Gone are the days when artists had to have professional slides made of their work. You no longer need to print high-resolution photographs, put them in protective sleeves, and pay for expensive binding.
Rarely will you have to load your physical artwork into an oversized briefcase and haul it around town to potential galleries, employers, or competitions.
Read on to get the inside scoop on the What, Where, Why, and How of creating a professional art portfolio.
- Art Portfolio Website Examples
- College Art Portfolio Examples
- Art Portfolio Examples for a Job
- Bad Art Portfolio Examples
- What is considered a good art portfolio?
- Final Thoughts
Art Portfolio Website Examples
There’s no doubt that having a stellar website to show off your professional creative work is critical in today’s ultra-competitive art market. These artists have some of the best art portfolio examples that we all could learn a thing or two from.
The minimalism of the text size and font juxtaposed with the prominence of the image makes this art portfolio website hard to ignore.
Jeremy’s paintings are beautiful, but the clarity of the tabs in his online portfolio with elegant but unassuming text makes the artwork pop.
Again, Sophie Kahn’s art portfolio website has plain text that highlights the images. The social media buttons are a great addition so people can follow you and be alerted to new artwork or posts you make. The arrows allow you to peruse the artwork without having to leave the homepage.
Phillipe’s site is also simple, except he shows some personality with his name in a cursive font like a signature. Showing multiple images is a good choice to show the cohesiveness of his work.
What Should Be Included in Your Website Portfolio?
What should be included in your online art portfolio will depend on your goals and the market or opportunities you are looking to connect with.
In general, most website portfolios should have:
- Works that showcase your style: The majority of working artists have a recognizable style. Make sure the work you include represents the style you work in or want to be known for.
- Your best works: You may be tempted to put everything in, but put your best foot forward and only include the works you are most proud of. Quality over quantity.
- Works that demonstrate your creative and technical skills: Show what you can do. If you are a colorist, show your ability to use color to evoke emotion. If you enjoy and specialize in dramatic lighting in your photographs, highlight that skill.
- CV, Bio, Exhibitions, Commissions, Awards: Make sure to put your best foot forward and detail what you have accomplished. Even if you don’t have a deep resume, or have only been accepted into one art show, make sure that is in your supporting documents somewhere.
- Social Media links: While resumes are necessary, they are stale. Your social media links let people keep up with your recent work and are becoming a preferred way to screen prospects for hiring managers.
- Blog: People want to know what you can offer, and blogs are a great way to showcase your knowledge, expertise, and perspective on work and life.
Should An Art Portfolio Be a Website?
In most cases, yes, your portfolio should be a website. It’s hard to argue why you wouldn’t want or need an online art portfolio these days. Unless you are a high-end photographer and the person looking to hire or contract with you wants to see the work in person, a website is the most versatile and accessible method of showcasing your work.
Sometimes, you might need a hard-copy portfolio for a job fair, an in-person interview, or gallery representation, but usually, those come after an initial screening process based on your digital portfolio.
What Is the Best Art Portfolio Website?
The best art portfolio website will depend on your goals, your technical abilities, and your level of involvement in updating and maintaining your website portfolio.
Web hosting sites are usually the connection to the internet for your site and require more technical ability from you to design and set up your site with online tools.
If you are willing to pay a little more for a custom domain name like JoeTheArtist.com, instead of something like JoeTheArtist.wixsite.com/ that you get with most free services. JoeTheArtist.com will appear much more professional than JoeTheArtist.wixsite.com
Artist Website Storefronts and Template Managers can be another good option as they are centered more around art and have many art-related promotional resources included in their plans. FineArtStudio.com and ArtStoreFronts.com are two such services.
Online Galleries or collectives are another option if you don’t want to maintain your own portfolio website. These services are usually free, but some are selective in who they accept, and they usually take a commission if you sell art through them. Saatchi, Artmo, and Ugallery are a few online galleries to check out.
College Art Portfolio Examples
An online portfolio for art school is different from professional portfolios. When applying to an art college, you usually don’t have to show a defined, unique style like you do for jobs or contract work. Colleges want to see your skill level, your creativity, and your interests.
If you show you can make decent art and are willing to try new things, art colleges will typically look at your portfolio favorably. As with anything, check out the school’s website and chat with people familiar with the school to find out what they look for in portfolio reviews.
Here are some great art school portfolios:
Garce Lee’s art portfolio website is professional looking for an art student.
Kristy Mackenzie’s portfolio is what you would expect for a student submitting a portfolio to an art school. There is good work, but it shows a lack of experience in presenting work to others.
Zora’s website portfolio is well done for a student. There are GIFs with moving images, and it is visually appealing even if it isn’t as polished as some of the professional examples.
What Should Be Included In a Portfolio for College Art?
What you include in a portfolio for art college depends on the school. Many art schools may want to see an area of focus, like portraits, digital painting, or abstract work, but most want to see a breadth of ideas and experience in diverse media.
Art schools tend to prefer students who are malleable and will take feedback. If you only have Anime/Manga work in your portfolio, you may not make the cut to the next level. It is best to include:
- Examples of your artistic interests
- Examples of your technical experience and abilities
- Sketchbook page examples
- Your best work
Can You Get Into Art School With a Bad Portfolio?
Art students can get into some art schools with a bad portfolio, but those institutions are usually private, charge a lot of money, and/or don’t have as good a reputation as more competitive schools.
You can work with your high school art teacher to improve your artistic skills and portfolio if you haven’t yet graduated.
It Depends on the School
Elite private art schools and state schools that receive a lot of applications will be much more selective than smaller private schools that are more interested in profit. Make sure you do research and find out where a school’s graduates get hired, what their acceptance rate is, and what reputation they have with their alumni.
It Depends on What is Making the Portfolio Bad
Good work with poor portfolio construction shows you have potential but need more experience. If you can show decent drawing, painting, or sculpting ability, but the images of your work are of poor quality, the school may feel you have some talent they can work with.
Schools Want to Know the Student is Teachable
If you show only 1 style, subject matter, or media, you may appear unteachable or lack vision. Skills can be taught, but unwillingness to experiment and try new things is hard to overcome. Make sure you show more than one media, style, or subject matter.
Cliché Work is Worse than Poor Skills
If you only do Fan Art or subject matter that is predictable, like basic landscapes or still lifes, you may show you lack vision. Skills are easier for schools to teach and develop than creativity and passion.
Art Portfolio Examples for a Job
Art portfolios for a job need to be polished and professional. There are so many creatives looking for work that you need to stand out. Here are a few examples of portfolios that do just that.
Adrian Cox shows his style with an artistically designed homepage for his portfolio website. We can find information about him and his services without having to click on any buttons. Believe it or not, this strategy might be more likely to encourage people to click!
Mary Iverson’s site lets us see some portfolio works along with previous commission work. What’s most fun about this homepage is that the geometric shapes and graph points move and are interactive. You can grab the dots and move the lines!!!
Xaviera lets us know that they are available for hire, they have enough experience to have press links, and their social media links are easy to access.
Graphic and product design artists benefit from showing examples of their contract work. This lends credibility to their skills and services.
Elizabeth O’Meara’s site scrolls automatically, showing previous product and package design examples.
Media House allows you to see a reel of their video production work without having to click on a tab or navigate to another page.
Tailor Your Portfolio to Each Job
It is unlikely you will be able to make one portfolio to use to apply to all the postings you are interested in. The portfolio must reflect the specifics of the job application. If you are applying for an illustration job, you probably don’t want to have a lot of portraits in your portfolio.
If you read through the job posting carefully or visit the company’s website, you can get a sense of what type of work they are looking for.
For contract work, you need to be even more focused on the kinds of work you include in your portfolio. Check out other work the person or group has commissioned in the past. If that isn’t possible, create a set of questions for the client to determine exactly what type of work they are most interested in seeing.
Because competition is fierce, every little detail is important. Spelling, grammar, and formatting mistakes can eliminate you because it may indicate you don’t value attention to detail.
Have a Cohesive Body of Works
Even if you are extremely proud of some of your works, don’t include them if they are not harmonious or don’t fit with what the position requires. Anyone can get lucky with a good work of art or two, but applicants with consistent, quality work will be more prized.
You may be excited about a position and want to send your portfolio right away, but it will pay off if you do your research. Read through the entire job posting, visit the company’s website, read what current and past employees have to say, and show you have done the research. Hiring managers will appreciate that you want to work for their company as opposed to just wanting a job.
If you need some help in designing the right portfolio, Digital Painting Studio provides some awesome ideas for professional portfolios in their free portfolio creation course for digital artists.
Bad Art Portfolio Examples
Bad art portfolios happen, especially in the beginning, but it’s not the end of the world. Learn from your mistakes, or better yet, learn from the mistakes of others.
What Makes a Bad Art Portfolio?
Many things can make for a bad portfolio, but usually, these things are easily avoidable. These include:
- Poor images. Bad lighting, poor cropping, images not centered/squared, low resolution
- Too much copywork with little original work
- Too much variety and lack of uniformity in style/subject/media
- Cliché subject matter or style
- Fan Art/Celebrity Images
- Work with less-than-stellar craftsmanship
What should you avoid in an art portfolio?
While each opportunity will want and not want different things, in general, there are some things to avoid in any circumstance.
- Offensive or controversial images/topics
- Unfinished works
What is considered a good art portfolio?
A good art portfolio can take many forms, but the best have several things in common.
You MUST have an organized site or physical portfolio. It should be easy to navigate, with minimal link-steps and many ways to return home. The tabs and headers should clearly indicate their content.
Clear Vision, Style, and Personality
Show you know who you are and the kind of work you do.
Visually Appealing Design
We live in a world of visual imagery overload, and if you are searching for an art-related, creative job, you better show what you know. Make the visitor feel like they want to be there. Your physical or online portfolio should be visually stimulating but not busy or overwhelming.
Excellent Quality Images
Don’t rush or skimp on the images you use. If you don’t know how to take great photos of your work, hire someone. It will pay off. You are a visual artist, and if you can’t get that right, you may not get a foot in the door.
Less Is More
Too often, artists want to put everything they have ever done in their portfolio, especially new professional artists. Put your best foot forward and only show those works that are your best and that are relevant to the opportunity you are applying for.
Creating a portfolio and applying for school or work can be intimidating. But, if you take your time and put in the work, it is definitely manageable.
If you feel your work isn’t quite ready to compete with the big dogs, then you might consider taking some courses to improve your skills and expand the work you have to choose from.