Building a Professional Art Portfolio: Tips & Examples for Students

Created by Cake

As an artist, promoting your artwork either online or in-person is a part of running your own art business and living as a creative entrepreneur. Your art portfolio is the first place where people refer to before buying a piece from you. That’s why you should take time building an art portfolio. 

Potential collectors, gallerists, and buyers are all browsing online to search for talented artists and view your artwork and your credentials. In this article, we will offer tips on how to make an art portfolio and cover the essential concepts to bear in mind. Moreover, we will provide art portfolio examples for you as some inspiration!

What Is an Art Portfolio?

An art portfolio, or an artist’s portfolio, is an edited, carefully curated collection of an artist’s most outstanding works. It is used to showcase and display the spectrum of their artistic skills, style, or method of work. An artist’s portfolio is an ideal vehicle to present the works in the artist’s preferred placement and arrangement.

There are two main types of art portfolios:

🎨  Physical art portfolio

Physical art portfolios are often required for university or college applications. Typically, it includes printed examples or photos of your works.

🎨  Digital art portfolio

Nowadays, many artists make their name through the internet. Personal online art portfolios and social media pages have made it possible for artists to share their works and to reach audiences worldwide. 

However, while social media allows you to reach millions of people, a professional art portfolio website is more powerful for you to hold a virtual gallery, online store, and decide how you want your works to be presented.

How to Make an Art Portfolio - What to Include

Aside from showcasing your best works as an artist, some other elements can also be added to your art portfolio so that it can serve its purpose to the fullest. Read on to find out the elements to include when you are making an art portfolio.

1. About me/Biography

The audience is often curious about the artist. In your biography, introduce who you are and where you’re at. Put together your educational background, inspirations, and themes you care about. 

In addition, talk about the interests that make you more interesting. Add details such as the musical instrument you’re good at to start a conversation!

Here’s an example:

Hey! I'm Luci, a digital artist and creative director from Atlanta, Georgia, currently living in San Francisco.

I create art content inspired by conflict and chaos around the world as well as my childhood memory in Mumbai, India. 

I received two Bachelors from The University of California, Los Angeles – the first in Journalism, the second in Design.

2. Resume/CV

You probably think that an artist needs no resume. Yes, but no. An artist’s resume is like the cherry on the cake. It adds a beneficial effect to prove you can collaborate with clients or companies. 

Attaching your resume either online or in your physical art portfolio allows your audience to understand you more. You can add some creativity so your resume doesn’t look too dull. 

3. High-quality images of the artworks

When selecting your work of art, aim for quality over quantity. Pick the best of your works and leave out the ones that you are not satisfied with within your building art portfolio. It’s better to present ten uniformly good works instead of 20 works only for the sake of variety.

4. Details of the artworks

When your audiences are interested in your works, they naturally are curious about the details, whether it’s about the process, the concept, or more images. It’s ideal to give some description details about your work. 

Nevertheless, many art schools have precise requirements regarding art portfolios application, such as certain formats for titles, dates, and materials. Moreover, some people might consider it unnecessary for artists to explain their works. Just like the examples below.

Online art portfolio by Teresa Ho
Online art portfolio by Teresa Ho

Teresa Ho is a fine art artist who graduated from Art Center, Los Angeles. Her online art portfolio website presents a well-established style. 

Online art portfolio by Heji
Online art portfolio by He Yi

He Yi's portfolio also lacks descriptions, but the artworks speak for themselves.

Online art portfolio by Kait
Online art portfolio by Kait

Kait Kübar is a concept artist from Estonia. You can also find his works on Gumroad.

Tips on How to Make a Digital Art Portfolio

💡 Choose a suitable online art portfolio website

Before you start building a digital art portfolio, choose a platform that suits you best. There are numerous art portfolio sites for you to make an art portfolio, and consider these aspects to picking one:

  • Your purpose of setting up an art portfolio (to network with other artists, to market and sell your artworks, to apply for a job, etc.)
  • How you want your art portfolio to be seen
  • The degree of customization you want for your art portfolio website 
  • Whether you need good computer skills to manage the portfolio

Cake portfolio maker allows you to add multimedia materials to your digital art portfolio. As an artist, you build your art portfolio for free and  upload your works in no time to be seen by other professionals.

💡 Produce high-quality images to include in your digital art portfolio.

When building a digital art portfolio, make sure your images are of high quality. Typically, professional artists use cameras to take pictures of their work or scan their works carefully to produce images of high quality. After all, you don’t want to miss potential buyers only because your blurry image scared them off.

💡 Categorize your artworks into different types.

Curating your artwork is an essential skill. Deciding the degree of importance, the organization and sequence of your works, and categorizing them into simple types is crucial. It may be helpful to categorize your works and help your audience find exactly what they are searching for, such as illustrations, digital art, and graphic design. Take a look at the example below.

Art portfolio by Juan
Art portfolio by Juan Rodriguez

Juan Rodriguez is an artist from Miami, Florida. He categorizes the artworks in his art portfolio based on types such as 3D art, 2D art, Drawings & Studies, Installations, Social Dichotomy, Sketches, etc. for better viewing.

💡 Make sure links are working properly.

When interested readers look at your professional artist portfolio, they expect each page to work properly. As a result, make sure you provide functional URLs and allow access to external sites or videos.

💡 Update your art portfolio with your newest works frequently.

Building a digital art portfolio is constant work. Updating your works continuously to be prepared when galleries and buyers ask for your latest works. Putting the effort into managing your art portfolio is never a waste of time. 

💡 Use a consistent layout and art portfolio design.

For artists, branding and marketing is an important skill. Establishing a consistent style and layout helps you build a personal artist brand. Be sure to take the time to plan out the style, color, or interaction of your website to impress your buyers and audiences.

Art portfolio by Laci
Art portfolio by Laci

Laci is an artist and creative director from Huntsville, Alabama currently living in Los Angeles. She maintains consistency in her online art portfolio website by using the same font and size, and using the same dimensions for all the displayed artworks. 

💡 Promote your online art portfolio.

Last but not least, promote your online digital art portfolio website. You can promote your online art by:

  • Creating meaningful content or start blogging
  • Attend digital art competitions to get featured online
  • Network online or share other artists’ works
  • Submit your artworks to art posting websites or social media
  • Set up online stores to sell your digital artwork 

Tips for Creating an Art Student Portfolio

✨ Thoroughly read the application requirement.

Every art school has specific requirements or expectations. It’s your duty to understand each school’s application and submit works accordingly. 

Top art schools often accept very limited art students. In such cases, making a quality art portfolio that meets the criteria is crucial. 

Research carefully to understand practical requirements such as label formats, due dates, limitations of works to include, and the medium of your art student portfolio.

✨ Refer to other art student portfolios for inspiration.

The best strategy is to refer to the art students who are accepted to the same school or program. Analyze their organization, layout, descriptions, and most importantly, their selection of works. Notice what works they might have left out, and why they include those artworks you see.

You will understand what the admission managers expect to see in your art student portfolio. Even if each work differs from one another, it’s worthwhile to observe the strategy these students adopted.

✨ Use portfolio cases/folders to arrange a physical art portfolio.

There’s no need to mention the importance of preserving your artwork. If you are making a physical art student portfolio, choose a flat type art portfolio case that protects your artwork and can open up or close easily. Arrange your works either by type or by chronological order to help you find them easily.

Avoid rolling your works as it can cause trouble if you want to take photos of them. Buy a simple, high-quality spine-mounted portfolio case or clear file art portfolio holder that’s endurable. 

✨ Use a suitable art portfolio website for making a digital art portfolio.

If the art school demands an online art portfolio website, choose the website based on what you want to include. For example, if you consider including videos on your own art portfolio website, embed videos directly rather than providing links to YouTube or Vimeo.

✨ Compile high-quality images of your works.

To create artworks is one thing, to take photographs and document your work is another. Suppose that you need to print out some works or upload images to your art student portfolio, you want to make sure these images are of high quality. That is to say, you have to create a setting, scan, edit the lighting, contrast, or color (if necessary) of your works and check the printed results.  

✨ Categorize the images.

When you categorize your works in an art student portfolio, try to avoid clichés. Your subject may range from the most trivial matters to worldly themes. Your categories can also display a diverse range of visual skills and experiences to demonstrate your growth, diversity and skill set, and a breadth of interest in learning new things.

✨ Include titles and a brief introduction of each artwork.

Use small, clear writing to organize and label your artwork. Follow the school application’s guidelines on where and how to label the works. The titles should not detract from your artwork. Avoid stylish staggering fonts when you add introductions and descriptions of your art piece. 

✨ Always finish your art portfolio earlier than planned.

It might seem obvious, but many art students have a hard time completing an art student portfolio. It is often because they are too perfectionist than to be practical. 

When editing your art portfolio for university, organize the structure first, and have the first version finished the sooner the better. The first version of your art portfolio doesn’t have to be perfect. Having your first version allows you to sleep on it, think of the supplement materials to add, or share with others to give feedback on it. 

The best thing is, it alleviates your anxiety. You can always make it better afterward.

More Art Portfolio Examples

🎨 Art teacher portfolio example

Art teacher portfolio
Art teacher portfolio

Maya Jaafar Lena is an Artist Educator from Portland, Maine. Her portfolio website documents her students’ work as well as her teaching philosophy.

🎨 Visual arts portfolio example

Visual arts portfolio
Visual arts portfolio

Mario Radev is a filmmaker and visual artist based in London. His portfolio consists of a very minimalistic layout with a white background and simple fonts, allowing the artworks be the protagonists.

🎨 Concept art portfolio example

Concept art portfolio
Concept art portfolio

Lorenzo Lanfranconi is an environment concept artist and colorist from Italy. His portfolio uses a clear square grid thumbnail, making it clean and easy to navigate despite the vibrant colors of nature.

🎨 Game artist portfolio

Game artist portfolio
Game artist portfolio

Nathalie Jankie is a Level Designer at Remedy Entertainment. Her portfolio includes plenty of videos to demonstrate her skills.

🎨 Digital art portfolio example

Digital art portfolio
Digital art portfolio

Kervin Brisseaux is an artist based in NYC and has worked for world-renowned brands including Nickelodeon, Pepsi, and Uniqlo. He also included the client name for each artwork to show off that he has worked with renowned clients before.

🖋 Painting portfolio example

Painting portfolio
Painting portfolio

Andrew L.Shea is a critic, painter, and editor based in New York City. Aside from high-quality pictures of his paintings that clearly shows his painting style and texture, he also included his CV, statement and contact number, which are necessary in order to get in touch with buyers or clients.

🎨 Digital artist portfolio example

Digital artist portfolio
Digital artist portfolio

Miranda Meeks is a digital artist and illustrator from Salt Lake City.

🖋 Graphic artist portfolio example

Graphic artist portfolio
Graphic artist portfolio

Roos Beeldt is a graphic designer and illustrator from the Netherlands. His website landing page shows characteristic, with bold color choice, font style and an eye-catching introduction statement.

Having an online portfolio website is highly crucial in paving your career path as an artist. With Cake’s online portfolio maker, you can create your very own online portfolio that showcases your true skills and creativity. Create your free online portfolio now!

--- Originally written by Wu Chao Min ---

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