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How to Install a WordPress Theme

WordPress allows the use of custom themes for a blog. There are a couple of options for obtaining custom themes to use on your WordPress site:

  • Download a theme from the internet onto your local computer; then upload it via the WordPress Dashboard.
  • Search for a theme via the WordPress Dashboard Themes section.

We created this full tutorial on building a WordPress website, and below, we've queued up the portion about the different methods available to add a theme to your site and some basics on modifying them as well.

You can start the video from the beginning to see the full tutorial on How to Build a WordPress Website!

Search for a Theme via WordPress Dashboard

WordPress allows you to search for themes based on specific keywords and features. To begin searching from your WordPress Dashboard:

  1. In the left-side navigation menu, click Appearance > Themes, and it will display any themes you have installed already.
  2. Click the Add New button.
  3. Above the themes is a toolbar with some quick search options including, but not limited to, Featured, Popular, Latest, and to the far right is a search box.
  4. You can click on one of the quick search options or type a keyword, author, or tag in the Search Themes box.
  5. Hover over a theme, and click Preview, to see a preview of the theme applied to a blog, or click Install to install the theme.
  6. Once the theme is installed, you'll have the option to Activate or do a Live Preview of the theme.
    • Clicking Activate will replace your current theme.
    • Clicking Live Preview will let you see what your site would look like using that theme, without making any actual changes to your live website. If you like the look of the theme, you can modify it here and then click Activate & Publish to apply the theme to your live site.

Downloading and Installing a Theme

You also have the option of purchasing or downloading themes from a third-party website. After downloading a theme, there are two possible ways to install the theme on your WordPress site.

Note: Not all WordPress themes are compatible with the latest version of WordPress.  Be sure the theme being installed is compatible with the version of WordPress installed.
WordPress Theme Installer

To install a downloaded WordPress theme with the WordPress installer:

  1. Log in to the WordPress Dashboard via http://example.com/wp-admin.php or http://example.com/wp-login.php.
  2. From the left-side navigation menu, click Appearance > Themes.
  3. Along the top of the screen, next to Add Themes, click the Upload Theme button.
  4. The page will expand, displaying a box where you can select and upload your theme. Click the Choose File and navigate to the appropriate file on your computer.
    Themes should be uploaded as a .zip file. Do not extract the file before attempting to upload it.
  5. Once you've selected the file to upload, click Install Now.
  6. Once the theme is installed, you'll have the option to Activate, do a Live Preview of the theme, or return the Themes page.
    WordPress Theme Successfully Installed
    • Clicking Activate will replace your current theme.
    • Clicking Live Preview will let you see what your site would look like using that theme, without making any actual changes to your live website. If you like the look of the theme, you can modify it here and then click Activate & Publish to apply the theme to your live site.
Manual Install

If the WordPress theme install experiences issues, it is possible to manually install a theme by uploading it directly to your server.

To manually install a WordPress theme, you simply need to upload your theme directory to your WordPress themes directory:

  1. Open File Manager in cPanel or connect to your server with an FTP client.
  2. Navigate to the themes directory inside of the wp-content directory in your WordPress document root:

    Location for WordPress theme directory.
  3. Click Upload in the top bar and then click the Select File button.
    cPanel Select File to Upload
  4. Select the .zip file for your theme and click Open. Once the file is uploaded, the progress bar will turn green and show 100%.
  5. Return to the main File Manager window. Select the file you uploaded and click Extract.
    cPanel Extract File
  6. You will need to add the name of your theme to the end of the directory string. So modfiy /public_html/wp-content/themes to read /public_html/wp-content/themes/nameOfYourTheme and then click Extract File(s).
    By default, the root directory for your primary domain is /public_html/, but if you have WordPress installed in another directory, adjust the above directory to reflect that and replace /nameOfYourTheme with the actual name of your theme to identify it in the WordPress Admin Dashboard.
  7. The Extraction Results will display. Close the pop-up box and refresh your page to see the new theme in the folder.
  8. Finally, delete the zip file or move it to another folder; otherwise, you may have a file show up as a theme in the WordPress Admin Dashboard.

After successfully uncompressing your theme into the WordPress themes folder, you can activate it using the following steps:

  1. Log into your WordPress Dashboard
  2. Select Appearance -> Themes from the left-hand side menu.
  3. Hover over the theme you uploaded. You will have the options Activate and Live Preview.
    • Clicking Activate will replace your current theme.
    • Clicking Live Preview will let you see what your site would look like using that theme, without making any actual changes to your live website. If you like the look of the theme, you can modify it here and then click Activate & Publish to apply the theme to your live site.
Problems?

If blank pages are encountered after installing a new theme, please refer to the following article for additional information: