artists,  networking

Tips to Create a Winning Portfolio

Having an outstanding art portfolio can make the difference when you are applying to an art’s program or a new job. Depending on what kind of artist you are, there are several steps to take and things to consider. Here are some tips that will help you with the process.


What type of artwork are you showcasing?

Are you painting portraits or creating films? These questions are important to consider when choosing what kind of portfolio to create. For media such as film, music, or animation, having a digital portfolio makes more sense. If you are a photographer, painter, or sculptor, it would make more sense to have a physical copy of your portfolio and a digital portfolio. Digital portfolios are convenient not only for artists specializing in media, but also for submitting online applications and sharing on a blog or site.


Choose your best work.

Do not choose all of your art pieces. You always want to make sure that you use 10-12 of your best works of art and arrange them so that the best ones are at the beginning. If you are using pictures or photocopies of your art, make sure that the printer is of high quality and that you use paper that is adequate for photos. If you are submitting multiple portfolios, be consistent in the pictures you use (unless they have different requirements).


Create a portfolio that is easy on the eye.

If you are creating a hard copy for your portfolio, find a cover that is professional and easy to use (I always recommend one that is a neutral color, such as black or navy blue – here is an example). Make sure that all your documents are in order, with a simple font and formatting. For images, use photo paper and color ink. I think this goes without saying, but make sure that all your pages are clean and wrinkle free!

If your using a digital portfolio, make sure that your formating is clean and legible. Too many images, busy fonts, and colors can distract from your work. Once you are done with it, have a backup copy saved somewhere secure so that no tech mishaps happen.


Personalize it with information about you.

The beginning of your portfolio should include information about who you are as an artist. This includes a cover letter highlighting your biggest accomplishments, a resume, an artist statement, and a small biography. The cover letter and artist biography should cover information about you that is related to your artistry and why you love being an artist. This gives the schools, programs, or jobs that you are applying to a picture of you as a person on top of your quality of work.


Ask for feedback.

Have family, friends, and mentors to overlook your work. Be mindful of who will be honest with you and who doesn’t want to offend you. Honest criticism will take you farther with your work than having a parent admire trying to speak highly of it because they are proud. Once you have found 2-3 people that you trust to give you genuine feedback, ask them to read over your written work as well as the pieces you chose, and offer to show them the ones that you didn’t include that you considered.


Continue to update your portfolio.

Use your feedback and improvements in your skill-set to continue updating your portfolio. Remove pieces that no longer work for your future applications and add new ones that show how your work has become of higher quality.


  • Jennifer

    Thanks for the great info! I have a few friends that are getting their portfolios together now for schools that they want to complete their degrees at. I will forward them this post. I also found your post on “selling your art” super informative and solid info I will send their way too! Thank you!

  • Aj

    I like how you were able to point out the importance of improving on your portfolio and skill set with comments from others. I believe too many people take constructive criticism too personally and don’t use it as a learning tool as they should. Good read.

  • Kat

    Thanks for the tips. I think the most important one is about having honest feedback. It is important not to get offended or angry when you receive feedback in the form of criticism. Feedback is a gift, even negative feedback as long as it is constructive and helps you grow!

  • German

    Thank you for sharing this information with us 🙂

    I’m an artistic person and I think I’ll go to Art School at some point, not get a job, but just for fun, to study what I love.

    In creating a portfolio, I believe that asking for feedback is essential; the more feedback you get, the better.

  • King Kong's Girl

    One other thing I don’t have talent at is art and design. But I do have plans of taking photography classes. I will surely refer to your site for some tips on how to manage and arrange a portfolio. I like your advice about taking constructive criticism as well. Often times we need other’s eyes and perspectives to see and understand things differently and grow. I like your site. Keep it up.

  • Netta

    Hey Daybe:

    Thank you for your suggestions for putting together art portfolios.

    The Light of My Life makes heavily sculpted bas-relief landscape collages using dried banana bark and taro stems. Matted and framed, they are like looking out a window onto a fantastical landscape of mountains with waterfalls and sea cliffs with rolling ocean waves.

    It’s pretty hard to describe what he does and he used to grumble that he didn’t have anything that could show people his work.

    (He is an absolute Luddite so going digital was not an option with him. The guy doesn’t even have a land-line!)

    Before he left for a three-month trip to Ecuador, I put together a simple photo album of the latest examples of his work, some of which were featured in local galleries on Maui.

    He was extraordinary pleased with the resulting enthusiastic interest from fellow artists and others when he showed them his work and he was able to meet a number of very creative people as a result. It helped him connect in so many ways with these people and definitely enhanced his journey.

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