What is a child theme?

A WordPress child theme is a theme that inherits design and functionality from its parent theme. Child themes allow you to change certain design elements or features of your site without changing the parent theme directly.


Why use a child theme?

Why should you make customizations in a child theme instead of the parent theme? The best reason to use a child theme is this: if you make changes to a parent theme, you will lose those changes if you install an update to that theme later. You might be thinking that you just won’t install theme updates in the future, but that’s not a good idea. What if an important security update or a critical bug fix is released for the theme? You need to install these updates, so do things the right way and make your customizations in a child theme.


Getting started

Creating a child theme can be a bit intimidating if you don’t know what to do. Lucky for you, we’ve created starter child themes for all of our themes. Getting started is as easy an uploading the child theme and activating it.

If you’re reading this and you’re not an Array customer, you should fix that right now. 🙂 Feel free to download of these child themes to use as a guide for creating your own child theme.

To get started:

  • Download the child theme that works with your parent theme.
  • Upload the child theme by visiting Appearance → Themes in your WordPress dashboard. Click Add New and upload the child theme zip file.
  • Activate the child theme.
  • Modify the child theme files to your needs. See our handy blog post that outlines how to customize various files in a child theme.

Customizing styles

Now that you’ve activated your child theme, you’re ready to make your customizations. Custom styles go in your child theme’s style.css file. Inside the style.css file, you’ll see a line at the bottom that says this:

/* Add your customizations below this line */

This is where you add your custom styles. If you need help with custom styling, see one of the many great CSS tutorials for beginners.


Customizing template files

Sometimes you need to do more than customizing styles. For example, you may want to change the text shown in the footer of your site. To do this, copy the footer.php file from the parent theme into your child theme’s folder and edit the text in the new file. The new file will automatically take precedence over the parent theme file, and any changes you make in the new file will be saved when you update the parent theme in the future.

You can also customize templates within sub folders of the theme. In your theme there may be a template-parts/ folder with various mini templates used throughout the theme. To customize a template file in a sub folder, you’ll want to copy that template file and place it in your child theme with the same path. For example, if you want to customize template-parts/content.php, you’ll want to place that in template-parts/content.php in your child theme.


Child theme downloads

These child themes are pre-made to work with our theme collection. To use one, simply download a zip file below and install on your site just like you would a normal theme.


Additional reading

For a more technical explanation of child themes and some examples for doing things like loading new javascript and styles, see this guide from the WordPress Codex. We’ve also written a handy blog post which explains how to modify various files in a child theme.

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