How to Install a WordPress Theme

Updated January 24, 2017

Once you’ve got your WordPress site up and running, you may want to change the default theme (design) that comes pre-packaged. To do so, you’ll first need to choose a theme (here’s what I use). After that, installing it is simple. Here are the steps.

How to install a WordPress theme

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I’ll earn a commission, at no additional cost to you. Read my full disclosure here.

In this tutorial, I’m installing a Genesis theme.

Genesis themes consist of two parts: the framework (called Genesis Framework) + a child theme (each child theme has a unique name). I explained this two-part system more thoroughly in this post.

Whether you use Genesis or a different theme, the basic steps are similar.

1. Purchase your theme (if applicable)

If you are using a premium theme, buy your theme first.

For Genesis, you can preview any child theme before buying. Simply choose a child theme from this page, hover over the image and click the “See Details and Pricing” button.

On the next page, click the “Live Demo” link to preview it. The demo behaves like a real site, so feel free to click around, see what the different pages look like and get a feel for the overall design.

Once you’ve found a theme you like, click the “Buy Theme + Framework” button to purchase it. That single purchase includes both the Genesis Framework + child theme which is all you need.

Note, if you have purchased Genesis previously, you should login before purchasing. This will give you the option of purchasing a child theme without having to buy the Genesis Framework a second time.

Also note, if you have a hard time making up your mind for a theme, you might consider the all-theme package which I explained here.

2. Download the zip file(s)

Themes generally come packaged in a zip file.  For Genesis, download the zip files of both the Genesis Theme Framework and your desired child theme.

The zipped file is what you will need for the following step, so if your computer automatically unzips zipped files, locate the zipped version on your computer before moving on.

3. Upload the Genesis Theme Framework

Because we are working with a 2-part system in this tutorial, you’ll need to upload both the Genesis Theme Framework and the child theme of your choice. If you try to upload your child theme and you do not have the Genesis Framework installed, it will not work.

I recommend you upload the Genesis Theme Framework first using this process:

Login to WordPress. Then from your Dashboard go to Appearance > Themes:

wordpress dashboard appearance themes

Click the Add New link OR box:

add new theme wordpress

Click the Upload Theme button at the top of the screen:

upload new theme wordpress

Choose the zipped file you downloaded in the previous step and click the Install Now button:

upload new theme and install in wordpress

4. Upload your child theme

Use the same steps above to upload your child theme.

(If your theme does not use a child theme, you’ll skip this step.)

5. Activate your child theme to make it show up

After your child theme is uploaded, you need to activate your child theme, NOT Genesis. The Genesis framework needs to be present in the background, but your child theme is the one to activate:

activate a wordpress theme

If you don’t see how to activate your new child theme immediately, you can go to Dashboard > Appearance > Themes and hover over your child theme until you see the activate button.

(If your theme does not use a child theme, you will simply activate the main theme.)

6. Customize your theme

Once your theme is activated, you may want to use the Customizer to tweak the design. To get to the Customizer from your Dashboard go to Appearance > Customize:

wordpress customizer

Not all themes are integrated with the Customizer, but any that are reputable, should be.

Don’t forget to read my design dos and don’ts before you make to many tweaks!