The Look: Give Your Site a Retro Vibe


I love that our blogs and websites are truly our online homes. My blog is different from yours — with a specific custom background and collection of fonts, hand-picked colors, and other design tweaks. I’m able to make the space my own in the same way I’ve painted my loft’s walls yellow and decorated my shelves with my favorite things.

Some of the coolest blogs I stumble upon have an overall cohesive design; these bloggers use a mix of tools — from their theme and widgets to other unique touches — to make their sites their own.

Are you nostalgic for bygone eras? Do you love fashion, styles, and designs from the past? Today, let’s take a peek at ways to give your site a retro vibe.

Go retro with themes

At, we make it easy for you — you can browse retro themes already tagged in our showcase, from Retro MacOS, an homage to the black-and-white days of an earlier, more pixellated Mac operating system; to Vintage Camera, a playful photoblog theme with old-school camera iconogoraphy; to Handmade, a premium theme with a design that resembles a stack of paper file folders:

Retro MacOS
Vintage Camera

Other themes offer great starting points for retro-inspired sites. I like the wood-paneled background and crinkly sticky post area of Adventure Journal, which has a unique diary-like layout and celebrates note-taking and communication of the past. I especially dig the look and feel of The Vibes, the blog of Mark, a designer and traveler:

Phil at ESCapology, also using Adventure Journal, has a custom background with a spiral notebook, colored Post-its, and a wanderlust-filled custom header image with handwritten notes, postcards, stamps, and coins:

Create a mood with personal touches

But choosing a theme is just the first step. You can personalize your site further, from the background and widgets you use to the way you display your photographs.

Choose your background wisely

I like the rustic wood background at The Vintage Postcard, a blog on adventure and writing by Canadian blogger Alli. Here, she transforms the Forever theme and evokes a sense of both exploration and nostalgia (and the vintage illustrations of women and Paris add to the overall vibe, too).

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Selecting a background or color is one of the quickest tweaks you can make to your blog — and the effect can be dramatic. (It’s free, too.) Go on and experiment in Appearance ? Background, or read more about custom backgrounds if you need a bit more inspiration.

You can search for free patterns on sites like . . .

  • Subtle Patterns
  • My Site My Way
  • Squidfingers

. . . and experiment with the color wheel in your dashboard to find the right hue for you. Consider off-white or sepia tones to create an old, weathered look. Or choose a color scheme that’s bright and reminiscent of 1950s diners and decor, like red and yellow or pink and black, which would perfectly match the retro header image of Preservation in Pink, a historic preservation blog using the Adelle theme:

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Sprinkle in custom-made image widgets

Take a second look at Mark’s blog, The Vibes. He’s created custom Image Widgets for his sidebar — clickable images that resemble Polaroids and match his overall design.

You can transform the photos in your sidebar in different (and free) ways using editors like PicMonkey and apps like Vintage Deco, which allows you to decorate photographs with vintage stamps and frames. If you use Instagram, you can activate the Instagram Widget and post images using filters like Earlybird, Toaster, Walden, and 1977 to display a feed of retro snapshots in your sidebar, too. (Read more on using filters.)

If you want to spend a few bucks, you can try other apps like Retromatic, which offers more themes, stickers, and vintage poster-like effects.

I also dig the custom-made frames made out of tape on fashion and style blog Vintage Reflection. Here, London-based blogger Amy inserts images that link back to her Flickr account and add a nice touch to her sidebar:

Adding custom images to your sidebar, like the one above, helps to unify your blog’s visual elements. You can learn more about creating your own Image Widgets in a Widgets 201 tutorial on The Daily Post.

Customizing your blog is one thing. Personalizing it to create a cohesive visual style and overall mood is another. In the coming months, we’ll share more ways to achieve certain looks, so stay tuned.

Filed under: Better Blogging, Customization, Widgets,

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