Art encourages uniqueness and creativity from a person in developing his or her work. However, once students apply to schools in hopes of turning their passion into livelihood, they will be forced to present their art portfolio a particular way.

There are no rules when it comes to making art, but there are practices that must be observed and followed on how to make an art portfolio. This is to help you get the best education out there and accelerate your growth as full-fledged artists. By maximizing your art portfolio, you get the opportunity to learn and be taught by the best artists in your respective fields.

Below are 10 of the best advice that you will get regarding how to make an art portfolio.

1. Know the requirements

Once you’ve decided on the program and found out which colleges are best to apply to, go to the school’s website and research what the program calls for under the portfolio requirements section. If any of the information is unclear to you, take the time to call the school and ask for clarification.

Be sure you understand what that school’s application process entails. Below are some of the things that you need to know for the requirements from each school:

  • Whether you need to be emailing digital files, mailing copies or bringing originals with you to an interview
  • Size requirements, labeling, number and types of pieces they are calling for
  • What to exclude as this is a common statement in many programs
  • If a cover page is needed; if so what the school requires it to include and how it should be presented.

Do this as early as possible, (early fall is best), so that you’ll have enough time to compile your portfolio, edit it, improve on pieces and create new artworks in each area they are looking for.

2. Send you best, most recent and complete works

Don’t give them something that you’re not proud of or doesn’t best represent you as an artist. If your current batch of works is not up to snuff, edit them and make sure that they look better than they originally appeared.

3. Include published articles about your work

If your work got picked up or featured by a publication, feel free to present it along with your portfolio. This not only provides the panel additional information about your work, but also shows that your art has been recognized before and sets you up as a branded artist which places you in the pool of distinction and out of the sea of sameness of your competitors.

4. Bring along samples in different formats

Aside from printing out copies of your work for other people to see, you can send digital copies of your works as a slideshow in whatever most up to date format the program can utilize. If you want online users to view your art portfolio, create a website of your portfolio so they can access your portfolio with just a click of a button.

5. Learn to work your way with a camera

The challenge with taking a photograph lies not in the kind of camera you use but rather with how you communicate your message and idea to people. The power of a single shot lies in how you feel about the image in relation to your concept. If you are having problems translating what you see in your mind to film, then you should take time learning the basics of photography before getting into the more technical stuff. A well-composed shot or cropped in image will make a stronger impact. Study the laws of good composition and how to capture a well-lit image that conveys the feeling you want the viewer to feel.

6. Design your way with a computer

Similar to photography, graphic design is one of the more accessible art skills that can be developed early. Advancements in technology have made art and design accessible to anyone. Possessing the basic skills of using graphics editing software can help not only increase your chances of getting into the school of your choice, but can also develop your ability to manipulate and edit your designs in your portfolio to their best possible quality.


7. Prepare articles about your artworks

Your design may need to be explained in layman’s terms in case people find parts of your work difficult to understand. Prepare a brief article for each work covering the essential concepts and ideas that you want to share through your art. This is also a way to show the panel that you are capable of explaining your art in a clear and articulate manner.

8. Practice your presentation skills

Getting yourself mentally ready to present your work is the most important part of the process. Although essentially not a part of your art portfolio, having that mental edge can help boost your confidence in front of the panel. Your posture, speech, and appearance must be practiced relentlessly so you feel more comfortable with your work and what you have to say.

9. Seek professional help

You can do your own research with the things you don’t know about making an art portfolio. The only problem is that you may come across some bad advice that you might naively take to heart. As a result, this can destroy your chances from getting accepted to your first choice school. With an experienced teacher to guide you with your art portfolio, you can gain the skills and wisdom of how to properly present your unique ideas.

You may have to shed some cash in exchange with their expertise, but it’s better to invest in your future career than not realizing your potential at all. It’s a common experience for students to waste a year by not knowing how to prepare in the first place; they end up reapplying the following year after hiring a portfolio coach or taking courses to prepare. Or worse, going to a second-rate school or abandoning their dreams. You can save a whole year of education costs by getting some specific coaching the first time you apply to arts college.

10. Be selective in the type of portfolio coach you hire

There are some coaches who take over your vision too strongly and mold you into what they think is best for acceptance into the best colleges. But this type of coaching can backfire on you in two main ways:

  • You might get accepted into a program that you are not really suited for and will struggle the following year and feel a great deal of pressure and shame within yourself and your family. Don’t hire someone to work for you to make you look good. You will be so sorry later!
  • Some of the best schools are on the lookout for students who appear coached and may be misrepresented. That is one reason why the best schools use several ways of evaluating an applicant’s abilities. They are checking for congruency and integrity in the student’s work, interview, marks, précis and drawing test. You want to find a coach who encourages your ideas to shine and who does not interfere with your creative imagination so that your portfolio is an accurate reflection of who you are. But you do still need to acquire those skills from a professional who knows—most high schools simply do not prepare their students properly and fully to get accepted into the best programs.
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Written by Karen Kesteloot: Karen Kesteloot has 15 years of experience of top quality art and design instruction. Every student Karen has coached on how to maximize their portfolios has been accepted into the arts program of their choice and that is the right program for them. She holds high ideals and integrity in the morality of her instruction and feels it is paramount not to interfere in a student’s creative ability—only to educate and encourage the student to reach their highest potential possible. You can assess if she is the right coach for you by accepting her offer for free portfolio assessments at