How to Make an Artist Portfolio

By Contributor
Organize your portfolio.

For an artist, a good portfolio can help you get jobs and enter juried contests. There are many ways to put a portfolio together, depending on either your preference or the guidelines of a particular contest. A good basic portfolio, however, is organized and shows off your work in its best light. Think of your portfolio as an extension of yourself and your artistic beliefs.

Gather your pieces together. From all of these, choose your best 10. If you have trouble picking out your best, go to someone else who knows about art to get their opinion.

Photograph or scan your pieces. You need a good camera for this. If the camera gives you the option, shoot in RAW format, and use high quality JPG if there is no RAW option. If your pieces are small enough, you can scan them. Scan at a dpi (dots per inch) of 300 to ensure quality prints. These will also work if you plan on putting your artwork online.

If you are a fine artist, you need to make slides of your pieces. This is starting to go out of style, and oftentimes you can just give judges a CD full of JPGs, but have slides just in case. There are a couple of ways to do this. You can get a manual camera and take the slides yourself to have them developed, or you can use the digital photos you took of the work and send them to a company to make slides for you. The second option is often the easiest, especially if you are unfamiliar with film-loaded cameras. You'll also need a slide protector in which to put the slides.

Select a portfolio in which you'll organize your items. Look online or at art supply stores for a variety of portfolio options and price ranges. Your portfolio should fit with your work and who you are. It should not detract from your work.

When you have the portfolio that you like, take note of size of the pages that it comes with. Many portfolio pages come in the standard letter size of 8.5-inches by 11-inches. You'll need to print the photos of your artwork on this size of paper, or whatever size is particular to your portfolio.

Take the photographs and scans on your computer and size them for prints. Take into account the margins of printers. Most have a half-inch on the side, so you'll want to have the same border on all of your pieces.

Orient your photos so that they all face the same way. It is important that your prospective client does not have continually switch the orientation of your portfolio. If you have mostly vertical pieces, put the horizontal pieces vertically on the paper. This will make the piece smaller, but it is a better presentation.

Once all of your pieces are sized correctly, print them off. Resizing your digital files to the exact size of the page with the correct borders, instead of saying "fit to page" when printing will ensure your portfolio looks professional. Print two of everything in case you mess up and need an extra print. Take the files to a print shop if you don't think your printer is high quality enough.

Print out labels for your pieces. Use a full sheet of nice paper and print them out at home. Type the label at the top left of the page, that way it is always in the same place. On the label you need to include the name of the piece ("untitled" is acceptable), the medium and the size.

You should also have an artist statement printed out to put in the beginning of your portfolio.

With your pieces all printed off, you need to mount them to the pages that came with the portfolio. Get double-sided tape for scrapbooking or photos, or use spray mount. Take care with spray mount, however, as it can be messy and easy to make a mistake. On the back of the mounting page, put the label for the next piece. For the label for the first piece, put the label on the back of the artist statement.

Figure out the order in which you want your portfolio to be presented. A good way to go is with one of your best pieces in the beginning, middle and end. You can also sort it by date, name of piece, color or size. Always keep the artist statement first.

Put everything into the portfolio in order. After everything is in there, make sure that everything is presentable. Check to make sure there are no fingerprints, leftover glue or tape showing.

Tip

The pages that come with the portfolio often have plastic coverings over them. You do not have to use those unless you wish to. Stay away from three-ring binders. There are portfolios that do have rings (usually six), and those are fine. There are many ways that portfolios are held together. The most common are posts and six rings because they are the easiest to switch pieces out. Portfolios vary in size, but fine artists should not have bigger than 8.5-inch by 11-inch prints, and designers no bigger than 9-inch by 12-inches. These are easier to carry around. You should have an idea of how big you want your page size to be before you buy the portfolio. If you are printing at home, make sure that you have plenty of ink and good paper in case things don't go perfectly.

Warning

Use spray mount in a well-ventilated area.