How to Install a Free WordPress Theme from the Admin Area of Your WP Website

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From this guide, you’ll learn how to install a free WordPress theme from inside the admin area of your WP website. It’s possible to do this without any additional software.

The themes come from the WordPress theme directory, which is an official source of verified and trustworthy themes. You can be sure the themes here were vigorously checked for viruses and malware and should work on all WordPress setups.

Themes from other sources around the internet may contain bugs, viruses and malware so buy/download with caution. They can’t be installed using the method described in this article.

Some WordPress themes require you to upgrade to the premium version to access all features

All of the themes available from the admin area are free, however, some have a premium version available for a small annual or one-off fee, which typically enables more features.

Popular themes that work this way include Kadence, Astra and GeneratePress.

The free versions of each of these themes are good enough to build a nice-looking website, but the more advanced features are only available to people who choose the premium versions.

How to Install a WordPress Theme from Inside WordPress

To get started installing a new theme, navigate to Appearance > Themes

In a brand new WordPress installation the page looks something like this:

From this screen, there are two ways to install a new theme.

  • Click on the Add New button at the top of the screen (indicated by a blue arrow)
  • Click on the Add New Theme icon (indicated by a red outline)

When you hover over the icon, it changes colour and looks like this:

Whichever option you choose, you end up at the Add Themes page, which looks something like this:

From here, you can start exploring the many thousands of free themes available inside your WordPress website.

Choose from the links at the top of the page to find a theme you like. The options are as follows:

  • Popular (default)
  • Latest
  • Favorites
  • Feature Filter
  • Search (not shown in the image below)

Let’s take a look at each of these options.

Popular WordPress themes

This is the default setting when looking for a new theme, making it the best starting point for any WordPress newbie.

What you see here are the most popular WordPress themes at that moment.

You’ll notice a number to the left of the options menu. This indicates the number of available themes in each section.

The number of popular themes is much lower than the number displayed when you click on Latest.

This list includes the default themes that are automatically installed with WordPress (they release a new one every year, which is named after the year of its release).

Some people never delete these themes, which is why they remain popular.

Scroll down the page though, and you’ll start seeing WordPress themes created by third parties. This is where you’ll typically find the good stuff.

Are there any issues with default themes? No. They are perfectly fine. You just tend to get more options and features with third-party themes.

Latest WordPress themes

In this section, you’ll find thousands of themes displayed by release date, with the newest at the top. These themes are so new, that they often have zero ratings or reviews.

WordPress adds new themes all the time, so this list will always be changing.

Favorites

You’ll need a WordPress.org account to use this feature. The ability to mark themes as a favorite is not available inside your own website.

This is how it works:

  • Log into WordPress.org to view the themes (they’re displayed in exactly the same way as they are in the admin area of your site)
  • Click on the More Info button for the themes you like
  • Click the heart icon to add a theme to your favorites list
  • Go back to your own site
  • Enter your WordPress.org username into the box provided and hit Get Favorites

You’ll now see all your favorited themes inside your own website.

Finding WordPress themes using the Feature Filter option

If you have an idea of the type of theme you’re looking for or the kind of feature you want it to include, you can apply filters to limit the results.

So say you want to create a photography site and you want the ability to add custom colors, you’d check the boxes Photography in the Subject column and Custom Colors in the Features column.

This is the result.

If you want to add more filters or remove what you’ve already used, click on the Edit Filters link to do that.

Finding a theme using the Search function

To the right of the main options, there’s a search function. You can enter keywords, theme names or author names into this box.

If you’re looking for a theme that contains blue as the primary color, enter the word blue.

When you find a theme you like…

So far we’ve looked at the various options for finding WordPress themes from inside the admin area of your website. Next, we’ll look at what to do when you find a theme you like.

It’s easy, really.

Each of the thumbnails is clickable, so click on one to learn more about the theme. When you do that, you’re taken to a page that looks like this. Notice the star ratings to the left?

This gives you an idea of what the theme looks like, but it’s just a starting point.

Many themes have options you can customize so it’s often better to install the theme on a site that has some content so you can play around with the settings and options. This gives you a better idea of the theme’s capabilities.

For example, the theme highlighted here is called Kadence.

It’s a great theme and I’m using it on several projects, but the preview looks nothing like the thumbnail in the top left. This is because you need to create that page using either blocks or a free template (which varies from theme to theme).

When you have a theme in preview mode, use these buttons to navigate back and forth between themes or close the preview window.

When you find a theme you like, click on Install.

When you do that, the Install button changes to Activate.

If you’re ready to make the theme active, click on Activate. If you’re not, leave it alone for now. The theme is installed on your site, just not active.

You can install as many themes as you like, but only one is active at any time.

What happens next depends on the theme. Typically, you’re taken back to the themes page and given the option to customize or set up the theme.

However, some themes add an additional block that contains more information. In the case of the Kadence theme, it tells you about the free starter templates and includes a link to those templates.

Take a look at the screenshot below.

If you’re using the Kadence theme or any other that offers free templates, it’s a good idea to download them to see how they’re put together. You’ll learn a lot about building pages by doing so.

The Kadence templates are available via a plugin which is freely available here or via the admin area of your website. Check out how to install a WordPress plugin. At the time of writing, there are more than 30 templates available to download.

Here are a couple of examples.

They also have a range of WordPress premium themes you can buy.

Customizing your theme

If you have done everything properly and activated the theme, it will be active on your site.

The Themes window will look something like the image below, with the thumbail for the active theme in the top left corner.

At the bottom of the thumbnail is a Customize button. Clicking on it takes you to the WordPress Customizer. This is where you can adjust the various settings so your website works they way you want it to.

The range of customization options varies from theme to theme. Free themes tend to have fewer options, while premium themes let you customize just about everything. If you’ve downloaded a freemium theme (a free one with a paid upgrade), you sometimes find the upgrade link inside the Customizer.

These are the Customize options for the Kadence theme, which I’m using on this site.

Each theme is different, so there’s a good chance your list won’t look the same as this one.

As you can see, though, there are lots of customization options, but only some of the relate to the theme. Others are WordPress specific.

Now it’s time to start having some fun!

Start working on the various options such as layout, colours and fonts to see what works for you. It’s a good idea to create content to see how your site looks. Write a few articles and start building out your site. You can make tweaks to the design as you go.

That’s it for installing a WordPress theme from the theme directory. I hope you found this guide useful.