Design

Themes » Uploading & Setting Up Custom Themes

In addition to the hundreds of themes on WordPress.com, our Business and eCommerce plans allow you to upload your own custom theme. This can be useful if you’ve purchased a theme from elsewhere and want to use it on your WordPress.com site.

Table of Contents

Quick Steps
Download the Theme’s .zip File
Upload the Theme
Preview or Activate the Theme
Setting up your Custom Theme
Deleting a Custom Theme
Custom Themes and Demo Content
Where to Find Custom Themes

Quick Steps

  1. Download the theme’s .zip file.
  2. Go to My Site(s) → Appearance → Themes.
  3. Select Install Theme.
  4. Preview or activate the theme.

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Download the Theme's .zip File

Start by downloading the theme’s .zip file from wherever you purchased the theme. Do not unzip the file.

If you’re creating your own custom theme, you’ll need to save it as a .zip file.

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For themes purchased through Themeforest, you must choose the Installable WordPress file only option when downloading the theme.

From the Download options, Installable WordPress file only is the correct one.

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Upload the Theme

To upload a custom theme

  1. Go to My Site(s) → Appearance → Themes in your site’s dashboard.
  2. Click Install Theme.
The Install Theme button is on the top right of the Themes page.
  1. Drag the theme’s .zip file into the box. Alternatively, you can click the box, locate the theme’s .zip file on your computer and double click it.
When you click Install Theme, you can click the box to upload the file, or you can drag them into the section that says "Drop files or click here to upload".

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Preview or Activate the Theme

If you’re ready to start using the theme right away, click Activate.

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To preview the theme before activating it, click Try & Customize to see a live preview in the Customizer.

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You can adjust your site settings and theme options from the Customizer.

Click Save & Activate when you’re done adjusting the settings and ready to activate the theme.


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Setting up your Custom Theme

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Custom themes are developed by third parties for use on the WordPress platform. With that in mind, your theme developer is the best resource for guides on how to set up your new custom theme or specific questions about customizing it further.

Custom themes may require additional setup after uploading and activating the theme.

Since every custom theme is different, it’s best to check your theme’s specific instructions for how to finish setting it up.

A good place to check for additional theme setup options is in the Customizer. You can access the Customizer by going to My Sites → Appearance → Customize.

If you can’t find your custom theme’s instructions or aren’t sure how to finish setting up your custom theme, we recommend contacting the theme’s support team. They’ll be the most familiar with the theme and in the best position to help you out.


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Deleting a Custom Theme

If you want to remove a custom theme from your site, first switch your site to another theme in My Site(s) → Appearance → Themes. Once you’ve done this, there are two ways you can delete the custom theme.

  • You can find the custom theme in My Site(s) → Appearance → Themes → My Themes and click on the ellipsis (three dots) to the right of the theme name, then select Delete.
  • You can also delete the custom theme using SFTP to connect to your site. You’ll find your site’s SFTP login info in the hosting configuration under My Site(s) → Settings → Hosting Configuration. Once you’re connected, navigate to the theme directory at /htdocs/wp-content/themes, find the folder for the custom theme, and delete it.

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Be careful not to delete a custom theme if it’s the parent for a child theme you want to use.


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Choosing a Theme

General factors you should consider when deciding on a theme include:

  • how it looks
  • responsive design (so that the theme looks good on all different screen sizes)
  • how often the theme is updated (frequent updates are a good sign)
  • a reliable theme support service to help you with bugs and questions

Something else to keep in mind is how much custom functionality is introduced by a theme. Some third-party theme authors bundle huge amounts of functionality into their themes.

Things like custom sliders, shortcodes, widgets, layout managers, and content builders are frequent inclusions. Be careful when choosing a theme like this. If you decide to switch themes at a later date, you will lose all of the custom functionality that you may have come to rely upon. This can be extremely problematic if the functionality is interwoven throughout your entire website. Imagine you’re using a [slider] shortcode on all of your product pages. When you switch themes you would need to go through all of your products to remove instances of that shortcode – not fun at all!

Our advice would be to always look for a lightweight, lean theme and then add extra functionality via Plugins & extensions. This way, when you switch themes the functionality remains.


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Where to Find Custom Themes

If you’ve already taken a look through the WordPress.com theme showcase, but haven’t yet found the perfect personality for your site, there’s no need to worry – if you use our Business or eCommerce plan, you also have the ability to upload custom themes from third-party sites.

While there are a lot of theme resources and galleries available online, we’ve collected a list of some favorites below to get you started.

Theme Resources:

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Remember, since these themes are developed by third-parties, it’s good to review their support options before purchasing a theme. We can help with basic questions, but the theme developers will be the best place to get ongoing support for the theme.


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Custom Themes and Demo Content

  • Some custom themes may include methods to import or install demo content. 
  • We recommend only installing demo content via an XML File.
  • If your theme did not include a demo XML file or provided demo content in a different manner, please contact the theme’s support and ask if they’re able to provide an XML file.

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