Wordpress & Web Development

From Minimalistic To Highly-Customizable: The Most Modern & Free Tumblr Themes

Aaron Couch 31-05-2013

tumblr themesTumblr is an incredible blogging platform. In combination with its community, the simple interface makes blogging a breeze. However, finding the perfect theme isn’t as easy. On Tumblr, you’re limited to the features that each Tumblr themes has, and many of them are different. If you’re willing to spend some money, there are some awesome Tumblr themes, but depending on your needs and budget, you’ll quickly find that free ones with a unique look and useful features aren’t as easy to find as you hoped.


I was recently in this exact position. For a long time, I was content with one theme. But I finally wanted to upgrade my blog to have more features and greater customizablity. I finally found the right theme, and in the process, I found a lot more that were quite impressive. I’ll walk through each theme individually – highlighting its ideal uses, unique features and customization.

For.Screen [Minimalistic]

tumblr themes

This Tumblr theme was the one I used when I created my first Tumblr blog and had it until just recently when I started looking for something with more features.

Ideal Uses:

Whether you’re a blogger who focuses on various kinds of content from quotes, to photos to videos, or you prefer just writing with the option to embed photos into your post manually, this theme will suit you well.

Unique Features:

tumblr themes


Compared to many other themes in this article, there isn’t a whole lot that stands out feature-wise – it doesn’t even  support pages. However, you can display your default Tumblr photo, “about” text and Twitter feed on the side. The background can also be changed.

Level Of Customization: 2

On a scale of one to ten, I’d give this theme a two for the ability to display your Twitter feed.

Dark Paper [Minimalistic]

Dark Paper

If you’re looking for a simple, dark, modern theme, Dark Paper is for you. You might notice in the image above that the photo blocks part of the title. If this is annoying, you can add HTML spaces ( ) in front of your title. See the image under Unique Features for an example.


free tumblr themes

Note that the “about” section appears at the very bottom of the page.

Ideal Uses:

What’s the benefit of a theme with hardly any features? There’s nothing to distract your readers from your content, and you from writing (instead of customizing). This theme is great for those who are looking to display average posts of quotes, text, images and videos. It’s not great for portfolios and group blogging.

Unique Features:

Dark Paper is probably one of the most minimalistic themes on Tumblr. Its modern look is fantastic, but it’s lack of features kept me from using it.


Level Of Customization: 0

On a scale of one to ten, Dark Paper barely gets a zero.

Royal Chameleon [Minimalistic]

free tumblr themes

Royal Chameleon is a modern looking theme that is great for all kinds of blogs. If you’re looking for a clean, but stylish theme, you’ve stumbled upon the right one. You won’t be overwhelmed by features you won’t use, but you get to take advantage of some useful ones that will make your blog more appealing.

Ideal Uses:

Royal Chameleon doesn’t have some of the features that photo bloggers and companies are looking for, such as high resolution photos or group blogging. Because of that, this is probably a better theme for the average blogger who shares general content.


Unique Features:

free tumblr themes

You can adjust two of the colors: the top header and the post title/icon. Unfortunately you don’t get to display a logo, banner or background image of any kind. You can link to your Twitter and Facebook accounts, and even easily set up Google Analytics ID integration.

Level Of Customization: 3

Royal Chameleon gets a three out of ten for some customizability. The ability to change the colors and add your Twitter and Facebook links is nice, but it would be great if you could display a logo/portrait image and integrate Disqus comments.

Natural Elegance [Moderately Customizable]

Natural Elegance

If you’re looking for a more natural appeal, with a touch of modern,Natural Elegance is the theme for you. The theme comes with a dark wood background and a clean title with a touch of shadow effect.

Ideal Uses:

Natural Elegance makes a great personal blog theme. Because you can’t change the background, this theme is somewhat limited to blogs focusing on those topics, but it might be used by some who enjoy the look of a clean, but slightly “rugged” theme.

Unique Features:

awesome thumblr themes

The title bar at the top containing pages and links stays with you as you scroll through the blog. In the top right corner of each post there is a small ribbon which is the permalink – something that is notoriously difficult to find in Tumblr themes.

Other features include the ability to toggle tags, your blog avatar, people you are following, and endless scrolling. You can change the links to any color and add Disqus comments by typing in your shortname.

Level Of Customization: 5

I’m granting this score because it has some features that just make sense and that I wish the other prior themes had. Not being able to add a Twitter feed, change the background or add a banner prevents this theme from getting a higher rating.

Catching Elephant [Moderately Customizable]

Catching Elephant

Catching Elephant has an odd name, but the theme is far from odd – it’s one of my favorites and is the one I use for my photo blog.

Ideal Uses:

Catching Elephant works great for all kinds of posts, but the fact that it supports high res photos makes it a favorite among photo bloggers.

Unique Features:

awesome thumblr themes

You can easily expand photos by clicking the magnifying glass in the top left corner of the photo. You can upload a portrait image to represent yourself. Catching Elephant supports 4 custom links, as well as Disqus comments, and links to your Flickr and Twitter accounts.

Level Of Customization: 5

I gave this theme a five because, although it has some great features, most are fairly standard in the more advanced Tumblr themes.

Kalalalani [Moderately Customizable]

awesome thumblr themes

Kalalalani (did I get all of the la’s in there?) has some quite impressive features and  customizations for such a simple theme.

Ideal Uses:

If you want some control over the look of your blog, but don’t want to be overwhelmed by options you don’t care about, this theme is a great choice. It works great for most blogs with the exception of group and photo blogs.

Unique Features:

tumblr themes free

I love that this theme’s sidebar stays in place as you scroll down. Don’t like the asterisk color? Change it. Don’t like the asterisk, period? Hide it or replace it with your blog’s avatar. Other features include toggling between the light and dark theme, showing notes and infinite scrolling (enabled by default). You can link to your Twitter and Flickr accounts, and include Google Analytics, Disqus comments and best of all, Facebook comments.

tumblr themes free

Level Of Customization: 6

Despite its many features, Kalalalani gets just a six out of ten for customization. It doesn’t have the option to change the background or many colors.

Simple Things [Highly Customizable]

Simple Things

Contrary to its name, Simple Things is quite feature packed, but not to the extent that it feels cluttered.

Ideal Uses:

Simple Things is great for anyone who wants to be more in control of what their theme looks like. Personal bloggers and companies alike would find this theme useful. Also, if you post audio files, there’s an option to show album artwork on audio posts.

Unique Features:

tumblr themes free

There are several theme colors that you can modify, including the background, main and sidebar text, and regular, navigation and sidebar links. Additionally, you can toggle whether to display tags, show the Home, Archive, RSS and Random Post links, force uppercase in the title, who you follow, and posts that you like. You can also enable endless scrolling, Disqus comments and Google Analytics.

Level Of Customization: 8

Simple Things earned itself an eight out of ten due to so many options to toggle its features and mix up the colors of the theme in so many ways.

Stationary [Highly Customizable]


Looking at the Stationary theme at first glance, you might not think it’s very customizable. However, it all depends in your needs. The Stationary theme has some features that separate it from the pack.

Ideal Uses:

Stationary is great for all kinds of bloggers, but some of its features seem like it was built for the writer. That said, it’s one of the best themes for companies and organizations.

Unique Features:

Stationary - Customize

Stationary doesn’t give you a lot of color options, except for changing the color of the background. You can upload a header image, provide a tagline, and customize the titles for several sections on the sidebar, and toggle whether to show them at all. There are options to display the group post author, the latest tweet, and so on. You can also incorporate Google Analytics, Typekit, Disqus comments, and even a Facebook page widget (great for companies and public figures, like writers 8 Tumblr Blogs Every Writer & Book Lover Should Follow Tumblr is known as being a great blogging platform for visual content, and is a photographer's smorgasbord of just about everything you could possibly imagine. That said, there's also an incredible wealth of content that... Read More ).

Level Of Customization: 8

Stationary, because of so many unique features, scores an eight out of ten.

Effector [Highly Customizable]


Effector is currently the theme I have for my personal blog. I chose it because of its highly customizability and uniqueness, although I’ve noticed that it’s quite a popular theme among Tumblrers.

Ideal Uses:

Effector is probably the most versatile free theme available. It gives you lots of control from colors to fonts to images. This makes it perfect for any company or organization looking for a theme that they can make their own. Of course, it makes a great theme for anyone from photographers to writers to artists.

Unique Features:

Effector - Customize

Effector gives you complete control over the colors, fonts, images (background, banner, large sidebar photo, and logo) and there are so many check boxes it would take far too long to mention them. Instead, I encourage you to explore it yourself.

Level Of Customization: 10

There’s no doubt that Effector has the highest amount of customizability, making it a ten out of ten.

Single A [Highly Customizable]

Single A

Single A is yet another great theme that offers several customizable options. It gives a nice wide column to text and features a clean sidebar with some neat customizations.

Ideal Uses:

Single A is another theme perfect for group blogging How To Set Up A Group Tumblr Blog When looking for a blogging platform for group blogging, simplicity and style will usually come into the equation somewhat. But Tumblr now offers another great opportunity - a huge potential audience. Using some advanced Tumblr... Read More , and really for anyone who wants a clean white theme.

Unique Features:

tumblr themes

Aside from several appearance settings to adjust the color and add a logo, Single A includes special integration with Exfm. You can add the URL of just about any social network, edit the headings, and toggle things like the blog title, social network icons, exfm player, loading indicator, Tumblr blogs you follow and posts you like.

Level Of Customization: 9

I gave Single A a nine out of ten for its diverse settings and customizable options.


These aren’t the only themes on Tumblr – there are a lot of great themes The 10 Most Amazing Free Tumblr Themes Read More , but these are some of the very best. In regard to the rankings, these weren’t compared to what you get with premium themes, but only to what’s available for free. That said, it’s fairly difficult to compare one theme to another – each have their own strengths and weaknesses.

If you are caught between wanting a certain theme, but also needing a feature it doesn’t have, such as a Facebook page widget, you can usually do that by editing the HTML, which takes a little skill Learn To Code: 10 Free And Fantastic Online Resources To Hone Your Skills Coding. A topic that is avoided by many. There are an abundance of free resources and tools, all of which are available online. Sure you could take some courses on the topic at a nearby... Read More , but it mostly requires you to follow directions. It’s not a bad idea for you, as a blogger, to know a little HTML Top 11 HTML Tags Every Blogger & Website Owner Must Know The world wide web knows many languages and is coded in several different ones. The one language however, that can be found all over and has been around since the invention of webpages, is the... Read More anyways. Before you start changing up your theme, back up the HTML before each change by copying and pasting it somewhere and saving that file.

Do you have a favorite theme or features that you’re looking for? Perhaps ones that wasn’t even mentioned? We’d love to hear your thoughts and suggestions.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

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  1. chopsooy
    June 28, 2013 at 3:36 am

    I just found the Alva theme...Seems very customizable and already has all the buttons for people to like, and share not only on tumblr but G+, facebook,Stumble upon and twitter.

    • Aaron Couch
      June 28, 2013 at 5:40 am

      Yes! That was one I really liked. It was on the original list of themes, but I had to cut it down due to the size of the article -- 16 to 20 themes just would be too much. But you're right -- the Alva theme is quite customizable. I believe it was actually created by GE for their Tumblr blog.

    • Anonymous
      September 22, 2015 at 9:07 pm

      How do you edit social media buttons on Alva?? I want to use it but there's no option in the "customize" or "edit theme" sidebar like with other themes

  2. Kristianus Kurnia
    June 21, 2013 at 3:10 pm

    cool, this is what I'm looking for,
    btw, any suggestion free theme for photo gallery theme?

    • Aaron Couch
      June 21, 2013 at 7:05 pm

      Cool! Glad you liked the article.

      You might consider this theme: http://www.tumblr.com/theme/37252. It's not very customizable and very minimalistic, but you can add your own header image.

      One that is highly customizable (and probably one I should have included in this article) is this one: http://www.tumblr.com/theme/34366. It likely has everything you could want in a photo gallery.

      Let me know if this helps. Thanks for reading!

  3. Kate
    June 18, 2013 at 6:57 pm

    David, I'm curious as to your opinion on Google. Tumblr does indeed contain vast amounts of porn and copyrighted material. However Google is the world's biggest proliferator of copyrighted material including pornography. How do people find copyrighted material? It's Google. It's not the only way but it's the most popular search engine by a landslide. Google could remedy this. They don't because they make a lot of money (advertisement revenue is high priority) from sites that offer material that is copyrighted. How much "stuff" do they allow to stream on YouTube?

    I doubt you view Google with as much disdain as Tumblr. Google, the monster, is much worse than Tumblr could ever be. They're too big, too bad erhh I mean too evil, too powerful to fail so no one goes up against them.

    I conclude thusly: Google is a terrible platform as it is rife with copyright infringement and pornography.


    Aaron, thanks for these theme recs. I have some coding knowledge so I'm able to tweak things to my liking (for the most part). I once installed Effector and liked it but had issues with photo templates. I've found a few free responsive themes, those are more difficult to come by.

    • Aaron Couch
      June 18, 2013 at 7:09 pm

      Thanks for your comment Kate. Clean and free responsive themes are indeed hard to come by.

      As far as replying to David's comment -- he's probably not going to see it, unless he visits the article again, since you didn't reply directly to his comment.

  4. Ken
    June 2, 2013 at 9:48 am

    Thanks, I love Tumblr! It's full with copyright infringement and porn!!

    • Katharine Wood
      June 5, 2013 at 1:10 pm


  5. David R. Wyder
    May 31, 2013 at 9:58 pm

    Tumblr. is a terrible platform and will only get worse with Yahoo involved. It is rife with copyright infringement and porn.

    • Aaron Couch
      June 18, 2013 at 7:11 pm

      Hey David, Kate asked you a question, but didn't reply to your comment, so the likelihood of you seeing her comment would be minimal. Just thought I'd let you know in case you wanted to respond.

      Thanks for your comment.