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How to install a WordPress theme

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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 free 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 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.


Leland Fiegel was the original founder of ThemeLab. He is a web developer who loves WordPress and blogging.