A Complete Guide To Tumblr

Think of Tumblr as micro-blogging on steroids (technically, it’s called “tumblelogging”). Whereas Twitter and similar services limit posts to 140 characters or less, Tumblr lets you post updates of any length, although it’s best suited to short-format posts. Tumblr bridges the gap between full-blown blog and micro-blog.

Photopost in A Complete Guide To Tumblr

Tumblr is also an option for designers and creative people, because it gives you complete control over the look of your tumblelog. It also offers great opportunities for theme designers, especially with the recent launch of premium themes (which range in price from $9 to $49). Read on for your complete guide to using and designing for Tumblr.

[Offtopic: by the way, have you ever visited Smashing Magazine’s List of tags? There might be something interesting for you.]

Why Use Tumblr?

Quite simply because Tumblr makes setting up a blog very easy. It also makes it very simple for you to follow other tumbleloggers on the website and to share their content. Tumblr tries to combine the best parts of blogging and micro-blogging in one. It handles longer-form and multimedia posts, like regular blogs, while encouraging more interaction between tumbleloggers, like micro-blogs.

Post Formats

The fact that Tumblr has built-in formats for a variety of content types makes it stand out from other blogging and micro-blogging platforms. There are templates for text, photos, videos, audio, quotes, links and chat transcripts. Most themes take advantage of the differences between these post types and implement special formatting for each one. You can also add plain text to most of these post types, and you can add images to your text posts. It’s a quite flexible system.

Posttypes in A Complete Guide To Tumblr

Because of the unique post formats, Tumblr makes a perfect platform for vlogging and podcasting, as well as for photo blogging. For audio posts, you can even call in a post, requiring nothing more than a phone. You can also email in posts of all types (each type of post has a specific email format).

Tumblr API

The Tumblr API has spawned plenty of third-party apps that let you do all sorts of things with Tumblr. More than a dozen iPhone apps can be used with Tumblr, and at least as many Web services. Desktop and mobile apps are available, as well as widgets and plug-ins that you can use on other websites. You can set up Tumblr to automatically post to your Twitter or Facebook account, too.

Thirdpartyapps in A Complete Guide To Tumblr

For developers, the API opens a world of options for creating apps. The API itself is relatively straightforward and anyone with basic PHP and XML skills will have a short learning curve. While dozens of Tumblr apps are already out there, there’s still plenty of room for further expansion.

Other Unique Features

Like Twitter, Tumblr lets you follow other users and view their posts in your dashboard. Tumblr also gives you the option to reblog or “heart” (the equivalent to a “Like” on Facebook) posts from anyone, whether you follow them or not.

Following other users is simple: just click the “Follow” link in the upper-right corner of their tumblelog. That’s also where you’ll find the links to heart or reblog content.

Reblogdashboard in A Complete Guide To Tumblr

Blog Options

Tumblr gives you fairly complete control over how you blog. You can set up group blogs with multiple authors. You can also set up numerous blogs under a single account (each with its own custom options), though only one username is able to follow other tumblelogs. Tumblr also lets you keep private Tumblelogs that are password-protected, so you can share them with those you know or keep them completely personal. Just make sure not to post to your public tumblelog by accident!

Getting Started

Starting out with Tumblr is easy. Just sign up on the site, enter your email address and a password and the URL you want to use ( You’ll have the option to set up a custom domain name after you’ve signed up. Once your account is set up, you can start posting right away.

Signup in A Complete Guide To Tumblr

Themes and Customization

Hundreds of themes are available for Tumblr, most of them for free. Take some time to go through the theme options when you sign up, either to find one for your tumblelog or to get ideas to create your own theme.

Tumblrthemes in A Complete Guide To Tumblr

One thing you may notice with Tumblr themes is that a lot of them have very narrow content areas. While wider themes are available, the vast majority are narrower than 800 pixels (and some even narrower than that).

Most Tumblr themes come with some customization options that don’t require any HTML and CSS knowledge (if you plan to create some public themes, you’ll probably want to include some customization options). There’s also an area to enter custom CSS that will override existing styles.

Appearanceoptions in A Complete Guide To Tumblr

Customcss in A Complete Guide To Tumblr

You can customize the HTML in any theme, too. Click on the “Customize” link from your dashboard, and then click on “Theme” and “Custom HTML.” This is also how you would create a theme from scratch. You can link to an external style sheet, too (Tumblr has a static file uploader for uploading theme assets).

Customhtml in A Complete Guide To Tumblr

Editing an existing theme is a great way to start designing for Tumblr. It also gives you complete control over how your theme looks and works without having to start from scratch.

The Bookmarklet

The Tumblr bookmarklet makes it easy to post content from anywhere on the Web. Just drag it to your bookmarks toolbar and use it when you find something to blog about. Depending on the page’s content, a window will pop up suggesting a particular content format for your post. You can change the post type right there or accept its suggestion.

Bookmarklet in A Complete Guide To Tumblr

Most pages will default to the “Link” post format, but if you’re on Flickr, for example, it will default to the “Photo” format. Likewise, if you’re watching a YouTube video, it will default to the “Video” format.

Creating Custom Tumblr Themes

While Tumblr makes it easy to customize the HTML and CSS of almost any theme, you may want to start from scratch. If you’ve ever created a theme for another blogging platform or CMS, creating a Tumblr theme won’t be any more difficult. Even if you haven’t created a theme for another CMS, creating a Tumblr theme isn’t much more difficult than creating a standard HTML template.

Customtheme in A Complete Guide To Tumblr

Basic Structure

Tumblr themes include the same basic parts as any website. There’s usually a header and main content area, as well as an optional sidebar and footer. Beyond that, Tumblr themes are broken down into blocks. Each block on your tumblelog contains some piece of data. For example, there are blocks for each of the post types (text, photo, audio, video, etc.), as well as blocks for things like your tumblelog’s description and “Previous” and “Next” page links.

The Tumblr loop has a huge number of variables to take advantage of. You’ll need to define blocks for each post type in order to display them properly in your theme. Beyond that, you choose what to include in your theme.

A complete list of Tumblr variables can be found on the Creating a Custom HTML Theme page on Tumblr’s website. The page also includes more information on creating Tumblr themes in general.

More on Tumblr Theme Variables

Variables allow you to do various custom things with your Tumblr themes. There are basic variables for things like the theme title, portrait URLs and favicons. There are unique variables for each of the post formats, too. Some formats (like text posts) have only a handful of variables, while others have over a dozen.

Creating Public Themes

With the addition of premium themes, many designers are becoming more interested in creating their own Tumblr themes. You might want to do a few things to a public theme that you might not bother with for a personal theme, though. One of these is creating some customization options that allow users to change things like font colors and which parts of a page to show and hide. Look around at what other themes allow to be customized, and look at the variables that Tumblr uses.

Submittheme in A Complete Guide To Tumblr

Public themes do have a few requirements that may not apply to personal themes. These are:

  • All the theme’s assets have to be hosted on Tumblr.
  • Third-party widgets have to be commented out. This means that you can include the code and instructions on how to enable it, but it must be disabled by default.
  • Your theme must support all of the different post types: text, photo, quote, link, chat, audio and video.
  • It must support the standard tags (check the variables list to see what they are).
  • It must be good-looking and fully functional. Tumblr themes are vetted for quality; unattractive ones won’t make the cut.

At the moment, when you submit a theme to Tumblr, it’s free by default. To be able to sell premium themes through the Tumblr directory, you’ll either need to ask or be invited. Overall, the premium themes program is pretty secretive.

This doesn’t mean that you can’t sell premium Tumblr themes elsewhere. Theme Forest has a number of Tumblr themes for sale. Other theme developers sell them directly through their own websites. Both are options if you want to get into the premium theme market.

Remember to include credit and a link in the footer of your theme, so that visitors can find your other themes and download them. Many users will leave this credit and link as is, giving you potential traffic for your blog.

Tumblr-Specific Memes

You may want to consider joining in on some Tumblr-specific trends, events and memes out there.

Tumblr Tuesdays and Recommended Blogs

Think of Tumblr Tuesdays as sort of like Twitter’s #FollowFriday hash tag. Tumblr has a built-in recommendation engine that feeds the directory listings of blogs that are recommended enough as well as the recommended tumblelogs that show up in your dashboard’s sidebar.


Baconbaconbacon in A Complete Guide To Tumblr

I suspect that Tumblr has a higher proportion of bacon-related blogs than on any other blogging or micro-blogging service out there. Just a quick search turns up at least half a dozen tumblelogs focused exclusively on bacon.

Unfollow Friday

Playing on Twitter’s #FollowFriday hash tag, Unfollow Friday encourages you to post annoying or disgusting things to your tumblelog in an effort to get people to unfollow you. The goal is to see how many people you can get to stop following you.

130 Comments to “A Complete Guide To Tumblr”

  • forahobby October 15, 2013 at 4:36 am

    Tumblr is very frustrating right now.
    I’m trying to rewrite my tumblr description right now. I have a lot of banners and I had to keep highlighting and deleting and highlighting and deleting and highlighting and deleting.
    Is there any way to just scroll down? It would make it so much easier.
    I can’t see anything that I’m doing and it’s uber annoying.

  • HASTHEANSWERS October 15, 2013 at 6:59 am

    I’m new to tumblr and I have infinite scrolling. Some of my posts overlap and it looks weird. Please help!

  • Patrick October 17, 2013 at 8:36 pm

    Dave Barry’s Complete Guide to Guys was so funny, I got kicked out of a library for laughing too loud.

    I need more good laughs. All suggestions welcome.

  • Muzahid October 18, 2013 at 9:27 pm

    Tumblr does show captions when uploading single picture, but uploading two pictures at once, it only shows the caption when you want to reblog or click on the date.

  • Sonny October 19, 2013 at 4:56 pm

    I always see people on tumblr asking for people to be their tumblr gf or bf and now my best friend has just got tumblr I really want to be his tumblr girlfriend but I don’t really know what it means. What does it actually involve?

  • Dana G October 20, 2013 at 12:57 am

    I recently got a Tumblr and noticed that a lot of people don’t just have their pictures and posts stacked on top of each other, but instead they’re all over their page. I’ve looked at other theme sites and can’t find anything about it. Please help!

  • Miguel M October 20, 2013 at 8:07 am

    On my tumblr account i follow pages that give me things to reblog that i love. Another part of me i would like to share with tumblr is my family issues, any suggestions? If not, any good tumblrs all together?

  • sethburger October 22, 2013 at 10:17 pm

    I see many tumblr blogs that have colouful info’s. Is it the theme or can you change that using something? I dont know?

  • RichT October 23, 2013 at 11:33 am

    I just made a tumblr and I did find some themes but they werent free. What are the best tumblr themes for a hipster blog that’s free?

  • Xbox360king October 23, 2013 at 11:39 pm

    Lately when I reblog or post things on my tumblr, when I see it on my dashboard there are 3 link boxes below the post. I don’t know why it is doing this but does anyone know how to stop it?

  • supernerd567 October 27, 2013 at 9:04 pm

    I have a Tumblr with 500+ followers, and I know that’s probably not that much now, but how many followers should I have when thinking and possibly doing AdSense? Thank you!

  • Jeanelle the Retard October 28, 2013 at 4:38 am

    How do you make a link on Tumblr under you info to like you personal pictures or a photo challenge your doing? Like if you click the link it’ll redirect you to that.

  • Travoiz October 28, 2013 at 6:17 pm

    I am a tumblr roleplayer and I want to reblog with all the pervious peices. However, it always removes the parts when I click reblog. How do I fix that?

  • Shay H October 29, 2013 at 2:57 pm

    I would like to have some pages on my Tumblr dedicated to different things, but I cannot seem to get it done! I read some instructions online from different websites including Y!A, but I could not get it done! It always would say that the page has too many loops 🙁

    How can I do this? Thank you!

  • Matthew October 31, 2013 at 8:27 am

    I am homeschooled and they gave me a MacBook Air and Tumblr, American Apparel, Ami Clubwear is blocked, and I am going to have this laptop for a year and a half and I can’t get on those sites. (and yes I do stop on those to store). I need a way to at least get on Tumblr. So please any tips will help.

  • steve October 31, 2013 at 11:42 pm

    I used to save all my gifs in drafts on my tumblr, but now I have them saved onto a folder on my computer and cannot figure out how to put them on reblogged posts or answers anymore.. Does anyone know how?

  • andresumoza November 1, 2013 at 12:37 am

    How to upload a gif on tumblr without having to press it to open?
    I can upload gifs on tumblr but I have to click it to make it bigger. How can I upload it without having to click it to see its full size?

  • prisha November 1, 2013 at 11:44 pm

    I am new to tumblr and I have an IPod touch. I don’t know how to change my profile picture on my iPod. You can follow me on tumblr, purplepancakes876 Remember: I USE IPOD TOUCH!

  • fattiemanny November 2, 2013 at 1:47 pm

    Tumblr changed , and now i dont know how you change the profile pic.
    Once i go to edit my info , there is nothing about “browse pic” or anything. /:
    Thank you .

  • Scott Bull November 4, 2013 at 6:43 am

    I wanted to know how to “manually” add links to my tumblr, as my theme doesn’t support links. But then some of answers said that I should just fix my theme to automatically add links. How do I do that? Is there a code? I need all the help I can get!

  • homerliveshere November 4, 2013 at 10:15 pm

    I have completely no idea how to start, and i have been going to websites for hours, for a complete guide on how to start one, but its either you have to pay, or it doesn’t give enough info. I want to become series with adsense, but i only want it to be a side job. I dont even have my own website. My email is filled with all this junk mail on how to start adsense, but gives no help at all. i am on a real tight budget, and i have to pay bills, loans… i need to know how to start my own website, domain, and adsense without spending a dollar. i am also confused with the taxes on adsense. I didnt even pay google to start adsense. please help.

  • Derek November 6, 2013 at 4:01 pm

    Where can i download The Complete Guide To Genius? I really need to get this. My major test is coming soon ! please everybody

  • Death Knight November 6, 2013 at 11:04 pm

    I cant find a complete guide for the pitt online. If anyone knows of one please let me know.

  • Zack Faria November 14, 2013 at 3:21 pm

    Like, a complete guide to fixing these.

  • Nick November 20, 2013 at 3:09 am

    I want a complete guide or book or what ever that start in details from the very basics of perspective drawing different body parts shadows, and … and then moves on to how to use the skills with a tablet on pc I would really want a guide so that I could just focus on and wouldn’t have to dig into different books with different approaches and I want something that is kinda new, not something teaching the old managa style’s.

  • kiltakblog November 21, 2013 at 7:28 am

    (i live in the uk) How much does it cost for a little piglet?

    What is the best (leanest) pig to raise for the abattoir?

    I’m looking to raise around 10-12 piglets at a time. Could somebody please give me a link to a complete guide to farming this amount of piglets?
    @ Mr.M Are you dumb or just plain retarded?

  • crzyinluv November 23, 2013 at 7:03 pm

    I’m interested in a complete guide that explains how to stretch properly for beginners and experts! thanks!

  • lildevilgurl152004 November 23, 2013 at 9:22 pm

    I want a complete guide or a handbook which contains all the possible keyboard shortcuts which just allow me to use my windows pc completely without MOUSE.
    I want to manage all my working on the PC with the keyboard ONLY.

  • henryshensbcglobalnet November 25, 2013 at 10:53 pm

    I have a heard a lot of terms like mids,highs,bass,stereo seperation,sonicstage etc during the sound quality test of a mp3 player.I do not understand them.And how do I test the sound quality of an mp3 player like audio purists?What are best songs for testing the sound quality?
    I own a Sony Walkman Unwired and I want to test its sound quality.
    Please provide complete guide for becoming an audio reviewer.

  • Lasagna delivery guy November 26, 2013 at 1:50 pm

    I am looking for a book that would help me to find plant food sources in the wild. The book should contain clear photos/illustrations to identify each plant. The book should also clearly identify which wild plants can be poisonous or damaging to the health. Edible parts of the plants should be identified. It would be a plus if the medicinal properties of wild plants are covered. Most importantly, the book should be a guide to worldwide edible wild plants, and be separated into sections for different regions. I have seen many books that focus on the edible wild plants of specific regions, but I have not yet come across any book that is a comprehensive guide for worldwide wild plants.

    Do you know a good book that meets the standards which I have stated?

    Problems With Foraging Books Currently Available (According to Reviewers)
    -Many Plants Missing (NOT a Complete Guide)
    -The Plants Mentioned Apply Only To A Specific Region(s)
    -No Coverage for Mushrooms, Berries, and Nuts
    -Poor Pictures Make It Difficult To Identify The Plant
    -Not Enough Information On Identifying The Plant At Different Stages
    -No Mention On Which Part Of The Plant Should Be Used
    -No Mention On Any Medicinal Uses Of The Plant

    I would prefer a big hardcover book with good pictures and good plant descriptions (about one page per plant). It needs to be comprehensive (cover plants worldwide) and be separated into chapters/sections that focus on specific regions. Mushrooms, berries, and nuts should Not be excluded. It would be very helpful if the medicinal uses and other good uses of plants are mentioned. So far, none of the books that I saw fit this description, but I hope a great book like this gets created someday. Hopefully it’s already available but I have not yet come across it. I know that such a book would be very difficult to exist because there are so many edible plants out there and many that we should be cautious about. Maybe if the plants are separated into different species and categories within those species, then maybe a comprehensive book on worldwide edible wild plants is possible, as long as some smart grouping of plants is done. Another problem would be to illustrate all of those plants, because it would be pretty useless to have no idea what the plant looks like, since you will not be able to identify it. Then again, I am sure that many illustrations will drive the price of the book up.
    It seems farfetched that a book like this exists, since it would be very difficult to make and I personally did not come across anything like it when I searched on amazon. Still, in order to be sure, I want to ask if anyone knows a book similar to what I have described.

    Books That Claim To Be Comprehensive Guides On Worldwide Edible Wild Plants (But I Am Not Convinced That They Are From Reading People’s Reviews)

    The Complete Guide to Edible Wild Plants [Paperback]

    The Illustrated Guide to Edible Wild Plants [Paperback]

    The Complete Guide to Edible Wild Plants, Mushrooms, Fruits, and Nuts: How to Find, Identify, and Cook Them [Paperback]

    Foraging: Self-Sufficiency (The Self-Sufficiency Series) [Hardcover]