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Tumblr 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.
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.
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.
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]
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.
Note that the “about” section appears at the very bottom of the page.
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.
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]
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.
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.
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]
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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]
Kalalalani (did I get all of the la’s in there?) has some quite impressive features and customizations for such a simple theme.
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.
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.
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]
Contrary to its name, Simple Things is quite feature packed, but not to the extent that it feels cluttered.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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 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.
Single A is another theme perfect for group blogging, and really for anyone who wants a clean white theme.
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, 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, but it mostly requires you to follow directions. It’s not a bad idea for you, as a blogger, to know a little HTML 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.