Find out how to become a professional illustrator.
How to make a digital art portfolio.
No matter how experienced you are in creating digital art, having a portfolio to display your work is essential. A digital art portfolio is a way to present your best pieces, demonstrate the range of your abilities and keep a record of your achievements.
Read on to learn how to make an art portfolio.
Compiling ideas for your art portfolio.
Before putting your art portfolio together, you’ll need to go through your work and select pieces to include. When choosing what to add to your portfolio, here are some things to think about:
Art that defines you.
Choose pieces that reflect your unique style and what you want to say. Art that best showcases your core identity as an artist should feature in your art portfolio.
Breadth versus depth.
This will depend greatly on your own art style. If you create art in a variety of mediums for different purposes and audiences, the pieces you choose for your art portfolio should reflect that spread. However, if you’re a specialist in a particular medium or style, make your portfolio a deep dive into that.
When deciding whether to focus on breadth or depth, think about the purpose of your portfolio. Are you applying for a job that requires you to showcase a wide range of art and design skills? Or are you putting yourself forward for a specialist course or degree in a single medium? Tailor your portfolio to the situation and the audience.
Your best examples.
There’s no need to include every example of your work in a portfolio. Only include art that you are most proud of and reflects your talents in the best possible light. Think about how you might talk about each piece if asked.
Art that has been praised.
Work that has won awards - or even just gained a few likes on social media - is likely to be engaging and interesting to others, so include it in your art portfolio. If your teacher, tutor, parent, peer or friend has praised your work, ask them to tell you what it was specifically that they liked, so you can keep this in mind when it comes to presenting your work.
Attention-grabbing work that stands out.
It goes without saying, but work that makes it into your portfolio should stand out and grab people’s attention. You want your portfolio to be memorable, so choose art that will have an impact.
Quality over quantity.
There is no hard-and-fast rule as to how many pieces of art you should include in your portfolio. That will depend a lot on:
- the amount of experience you have
- the purpose of the portfolio
- how many skills, mediums and techniques you want to showcase
- how you put the portfolio together
Instead of thinking in terms of numbers, think in terms of time. How long do you expect to spend presenting - or for someone to spend looking through - your portfolio?
For example, if you have an hour-long job interview for a design role, you might expect to spend 30 minutes taking the interviewers through your portfolio and discussing each section. If you spend five minutes on each double page spread, that’s six double pages to cover your best work.
On the other hand, if a potential customer is visiting your website to decide whether to commission you for an art project, they might only spend a few minutes looking at examples of your work to decide if you’re the right fit.
Thanks to digitalisation, you’re no longer restricted to leather-bound paper portfolios. There are a whole range of portfolio formats choose from.
A bespoke website built from scratch.
Creating your own website means you have complete freedom to present your work your way. If you’re a whizz at coding, building your own website should be easy. But if not, building a bespoke website could be expensive and time consuming. You may need to commission a developer to build the site and the cost of buying and maintaining a domain adds up quickly.
A templated website where all you need to do is add the imagery.
This is a simpler and more affordable option for creating a digital art portfolio. There are plenty of options when it comes to portfolio websites that include a hosting domain and simple page layouts for you to populate. They can be more restrictive than a bespoke website, but for the less tech-savvy among us this option is much easier.
A digital portfolio in PDF format.
Creating your own portfolio from scratch and saving it as a .pdf file is another popular choice. This format is similar to the traditional printed version of a drawing portfolio that tells a story and has a beginning, middle and end. You can include a contents page, explanatory text to accompany your work and be creative with the layout. It’s also easy for people to flick through at their leisure, simple to attach to emails when applying for jobs and can be printed out.
An old-school brochure or book.
There’s nothing wrong with keeping it real and creating a physical art portfolio. Having something tangible to take to a job interview and flick through with the interviewers can be a brilliant way to showcase your art skills. However, it’s worth remembering that in this day and age many people will expect you to have some examples of work available digitally - whether that’s a social media page or a website.
A video or multimedia portfolio.
If you create art in a range of digital formats, your portfolio should reflect that. You might choose to create a concept artist portfolio or a video showreel. You can present:
- still artwork
- video clips
- digital art
- concept art
- web design
...and much more in this way. A video portfolio also lets you choose the timing and when to transition between pieces. Done right, it tells a compelling story complete with audio, animation and moving images.
In recent years, people have become very creative in the ways they showcase their work. From using QR codes on business cards to encourage people to view their websites to sending bespoke packages to hiring managers, the only limit to portfolio presentation is your own imagination!
How to create an art portfolio structure.
The structure of your portfolio is very important. A good portfolio structure should showcase your work in the best possible light, tell a story about you and your experience as an artist and keep the viewer interested.
Here are some things to think about when deciding on your art portfolio structure:
How will your portfolio be viewed?
Will it be viewed digitally on a computer screen, on a website, on a mobile device or in a physical format? This may affect how you choose to structure and present your portfolio. Will it require a cover image, for example? Or a contents page? Or will it be sectioned into different web pages to showcase your varied skills?
Which pieces do you want to stick in people’s minds?
You might think it makes sense to structure your portfolio starting with the work you’re most proud of first and ending with the least impressive work. But people’s brains are wired so that we’re naturally more likely to remember the first and last items in a series.
Therefore, when structuring your portfolio, it makes sense for your last piece of work to be just as impressive as the first. Place less impactful work towards the middle of your portfolio, when viewers are less likely to remember it.
What is your goal?
Whether you’re creating a concept art portfolio or a video collection, your primary goal should be to make people go, “Wow!”
But what else are you hoping to achieve? Do you want to…
- Tell a story
- Create an emotional impact
- Showcase the range of your abilities
- Demonstrate your expertise in a specific skill
- Land a new job?
Whatever your desired outcome, try to consider this when structuring your portfolio.
Categories, labels and annotations.
Art tells a story, but your portfolio should still include some writing. Page titles, names of pieces, project explanations and annotations can help to convey meaning and explain the process or purpose behind each piece. Annotations can act as a springboard for interviewers to learn more about your creative process and ask questions.
- Why was the work created - was it for a commercial project or personal development?
- What was the brief, if any? What did the client want from you?
- How did you approach the work?
- Which mediums did you use? For example, pencil, oil paints, Adobe InDesign, chalks.
- What were the results? For example, did you win awards? Was it showcased in a gallery? Was it part of a successful marketing campaign that you can back up with data?
How to make an art portfolio digitally.
Adobe Portfolio is free with Adobe Creative Cloud. It lets you create beautiful portfolio websites, with unlimited pages and hosting included.
- Pick a theme for your website from the range available.
- Add your artwork and annotations.
- Add your About and Contact pages.
- Customise your site so it’s tailored to suit your unique style.
- Optimise for the web with meta titles and descriptions.
- Go live with your website.
Check out some Adobe Portfolio examples.
Adobe InDesign lets you create digital publications like digital magazines, online documents and portfolios. Create your own professional layouts and use stylish typography and rich graphics, images and tables to display your artwork your way. Save your finished portfolio as a .pdf document so it’s easy to share digitally.
Adobe Premiere Pro.
If you’re creating a showreel portfolio, Adobe Premiere Pro is the ultimate video editor. Import and edit, add effects and use professional templates to give your video portfolio a polished and professional look.
Digital art portfolio examples.
Looking for some inspiration? These example digital portfolios show what’s possible to achieve with a portfolio website.
Nathalie’s vibrant naturalistic paintings are brought to life on her website.
Alex Weir showcases his bold, vintage inspired work.
Smooth curves, colour pops and minimalist interior design.
Painting, illustration and animation blend to capture human emotion.
A black backdrop helps the photos of Jesse’s work stand out.
Rachel displays her portrait photography in different sizes and shapes for variation.
Digital art portfolio: FAQs
What should you avoid in an art portfolio?
You should avoid the following mistakes when making an art portfolio:
- Including too many examples.
- Over filling each page. Give the art space to breathe.
- Lack of context or explanation. Always include some annotations.
- Over-explaining each piece with too much writing. Keep the focus on the art.
- Repetitive presentation. Putting every image in the same layout on each page will disengage the viewer.
Do art portfolios need a theme?
There is no requirement to follow a theme in your art portfolio. In fact, if you want to display the breadth of your artistic ability, sticking to a theme could prevent you from displaying some pieces. However, sticking to a specific style for your formatting, font and background colours will help to make your portfolio look polished and professional.
What makes a good portfolio?
A good art portfolio should:
- Tell a story and keep the viewer engaged throughout.
- Show the depth and breadth of your skills.
- Be tailored to the audience. If you’re applying for a specific job, update your portfolio with examples that demonstrate the skills they’re looking for.
- Be easy to navigate online or logical to follow in print.
- Give context and an explanation for each piece of work.