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How to Modify WordPress Themes Ethically and Legally

A comprehensive guide on how to modify WordPress themes the right way, without resorting to ripping them off.

What Does Ripping a WordPress Theme Mean?

Ripping a WordPress theme means extracting the files and code of a commercial or premium WordPress theme without paying for it. It is illegal and violates the license agreement between the theme developer and the user.

Alternatives to Ripping a WordPress Theme

Instead of ripping a WordPress theme, consider the following alternatives:

1. Purchase the Theme Legally

The most ethical and straightforward solution is to purchase the WordPress theme you want to modify. You can buy a theme from a reputable marketplace such as ThemeForest or Elegant Themes or directly from the theme developer’s website. By purchasing a theme, you get a license that allows you to use the theme on your website and receive updates and support from the developer.

2. Use a Free WordPress Theme

WordPress offers a vast library of free themes that you can use to modify your website’s design. Although these themes might not have all the features and functionality of premium themes, they are often sufficient for personal blogs or small business websites. Moreover, many free themes are highly customizable, allowing you to change the color scheme, fonts, layout, and more.

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3. Hire a WordPress Developer

If you have a specific design in mind or want to modify a premium theme’s functionality, consider hiring a professional WordPress developer. With their knowledge and experience, they can help you modify a WordPress theme legally and ethically. Moreover, they can provide you with suggestions and best practices that can improve your website’s performance, usability, and SEO.

The Consequences of Ripping a WordPress Theme

If for some reason, you still want to rip a WordPress theme, please keep in mind that it’s highly unethical, illegal, and puts your website at risk of malware and vulnerabilities. Furthermore, the ripped theme may not receive updates or support from the developer, which can lead to compatibility issues, security flaws, and poor performance.

How to Modify a WordPress Theme

If you want to modify a theme and learn how it works without violating the license agreement, follow these steps:

1. Download the Theme

Purchase the WordPress theme you want to modify legally and download it from the authorized source. Once you have the theme files, extract them to your computer.

2. Understand the License Agreement

The theme developer provides a license agreement that outlines the terms and conditions of using the theme. Read the license carefully and make sure you comply with all the requirements.

3. Create a Child Theme

A child theme is a WordPress theme that inherits the styles, templates, and functionality of a parent theme. By creating a child theme, you can modify the theme’s files and code without altering the original theme files. Follow these steps to create a child theme:

  • Create a new folder in your WordPress themes directory and name it after your child theme (e.g., mytheme-child)
  • Create a style.css file in your child theme’s directory and add the following code:
<!-- Theme Name: MyTheme Child
Theme URI: https://example.com/mytheme-child/
Description: MyTheme Child Theme
Author: Your Name
Author URI: https://example.com/
Template: mytheme
Version: 1.0 -->

@import url("../mytheme/style.css");
  • Replace the values with your child theme information (e.g., Theme Name, Theme URI, etc.)
  • Save the style.css file and activate your child theme from WordPress Appearance > Themes
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4. Modify the Theme Files

Now that you have a child theme, you can start modifying the theme files. To modify a template file (e.g., header.php), copy the file from the parent theme to your child theme’s directory and make the necessary changes. WordPress will use the modified file from your child theme instead of the original file from the parent theme.

If you want to modify the theme’s functionality (e.g., add a new feature or remove an existing one), use a plugin such as Code Snippets or Custom Functions to add your code to your child theme’s functions.php file.

5. Test Your Changes

After making your changes, test your website thoroughly to ensure that everything works as expected. Check the website’s responsiveness, functionality, and compatibility with different browsers and devices. Moreover, consider using a website speed test tool to measure your website’s performance.


Ripping a WordPress theme is not only illegal and unethical but it also puts your website at risk of malware and vulnerabilities. Instead, consider purchasing a theme legally, using a free WordPress theme, or hiring a WordPress developer to modify your website’s design and functionality. If you want to learn how to modify a WordPress theme, create a child theme, and modify the theme files and functionality using plugins and code snippets. Always follow the license agreement and test your changes thoroughly to ensure that your website works correctly.

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