How to install a WordPress theme

Install a WordPress Theme

Cloudways Managed WordPress HostingAll of my tutorials regarding WordPress are in relation to, not  These are very different in many ways.  I just wanted to make that clear in the beginning.

There are a few different ways to get a theme installed into WordPress, and some of that depends on where you acquire your theme from.  I’ll explain these in the different methods below.


One of the first things to note here is, WordPress themes often affect how your site behaves, looks (obviously) and where various site components are and how they operate.  Keep this in mind when changing themes or staring with a new one.

You’ll want to take a look at the theme’s features and see if they have the appropriate options you’re looking to have.  For example, some themes have a Featured Header option, and some may not.  Other themes may have the option for custom colors to be set in the customizer, while others don’t.  It’s all up to what you want in a theme and if the theme’s developer added the functionality you’re looking for.

There are many different custom things you can do with WordPress, but that’s for another time.  We’re focused in the beginning here, if you’re new to WordPress and the least complicated means to get up and running.

Installing from the WordPress admin theme browser

By far the easiest when you’re a beginner, is selecting a theme straight from the WordPress administration section.  Navigate to Appearance > Themes > Add New.

WP Add new theme

When you click Add New, you can simply search by keyword, or you can leave the keyword section blank, and just filter by theme features.  This is usually what I’ll do as I don’t care necessarily what the theme is called.  I care more-so what the theme offers in features.

WP Search or Upload new theme

Here are the currently available filters that you can narrow your search by:

WP Theme Filter Search

Once you’ve found the right theme, simply click Install if you mouse over the theme you like.  Like so:

Install WP Theme from Admin

Uploading your own theme from the WordPress upload theme section

If you need to upload a theme of your own you can do that from the WordPress theme upload section in your WordPress admin backend.  You may need to do this if you purchased or downloaded a free theme from a site outside of  You can purchase some pretty damn awesome themes from Envira Gallery or CyberChimps.

Your theme packages will (and must be) in the form of a zip file to utilize the WordPress upload theme feature. Once you have your theme folder in a zip file, navigate to Appearance > Themes > Upload Theme.

Once you click Choose File, and you upload your theme’s zip folder, all you have to do now is click Install.  If all checks out, you’ll get a success message!

WP Upload Theme Install

Installing a theme by uploading the theme files manually by SFTP

This isn’t really meant for beginners, but for the sake of this article, we’ll go over it briefly.  Many different vendors have different means for which you connect to your WordPress install, so be sure to ready your platform’s how-to guides for connecting to your WordPress instance over SFTP.

You’re going to need a good file transfer tool.  I highly suggest FileZilla, but just about any SFTP client tool will work.

When you get your theme zip folder, you’ll need to unzip the theme first, before you upload it to your site.

First, in order for your theme to be installed properly and understood by WordPress, you should have a good understanding of the file structure:

  • Root
    • wp-content
      • themes
        • <theme vendor>
          • <theme files>

Your unzipped theme folder should only contain the core theme files under it.  It shouldn’t be like: Theme Vendor > Theme Version > Theme files.  It should only be Theme Vendor > Theme files.

Upload your unzipped theme folder into your wp-content > themes folder.

Now if you navigate to your Appearance > Themes, you should see your new theme here.  You’re now good to go!

Follow the beginners guide for starting a WordPress blog

About the Author: Travis Wade

Just a simple man living an ordinary life with an extraordinary family. I'm an information technologist and hobbyist astronomer. Anything to do with technology and science is of total interest to me.