How To Install A WordPress Theme In 3 Different Ways

how to install a wordpress theme guide


Wondering how to install a WordPress (WP) theme? WordPress themes are an easy way of modifying the looks of your WordPress sites. With the new WordPress theme install, you completely overhaul your WordPress website, in just a few clicks.

Furthermore, if everything is done right with installing the theme, all your content should adjust to the new looks of your site without requiring any complicated settings reconfiguration.

A pro tip: Before trying to change anything, make a backup of your whole website. That will save you from a lot of potential trouble if something goes unplanned. In fact, you should have automatic backups running on your WordPress website all of the time.

Now, in this article, we will give you different options, telling you how to install and activate a WP theme on your WordPress hosts. Follow our guide to learn how to upload a theme and install it step by step:

Let’s roll!

Installing Your Theme From the Official Theme Directory

This method is the most beginner-friendly. If you are just starting out with WordPress, and are looking to visually reconstruct your site, installing the theme, one of the free WordPress themes you can find in the official WordPress theme directory is your best bet.

If you just started with WordPress, installing a free theme is a great option. That way, you will get to explore the options (but also limitations) of free themes, and you will get to know WordPress a little bit better. All that will help you understand what you want from, and for your site, which will make purchasing a premium theme a lot easier. And who knows, you may find a free theme sufficient, which will save you some money.

Additionally, these themes are all safe to use, SEO optimized, tested and approved by WordPress themselves, and you can’t go wrong if you decide to choose one of them.

Here is how to do it:

You need to log in to your WordPress Admin dashboard, and there, you have to navigate to Appearance tab, under which you will find Themes. Click it.

admin dashboard appearance themes on WordPress

In the theme folder, you will find all of the WordPress themes you already installed. But assuming you have just started with your site, the list will probably be quite empty. To find a new theme, click on the “Add New” button you can find on top of the Themes window.

add new theme button

A new window will open, displaying different themes, sorted into several categories such as Featured, Popular, Latest… You can browse through those, or you can enter the name of the desired theme in the theme search box on the right if you already know which one you want to try.

search WordPress themes

The Featured filter option is interesting, especially if you are looking to find a theme for a specific purpose, let’s say a blog. Just check the categories you need, and it will narrow down search results, showing you exactly what best suits your new website.

feature filter for WordPress themes

After you have found the theme you want to use, click on it to see how it looks. If you are satisfied, click the Install button, as shown in the picture below. After that, exit the window, and return to the Appearance/Themes tab as shown in the first step of this article.

install WordPress theme button

Live Preview

Now, in the Appearance/Themes section, you should see your newly installed theme. Now you can preview or activate the theme. Hover over it, and click on the “Live preview” option. That will load the content of your website, showing you how the new theme will look. If you want to use it now and activate the theme, click on the “Activate & Publish” button in the upper left corner.

activate and publish theme

That’s it, you are done with activating your theme, now it is ready for use! If you want to customize it, go to the Appearance/Themes tab. Your new theme will be first on the list, with a blue “Customize” button available.

Note: WordPress themes often come with some recommended plugins that you might consider installing to utilize your theme fully. So don’t be surprised if you see a dialog box on top of your Themes panel, as shown below. Whether you want to install those WordPress plugins, or not, is entirely up to you.

customize theme options

How to install WordPress Theme From a Zip File

Although this is not that difficult, the fact that you have to search for, find, and download your desired theme outside the WordPress dashboard makes this method a little bit riskier.

If you decide to go this way, make sure you pick a well-known theme, that is absolutely safe and updated for the latest version of WordPress.

Here is how to install your WP theme from a previously downloaded file:

First, you need to access your WP admin, go to Appearance, and select Themes

installing a theme from zip file

Click on the blue Add new button on top of the screen

add new

Now, you need to choose the Upload theme option located again at the top of the screen in order to upload files you previously downloaded.

upload theme zip file

Finally, you need to browse for your file by clicking the “Choose file” button. After it loads, click on the “Install Now”.

choose theme zip file and press install now

After that, you will see your WP theme in the Appearance/Themes tab, along with all the other you have installed. All done!

How to install WordPress theme manually through FTP

This option is for advanced users only. If you are new to WordPress, use the first method described above. However, if you are confident, here is how to do the installation by using FTP:

To install a WordPress theme via FTP (File Transfer Protocol), you need to have a FTP program on your computer. We recommend FileZilla since it is free and does the job, but you can choose any other you decide.

See how to use FTP in our guide. Also, you need to download the theme zip files. Make sure you download a trusted and recently updated the theme.

Next, you need to unzip the folder with your theme. You should see a folder with its name after you finish the process.

extract files

Now, you need to upload that folder with WordPress theme via FTP. Navigate to the wp-content folder, and then to themes, and upload your theme folder there. The path will look something like this:


After that is finished, your freshly installed theme should be in the Appearance/Themes tab of your WordPress dashboard, waiting for you to activate it. From there you can also customize it like any other theme.

How to install WordPress theme – Conclusion

That was our beginner’s guide, explaining to you how to install a WP theme through three different, yet quite similar methods. You may also be interested in learning how to Disable a WordPress Theme using FTP.

To learn more about this powerful CMS, check our WordPress blog, WP College. There you will find numerous other WordPress tutorials and other related topics, from plugin reviews, creation of custom themes, to how to fix common WordPress errors and problem solutions.

If you ever get stuck and need assistance with your WordPress website, don’t hesitate to contact FixRunner. We are a dedicated team of WP pros, ready to offer prompt help with your WordPress site.

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 This post was written by FixRunner Team

The FixRunner team - an awesome combination of WordPress experts, and technically savvy content creators - are determined to give the WordPress Community a solution to every problem. This diverse team - spanning 3 continents, young and mature, ladies and gentlemen - work seamlessly to keep the wheels running on WordPress sites across the globe.

Last edited by: FixRunner Team