How to Install a WordPress Theme in Step by Step

Creating a WordPress website takes a few minutes, even if you’re a newbie. You can just follow a clear tutorial and it’s done. However, to install a WordPress theme, you need to have two options, the first one is from the dashboard, in this case, the theme must be in a ZIP format, and the second one is via FTP or cPanel, and you can upload the theme, even if it’s not in a ZIP.

Today, we will talk about the easy ways to install a WordPress theme in a step by step tutorial.

The theme is a file that you need to add to the blog, exactly, in the directory of “themes” in WordPress. I will start with the easiest installation way from the blog dashboard and then the other ways.

If you don’t have a theme yet and want to learn how to download a WordPress theme and install it, then, read these tips about using WordPress themes. You will find great and easy WordPress themes for beginners.

Installing a WordPress theme from the dashboard

This is how to install a premium WordPress theme, no matter from where you’ve downloaded it because you will get a compressed file and you need to install it.

The WordPress dashboard lets you only upload ZIP files, if you have your theme in ZIP format, then it’s OK. If not, you need to convert a RAR into ZIP if you have one, and it’s easy to convert using WINRAR. All you have to do is to extract the folder files on your desktop, and then compress them into a ZIP file.

If you need a simple online RAR to ZIP converter, then visit and do the job in a few seconds. Now, let’s see how to install a WordPress theme from the zip file.

First, log in to your WordPress admin area and click on “Appearance” in the left menu, next, click “Themes” like the below screenshot:

how to install WordPress theme

Now, you have the “themes” page, you just need to click the button that says “Add New” as below:

installing a WordPress theme from dashboard

Now, you will get some suggested themes, but you want to upload yours and not the default-free themes. So, click on the “Upload Theme” button:

upload a theme

Now, you can upload your theme, by clicking the “Browse” button:

browse themes

Select the theme from your local machine, and click the “Install Now” button, as in the above screenshot. Wait some seconds until the upload complete and you will need to click ”Install”. Finally, activate the theme.

This easy method works well with the majority of themes and installations. However, the theme needs to be in a small size, something like 1 or 2 Megabytes will be OK. If you have a theme with a large size, make sure to upload the theme and not the associated files.

The seller includes, in general, the PSD files and the documentation guide, so you don’t need to upload the theme or you will get an error message, simply because the theme contains not supported format and WordPress will never recognize it as a theme.

Installing a WordPress theme using FTP

This tutorial will show you how to install a WordPress theme manually. You will need to use this method when you have problems and errors with the normal upload through the dashboard. Or, in other cases, when the theme size exceeds the maximum size allowed in PHP. Luckily the FTP supports simple files that are not compressed.

What you need to know here is that the RAR files are not supported in the majority of servers, you can upload them, but you can’t extract them and you’ll get errors saying, “not supported format”. So, make sure you have a normal folder that’s not compressed or a zip file. Both works, but the zip file theme is better and it takes less time. Let’s take a look at the two different ways to upload the theme.

Uploading the theme using Filezilla

FileZilla is an open-source software used by millions of people around the world and you can use it to upload and download files from your hosting server. An FTP is a file transfer protocol just like HTTP but for uploading and not downloading files.

Now, login to Filezilla and locate the folder called “wp-content“, open it, and you will find a folder called “themes“.

install WordPress theme using ftp

Now, move the theme from your computer to the “Themes” directory on the distant server. It’s like moving a file as usual on your computer, but, for the hosting server where is your website files. The transfer will take some time, in general, a few minutes, but it can take hours if you have a large file size.

When the theme upload is complete, come back to your WordPress admin area, and you will find the theme there. The only thing to do now, is to activate that theme by clicking “Appearance”, and then “Themes”, and hover over the theme that you want, and click the “Activate” button as below:

activating the theme

Now, the theme was activated and you can edit it from your dashboard, just find the new menu that will be added to customize your theme if it comes with the control panel.

If something wrong happens and you get an error message when uploading them, you can read what to do when you can’t upload the files with FileZilla?. You will find how to solve the problem if it happens, and please make sure to download the latest version of FileZilla, it’s always updated and optimized.

Uploading the theme using cPanel

cPanel is easier than the FileZilla method, it takes less time and it makes things faster. Web hosting companies like HostGator offer a cPanel control panel, and it’s fast to use compared to other hosting providers. So, log in to cPanel and find the icon “File Manager” and click “WP-content”, then,  “Themes” as the below screenshot:

installation from cpanelNow, open the “themes” file:

uploading the theme from to cPanelThen, click “Upload” at the top of the page as below:

choosing the themWhen the theme is uploaded, activate it by login into WordPress, as in the Filezilla example above.

As you can see, uploading themes to WordPress sites is not as hard as you think. It needs just a little intention. Things are easy to understand when you have a few minutes to learn how to use WordPress with tutorials for beginners.

If you have a problem and you can’t solve it with WordPress, share the issue in your comments below or simply send me your email from the contact page and I’ll be happy to assist.

Avatar for Fathi Arfaoui
About Fathi Arfaoui

Fathi Arfaoui is a Physicist, Blogger and the founder of He shares Business, WordPress and Blogging tips to build a better blog and succeed online.

Disclosure: The recommendations on this page are my own based on my tests and analysis. We may earn a small commission from web hosts and other partners if you use my referral link to make a purchase. That’s what helps us to maintain the site and add fresh content, Thanks for your support.

Leave a Comment