Installing a WordPress theme can be a tricky business if not done correctly.

You stand the risk of wrecking your current active theme and/or deleting important plugin and theme files.

You can install a WordPress theme in one of three ways described below.

This is a follow up to our tutorial on installing WordPress plugins.

Each method has its own constraints. In most cases, if you’re using a theme from WordPress.org, always choose the first method. In other cases, go for method 2.

Let’s get started.

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Method 1: Search, select and activate via WordPress dashboard

This method is limited to installing themes that are available in the WordPress.org repository. One of the advantages of this method lies in the fact that you don’t have to manually download the theme – just like the plugins.

Navigate to Appearance > Themes > Add New

Install WordPress theme from your dashboard

As of WordPress 3.9.1, a list of the Featured Themes are shown.

Install your WordPress theme

If you like what you see, you can simply hover over the theme and click on Install. WordPress will download and unpack the theme for you. You can activate it right away or do it later.

Theme activation

Similarly you can search for the theme and install it accordingly. WordPress uses instant search for themes, i.e. the characters are looked-up as you type them, without waiting for the Return/Enter keystroke.

Search and install

You can also browse the other tabs viz. Popular, Latest or use the Feature Filter to return themes that match your taste.

Method 2: Upload the theme via WordPress dashboard

Manually uploading your WordPress theme

This method is identical to installing plugins. Simply head to Appearance > Themes > Add New > Upload, select the archive from Choose File and hit Install Now

Choose file and install

Once the upload completes, the installer will return to the activation window as shown below:

Activate the theme you have installed

Method 3: Upload the theme via FTP

Manually upload your theme using FTP

This method is also similar to installing WordPress plugins via FTP. The only difference is that you have to use the themes folder instead of plugins.

Fire your FTP client and navigate to:

WP_INSTALL_DIR/wp-content/themes/

Extract the theme’s zip file and upload the resulting folder to themes.

Once the upload completes, you can activate the theme. Head over to Appearance > Themes. You should see the theme you just uploaded in this screen.

Hover over it and click on Install.

If you don’t see the theme, then re-check the upload destination and the file/folder permissions. Try logging out, clearing the cache and cookies and try again. If you still get stuck, contact us on Twitter.

Conclusion and practical advice

WordPress themes is a million dollar business today.

Some have made over 2 million dollars selling premium themes.

This fueled a staggering growth in pirated WordPress themes, a majority of which are injected with malicious code.

It’s best not to install them, even to try them out. Almost all themes companies give you a refund window, utilize that!

Posted by Sourav Kundu

Hi there! I'm Sourav. I dig comedy, WordPress, computers and tea - CWCT if you will. I can also write clean, precise copy for your projects. Portfolio is under construction. You can reach me on Twitter @Souravify.