do is log in to your WordPress admin area. Next, go to the Appearance » Themes page and click on the Add New button.
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.
Clicking on the ‘Feature Filter’ button will allow you to sort themes based on features. For instance, you can sort themes by subject, specific features, and layout.
Based on your search, you will see a list of themes that met your criteria. In our case, we searched for the popular Astra theme.
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.
WordPress will now install your theme and show you a success message along with ‘Activate’ or ‘Live preview’ buttons.
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.
For instance, your theme may ask you to install the recommended plugins, download demo data, or review settings.
You can follow the on-screen instructions, or click on the customize button to start setting up your theme.
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, Themify, 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 shop.
Next, go to the Appearance » Themes page in WordPress admin area and click on the Add New button at the top.
This will take you to the add new theme page showing featured free themes. Since you already have the theme you want to install, go ahead and click on the ‘Upload Theme’ button at the top.
You will be prompted to choose the zip file that you downloaded earlier. Select the file and click Install Now.
Once your theme is installed, you will see a success message along with the link to activate and preview the theme.
Click on the ‘Activate’ link, 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 WordPress.org users. If you’re using WordPress.com, 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 WordPress.org (See this article that explains the difference between Self Hosted WordPress.org vs WordPress.com).
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.
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 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 popular Divi premium theme.
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 website / 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.
Select your unzipped theme folder from your computer and then upload it to your website.
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. Simply bring your mouse on top of that theme and click on the activate button.