Tips for Shaping Your Art Portfolio

As a prospective or current art student, your art portfolio is a crucial component in marketing yourself as an artist. Regardless of the type of art you specialize in, you need to put together an arrangement of your work that encompasses what you bring to the table as an artist.

Pre-College Portfolio

A portfolio that is used to apply to college art programs can differ based on your ability. You want to include as wide of a variety of art styles and pieces as possible. You should try to find a nice balance of fine and digital art, however, not all students have been able to work digitally with art in high school and that is ok!

In that case, you want to show how much experience you have within the fine art field. Do not be discouraged if you are leaning towards graphic design and do not have a digital art background, that is not as uncommon as you may think! This will usually not hinder your ability to get into that program.


  1. Diversity: Add as wide of a variety of pieces as possible with a combination of digital and fine art.
    1. Fine Art
      1. Painting
      2. Portrait
      3. Pastel 
      4. Still-life (Charcoal or Pencil)
    2. Digital Art and Photography
      1. Logo Design
      2. Recreating Current Brand Packaging or Designing New Packaging
      3. Portrait
      4. Collection of Photos of a Similar Subject

Typically, the university will state requirements of a few specific pieces they need to see along with specifications of how many pieces total ex. (10-15). They will also state the due date of when to submit the portfolio by since this is usually the second level of admissions that is invitational.

  1. Presentation is Key: Make sure the art you include is presented professionally. Put as much time into the presentation of the piece as you did making it. The pieces should be matted, clean, cut straight, completed to all edges, etc.
  1. Describe What You Want Them to See: With portfolio submission, typically there is the opportunity to add a short description of the piece. You want to convey what you want them to see. Here are some points to touch on. The reviewers understand these pieces are usually a result of projects given by art teachers in the past, however, how you make it your own is essentially what they need to know.
  1. Explain the materials and techniques you used.
  2. The idea behind the piece and how you adapted the project given.
  3. What you like about it and why?
  4. What did this piece help you to improve on and how?
  1. Get a Second Set of Eyes: Keep in mind you have seen these pieces many times, and you know the concept and skill behind them. Those reviewing your portfolio have not. Therefore, it is never a bad idea to ask an art teacher, and (art student) peer to look through your portfolio and give you notes on how to strengthen it. 

The Future of Your Portfolio

As you continue as an artist push yourself to try new mediums, techniques, etc. to help you to be more well-rounded. Additionally, by trying different styles of art, you will be able to better focus on an interest you have and better gear your talent towards it.

Did we miss anything? Tag us on Instagram @Elm.America or Facebook @Elm.America and tell us your tips for building your portfolio! 
By Sophia Mattingly

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