How to install a WordPress theme

Okay, you already know how to install the latest version of WordPress and want to switch away from the default WordPress theme look, but have no idea how to do it? Here’s the tutorial for you, complete with screenshots so even a beginner can easily follow along. With this three-step tutorial you’ll have a new blog theme ready in no time.

There are a few automated ways to do this, but like our previous tutorial, we will be focusing on manual WordPress theme installation only. This tutorial assumes you already have WordPress installed on your host. It also assumes you are installing a “normal” theme, i.e. no advanced functionality that would require additional plugins or configuration.

Step 1: Download your theme of choice
Unfortunately WordPress can’t read minds, so you’ll have to pick out the theme you want to use. Call me biased, but some of the templates on our WordPress themes page are quite nice. For this tutorial we’ll choose the Blue Green theme. Click the download link, and save the .zip file to your hard drive.

WordPress Theme Zip Screenshot

Extract the /blue-green/ folder only. All you have to do with Readme.txt is read it (which is why it’s called a readme file) and isn’t needed for the next step – uploading the theme to WordPress.

Step 2: Upload the theme directory to WordPress
Seems simple enough, right? It really is, if you know where to upload it. Use an FTP client such as FileZilla to connect to your WordPress hosting account. Navigate to where WordPress is installed and locate the /wp-content/themes/ directory. Upload the /blue-green/ directory it. After you’re done, it should look something like this.

Uploaded Theme Screenshot

The hard part is now out of the way. The next and final step is to activate the theme within your WordPress admin panel.

Step 3: Activate the theme within your WordPress admin panel
Login to your WordPress admin panel, and navigate to the Presentation tab. You should now be at a screen that looks like this.

WordPress Theme Menu

Wow, look, you can already see the Blue Green screenshot below! WordPress reads the directory and searches for the screenshot image and stylesheet within it. Simply click on it, and your theme is activated.

Congratulations!  Theme installed.

That wasn’t so bad was it? WordPress makes it simple like that. If you still need help, feel free to ask in our general support forum for assistance. Feel free to leave a comment or subscribe to our feed if you liked this tutorial.

Comments  Leave a Reply

  1. Hi everybody,

    Please help me. I could not get my directory listing on Filezilla. I don’t know what to put in the field Remote Site. When I tried to do it like the example above, it didn’t work.

    Please help with this step.
    Thank you.


  2. Lavender Dreams March 13, 2009 at 6:25 pm

    I uploaded the theme to my themes section of my wordpress file and now how or where do I Activate the theme within your WordPress admin panel…. Where do I log in at??
    I am very new here so please someone email me and tell me what to do …. Thank you!!!

  3. werbeagentur digital art February 28, 2009 at 2:38 pm

    i uploaded the themes into my admin folder and i cant select them. i’m sorry for this “stupid” question but i’m very new to this stuff.

  4. Hi,

    how do i upload a theme if I do not have a hosting provider but using wordpress.com hosting?

  5. Thank you very much for this post! I had tried to do this before and was unsuccessful and even paid someone to do it for me…but then I needed to add things and they wanted to keep charging me.

    I found your post…followed your instructions to a T and it worked great! Thanks!!

  6. thanks a for your tutorial,i learned a lot from this !!!!

  7. Man, this was great!! I wish I had a tutorial like this when I first tried to install a theme.

  8. THANK YOU!!! This was so easy, I would have never figured it out without your TUT help!

    1. I am trying to use the controls in cPanel but it does not have the tool “unlimited FTP” so it is more complicated also every thing you say above is a complete mystery to me.
      Please have an other go but in full this time

      thank you

  9. I’m sorry, but I don’t understand these directions at all, and I am usually pretty good at these things. The only thing I understood was downloading Filezilla, which I did.

    But some of the terminology used here is beyond my knowledge. Would it be possible to explain certain things please?

    Step 2 needs a lot more explanation…

    Thank you.

  10. @Kerri: On the themes page in your admin panel, if you scroll to the bottom – do you see any errors?

  11. I’ve upload (FTP) a theme to the correct folder but it does not show up. What could be wrong? I’ve checked and it is not a nested folder situation. I’ve checked permissions (755). I’m stuck.

  12. @Joan: Try the “Design” tab if you’re using WordPress 2.5 and above. This tutorial was written when 2.3 came out.

  13. My admin panel does not have a presentation tab. What should I do?

  14. @shah can you provide us the url on where you encounter the error?

  15. Hi Leland,

    This is a great post and have kept it in my bookmarks. Will continue to read it as i’m very new to a lot of the points you mention!

    Thanks though, i’m glad some people share good stuff like this!

  16. @Shah: Have you installed WordPress first? Are you uploading the theme to the proper directory?

  17. i get something like this
    Fatal error: Call to undefined function: get_header() in /homepages/37/d237123450/htdocs/wordpress/index.php on line 1

  18. do you know how I can upload a theme to a WordPress.com blogs

    Thank You

  19. I don’t think you can do that on WordPress.com …

  20. i have a theme i d/l from a site i want to upload it and use it (not the theme they offer)

  21. and on wordpress.com? how do i change the theme????

  22. Okay, I’m talking about self-hosted WordPress. Not WordPress.com blogs.

  23. HELP im like first user….
    where do i access the ftp
    i tried ftp://wordpress.com or ftp://username.wordpress.com
    both dont work.
    what do u mean installed wordpress?
    i signed up to wordpress site i didnt install anything

  24. When you install WordPress, you’ll find these directories in your FTP client while connected to the server. I’m not sure how else to explain it. You may want to consult with your web hosting provider.

  25. hi.. i juz want to ask.. wat do u mean by hosting account and “Navigate to where WordPress is installed and locate the /wp-content/themes/ directory”?? Please explain elaborately.. I was planning to open a blog on wordpress and searched for some reviews about it and ended up here.. If u wouldn’t mind please explain step 2 in a more comprehensive way.. [**dumbfound sori**] 🙂

    1. This seems to be strictly a WordPress.ORG tutorial rather than WordPress.COM (and the author may want to specify as such to avoid further confusion)

      1. I’m pretty sure wordpress.COM doesn’t allow you to upload custom themes, anyway.

    2. Yep – I found the same problem. I went on the net and got a tutorial to make my own wordpress blog and got halfway though and found I didn’t have detailed instructions and called someone in to finish installing it – now it looks like I have the same problem with themes. It would be great if it didn’t say it’s suitable for beginners if it doesn’t contain exact detail of what to do.

    3. Just needed to add a half comment here. You can host wordpress on your home PC without having to pay a hosting company and no FTP’ing needed. All software required is FREE, all you need is a broadband supplier without a static IP (this means you get a unique IP address every day or so)

      Basically install IIS through Windows Controls Panel within the Add Remove Programs / Features (you will find it in the Internet section under Web Management tools. Create a simply web page or edit the default Web pages installed in to the C:inetpub folders.

      Create a free account with an Dynamic DNS supplier like dynDNS. This will have to be added to your Router settings (refer to your manuals).

      Download and install Microsoft Web Platform Installer. Then run the program and select WordPress from available applications and follow the instructions. It may ask you to install MySQL which is ok just read the following before hand.

      Note: make a note of all the Database settings during the install.

      That’s about it. You should now have a wordpress page available to everyone via the ‘web’ which is on your own hard drive with as much storage space as you have on your hard drive. Enjoy.

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