How to change a theme

One of the foundational elements of a WordPress website is a theme. In WordPress, a theme is essentially a collection of code to apply a style to a website. Similar to a “skin” for a web browser or computer application, a theme allows you to quickly and easily apply major changes to the look of your website without needing any code.

Themes can control text elements like fonts, font sizes, and text colors, but they can also control other visual elements like images. Themes can add background images, create layout templates for you to add your own images, and change the size and placement of images like your logo. They can adjust the look of the title, menu, sidebar, and footer areas of the screen. Basically, a theme controls every aspect of your website’s look.

WordPress default themes

Every clean install of WordPress includes some basic themes. The exact options you’ll have depends on the version of WordPress you use, but these basic themes are named after the year in which they were created. For example, Twenty Seventeen is the newest WordPress default theme. WordPress also offers options like Twenty Sixteen, Twenty Fifteen, and Twenty Fourteen.

Additional themes

Like plugins, thousands of other free themes are available from WordPress. They’re not bundled with your copy of WordPress but you can add them from within WordPress. You can also view and search them at These themes are created by a variety of third-party developers, but like the plugins available from within WordPress, these themes are carefully checked to ensure they adhere to quality standards and are free of malware and spamware.

Themes may also be purchased from a third-party site and installed to WordPress. Popular third-party theme websites include Elegant Themes, Theme Forest, and StudioPress.

How to install a theme

Installing a theme in WordPress is very simple. If the theme you want isn’t already preinstalled, go to Appearance > Themes in the WordPress Dashboard and click the Add New button at the top. If you want a theme available directly from WordPress, find it in the Featured, Popular, Latest, or Favorites sections or search for it directly. Once you’ve found the theme you want, click the blue Install button to install it — or click the Preview button if you want to see what it will look like on your site first. This is an important step as it can sometimes be difficult to tell what a theme will look like once you’ve installed it. Check out our tips for choosing a theme for more information.

Once you’ve installed the theme you want, it will be added to your list of themes at Appearance > Themes in your WordPress Dashboard. This list can contain multiple themes that you’ve installed on your site. Only one can be active at a time, however. That said, it’s not always a good idea to keep extra themes.

From Appearance > Themes in your Dashboard, click the Activate button that appears when you over over the theme’s box and your new theme will be active on your site.

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