How to use a Child Theme

Follow this tutorial to find out if you need to use a child theme for your customizations, and how to use one if you do.

In this article

When You Should Use a Child Theme

If you only need to make style changes to Unlimited, you don't need a child theme.

Customizations that purely change the presentation of your site can usually be done with just CSS, such as the following updates:

  • Change font sizes
  • Change colors
  • Remove a site element

You can use a child theme to modify your site with CSS, but it is much easier to use the Custom CSS section in the Customizer instead.

If you're looking to make presentational changes to Unlimited like the ones listed above, check out the CSS tutorial: How to Customize Unlimited with CSS.

If you need to make a customization that will do any of the following you will need a child theme:

  • Reorder site elements
  • Add new content/elements
  • Change any functionality

If your customization sounds like one of the above, please continue reading.

Why You Should Use a Child Theme

The reason child themes exist is so you can customize a "parent" theme without losing your changes when you update the parent theme.

For example, if you modified the content.php file in Unlimited your customization would work fine at first. However, when you update to a newer version of Unlimited, you will lose your changes to content.php and there will be no way to restore your customization.

Using a child theme takes a few extra steps, but will allow you to customize your site in a safe and stable way.

How to Use a Child Theme

The first thing you need is an empty Unlimited child theme to put your customizations in. You can click the button below to download one:

Download Child Theme

Now that you have your child theme, the next step is to upload it to your site.

How to Upload Your Child Theme

To upload your child theme:

  1. Visit the Appearance menu
  2. Click on the Add New button at the top of the page
  3. Click on the Upload Theme button at the top of the page
  4. Click on the Choose File button
  5. Select the unlimited-child.zip file you downloaded
  6. Click the Install Now button
  7. Once the page reloads, click the blue Activate link

When you activate your child theme, your settings in the Customizer unfortunately won't carry over from Unlimited. However, you can use the Customizer Export/Import plugin to quickly transfer over your settings.

How to Customize with Your Child Theme

Now that the child theme is active, you can make any edits through the Editor menu:

  1. Visit the Editor menu (Appearance → Editor)
  2. Make sure the dropdown menu in the top-right corner says "Unlimited Child"
  3. Use the file list on the right side of the screen to navigate the child theme
  4. Click the Update File button when you're finished editing a file

Please note that mistakes in PHP files can cause errors that result in your site showing a plain white screen. Edit carefully, and be prepared to connect via FTP to correct any mistakes.

How to Customize Your Child Theme Locally

The safest and surest way of updating your child theme is to install WordPress on your computer and edit your child theme there, rather than in the Editor menu.

The benefits of working on a local install are:

  • You can make mistakes without affecting your live site
  • You can use a nice code editor instead of WordPress' plain editor
  • It's faster and easier to experiment

For Mac users, this tutorial on installing MAMP and WordPress locally should get you setup. For Windows users, InstantWP is a free and fast way to setup a WordPress install locally.

When you're happy with any updates you've made, you can upload the edited files to your site via FTP.

Additional Resources

  • Unlimited WordPress Theme

    Download a copy of the latest version of Unlimited.

  • Support forum

    Ask questions and find existing solutions in the support forum.

  • Changelog

    Review recent and past updates to Unlimited.

  • Unlimited on Github

    Review Unlimited's commit history and project files on Github.

  • WordPress Resources

    Check our recommended resources to find great plugins and solutions for your site.

  • Codeable.io

    We can help you with minor changes on your site, but if you need a highly customized version of Unlimited, we recommend finding help through Codeable.