Tumblr as a Portfolio platform

[25 Mar 2009 | By | 19 Comment(s) | 53,935 views ]

2-28-2011: Hi!  Although these instructions are, as far as I know, still quite valid, you may want to read this first.
nifty! New portfolio site

As promised here’s a little info about making an art or photography portfolio using the free Tumblr blogging platform, like nancydorsner.com.

If you haven’t been following along, I set out on a quest to figure out how to use a blogging platform to create a portfolio site. (My first attempts were in Blogger, and you can view the write up here and see an example here.)

The idea was that “blogging” is easy, website design is not. Many creative types do not want to worry about keeping a portfolio site updated, and it’s easy for their sites to become out of date. Also, for struggling artists or photographers out there, they can get their feet wet with a portfolio site that doesn’t have any upfront or recurring cost to it.

Blogger had some limitations however, and while it was easy IF you already knew Blogger, it wasn’t as easy as I’d have liked.

Enter Tumblr.
Tumblelogs are incredibly easy to update. The Share on Tumblr bookmarklet added to your toolbar makes creating a new picture based post off a webpage almost effortless. Uploading a picture from your harddrive is also easy. For a portfolio site, these are key.

The one major con I have with Tumblr is it’s a relatively immature platform. It’s not got a huge feature set, and there are some buggy and awkward things. But I mostly encountered those in the customization of my blog, not in the actual post creation.

So, how to create your own:

First, create a Tumblelog. Takes 5 seconds.

Then from your dashboard, click Customize, then Info to setyour Title, Description (just make something up for now, its for testing purposes), and URL. You can either leave the address as yourname.tumblr.com or buy a domain (like $10 at Godaddy.com).

Also, grab the Share on Tumblr bookmarklet – it’s useful.

Now, don’t worry about format yet, just create some test content of pictures you want in your portfolio.
If you’re not already familiar with Tumblr, read this…
-If you already have pictures on flickr or somewhere similar, you can easily just go to the webpages and click your new bookmarklet button. In the window that pops up you’ll click Photo, then pick your picture. Caption it (replacing the current text/link). Click Advanced to tag it. I used the tags to create my categories.
-If you don’t have your work already online, just create a Photo post from your dashboard. Same process, just upload the file.

Also create a test Text post. (I use the Text post for my menus, and my About box)

Once you have a good number (say 10) of posts, you can now play around with the theme.

Your tumblelog’s look is determined by it’s theme. There are some interesting theme templates already out there. If one of these is to your liking, just snag it and go!

Check out these themes below, and install them each in turn on your tumblelog to see if they work for you.

First, check out the several different versions at hasaportfolio.com. There are several example sites at the bottom of the page, I love this one. I love the way this theme opens up the pictures on top of the page. Great for usability. He’ll also provide you a free URL – yourname.hasaportfolio.com which is pretty neat. (Free, but it’s nice to Donate if you use it)
This is easily the simplest and most usable of the lot.

I based mine off of this one: Beauty by Milo317 (Go here, and scroll or search for Beauty). But I made a bunch of changes to it to fit my needs.

Other cool ones for a portfolio:
Photoboard by Ben Delaney
Museum Theme by paulgiacherio
(Instructions to install at links)

You now have the basics for a portfolio. You’ll want to tweak it so it has your contact info, and whatever else you want.
If you’re comfortable with it, don’t be afraid to customize the theme (click Customize on your dashboard, and many themes let you easily set colors). Tumblr has instructions.

Also set up the Advanced tab (# of posts per page, etc). It’s pretty self explanatory.

Note: If you want to customize your site past the free templates I’ve given you, and you don’t have even a very basic understanding (or want to learn) CSS/HTML, you’ll probably want to hire someone to get the initial set up for you. That will require an upfront cost, but you won’t have any recurring cost since you have a free platform.

Some things I specifically did on mine:
– I used tags to categorize the Photo Posts, to create my menus (like robots, watercolors, etc) and just linked them with a regular href link: http://dorsner.tumblr.com/tagged/robots
– I used “Text” Posts for an About page, menu pages, etc. Some themes i linked to above don’t display text boxes, so if your theme doesn’t, you’d need to put your menu (if you want one) in the Description, or elsewhere on the page. Same for contact info, etc.
– I used an image for the background. A pretty easy theme tweak. If there is already an background image, just replace it with a URL to yours.
– Items display in the order of post date, so to change the order I manually changed the date of the post.
– Changed the links on the menu bars to more appropriate links (an easy fix with basic html knowledge)
– and a bunch of other more complex stuff! ..hence my Note above!

Once you’re happy with your site layout, just add content!

I hope this was helpful, or at least interesting. I do like tumblr as a blogging platform as well. In fact, you can visit my tumblr link blog HERE–it’s mostly random cool stuff I find (some of which ends up on Dabbled) and also my twitter tweets.

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19 Comment(s) »

  • John [] :

    You have to fix the nancydorsner.com url at the top of your post.

  • Dot [] :

    thanks, John!

  • Sara [] :

    Thanks for the post! Very useful.

  • Daniella [] :

    loved your post…i’m working in my new online portfolio now! thx!

  • Tim Hall [] (elsewhere) discussed this :

    Using Tumblr as a Portfolio: https://dabbled.org/2009/03/tumblr-as-portfolio-platform.html #graphicdesign #webdesign #graphics #art #artist

  • dana [] :

    Hi, Thanks for the info on this! Is there a way to search through the tumblr themes by category or name?

  • Dot [] :

    I’m not aware of one, but it’s been a while since I looked for a tumbler theme.

    I’d try googling for the type of theme you’re looking for.

    good luck!

  • Ted Mikulski [] (elsewhere) discussed this :

    @jaschaffer Here is a good resource for you http://bit.ly/1pYPhf

  • Alina [] :

    Hi! thanks for an extremely useful material! I would be greatly thankful if you explain how to add Tags Menu on the main page of the blog (like you have http://dorsner.tumblr.com under “welcome to my world” )

  • Dot [] :

    That is just a manually created post with a bullet list, with links to the tag pages (like http://nancydorsner.com/tagged/robots). I keep the menu post on the front page by keeping it dated as one of the most recent post. Hope that helps!

  • AainaA-Ridtz A R [] (elsewhere) discussed this :

    Tumbling your shots and preserving em http://bit.ly/cQSPyY with themes to go with http://bit.ly/bDtNqr

  • Matthew [] :

    .i’m curious how you create those pages that are categorized by tags….
    it worx great for your work….i wanna try the same thing to organize my posts but cant find a theme that has that option

    sorry maybe i’m dense….
    but any help would be greatly appreciated!!


  • Dot [] :

    I’m not sure I understand what you mean?

    I tag the individual posts (ie ‘robots’) then create a link to

    The tagged pages all have the same template as the main page (which is based off Beauty by Milo317)

  • MR [] :

    can’t seemed to get the tagged thing working either with tumblr. i’m sure it’s simple, do you have a how to or anything?

  • Dot [] :

    Are you able to tag posts? should look like #robots, for example.
    Then I just have a link to http://dorsner.tumblr.com/tagged/robots (which tumbler translates to nancydorsner.com/tagged/robots)

  • Jazzmenn [] :

    Thanks for these links, Ive been searching for some good port layouts and was able to find one.

  • Limbo [] :

    I was curious how you made category pages based on your tags? I would like to create the same but i’m a bit confused on how to do so. Is there a tutorial around somewhere? Thank you!

  • Dot [] :

    I’m not sure… They may have changed how this works in tumblr since I wrote this tutorial.

  • Limbo [] :

    Thank you for your response. I figured out how to insert a line of code into the hasaprofile theme. Are you somewhat familiar with it? I’m trying to cap off the amount of posts per page at 12, and when the page is loading it does stop at 12 but then loads all posts I have loaded and my goal is to have no scrolling and keep it nice and neat at the fold.