In my post about the Pros and Cons of Blogging on WordPress, you learned that one major drawback to blogging on WordPress.com is the limited amount of customization allowed within the free templates. This is frustrating because you have a great blog and you want it to stand out!! There are plenty of ways you can make your blog your own, even within the constraints of free WordPress.com themes.
Pick a Template That Suits Your Needs
Not all of the free WordPress templates are created equal. Some allow for a custom header, some allow a custom background, some allow you to choose between several color options. Prioritize what you’re looking for and decide which is best for you. When choosing a theme for my own blog, the ability to use a custom header was my biggest priority.
Make a Custom Header and Images
The header image is the very first thing readers see when they land on your blog, so it should be interesting enough to get them to stick around! Take a look at headers and images that catch your eye. I bet you’ll find that many of them are simply words. Or a photo with words. You can totally do that! Download yourself some cute fonts and let’s get this show on the road!
You don’t need expensive software to design your own header for your blog. Two free, downloadable programs are GIMP and Paint.NET (these are better if you have a slower internet speed). If you prefer to edit online (and for those trying to wean themselves off Picnik), try Photoshop Express or Pixlr Express. I prefer to use Photoshop so I’m not very familiar with any of these programs, but hopefully you will find one to suit your needs!
Find out what size header your theme supports. This is super important because if it’s too small, it will get stretched, if it’s too large, it will get smooshed, and any stretching or smooshing will distort your image.
Open up your software and start messing around! Add a photo or two, type in your title, and make up a tagline to describe what you write about. You can’t learn how to use a program without trying, and the more you practice, the better you will get. Once you are comfortable with your editing software, you can also try making some sidebar buttons and add them using a text widget.
Add a Background
You can make a background yourself or you can use one of the millions of free backgrounds available for download online. One of my favorite resources for backgrounds is Colour Lovers; you can browse the user-submitted patterns and you can even re-color any pattern using your own color palette. All of the patterns are seamless so they will look great tiled in the background of your blog.
Use your Widgets
WordPress has a bunch of cool built-in widgets to add interest to your sidebar. You can display your photo and biography, your recent posts, or your Twitter feed. Widgets can also be used to add images, buttons, and links. Try them all out and mix and match!
There are tons of resources out there to help beautify your blog!
Have any tips on how you customize your own blog? Share them in the comments!