How to Create an Art Portfolio and Make It Stand out

Posted by Natalie Martin on Feb 2, 2017 1:58:47 PM

A polished, well-executed art portfolio is critical when seeking recognition from an employer, university, or a gallery. Understanding the components that are needed to have a strong portfolio takes time and skill. 

The difference between a professional resume and an art portfolio is that art portfolios come in all shapes and sizes. Portfolios are not meant to showcase your educational background or achievements. Portfolios are meant to show off the art pieces you’ve created, and that you feel flaunt your best work. Different industries within the art community also require different types of portfolios, so do your research on what should be expected from you.


If you are in high school and are serious about trying to get into a top fine arts school, consider utilizing your summer at an art program for high schools students to get very focused help on your portfolio. Below are general tips and guidelines when perfecting and making your portfolio stand out against a crowd of other applicants. 


Look at previous art portfolio examples:

Depending on where you’re sending your portfolio, try and see if you can look at a few examples from current students or staff. If they are accessible, you then can figure out an idea of what should be expected from you. If you don’t have the luxury of viewing past work, see if you can get access to any guidelines or requirements.

Make your art portfolio unique, but don’t try too hard:

People who are looking at your art portfolio want to see your personality shine through each art piece. They want to see what you find interesting or what inspires you. The idea of this is to stand out amongst a crowd, similar to a resume. Sometimes resumes or portfolio ideas are so creative, unique, or funny that someone can’t help but notice it. Other time, attempts to stand out crash and burn. It should be easier to stand out with a portfolio because each art piece is different from the next. Be true to yourself and your vision.  

It’s okay to ask for help:

Chances are, once you start working on an art portfolio it is most likely your first. With it being your first time, you are more likely to miss a component that could really impact the portfolio. Ask art teachers, mentors, or friends with an artistic eye to help critique your work. A summer art program like Art: Summer at Penn is a great way to spend your summer getting individualized advice, critiques, and guidance on your portfolio. Generally speaking, your colleagues and teachers will be more than willing to help by sharing their work, experiences and giving feedback. No matter your skill level, there is always someone who has been in the art world longer than you to provide great tips and wisdom.

Details, details, details:

As if narrowing down which work you want to include in your portfolio isn’t hard enough, you also have to keep in mind all the other smaller aspects to go into it as well. Typically, students creating their first portfolio neglect considering basic aspects like the layout, design, grammar, etc. You also have to think about the easiest way to display information without having someone search too hard for it. If your portfolio is difficult to navigate, the person looking at it may not have enough time or energy to search for what they’re looking for. 

From beginning to end, creating and perfecting an art portfolio is time-consuming, but extremely rewarding. All your best work is on display in one convenient place! Be proud of what you have created and show it off to the world. Good luck!

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