Custom Category, Page and Post Templates for WordPress

Quick overview of custom templates for WordPress Categories, Pages and Posts. You may already be familiar with Category and Page templates but custom Post templates are just as easy.

DISCLAIMER: Before making any edits to original files make sure to have backups in case something goes terribly wrong…not that it should but you can never be too safe!

WordPress Category Templates

WordPress Category templates are very easy to use, view the WordPress Codex – Category Templates and you will see that hierarchy for a category templates is:

  • 1. category-6.php
  • 2. category.php
  • 3. archive.php
  • 4. index.php

This basically just means that WordPress will first look for a template labeled category-6, if there is none, it will then look for category.php and so forth all the way down to index.php.

To create a custom category template, just copy your category.php and resave it as category+”your category ID number.” If you do not have a category.php, you can copy your archive.php or index.php but just remember that your custom template will look like the template you copied until you make your edits. So if you have a category.php, archive.php and index.php you will want to copy your category.php and work from there.

You can find your category ID number by logging into your WordPress backend…go to your categories section and hover over or copy any category names and you will see your category ID. Upload category-“ID#”.php to your theme directory and the specified category can now be freely styled to look differently than your other categories.

WordPress Page Templates

WordPress Page Templates may be easier than Category Templates. WordPress looks for templates in the following order:

  • 1. The Page’s selected “Page Template”
  • 2. page.php
  • 3. index.php

Let’s pretend we want to create a specific template for an “About Us” page. Most themes will have a page.php so once again, you can copy your page.php and resave it, let’s call it about.php.

Once resaved, our page template must start with the following 5 lines of code so add the following to the very top:

Template Name: About

The above sets a name for your page template, so you can enter just about anything in the Template Name: “Your Choice” For the ease of consistency I would label the template name something similar to what I am saving the file, so this about.php will have a Template name of About. Now that you have your Page Template named along with some copied format from your original page.php you can edit this about.php to your hearts desire. Any edits made to about.php will only affect those pages using this template. Upload your new about.php to your theme directory and we are all set.

To use a Custom Page template just create or edit any page. You should see a dropdown box labeled Page Template, if all is in order you should see your template name as an option in the dropdown.

WordPress Post Templates

WordPress Post Templates are great because they allow you to make posts in different categories different from each other.

For example let’s say you had 2 categories named Apples and Oranges. You styled each category differently using Custom Category Templates but also wanted posts that appeared in Oranges to have a different look than posts appearing in Apples.

Custom Category Templates do not pass any styling to the posts within, posts take their styling from either single.php or index.php as per the WordPress Template Hierarchy.

Most themes will have a single.php, so yes once again duplicate your single.php…twice. We only need two Post Templates in this example since we want one Post Template for Oranges and we will just be using our original Post Template for posts appearing in the Category Apples as well as for the rest of our posts in our blog.

Let’s name one of our copies of single.php to singleOriginal.php, this is a direct duplicate of our original file, unedited.

For our second copy of single.php, which will be used as a Custom Post Template for all the posts in Category Oranges, let’s save this file as singleOranges.php. This file will be the edited single.php that will have whatever custom edits you want for all Posts in the Category Oranges. Make your edits to this file and you will also need to retrieve the category ID for the category Oranges, let’s pretend it has an ID of 10.


Before we move ahead, let’s make sure we have everything in order, we should have 3 files and 1 Category ID number.

The 3 files consist of a singleOrignial.php which is a direct duplicate of our original single.php. We should also have a singleOranges.php which has our edits for our custom look for all posts in the Category Oranges (ID #10). And finally we should still have our original single.php unedited in it’s original format.

Now let’s edit single.php since WordPress first goes to single.php for all Post Templates. Edit your single.php with the following:

    $post = $wp_query--->post;
    if ( in_category('10') ) {include(TEMPLATEPATH . '/singleOranges.php');}
    else {include(TEMPLATEPATH . '/singleOriginal.php');

That’s it! Basically the above checks the posts to see if it’s category 10, if so use the template singleOranges.php, else use singleOriginal.php. What if you wanted a Custom Post Template for Oranges, Apples and Grapes but still wanted a single.php for everything else?

    $post = $wp_query--->post;
    if ( in_category('10') ) {include(TEMPLATEPATH . '/singleOranges.php');}
    elseif ( in_category('11') ) {include(TEMPLATEPATH . '/singleApples.php');}
    elseif ( in_category('12') ) {include(TEMPLATEPATH . '/singleGrapes.php');}
    else {include(TEMPLATEPATH . '/singleOriginal.php');

A very easy way to customize posts in any category. Go ahead and get creative with customizing then come back and leave a comment to show it off, would love to see what some people do!

13. June 2009 by Gabe Diaz
Categories: Blog | Tags: | 80 comments