How to Install a WordPress Theme (3 Different Methods)

Last updated on
Feb 19, 2024

WordPress allows anyone to create a website without a programming skill is required. In order to have a unique WordPress-powered website, you can install a theme. By default, WordPress comes with 3 themes you can activate: Twenty Twenty, Twenty Nineteen, and Twenty Seventeen. You can change your theme by going to Appearance -> Themes on your WordPress dashboard.

In general, there are two types of WordPress themes: Free and Paid. You can get a free WordPress on the official theme repository of WordPress. While for a paid theme, you can get one from market places such as ThemeForest and TemplateMonster. Some theme developers such as Elegant Themes (the developer of Divi and Extra) and StudioPress sell their themes on their own site.

Today, you can also create a WordPress theme yourself even if you have no programming skills. Page builder plugins such as Divi Builder, Elementor, and Beaver Builder come with a theme builder feature that allows you to create a WordPress theme via a visual editor where everything is drag and drop.

How to Install a WordPress Theme

There are at least three ways to install a WordPress theme, depending on the source of the theme file. We will cover them all in this article.

1. Installing a WordPress Theme from the WordPress Theme Repository

There are over 7,000 free themes on the official WordPress theme repository. From blog themes, e-commerce themes, portfolio themes, magazine themes, and so on. You can install one according to your needs.

First off, login to your WordPress dashboard and go to Appearance -> Themes to open the themes manager.

On the themes manager page, click the Add New button on the top side.

Click one of the available tabs to filter themes. You can also use the advanced filtering feature (the Feature Filter tab) to filter themes by specific features. Or, you can also use the search feature. Once you found a theme you like, hover your mouse over it and click the Install button. You can also preview it first by clicking the Preview button.

Wait a moment until WordPress is done installing your theme. Once done, click the Activate button to activate it.

2. Installing a WordPress Theme from a Third-Party Source

If you buy a WordPress theme from ThemeForest, TemplateMonster, or other market places, you will get a ZIP file of the theme you bought. You can’t use the method above since the theme files are not available on the WordPress theme repository.

To install a WordPress from a third-party resource, first, login to your WordPress dashboard and go to Appearance -> Themes. Click the Add New button on the top side.

Click the Upload Theme button, followed by the Choose File button to select the ZIP file of theme you want to install. Hit the Install Now button to install it.

Wait a moment until WordPress is done installing the theme. Once done, you will be directed to a new page. Click the Activate link on the new page to activate the theme. You can also preview it first by clicking the Live Preview button.

In most cases (if you install a paid theme), you will be asked to enter the license key to activate the theme. Just follow the instructions to complete the activation process.

3. Installing a WordPress Theme Manually

There are probably some technical issues that cause you unable to install a theme via the WordPress dashboard. Two common technical issues are:

  • Your server doesn’t meet the minimum requirements demanded by your theme, such as the PHP version and memory limit.
  • The file size of your theme exceeds the maximum file size allowed by your server.

If you are unable to install your theme via the WordPress dashboard, you can install it manually by uploading the theme files to your server. To ease your job, you can use FTP. To use FTP, you need:

  • An account.
  • An FTP client.

Most hosting providers offer FTP. If your hosting provider uses cPanel, you can create an FTP account by clicking FTP Accounts on the FILES section. Read this article for more detailed instructions.

While for FTP client, you can use a free FTP client like WinSCP, FileZilla, or Core FTP. In this article, we use WinSCP (Windows only). You can download the binary file (the EXE file) of WinSCP on its website. Simply double-click the binary file to install it on your computer. Once installed, launch the WinSCP app.

Set the File protocol to FTP (you don’t need to change this if your file protocol is SFTP with the port 22). Enter the hostname of your FTP, FTP username as well as the FTP password, and click the Login button (or hit enter on keyboard).

WinSCP comes with a dual-panel interface. The left panel for the local files (files on your computer) and the right panel for the remote files (files on your server). Upload the ZIP file of the WordPress theme you want to install by dragging it from the left panel and drop it to the right panel. Place the ZIP file to the themes folder under the wp-content folder.

Once the ZIP file is uploaded, login to the control panel of your hosting (i.e cPanel) and open the file manager.

Search for the ZIP file you have just uploaded and extract it. In cPanel, you can extract a ZIP by selecting the ZIP and click the Extract menu on the upper-right corner. Alternatively, you can right-click the ZIP file and select Extract.

Next, login to your WordPress dashboard and go to Appearance -> Themes. You should see the theme you have just installed on the list. Hover your mouse over it and click the Activate button to activate it.


Those are the three different methods you can use to install a new theme on your WordPress site. To customize your theme you can go to the theme customizer page (Appearance -> Customize).

The customization options available on this page are vary depending on the theme you use. Some WordPress themes such as Divi, Newspaper X, and Jupiter X have their own panel to customize the theme.

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