“The Theme Is Missing the Style CSS Stylesheet” How to Fix This

Did you just encounter “the theme is missing the style CSS stylesheet” error on your WordPress website? 🤔

It’s a common error that people encounter while trying to install a theme on their WordPress site. Luckily, there are simple troubleshooting measures that you can perform to fix the issue.

In this article, we are first going to explore the causes behind the error and offer some basic understanding of a theme file to prevent the error from reappearing in the future. Then, we are going to show you how to fix the error and help you upload a theme of your choice to your WordPress website.

Let’s get started 🏁 with the tutorial.

What causes “the theme is missing the style CSS stylesheet” error

The “the theme is missing the style CSS stylesheet” error (also called the “missing style.css stylesheet” error) occurs only when you are trying to upload a theme to your WordPress website.

It’s one of those rare WordPress errors that informs you about the causes of the error, i.e., “missing style.css stylesheet.”

The style.css file is present in all WordPress themes. It’s an essential part of a theme because it’s responsible for the layout and style of your website. So when the file goes missing, WordPress refuses to install the theme and throws the error.

style css file in theme folder

Here are some of the possible causes of the “The Theme Is Missing the Style CSS Stylesheet” error:

  • The theme developer forgot to include the style.css file in the theme, or may have misplaced it in a location where WordPress can’t find it.
  • The folder got accidentally deleted or corrupted so much so that WordPress can no longer recognize it.
  • It’s possible that you are uploading a folder that is not a theme but a plugin. This type of mix-up commonly happens with plugins that offer add-ons to the theme installed on your site.
  • Perhaps the theme files are stored in a zip folder and need to be extracted before uploading. To be clear, theme files are supposed to be uploaded in a zipped folder. But certain marketplaces like ThemeForest are known to add an extra layer of zip folder which contains the theme file along with documentation and licenses from the marketplace.

Now that we have some clarity 🤓 on what could have caused the “the theme is missing the style CSS stylesheet” error, let’s find a way to remove the error from your website.

How to fix “the theme is missing the style CSS stylesheet” error

To fix the error, you will need to take the following measures:

  1. Check whether the style.css file is really missing
  2. Make sure the style.css file is stored in the right location
  3. Make sure it’s a theme, not a plugin
  4. Make sure the theme is compatible with WordPress

Some of you are probably encountering this error while uploading a child theme. These solutions should work for you as well.

💡 Quick Note: In this tutorial, we are using Windows to demonstrate some of the solutions. MacOS users can also carry out the same solutions, but the steps will vary slightly. These help docs will guide MacOS users when they need assistance.

Now, let’s dive in.

1. Check whether the style.css file is really missing

A typical WordPress theme file comes in a zip folder. It contains several files and folders, including the style.css stylesheet. To check whether the style.css file is really missing in the theme folder, you will need to extract the files from the zipped theme folder. Here’s how:

Right-click on the zip folder, and choose the Extract All option.

unzipping a wordpress theme folder

Select a destination folder for the extracted files and hit the Extract button.

selecting destination folder for extracted files

If you need help with the extraction process, check these guides for Windows and MacOS. Or consider a free online tool like ezyZip.

After the extraction is complete, open the destination folder (Downloads, in our case), and you will notice that there is a new theme folder that appears to have been unzipped.

unzipped wordpress theme folder

Open the unzipped new theme folder and look for the style.css file.

style css file in theme folder

If you find the style.css file, it means WordPress was unable to read the file for unknown reasons. It could have been a temporary glitch, or perhaps the theme file was corrupted.

We recommend downloading a fresh copy of the theme and uploading it to your WordPress website.

But if you don’t see the style.css file, then you need to try the next solution. 👇

2. Make sure the style.css file is stored in the right location

The style.css file should be located in the theme’s root directory. Meaning, as soon as you open the theme folder (after unzipping it), style.css should appear.

If it’s located in another folder, WordPress might not be able to detect it, which could result in the “the theme is missing the style CSS stylesheet” error.

Misplacement of the file is a rare occurrence but it could happen. We recommend looking for the file in other folders by writing the name of the file in the search bar of your window.

All files and folders with the terms “style” and “css” will show up. Look for the file named “style.css.” When you find it, select the file, right-click and choose Cut.

using windows search bar

Next, go to the theme’s root directory, right-click on an empty space and select the Paste option.

pasting style css file in theme root directory

You have now moved the style.css file to its original location.

Now that the style.css is no longer missing, it’s time to upload the file to your WordPress website.

In the previous step, we showed you how to unzip the theme folder. Now you will have to compress the theme file into a zipped folder.

Right-click on the unzipped theme folder and select the Compress to ZIP File option from the popup. Within seconds, a new zipped folder will be created.

compressing wordpress theme folder to a zip file

When the zipped folder is ready, upload the new theme folder to your WordPress website and hit the Activate button to get the theme running on your site.

activating wordpress theme

That’s it, you have now fixed the “missing style.css” error and installed a theme of your choice on your WordPress website.

In some cases, moving the style.css file might allow you to install the theme…but cause issues with the theme because you moved the file. If that happens, we recommend reaching out to the theme developer for help.

This solution works only if you found the file in one of the theme folders. Those of you who didn’t find the style.css file in the theme folder will need to try the next solution. 👇

3. Make sure it’s a theme, not a plugin

On the surface, it’s hard to distinguish between a theme and a plugin.

After downloading a theme or a plugin, you must have noticed that the zipped folder only contains the name and version of the software. It is never tagged as a plugin or a theme.

Therefore, it’s not difficult to imagine that some users end up uploading a plugin instead of a theme causing WordPress to throw the missing style.css error.

This type of mistake commonly occurs when purchasing theme add-ons.

For example, Neve, our in-house theme, is a free WordPress theme. You can expand its functionalities by installing the premium add-on pluginNeve Pro.


Neve is a theme and has to be uploaded via Appearance → Themes → Add New → Upload Themes. Neve Pro is a plugin and has to be uploaded via Plugins → Add New → Upload Plugins.

Since Neve Pro is related to the Neve theme, customers mistake Neve Pro for a theme and try to upload it like a theme. That’s when they are shown the missing CSS stylesheet error.

The bottom line is that you need to ensure that the theme you are uploading is really a theme and not a plugin.

You can start by looking at the help documents published by the developers. For instance, in the installation help documents for Neve Pro, the software is clearly referred to as a plugin.

neve pro document

Another way to check whether the software you are trying to install is a plugin or a theme is by looking at what the folder contains.

Files found inside plugins differ from plugin to plugin, but every theme will have the following folders:

  • footer.php
  • header.php
  • sidebar.php
  • header.php
  • style.css

If you find these folders inside the software, then it’s a theme. If you don’t, it’s most likely a plugin.

common files in a wordpress theme folder

4. Make sure you are uploading the correct theme file

When you buy a theme from marketplaces like ThemeForest, you are typically given the option to download only the theme file or all the documentation and the theme file in a single zip folder.

You need to ensure that you are installing the theme file and not the zipped folder with documentation.

We recommend deleting the existing file from your computer and downloading only the theme file from your marketplace account.

To make sure you’re downloading the right file, click on the arrow next to the download button and choose Installable WordPress file only:

How to download just the theme file from ThemeForest

After you have downloaded the file, upload it to your WordPress website by going to Appearance → Themes → Add New → Upload Themes.

Still not working? Try the next solution. 👇

5. Make sure the theme is compatible with WordPress

WordPress is the world’s most popular website-building platform but it’s certainly not the only website builder out there. Thousands of websites are built using tools like Joomla, Drupal, Weebly, Webflow, Squarespace, Wix, etc.

Like WordPress, most of these platforms use themes that dictate the appearance of a website.

Marketplaces like ThemeForest are popular among WordPress users but it also caters to Joomla, Drupal, Weebly, Webflow, and other users. If you are not careful you might end up purchasing a theme only to find out that it’s not built for WordPress.

To make sure that the theme is built for WordPress, be sure to look hard at the theme page. You should find “WordPress” being mentioned in the places like the category, title, software versions, and theme description.

wordpress theme page in themeforest - missing style css stylesheet

Alternatively, you can unzip the theme and look for common theme files like footer.php, header.php, sidebar.php, header.php, and style.css.

If you have indeed downloaded a theme file for a non-WordPress platform, talk to the support team of the marketplace and seek a refund.

Fix the “The Theme Is Missing the Style CSS Stylesheet” error for good

“The theme is missing the style CSS stylesheet” error appears when the style.css file is missing from the theme you are trying to upload on your WordPress website.

The style.css file is an essential part of your theme. It is responsible for the design and layout of a website. Without this file, the theme won’t work on your site which is why WordPress refuses to upload it and throws an error instead.

🧰 To fix this issue you need to take the following measures:

  • Unzip the theme folder and check if the style.css file is really missing
  • Ensure that the file is located in the theme’s root directory
  • Make sure that the file is a theme and not a plugin
  • Make sure your downloaded the right file (especially if installing a theme from ThemeForest)
  • Ensure that the theme is built for WordPress and not other content management systems

For some other tips 🧐 on fixing WordPress problems, you can also check out 👉 our guide to WordPress troubleshooting or fixing 20+ common WordPress errors.

That’s it for this one. If you have any questions about how to fix “the theme is missing the style CSS stylesheet” error on your WordPress website, leave us a comment below.

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