How to Install a WordPress Theme

One of the very first steps you take when you build a website is to look for a WordPress Theme.

If you’ve ever searched for a WordPress Theme you’ll know that there are literally thousands of themes to choose from, both free and paid. There are also literally hundreds of new themes hitting the marketplace every day. So it can be hard to pick a theme if you don’t know what you’re looking for, that is unless you have our check-list close at hand… at least then you’ll know the 10 things you need to look for in a theme before you commit.

Of course, once you’ve picked a theme for your WordPress site you’ll need to know how to install it and also how to set it up so you can maximise its features. In this step-by-step post, I’ll walk you through three different ways to upload a WordPress Theme so you can get off to a strong start.

NOTE: There is a BIG difference in starting a new website versus changing the theme on an existing website, in this post I’ll be covering the steps to starting a new website.

To see my recommendation on a WordPress Theme check out my review of Blossom Themes

Without further a due let’s dive into the first way to install a WordPress Theme.

Install a Theme from Your WordPress Admin Panel

This is by far the easiest way to install a theme and uses the WordPress theme search functionality which is already ”baked-in” to your WordPress… it’s also free!

Once you’re logged in to your WordPress admin area look down the left-hand side menu for ‘Appearance’. Hovering over the option for ‘Appearance’ select ‘Themes’ and then click on ‘Add New’

Across the top of the page (just under the Add Themes title), you’ll notice you can search the library of themes and select from, Featured, Popular, Latest and Favorite Themes. You also have the ability to search for and narrow your search by specific Features a theme has.

Clicking on the ”Feature Filter” will allow you to narrow the search for a theme by choosing the subject of website you’re building – blog, eCommerce, photography, portfolio etc. You can also check any features that are a must for your new theme – accessibility ready, custom logo, full site editing etc and finally, you can tick any layout features you want – grid layout, left sidebar, wide blocks, 1 column etc.

When you click the ”apply filters” button you’ll see a list of themes that meet that criteria.

This part of the process can certainly take a while, especially if you’re checking out each theme as you see it. Personally, I think there are 10 things you need to think about when you’re choosing a theme.

Once you have identified the theme you want to use, hover over the image of the theme to reveal an install and preview button. Clicking on the install button will start the installation process.

Thankfully, WordPress takes care of hard part for you and once the theme has been installed you’ll see a success message displayed. You can now click on the ”Activate” button to activate the theme.

There may be additional setting options that you’ll need to configure, recommended plugins or demo data to download too, no need to worry though, in most cases the theme will prompt you should these things need to be done.

The last step is to click the ”Customize” button – found under the ”Appearance” menu – to start setting up your theme.

This is by far the easiest way of installing a theme, the only issue is that you’re limited on one hand to the themes in the WordPress Theme Directory, on the other hand, there are over 3,942 themes available so there’s more than likely going to be something you can work with.

Install a Theme by Uploading it via Your WordPress Admin Panel

Following the steps above will allow you to install a free theme that you’ll find in the theme directory, which is a great place to start. Especially if you’re just starting out.

But what if you want to install a free theme from somewhere else OR a Premium theme like any of the Blossom Themes or any of the thousands of themes you’ll find within the ThemeForest? In that case, you would use the following method and upload your theme using the WordPress Admin Panel instead.

Once you have purchased a Premium Theme from a marketplace like ThemeForest or Blossom Themes you’ll be able to download a .zip file that contains the theme. Download this and put the .zip file on your desktop so you can easily locate it in the next step.

In your WordPress Admin area click on the ”Appearance” option in the left-hand menu and then ”Themes” and then the ”Add New” button at the top of the page.

At this stage instead of selecting a theme from the free themes, you’re going to click the ”Upload Theme” button that’s next to the words ”Add Themes” at the top of the page. You’ll be asked to choose the zip file that you downloaded earlier, find the file on your desktop and select it. Next click the ”Install Now” button.

As with the previous method, WordPress does all the heavy lifting for you and you’ll see a success message displayed once the theme has been uploaded and installed.

You then need to click on the ”Activate” button to activate the theme. Depending on the theme you’re using it may add extra options to you’re ”Appearance” menu – Customize, Theme Editor, Getting Started and Install Plugins are a couple of the common ones used.

Because in this case, the theme you’re using is a Premium theme, you’ll more than likely have more control over different components, features and functions you can customize within the theme.

The final step in this method is to go ahead and work through the suggested documentation for setting up the theme if you have it.

Install a Theme Using an FTP

The last method for installing a WordPress theme I’ll cover is using an FTP client like FileZilla

A word of warning! This method is not for the faint-hearted, inexperienced or complete beginner, however, if you think you can follow the below instructions to the ”T” then feel free to give it a go.

Note: I take no responsibility for any damage or mistake you might make that potentially ruins your website by following these instructions. The instructions are true and correct, if you follow them you should have no issue. Any damage or mistake you make is your own doing, in the case you do destroy your website its best to contact your Web Host support who should be able to help you fix any issue that may occur.

Now that’s out of the way lets go!

As with the previous method, you’re going to download the .zip file you’ll receive when you purchase a Premium Theme like the one I use for this website OR if you choose to use a Free Theme from a market place like Blossom Themes.

With this method, you’re going to unzip or extract the contents of the .zip file creating a new folder with the themes name on your desktop. You’re now ready to upload the files to your website.

Now comes the fun part.

To upload the required theme files to you need to connect to your web hosting account using an FTP Client – I use FileZilla for this. It’s free and just as good, if not better than any other FTP Client.

You’ll need to get a couple of details from your hosting account, these are:

  • Host Name – The address to your host server
  • Username – The username you use to login to your web hosting account
  • Password – The password you use to login to your web hosting account

Open FileZilla and add these into the quickconnect bar at the top of the FTP Client in the respective fields. Once you have added the details click the ”Quickconnect” button.

FileZilla will now try to connect to the server. There will be a flurry of activity in the top pane of the client. If all works well, you will notice that the right “column” switched from Not connected to any server to displaying a list of files and directories.

To get a better understanding of the above you can check out the very helpful FileZilla FTP Client tutorial

Once you’re connected, you’ll see on the left side of the client a window showing your ”Local Site”, in other words, the contents of your computer – files and folders etc. On the right side, you’ll see a window showing the ”Remote Site” or your website as it appears on your web hosts server. Again with the folders and files that make up your website.

On the Remote Site side of the client, you need to click on wp-content and then the themes folder. This is where all the current themes for your website sit. Next, find the unzipped theme folder on the Local Site side of the client and drag it across to the Themes folder on the Remote Site side.

You should see the flicker of red and green lights in the very bottom right-hand corner of the client as the files are processed and uploaded.

Once the theme folder has uploaded to your web hosts server close FileZilla and head over to your WordPress Admin area. Click on ”Appearance” in the left-hand menu and then ”Themes”. You should see the theme you just uploaded in the list of themes you have access to. All you need to do now is activate the theme by hovering over the theme picture and clicking the ”activate” button.


So there you have it, three different step-by-step methods for uploading a WordPress theme for your website. If you’re just starting out Method one  – Install a Theme from Your WordPress Admin Panel – would be the best place to start. Use Method two – Install a Theme by Uploading it via Your WordPress Admin Panel – if you have purchased a Premium theme from a marketplace like Envato Market or have a free or premium version of a theme like Blossom Feminine Pro/Free (the one I’m using for this site) Finally, if you have a bit of experience with websites you can use Method three – Install a Theme Using an FTP.

No matter which theme you end up using remember there are 10 things you should consider before you use a theme.

Finally, if you’re looking for a theme that is a true dream to use and work with I recommend you take a look at my Blossom Themes review

What Theme do you like and use the most?

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