Portfolio on a Budget: Tumblr

Tumblr is a microblogging platform that is similar to WordPress in some ways, but without the hassle of a content management system. On the other hand, you have less control over how your portfolio site looks and functions, though there are many themes for you to choose from. If you are just looking to upload your images and projects, then Tumblr is worth looking at.


Tumblr is also a social networking site, allowing you to connect with fellow designers and build a following. The ability to reblog your content is one of its most powerful features. If your work goes viral, your brand can reach hundreds, if not thousands, of people and become an overnight success. As such, even if you have a portfolio site, it’s not a bad idea to include Tumblr as part of your marketing strategy.

Let’s go through the steps to create your portfolio site on Tumblr.


When creating your account, be aware that the username you choose will be used as part of your address. So if your username is fraphic, then the address you link to clients will be fraphic.tumblr.com. As such, it’s recommended to use your brand name as your username.

You will then be asked to select 5 genres that you are interested in. Naturally, choose those that involve the visual arts such as design and illustration. From there, Tumblr will personalize your dashboard so related posts are displayed. Each post also allows you to follow, share, like and reblog. You can also Talk to a Tumblr and reach out to designers and illustrators that inspire you.

Tell Tumblr what you like and they will get you the good stuff
Tell Tumblr what you like and they will get you the good stuff

With the social aspect out of the way, it’s time to create your portfolio site. A default theme (Optica in this example) is already chosen for you, but you might want something that looks more professional, so go to Edit Appearance and Edit Theme.

Here you will be able to customize appearance and theme options. Browse through the many free themes available and pick one that works best for your site. You can see a few recommendations on the sidebar, but most of them are displayed under Themes. There are categories to narrow down your search, while price tags differentiate the free and premium themes. You also have the ability to preview each theme before installation.

Customize appearance and browse themes
customize appearance and browse themes
Tumblr has a wide selection of themes available
Tumblr has a wide selection of themes available

In this example we will be choosing a theme with a grid layout, which is great for displaying images and photos — ideal for a portfolio site. Bazice is clean and has features such as infinite scrolling, so let’s go with that one.

Bazice, a clean theme with grid layout
Bazice, a clean theme with grid layout

After installing the theme, it’s time to upload a few projects. Go to your dashboard and Make a Post (located on the top right). There are 7 post options to choose from, but Photo will probably be the best one for you.

From there, upload images and photos related to the project, and add a caption if desired. Also, be sure to include relevant tags so your post is easily searchable. Once done, you can either post now or schedule it for later.

Upload images and add information about your project
Upload images and add information about your project

After adding a few projects, your portfolio site should look more substantial. Now it’s just a matter of going to Edit Theme and experimenting with theme options to get the exact look you want.

Customize the appearance of your portfolio site with theme options
customize the appearance of your portfolio site with theme options

It’s easy to create your portfolio site for free on Tumblr. In addition, the social features makes Tumblr a great choice, especially if you are starting out as a freelance graphic designer and looking to get the word out there about your services.

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