Tumblr Themes: The Complete Guide

By on Oct 27, 2016 in Inspiration
Tumblr Themes: The Complete Guide

Blogging is a major force to be reckoned with. Businesses and marketers swear by it as an excellent method to drive leads to websites and down their conversion funnels. Micro-blogging sites like Twitter are still as popular as ever, allowing people to publicize their stream-of-consciousness thoughts to the entire world.

Then, there’s Tumblr. This blogging platform and social network was founded almost a decade ago by then-20-year-old David Karp, a software prodigy now worth a cool $200 million. Initially conceived to fill the void of “tumblelogs” or short-form blogs on the web, it’s since exploded in popularity and growth to now host more than 316.2 million blogs and receive 555 million monthly visitors.

Because of the sheer number of people and personalities using this blogging service, a plethora of Tumblr themes has spread like wildfire on the web, allowing users to customize their Tumblr blogs to their own tastes. A veritable cottage industry of sorts of Tumblr themes exists today, where people can get free themes to personalize their blogs. Themes are offered directly by Tumblr as well as by private individuals and entrepreneurs.

The Popularity of Tumblr

Ask anyone, and they’ve likely heard of and use Tumblr. It’s just that popular. A quick check of Alexa, the premier web-traffic data and analysis tool, shows that Tumblr is ranked as the 45th-most popular site in the world and the 19th-most popular in the U.S. With a very low bounce rate of about 43%, Tumblr’s users stay and enjoy the platform for a long time per visit.

That begs the question, how did Tumblr, now owned by Yahoo, get so gosh-darn popular?

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According to Search Engine Journal, it’s most popular with millennials, those ages 18 to 29; Hollywood actively peruses the site for TV series inspiration; and savvy businesses can harness its power for great marketing results.

Here’s how Tumblr works. People can sign up and then post content and multimedia to their short-form blog on the site. They can follow other users’ blogs. Bloggers have the option of making their blogs private if they wish. A lot of the site’s features are accessible from a handy dashboard interface, making the user experience convenient and relatively easy to use as well.

One phenomenon almost as popular as Tumblr itself is the omnipresence of Tumblr themes on the web. Because of the site’s design-heavy focus that’s rich in visuals, it’s not surprising that many use cases of these themes center around industries such as:

  • Design
  • Art
  • Humor
  • Entertainment
  • Media
  • Technology

Here’s a short list of some of the most popular Tumblr blogs:

  • Animal Fact Book – A completely made-up series of animal factoids, played up for humor.
  • Ghost Photographs – Not pictures of “real” ghosts, but artist Angela Deane’s paintings on pictures to make people in the photos look like ghosts. Boo!
  • Black Dogs Project – Image after image after image of black dogs, in an effort to get more of them adopted (they’re apparently hard to adopt, statistically speaking).

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These themes are a part of Tumblr’s draw, as being able to express yourself through a unique theme increases the personalization of this micro-blogging experience.

What Is a Tumblr Theme?

A theme is a preset package that comes with graphics. A Tumblr theme, therefore, is a preset graphics package for Tumblr blogs specifically, to change their appearance to the preferences of the user. These themes are utilized to change the appearance of many or all aspects of a webpage (read: the short-form blog on Tumblr) at the same time.

This includes:

  • The colors
  • The navigation menu
  • The images
  • The typography
  • The amount of white space
  • The tone
  • The messaging
  • The language
  • The social-sharing buttons

In short, themes empower bloggers to gain control over virtually every, little aspect of their “tumblelog”—thus making it very useful to users, especially if they’re creatives like designers, artists, photographers, writers and others.

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Now that you understand a little bit more about what a Tumblr theme is, it’s increasingly easy to see why there’s such a huge demand on the web for themes. After all, who doesn’t want to give their own blog a touch of their own personality and preferences—if for nothing else than to stand out in the ginormous sea of hundreds and hundreds of millions of Tumblr blogs!

There’s a bit of a catch to themes, though. Some are free, and some cost money. That doesn’t necessarily mean that only the nicest themes are ones you have to pay for. After all, a very talented designer or developer could create Tumblr themes and make them available for free. However, according to Tumblr’s own Themes FAQ, premium themes (those you pay for) come with more robust features, have deeper customization options, and actually come with developer support from the theme’s creator.

How to Create a Tumblr Theme

Creating your very own Tumblr theme is the next step up from installing a Tumblr theme. While various, ready-made themes are definitely an efficient way to customize and personalize your short-form blog, creating your own theme gives you 100% control over the entire look and feel of your blog. This is a good option for somebody who wants to invest in the time it takes to create one. If you don’t already know HTML, you’ll have to learn how to hand-code HTML.

If you already know how to hand-code HTML, or at least have a basic working knowledge of it, then there are many guides on the web that can walk you through the steps involved in creating your own Tumblr theme.

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Here are some of the best ones:

  • Build Themes – This guide straight from Tumble itself is actually a free web book that takes people through five chapters on what it takes to create a theme. Teaching people about Tumblr theme development, it promises that readers will learn about coding a complete Tumblr theme from scratch with Javascript, CSS and HTML.
  • Creating a Custom HTM Theme – Another guide right from Tumblr walks interested people through what’s involved in building your own theme. It delves into the seven, different types of Tumblr posts, which are text, photos, video, chat, audio, linkes and quotes.
  • Learn to Make Awesome Tumblr Themes – Dash – Dash’s free guide instructs you on how to code your own Tumble theme by experimenting with projects from within your own browser. Simply fill out the short sign-up registration form, and you’re good to go.

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A handy checklist for your new site

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How to Customize a Tumblr Theme

A lot of the fun behind having a Tumblr blog is being able to suit it to your mood, feeling or attitude—right in the moment and when you want to. That’s when it’s helpful to know exactly how to customize your Tumblr themes.

The site supports complete customization for all free themes that you use in addition to custom themes made especially for your specific blog. Having said that, it’s important to realize that Tumblr themes in general boast a wide variety of designs and layouts as far as the code is concerned. This is to be expected when the themes are created by a wide range of developers.

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Follow these steps to successfully customize your theme:

1) When you’re signed in to Tumblr, head to your customization page at Tumblr.com/customize.

2) Click on the Theme button, and select a theme that you want to edit. Now, click on “use custom HTML” at the bottom of the Theme menu.

3) Get a feel for how the developer of your theme built the code by looking through the code. You’ll start to understand that these themes utilize a standard group of blocks to define the areas of code that apply to various posts and selections within the blog. Here’s an example: {block:Audio} for the start of an audio-posts section and /{block:audio} for its end.

4) Insert the custom HTML you’d like. To create a new stylesheet for your theme, simply insert it somewhere in between the closing and opening tags of the head of the document. Here’s how you format a stylesheet: <style type="text/css"> body { background: #000000;} </style>. It’s possible to include as many elements as you need within your stylesheet. Feel free to modify any element by using CSS.

5) Use the “style” tag to add any style to individual HTML elements. For instance, if you want to change quotes on your page so you can see a light-gray text shadow, you’d locate the HTML that modifies the quote and then add style="text-shadow: 1px 1px #A8A8A8;" inside the HTML tag’s brackets.

6) Finally, click on “Update Preview” to the changes in your Tumblr blog in the preview, without actually saving the changes. After you’ve made the changes you want to your Tumblr blog and are satisfied with them, click “Save” to make them stick.

Where to Get Free Tumblr Themes

Those wanting to get basic and attractive Tumblr themes, albeit with limited functionality, have a lot of choices on the web. Here’s a thorough roundup of where you can get the best, free Tumblr themes.

Popular Free Themes – Tumblr: From Tumblr comes its so-called Theme Garden where you can select from hundreds of free themes that you can personalize to suit your own wants.

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Top 30 Best Highly Flexible and Free Tumblr Themes 2016 – Colorlib: This compilation post features 30 of the best, free themes that you can use to optimize the look of your Tumblr blog and suit your personality.

Olle Ota Themes – Free Tumblr Themes: This resource features more than 50 free, designer themes that are used on more than 250,000 Tumblr blogs, which you can use to beautify your tumblelog.

Max Davis Themes: Max Reynders’ resource of free themes that are very customizable and easy to install.

Zen Themes: Zen Themes is a creator of minimalistic and free themes and layouts, which is always being updated with new offerings.

hunt down that theme: Claiming to be Tumblr’s number-one source of themes, this site reblogs themes as well as theme resources from their original creators.

50+ Best Free Tumblr Themes 2016 for Clean Portfolio, Gags & More – Dcrazed: This roundup feature dozens and dozens of free and customizable themes.

Where to Get Premium Tumblr Themes

Premium Tumblr themes allow for deeper customization and boast more features, not to mention offer support directly from the theme developers themselves. Here’s where you can get the best premium themes.

Tumblr Themes – Creative Market: Creative Market features hundreds and hundreds of premium themes that start from as low as just a few dollars.

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Popular Premium Themes – Tumblr: From Tumblr’s own account comes a slew of premium themes that range in price from only $9 all the way to $49.

Premium Tumblr Themes – Themelantic: This great resource features 28 premium themes, starting at $9 and then topping out at $49.

Pixel Revel – Premium WordPress & Tumblr Themes: Pixel Revel has been selling premium themes since 2013 and powers more than 5000 blogs with them.

Premium Tumblr Themes by Theme Cloud: This resource sells a limited selection of themes from $3.99 to $19.99.

If You’re on Tumblr, You Need a Theme

Half the fun of joining Tumblr is based on customizing and personalizing your short-form blog to fit your style and attitude. Tumblr themes are the key to achieving that, whether it’s a more limited, free theme or a premium theme that offers deep customization and support.

Of course, you even have the option of creating your own themes…which can be a bit of a challenge if you don’t already know at least a little bit about coding. Even so, perhaps the challenge of learning to code to create your own Tumblr themes will seem like a worthy endeavor to some. For those—more power to them!

With the popularity of blogging as a medium, there’s no slowing down Tumblr. In fact, its numbers and users just grow with every passing year. It’s already one of the biggest sites on the planet, and it’s firmly entrenched as one of the web’s go-to sites. If, by now, you’re even the least bit curious about what all the Tumblr fuss is about…then simply sign up, install a theme, and start sharing your thoughts with the world.


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Download your checklist

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Download your checklist

A handy checklist for your new site

Check off these items before you go live and make sure that your visitors get the best possible experience.

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