Create WordPress Child Theme: Unleash Customization Potential for Your Website

Table of Content

A child theme is something not known to many but quite integral to one aspect of WordPress, i.e., design customization. One of the reasons WordPress is the best CMS is the thousands of free themes in its library. WordPress developers use these themes to ensure a customized design and layout for the website. 

But what if you’re not satisfied with the free WordPress themes or the premium ones available on third-party marketplaces? Well, in that case, you may consider a child theme. This feature helps further customize the theme on a website to ensure a more personalized design according to the owner’s requirements. 

This topic can be a little tricky for beginners in the WordPress website development space. So the experts at our WordPress development company have compiled this blog on how you can create WordPress child themes. 

But first, you must understand what a WordPress parent theme is before moving on to the child.

What is a WordPress Parent Theme?

A parent theme is basically the theme you have installed on your WordPress website. It serves as the foundation for your website’s design and functionality by providing the overall structure, layout, and basic styling. The parent theme contains a collection of template files, stylesheets, and other resources that determine how your website looks and behaves. 

When you activate a parent theme, it establishes the core design elements and functionality of your site. It typically includes the main HTML structure, CSS styles, and sometimes even custom functions or features specific to that theme. The parent theme acts as a framework upon which you can build and customize your website.

The advantage of using a parent theme is the solid starting point it provides for your site’s design and functionality, saving you time and effort. By utilizing a well-coded and reliable parent theme, you can leverage its features and design elements while still having customization and modification flexibility according to your specific requirements.

But there is an issue with parent themes when you make modifications directly to the files of a parent theme, those changes can be overwritten when the theme is updated. That’s where child themes come into play.

What is a WordPress Child Theme?

A WordPress child theme inherits the styling and functionality of its parent theme. Plus, you can make the modifications without directly altering the parent theme files. It acts as an extension of the parent theme, providing a safe and efficient way to customize and personalize your WordPress website. A child theme can help you comprehensively customize the design, add functionality, and maintain updates of the theme on your website. 

When creating a child theme, you can override specific template files, add custom styles, and introduce new functionality while maintaining the core structure and functionality inherited from the parent theme. That enables you to tailor your website’s appearance and behavior to meet your unique requirements without the risk of losing your modifications during parent theme updates.

What are the Prerequisites to Create a WordPress Child Theme?

Creating a child theme can be a complex process. So here are a few crucial child theme prerequisites you will need for creating a child theme from a parent theme for your WordPress website. 

WordPress Installation

Make sure you have a working installation of WordPress, as it will act as the foundation for your child theme. You can either set up a local development environment using software like XAMPP or install WordPress on a web server. 

Parent Theme

Select a suitable parent theme aligning with your design and functionality requirements. Make sure the selected parent theme is well-coded and regularly updated. It must also be compatible with the latest version of WordPress. You can either choose a free option from the WordPress theme directory or go for a premium (paid) theme from trusted third-party marketplaces.

Code Editor

You’ll need a reliable code editor to create and modify your child’s theme files. Some of the best code editor options available are Visual Studio Code, Sublime Text, Atom, and Notepad++. The features offered by these editors can enhance your coding experience and streamline the development process.

Basic Understanding of HTML, CSS, and PHP

Although you don’t have to have expertise, it’s crucial and beneficial to have a foundational knowledge of HTML, CSS, and PHP. HTML is used to structure the content, CSS helps with styling, and PHP helps add dynamic functionality within WordPress.

FTP/SFTP Access (optional)

Although it’s optional, having FTP (File Transfer Protocol) or SFTP (Secure File Transfer Protocol) access to your website’s files can be quite useful. With this access, you can directly upload and manage your child theme files on the server. It comes in handy if you ever need to make changes directly on the live site.

By fulfilling these prerequisites, your journey of creating a WordPress child theme will be more streamlined. Remember to plan your customization strategy, follow best practices, and regularly back up your files to avoid any potential issues during the process.

Advantages of Creating Child Themes for WordPress Websites

Creating a child theme can be quite advantageous for customizing the functionality of your website. 

Let’s look at some key advantages of using a child theme:

#1. Preservation of Parent Theme: The child theme can help keep the parent theme intact and separate from your customizations. So you can apply any new updates on the parent theme without worrying about the risk of losing your modifications. You can also maintain the stability and security provided by the parent theme while benefiting from its ongoing development.

#2. Customization Flexibility: With child themes, you can flexibly customize your website’s appearance and behavior according to your personal preferences. You can add or modify stylesheets, override specific template files, and even implement custom functionalities. Plus, all this can be done without modifying the parent theme files. So you can create a unique website tailored to your specific needs and design preferences.

#3. Code Maintenance: A child theme helps you organize your customizations within its own directory and files. So your codebase can be easily managed and maintained since your modifications are isolated from the parent theme’s code. It also improves code readability, organization, and troubleshooting. That makes it simpler to identify and address any issues that may arise.

#4. Safe Updates: Since your customizations are contained within the child theme, you can confidently update the parent theme without any risk of losing your changes. That is particularly beneficial when the parent theme introduces bug fixes, security patches, or new features. You can seamlessly update the parent theme while preserving your customizations, ensuring that your website remains up-to-date and secure.

#5. Reusability: Child themes can be reused across multiple websites that use the same parent theme. Once you have created and customized a child theme, you can easily replicate it for other projects based on the same parent theme. That saves time and effort, allowing you to maintain a consistent design and functionality across multiple websites.

By utilizing child themes, you can efficiently customize and extend your WordPress website while maintaining the integrity of the parent theme. This approach ensures that your site remains secure, easily updatable, and highly customizable, providing you with a solid foundation for building unique and tailored online experiences.

How to Create a WordPress Child Theme Manually

Creating a WordPress child theme is very important for customizing the functionality of your website while maintaining the integrity of the parent theme. It allows you to make modifications without directly altering the parent theme files, ensuring that your changes remain intact even when the parent theme is updated. In this step-by-step guide, you’ll see the process of creating a WordPress child theme, from setting up the necessary files to customizing and adding functionality to your child theme. Let’s get started!

Step 1: Create a Child Theme Folder

Start by logging into the WordPress dashboard. Then navigate to the WordPress themes directory (/wp-content/themes/). That’s where all the themes are stored. 

create wordpress child theme directory

In the “wp-content/themes” directory, create a new folder and give it a unique and descriptive name for your child theme. All your child theme files will be stored here. Remember to choose a name clearly reflecting the purpose or identity of your child theme. That will help you discern it from other themes in your WordPress installation. 

Through a separate folder for your child theme, you can ensure that your customizations remain isolated from the parent theme’s files. That eases the updation and management of your website.

Step 2: Create Stylesheet for Child Theme

Inside the child theme folder, right-click and select “New File” and name the file “style.css”. The “.css” extension indicates that it is a Cascading Style Sheet file. It will contain the CSS styles with respect to your child theme. Double-click on the “style.css” file to open it in a text editor or code editor of your choice.

Theme Name: My Child Theme
Description: Customized theme based on Parent Theme
Author: Your Name
Author URI: Your Website URL
Template: parent-theme-folder-name
/* Custom styles start here */

Begin the file with the required header comment, including the theme name, description, author, and other relevant information. Additionally, specify the “Template” value in the comment, which should be the directory name of the parent theme.

In the header section of the “style.css” file, you need to provide some essential information about your child theme. Modify the code shown above with the relevant details for your theme, such as the theme name, description, author, author URI, and the name of the parent theme’s folder (replace “parent-theme-folder-name” with the actual directory name of the parent theme).

Creating and customizing the stylesheet for your child theme will give you the ability to apply unique styles to your website. That, too, without modifying the parent theme’s CSS files directly.

Step 3: Enqueue Parent and Child Theme in WordPress

To ensure that both the parent and child themes are loaded correctly, you need to enqueue them in your child theme’s “functions.php” file. Open the child folder and create a new file called “functions.php”. If the file already exists, open it in a text editor or code editor.

To load the parent theme’s stylesheet, you need to add “wp_enqueue_style()” in the “functions.php” file. Enter the below-mentioned code in the “functions.php” file. 

add_action( 'wp_enqueue_scripts', 'enqueue_parent_theme_styles' );
function enqueue_parent_theme_styles() {
    wp_enqueue_style( 'parent-style', get_template_directory_uri() . '/style.css' );

This function ensures the parent theme’s stylesheet is loaded correctly. 

Then, we move on to loading the child theme’s stylesheet through another code in the functions.php file.

add_action( 'wp_enqueue_scripts', 'enqueue_child_theme_styles' );
function enqueue_child_theme_styles() {
    wp_enqueue_style( 'child-style', get_stylesheet_uri(), array( 'parent-style' ) );

In this file, use the “wp_enqueue_style” function to enqueue the parent theme’s stylesheet as well as the child theme’s stylesheet. That will ensure that both stylesheets are properly loaded. Plus, this code has an array argument specifying the dependency on the ‘parent-style’ stylesheet.

The parent theme’s stylesheet provides the base styles. But the child theme’s stylesheet allows you to override or add more styles to customize the appearance of your website.

Step 4: Install and Activate the WordPress Child Theme

Once you have created the child theme folder and added the necessary files, it’s time to install and activate the child theme on your website. 

install and activate child theme

Navigate to “Appearance” and go to “Themes”. Then click on “Add New” at the top. Upload the entire child theme folder to your website as a zip file by clicking on the button “Upload Theme”. 

Then click on “Activate” to activate the child theme and make it function on your WordPress site.

Once activated, the child theme will inherit the functionalities and styles from the parent theme while allowing you to make customizations and modifications without affecting the parent theme’s files. Afterward, the changes applied by the child theme will be visible on the website. 

Step 5: Customize the WordPress Child Theme

With your child theme successfully activated, you can now begin customizing its appearance and functionality. 

Navigate to your child theme in the “wp-content/themes/” in the WordPress file directory and open its “style.css” file in a text editor or code editor. Then you can target specific elements, classes, or IDs and define their properties, such as colors, fonts, margins, and more. That will help you modify the CSS styles to achieve the desired look. 

Theme Name: My Child Theme
Description: Customized theme based on Parent Theme
Author: Your Name
Author URI: Your Website URL
Template: parent-theme-folder-name
/* =Theme customization starts here
------------------------------------------------------- */

Additionally, you can override specific template files in the child theme folder to customize their structure and content.

Step 6: Adding Functionality to the Child Theme

Now, in the “wp-content/themes/” directory, open and edit the “functions.php” file in a text or code editor. 

add_action( 'after_setup_theme', 'my_custom_function' );
function my_custom_function() {
    // Custom functionality code goes here

Here, you can add custom PHP code, such as custom functions, hooks, or filters. These additions can modify existing features or introduce new functionalities to enhance your website.

Make sure you save the functions.php file after making the changes. It will help you tailor your website to meet your specific needs. 

Step 7: Troubleshooting

After creating and customizing your child theme, it’s important to test and troubleshoot any issues that may arise. 

First, verify the child theme activation. Then, check and ensure there are no CSS conflicts with the existing styles. You can use specific CSS selectors or the “!important” rule to override conflicting styles. 

Then, check the front end of your website and verify that the modifications are visible and functioning as expected. Make sure to double-check the file names, locations, and code within the modified template files. After that, check if any of the plugins are causing compatibility issues, in which case, find suitable alternatives or reach out to their support teams. 

Finally, enable the debugging mode in WordPress to check if there are any PHP errors or warnings. In your site’s “wp-config.php” file, set the “WP_DEBUG” constant to true.

By following this step-by-step process, you can create a WordPress child theme, customize its appearance, and add new functionalities, all while maintaining the integrity of the parent theme. So you can build a unique and tailored website that meets your specific requirements.

This process can be tricky for some. In that case, you may contact a WordPress development company. Their expert developers can help you create the child theme and customize your website more effectively. 

Alternatively, you may go for the other two ways we have mentioned below. 

Alternative Ways to Create Child Theme

If you find the above-mentioned process confusing, don’t worry. There are two more methods to create child themes for your websites. So let’s discuss these methods.

Using a WordPress Plugin

Guess what the highlight of WordPress is? Yes, plugins. There’s a plugin on WordPress for every minor to major website functionality, and that includes creating child themes. Isn’t it crazy that there are plugins for creating child “themes”? But it’s a relief if you aren’t technically inclined when it comes to WordPress website development. 

You can just install the plugin on the WordPress dashboard and let the magic begin. One such plugin is the Child Theme Configurator. This user-friendly plugin helps you create customized child themes without any programming know-how. 

Step 1: To activate the Child Theme Configurator plugin, first, look for “Plugin” on the left sidebar of the WordPress dashboard. Then, select “Add New”. 

Step 2: At this point, you’ll see a display showing “Add Plugins” with a search bar, plugins, and categories. Enter “Child Theme Configurator” in the search bar.

Step 3: Then, you’ll be presented with the plugin, in front of which you’ll see “Install Now”. As you may expect, clicking on it will help you install the plugin. 

Step 4: Again, you’ll see “Activate”, pressing on which will activate the said plugin. 

Now, you’re ready to use the Child Theme Configurator plugin on your WordPress website. 

Step 5: Open “Tools” and click on “Child Themes”

Step 6: On the display that follows, you’ll need to go to the Parent/Child tab, where you will see a drop-down menu and be asked to select the parent theme. Let’s say you chose a theme, “XYZ”. 

Step 7: Now, click the button “Analyze”. It will check if the theme you selected is suitable to be converted into a child theme. 

You’ll also have the option to take back-up of the selected theme. Make sure you opt for it. 

Step 8: As soon as it’s established that the theme is suitable as a parent, you’ll have to name the child theme folder, where all of its files will be saved. The best name for the folder would be the name of the parent theme (without spaces) hyphenated with the word child. For example, if the name of the parent theme is “XYZ”, the child theme folder would be better named as “XYZ-child”.

Plus, you’ll need to select where to save the new styles, between Primary Stylesheet (style.css) and Separate Stylesheet. We recommend you go with the default setting, i.e., style.css.

Step 9: Next, you will select the parent theme stylesheet handling, i.e., how the parent theme stylesheet will be handled. In this case, go with the default setting, i.e., Use the WordPress style queue. 

Step 10: Click on the button “Click to Edit Child Theme Attributes”. Then, enter the details like Child Theme Name, Theme Website, Author, and Author Website.

Step 11: Then, you’ll be presented with an option to copy the menus, widgets, and other settings from the parent theme to the child. So click on the checkbox. Otherwise, the child theme will have the default settings. 

Step 12: Last but not least, click on the button to “Create New Child Theme”.

Now, the Child Theme Configurator plugin will create a folder for the child theme and add the necessary functions.php and style.css files. That will ensure you can customize the child theme later. 

But before you activate the child theme, you’ll have the option to preview it to see if everything is working as intended. 

Finally, if everything’s good, Click on the button “Activate & Publish” to make the child theme live on your website. 

Using Browser-Based WordPress Child Theme Generator

Now, to a simpler method. There are browser-based programs, like WordPress Child Theme Generator that can make this process much simpler.

You’ll only have to enter the name and slug of your parent theme. Then, the next step is to write in the desired name of your Child theme, along with its slug. After that, enter the details of the Author, i.e., their name and email address. 

Finally, click on “Create your child theme now”, and your child theme will be created automatically. That will help save time that you can better spend on other aspects of your website. 

FAQs Related to WordPress Child Theme Creation

What is a WordPress Child Theme, and why should I use it?
A WordPress Child Theme is a sub-theme that inherits all the functionality, features, and style of its parent theme. Using a child theme allows you to modify or add to the functionality of the parent theme without altering the parent theme itself. This way, you can customize your website to your liking without the risk of updates to the parent theme erasing your changes.
Why is it advantageous to use a Child Theme over modifying the Parent Theme directly?
The use of a Child Theme helps preserve modifications and customizations even when the Parent Theme is updated. Changes made to the Parent Theme directly can be overwritten during updates, but using a Child Theme protects these alterations.
Is coding proficiency required to create a WordPress Child Theme?
Although a basic understanding of CSS and PHP can be beneficial, it's not always necessary for creating a WordPress Child Theme. There are many resources available, including guides and tutorials, that can assist those without much coding experience.
What happens when the Parent Theme is updated while a Child Theme is active?
The advantage of a Child Theme is that its customizations remain unaffected when the Parent Theme is updated. The Parent Theme can be updated on the site without disrupting the functionality and style of the Child Theme.


A WordPress child theme inherits the functionality and styling of its parent theme. And you can make the modifications without directly altering the parent theme files. Plus, on the flip side, in case of any updates with the parent theme, the customizations made through the child theme won’t be lost. 

So we have made a guide on the three methods of creating WordPress child themes. The first is through manual coding, where you can create, customize, and troubleshoot the child theme to ensure everything works as intended. The second method is a WordPress plugin like the Child Theme Configurator. And the final method is a browser-based child theme generator that helps create the child theme more conveniently. 

So if you want a WordPress child theme for your website, follow this blog or get in touch with our experienced WordPress developers now.

Jigar Shah is the Founder of WPWeb Infotech - a leading Web Development Company in India, USA. Being the founder of the company, he takes care of business development activities and handles the execution of the projects. He is Enthusiastic about producing quality content on challenging technical subjects.

Leave a comment