How to Install a WordPress Theme: 3 Methods Every Beginner Can Apply

If you're new to setting up WordPress themes and want to get the hang of it, this article is your guide.


WordPress, undoubtedly, is one of the most popular content management systems. If you have decided to join millions of WordPress users who create their websites on this platform, you’ll need to learn how to use WordPress themes.

In this post, we’ll speak about 

  • what a WordPress theme is 
  • where you can find free and premium themes
  • how you can choose a theme
  • how to install a theme on WordPress.

You’ll find detailed instructions and explanations. So, even if you are a beginner in using WordPress, you can choose the most suitable method.

Understanding WordPress Themes: The Building Blocks of Your Website

A WordPress theme is essentially a collection of templates and stylesheets that come together to define the appearance and display of a WordPress powered website. 

It is much like the blueprint of a house – it creates the structure, design and layout of your website. These themes are primarily composed of files known as template files, which include coding (PHP), graphics, and stylesheets (CSS).

One of the primary advantages of using a WordPress theme is that it saves you from the tedious task of creating page styling from scratch. Instead of having to manually code the look and feel of every single page, you simply choose a theme that aligns with your aesthetic preferences and functional requirements. The theme comes equipped with predefined styles for various elements such as typography, color schemes, spacing, and more.

However, the utility of a WordPress theme extends far beyond just aesthetics. Themes can significantly enhance the functionality of your website. For instance, if you’re running an online store, specific themes can optimize the display of your products, facilitating easier navigation for your customers.

On the other hand, if you’re running a blog or a news website, there are themes designed to highlight your articles and posts in a visually appealing and reader-friendly manner.

To sum up, a WordPress theme is a powerful tool that lets you create and control the desired look and feel of your website. It provides you with the flexibility to customize your website according to your unique needs, whether you’re looking to create an e-commerce platform, a personal blog, a corporate website, or anything else.

By choosing the right theme, you can ensure that your website not only looks good but also delivers an optimal user experience.

Where Can You Find a WordPress Theme?

You can find both free and paid WordPress themes on different resources. The WordPress theme directory is itself a vast collection of themes that you can get for free. 

A huge variety of companies, in addition to WordPress itself, offer free and premium themes. Themeforest, Themify, CreativeMarket, TemplateMonster are just a few examples.

How to Choose the Right Theme?

If you haven’t chosen a theme yet, read these tips to help you select the best option.

Free or Premium Themes: Which Are Better?

Free Themes by WordPress

The most significant advantage of themes found at WordPress.org is their quality. To get to the WordPress directory, themes have to be carefully reviewed by developers. That means that you’ll get a reliable theme. Furthermore, you can check people’s reviews and see their feedback on each theme. Also, free themes by WordPress will definitely work with all free plugins that you can also find in the directory.

The main disadvantage of free themes by WordPress is their minimal design and support. Mostly, these themes include only basic pages (homepage and blog post examples) that you can customize. Additionally, it’s difficult to get support fast if you need it. Likewise, free themes may have updates more rarely than the paid versions.

Third-party Sources: Free and Premium

Numerous companies offer free and paid WordPress themes. As for premium themes, you can choose from a one-time purchase or a subscription that usually provides more regular updates to ensure proper functions. 

Moreover, premium themes often include a bigger number of ready-made pages for customization. You can even get similar pages that differ in colors or style within the same theme.

Niche Themes

If you have a niche-specific business, you can opt for a WordPress niche theme. Such themes take into account the peculiarities of businesses, adjusting the layout and functions to them. Some examples are themes for medical clinics, salons, restaurants, logistics companies, cleaning services, etc. So, if you are an entrepreneur, you can explore a variety of designs in your sphere to get the desired website.

In the screenshot below, you can see real estate WordPress themes by themeforest.

Similarly, you may also consider eCommerce themes for different stores, such as food, beauty products, clothes, etc.


Besides niche-specific and responsive design, several other features differentiate WordPress themes.

Firstly, themes may have various customization options. Often, free themes have a limited number of features that you can change, while premium themes allow greater variability.

Secondly, if you plan to deal with payments (it’s not only about online stores but also booking services), it’s necessary to ensure that a theme is compatible with WooCommerce. 

Thirdly, WordPress themes can include different custom widgets. They follow the general theme style and provide additional customization options.

Additionally, social sharing features can be essential. This feature is vital for news websites and blogs where higher users’ activity contributes to success.

Credible Sources

When looking for your perfect WordPress theme, you should pay attention to the credibility of the sources. Some websites, like Colorlib, offer WordPress themes created by their developers. So, after you purchase or download a theme, you can reach the team for support.

Other websites (such as TemplateMonster, for instance) are marketplaces where various vendors sell their products. When you are selecting a theme on a marketplace, check

  • the number of products this vendor offers (the more trusted a vendor is, the more products are available usually)
  • the number of sales 
  • support options for the theme
  • customers’ rating and reviews (to get a clear view of what customers think about the theme)

In the screenshot below, we show educational WordPress themes that you can find on the TemplateMonster website.

Usually, you can preview demo versions of themes before purchasing or downloading them to have an idea of what you’ll get.

Responsive Design

Responsive design ensures that your website looks great and functions properly on all devices. As more and more people browse sites via mobile phones, search engines prefer to show mobile-friendly websites on their search engine results pages. Thus, it’s not just a matter of the website’s look.

The majority of companies offer responsive themes. However, there are some that don’t consider responsive design a priority. We highly recommend checking this point before installing a WordPress theme.

Theme Support

As we mentioned before, free themes don’t usually provide full support at any time. Yet, you can also get limited support with premium themes. When you choose a theme on the marketplace, check what kind of support the vendor provides.

Switching to a New Theme: Things to Keep in Mind

If you have an existing customized theme and want to change to a new one, there are several points to follow to make the process smooth.

1. Back Up Your Current Website

Before installing a new theme, it’s best to create a backup of your current website. Thus, you’ll save your pages, posts, databases, and media.

2. Copy Tracking Codes

If you added analytics or advertising codes to theme files, make sure you copy them before installing a new theme.

3. Check Functionality and Plugins

When changing a theme, you’ll need to keep current functions, so it’s necessary to ensure that the new theme supports all the functions you need. Likewise, it’s advisable to check that the plugins you’ll need will work with the new theme. You should also delete the plugins that you don’t need anymore.

How to Install a WordPress Theme

Now, we’ll cover the main methods of installing a WordPress theme.

If you want to install a theme from the WordPress directory, the simplest way is to use the embedded theme search option.

After you log in to your WordPress admin panel, you have to select the Themes submenu in the Appearance menu on your dashboard. Then, click the ‘Add new’ button.

After that, you’ll see available themes. Also, you’ll get the possibility to sort themes by:

  • featured
  • popular
  • latest
  • favorites

Additionally, you can search for a particular theme by name or by applying feature filters.

Feature filters are a great tool to choose the most suitable WordPress theme to cover your needs. You can search by:

  • subject (or topic, such as eCommerce, education, news, etc.)
  • features that you need
  • theme layout (if you wish to have a specific website layout, such as three columns or left sidebar)

When you get search results, you’ll be able to see the themes that meet your search criteria. Then, it’s possible to preview themes and read details about them.

If you open the Details and Preview window, read the information, and decide to install the specified theme, click on the ‘Install’ button.

If you don’t need to preview the theme, you can hover the mouse and click ‘Install’ right on the search results page.

After successful installation, you’ll see a message ‘Installed’ on your Themes page. The last step here is to press the ‘Activate’ button.

Some themes will require some additional settings. You can get a message advising you to install additional plugins for easier customization. Follow the instructions and add recommended features.

Afterward, you can start customizing your theme. To do this, press the ‘Customize’ button or choose the ‘Customize’ submenu in the Appearance menu on the dashboard.

2. Install a Theme by Using the Upload Method from WordPress Admin

The first method described above works only for the themes that you can find in the WordPress repository. If you have downloaded a free or premium theme from other sources, you can install it by uploading it. Let’s look at the steps to do this.

Go to the Appearance – Themes submenu on the dashboard and click the ‘Add new’ button (we’ve talked about this step earlier). On the next screen, press the ‘Upload Theme’ button.

Then, you will see a message instructing you to upload a theme file. It should be a .zip file saved on your computer. After you upload it, click the ‘Install Now’ button.

When WordPress finishes the installation process, you’ll see a notification about its success and the links for previewing and activating the theme.

3. Install a Theme Using FTP

This method is the best for installing complex themes with large files or custom themes. Besides knowing how to add a theme to WordPress, you’ll also need some skills in working with FTP clients. Let’s look at the steps you should take.

First, download the theme to your computer and unpack the .zip file in a folder.

Secondly, open your website (or your hosting account) with the help of an FTP client. If you don’t have an FTP client, you should download and install it on your computer.

Thirdly, when you are connected to the site, open the /wp-content/themes/ folder. It contains the folders of the themes that are already installed on your website.

The next step is to find the folder that contains the file themes you want to install (you have unzipped the theme file into this folder on your computer).

Afterward, choose ‘Upload’ after right-clicking on the necessary folder. The FTP client will start the uploading process.

When the theme upload is finished, you should go to the Appearance – Themes menu on your WordPress dashboard. There, you’ll see the list of installed themes. Click on the new one you wish to set and choose ‘Activate’.

Free Theme vs. Premium Theme: Differences in Installation

As we have already mentioned, the theme installation process depends on the source where you get the theme rather than its free or paid status.

You can install free themes from the WordPress repository using the theme search method in the admin panel. However, free and premium themes from other sources require installation via uploading or using an FTP client.


If you’ve selected WordPress as your content management system, you’ll need to know how to use WordPress themes. A WordPress theme is responsible for what your website looks like and how it functions. A considerable variety of free and premium WordPress themes lets you choose the most appropriate variant that will meet your needs.

There are three main methods of installing WordPress theme files:

  1. using the WordPress admin theme search
  2. uploading a theme via WordPress admin panel
  3. using an FTP client to add a theme

If you are going to use a free theme from the WordPress directory, you can apply the first method. If you ave a free or premium theme from a third-party resource, download the theme file to your computer and use the second or the third method.

Exceptional WordPress Development Services from GetDevDone

Having trouble finding or installing a WordPress theme? Let our expert WordPress developers assist you. With 16+ years of industry experience and thousands of successfully completed WP projects, we know everything about the world’s most popular CMS.

Reach out to us with any WordPress-related request, from developing a custom theme or modifying your present one to satisfy your specific business needs to Core Web Vitals optimization and strengthening the security of your website. .

Dmytro Mashchenko

Dmytro is the CEO of GetDevDone, an experienced web developer, and a prolific author of in-depth technology and business-related posts. He is always eager to share his years-long expertise with everyone who wants to succeed in the web development field.

For more professional insights from Dmytro, connect with him on LinkedIn.