Renaming Your WordPress Theme

When setting up a self-hosted WordPress site, you’ll be using a theme. I always start building my site with a pre-made basic theme such as the default WordPress theme. But then I make adjustments to that theme to fit my exact website, and I typically do so not as a child theme as described in this article, but actually by editing the theme itself. The biggest issue that arises with this methodology is when the base theme you used gets updated, it will overwrite all of the wonderful changes you’d already made to your site. Luckily, there is an easy way around this! Here are the four easy steps to renaming an existing theme to prevent it from updating:

1. Make an exact copy of the theme you plan on changing. The easiest and best way of doing this is using an FTP program like Filezilla. After you’ve already setup WordPress on your site, and installed the theme you are interested in, then go find that folder in your server files. The themes are located wp-content -> themes. Download the theme folder to your desktop rename the folder to your desired theme name.

2. Change a few lines of code in the style.css file. Now that you’ve got a “new theme”, you’ve actually got to change a few files so that WordPress recognizes it as a new theme. The only meaningful file change is the style.css file (which must keep the name of style.css), which references the theme name that WordPress uses. Here is an example of the commented code that needs to exist at the top of your style.css file. If you want, you can keep everything the exact same, just change the theme name to your new theme name.

/*
Theme Name: YOUR_NEW_THEME_NAME_HERE
Theme URI: YOUR_WEBSITE_URL
Description: DESCRIPTION_OF_YOUR_THEME
Version: 1.0
Author: YOUR_NAME
Author URI: YOUR_WEBSITE_URL
Tags: FOR_WP_THEME_SEARCH_IF_PUBLISHED
*/

3. Change a few lines of code in all the remaining files. In almost all of the remaining files, you’ll see something similar to the code below. This is an optional step, but you might as well be thorough and just update all the files to have your new theme name.

<?php
/**
 * @package WordPress
 * @subpackage YOUR_NEW_THEME_NAME_HERE
 */
?>

4. Create a screenshot for the WordPress theme selection page. You might notice inside the folder you downloaded, there is a screenshot.png file. This is the image that shows up in the theme selection interface in your website’s WordPress administration. Make a new screenshot of what your theme actually will look like. The image should be 300 pixels wide by 225 pixels tall. If you are curious, this is the screenshot I did for my own adjusted theme (yes, I used the process described above myself).

5. Upload and install your new theme. Once you are done with steps one through four, you can upload your new theme into the same themes folder you downloaded it out of originally. Once that is done, if you go to the WordPress administration interface for selecting the active theme, you should see your new theme as an option, in addition to the currently selected original theme you had been using. Pick your new theme for the site, and you are all set to go. You’ve got a fully functional theme that won’t get overwritten, no matter how many changes you make!

14 Responses to “Renaming Your WordPress Theme”

  1. raulvelasco says:

    Hi David!

    Thanks for this useful post 🙂

    I have a doubt. If I update my WordPress version, will it affect to my renamed theme?

    Thank you in advance.

    • David says:

      If you renamed the theme correctly, no updates should affect it whatsoever, as that is the main purpose in renaming the theme. If you’d feel more comfortable though, you can always download a copy of your theme via ftp so you have a backup before you update wordpress or any themes.

  2. Sayed Arif says:

    Awsome post man. u made it real easy! Thanx

  3. raulvelasco says:

    Thanks for the quick answer David! Regards!

  4. jj says:

    What happens then when there is an update for your main theme? Will the copied theme notify you of updates as well? Also, if you update it, every customization will be lost so this kinda destroys the original intent in making a copy from the original… so… what would the best option in this case? Create and use a child of the copied theme, so that the parent will be updated without interfering with your site customizations? Thanks

    • David says:

      The entire purpose behind renaming the theme is to prevent updates. If you want an original theme to receive updates, then you should go the child theme route.

  5. SteveH says:

    Hello David,

    I have question, I have a woocommerce template that I bought from themeforest which I am customising a little for my aunties clothes shop i.e logo, products, text etc.

    I wish to rename the theme as the name of her shop. But when it comes to original theme update, I have now renamed it you see… so how does WordPress recognise the old theme name so it can notify me of the parent theme update? if there is no reference of the old name how can I be notified of an update?

    Is this tutorial suggesting that I can rename a parent theme but have to keep one reference somewhere where it’s needed for WordPress i.e so it can look for the original theme name to update and this will not override my new style changes?

    So in a nutshell, to rename a theme and for example the source code to show new theme name, if I still want updates for original theme to not affect my new style settings, a child theme is the way to go?

    Kind regards,

    Steve

  6. Vakero says:

    Thank you! It works for me

  7. Elisabetta says:

    Hi Dave,

    What happens of you have already added widgets or changed theme options (not by changing code but by using the interface and options provides by the theme itself). Will I lose all the settings in the copied theme?

    • David says:

      Unfortunately your existing settings will not be ported over to the new child theme. The settings are stored in your WordPress database and are associated with the parent theme alone. However, they won’t actually be lost, so you can change back and forth between your old theme and new theme to apply all the same customizations. Not the most convenient, but it would work.

  8. Awais Khan says:

    Awesome! It’s worked. Thank you!!

  9. Clare says:

    Just what I need. I’ve taken over a site and the theme that a child runs off updated to a theme with the same name from the WP repository. So I need to rename the theme to stop it updating wrong (again) and killing the site

  10. Vlad says:

    Straightforward and useful. Thanks!