How To Create A Professional Portfolio

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An important part of marketing yourself as an artist is going to involve compiling a professional portfolio of your work. Whether you are trying to secure a spot in art school, seeking an art related job, trying to get a show at a gallery or seeking gallery representation, the quality and effectiveness of your portfolio can make a huge difference in your success or failure.

Tiffany Reid studio
Tiffany Reid working on one of her ocean-inspired abstract paintings

Your portfolio represents not only your work, but also what kind of artist you are. You want to convey to the gallery or organization that as an artist you are professional, thorough, and easy to work with. The best portfolios are easy for the recipient to review while also being visually captivating enough to generate further interest in your work.

The Insider’s Guide To Creating A Professional Portfolio

A portfolio is your best opportunity and often your only chance to make a lasting impression on gallery owners and potential investors in your art. Thus, it needs to portray the utmost professionalism while being accessible and presenting all relevant information in a convenient way for the viewer.

The three primary focuses of a professional portfolio need to be – format, content, and convenience.


In today’s age of technological advancement, a number of different avenues have opened up for artists to showcase their works, not only for selling purposes but as professional portfolios. Artists now have the option of choosing between a physical portfolio, or a digital one.

While a physical portfolio gives your viewers the chance to really experience your art, digital portfolios – a compact disk, pendrive or hard disk; personal website; or an online portfolio on platforms like Behance or DeviantArt – are far more convenient to carry around.

professional portfolio
Artists now have the option of choosing between a physical portfolio, or a digital one.

Nonetheless, whatever the format of your portfolio, the most important aspect is your work and the most crucial task for you when creating your professional portfolio is to make sure that the artwork photographs are of the highest quality possible. Whether on a CD, online or in physical format, the photographs must be in pristine condition to convey the true essence of your works.

Useful Article: How To Take Great Photos Of Your Artwork

Here are some additional tips in terms of the format of your portfolio –

Professional Binder

If you decide to go with the traditional format, choose a binder that keeps all of your portfolio’s contents tidy and makes it easy for a gallery representative to peruse through the contents. By keeping everything well organized, you will also ensure that none of the materials get lost.

Digital Formats

Make sure that the images you burn on your disk or upload online are in a universal format like .jpg or .jpeg. Regularly test run your storage devices to ensure that your photographs are opening up, and not some cryptic files.

Online Portfolios

If you decide to set up an online portfolio or personal website, make sure that it is professionally done and there are no glitches or unwanted advertisements. Such things can really put off viewers, or even distract them.


In addition to great photographs of your work, you also need to add plenty of information about yourself and your creative process to your portfolio.

professional portfolio
Your biography and statement should give away just enough to let the viewer have a sense of you and your work. It should make them want to see the works.

Here is what you should include –

Cover Letter

Your cover letter will introduce both you and your artwork to the gallery representative, so it needs to be written in such a way as to catch the reader’s attention and help your portfolio to stand out. While the letter doesn’t need to be unduly long, it should serve as a strong introduction of who you are, what you do, and why you are contacting the gallery. (Remember to personalize the letter to address each individual gallery you reach out to.)

Artist Statement

The trend is to write this statement in the first person and to keep it more personal. In the artist statement, you should explain the meaning behind your work, your artistic process, and why it is that you create what you do. Be sure to keep your statement concise (the general guideline is 500 words or less).

Useful Article: How To Write An Artist Statement

Artist Biography

In contrast, the biography should be more formal than the artist statement and written in the third person. It should address your artist background in a succinct way, including where you went to school, formal exhibitions, and other pertinent details.

Useful Article: Writing An Artist Biography

Artist Resume/ CV

While this document should be similar in style to a traditional resume, it needs to focus primarily on artistic accomplishments. This includes awards, publications, major exhibits (both individual and group shows), and past gallery representation.

Useful Article: The Artist CV


Thoughtful gestures never go unappreciated, no matter how small. Here are some things you can do to give your professional portfolio that personalized touch –

Price List

In your portfolio, there should be a page listing the titles, mediums, and dimensions of any work being represented in the portfolio. The price for each work included in the portfolio should also be listed.

A Self-Addressed Stamped Envelope And Matching Stationery

This is a nice touch to include in the back of the portfolio, as it makes it easy and convenient for the gallery representative to get in touch with you and return your portfolio if that is something they offer to do.

How To Make Your Professional Portfolio Stand Out

professional portfolio

Considering the current competition in all areas of the art world, it can be difficult to get noticed. Chances are that your portfolio will be one among many, so you want the overall effect to be as impressive and professional as possible.

Gallery Representation and Promotion by Agora Gallery
Agora Gallery can provide gallery representation & promotion through AGI Fine Art.

Agora Gallery receives hundreds of gallery representation submissions each year and there are only a select few that manage to stand out. Consider these tips straight from the professionals!

Choose your best work to showcase

Choose pieces targeted specifically to the gallery or institution you are sending your work to, and make sure they demonstrate the quality of your work, your mastery of technical elements, your creative vision, and the range of your abilities.

For maximum impact, use only as many pages as necessary to show the quality and range of your talent. Place your best work first and last to maximize visibility, and group the work according to subject and content.

Pay attention to the images

If the quality of your image photos is fuzzy or out of focus, or the lighting is poor, this will make your art look bad and will also make you appear unprofessional. If your photography skills are lacking, it is well worth the investment to pay a professional photographer to shoot the images for you.

Determine the presentation format that will best serve your work

This will vary depending on the particular medium or media you work with. For instance, if your work is two dimensional and not too large, you can include original samples or color prints, or you may choose to go with slides or display transparencies of large or three-dimensional work.

Organize your portfolio for success

All of your work should be presented cleanly and simply, so that it’s easy to follow for the reviewer. Every piece should be labeled, with title, media, any notes (such as timed drawing or plein air), and your name and contact information. In additionally, place your written documents strategically so that the portfolio recipient will be able to find them quickly and easily.

Make sure your portfolio speaks to a range of audiences

Remember that different viewers are going to be looking at your portfolio for different reasons, so you need to make sure that all the different portfolio components are in place. For instance, a gallery dealer will be interested in the visual images, your pricing list, and your resume, while an art writer will want to see newsworthy accomplishments and a collector will primarily want to know if there’s anything to buy. Whatever you choose to include, make sure it’s personal and that it markets you as an artist and generates interest in your work.

Pay attention to specific requirements

You won’t have a chance to wow anyone with your talent if your portfolio does not conform to the instruction of the institution you are submitting to. Different galleries, schools, and art organizations have different expectations of portfolio content, so make sure you submit within their specified parameters.

Make your portfolio unique but accessible

Above all, your portfolio needs to represent you, but it’s important to balance this with a certain level of professionalism. For instance, don’t use distracting colors or patterns behind your portfolio pieces. Backgrounds should be chosen that enhance your work and don’t draw attention away from it. Similarly, stick to resume/CV formats that are easily digestible. Too much creativity in this area will only distract the reader from your experience and accomplishments.

Prepare a dual portfolio

Your job as an artist (beyond creating your work) is to make your art easily accessible to anyone interested. While having a hard copy portfolio is critical, it’s a good idea to additionally create a portfolio online, preferably on an easy-to-find and use website.

Things to keep in mind for a digital portfolio include: the images should be in JPEG format; the images should be Mac and PC compatible; the images should be sized around 600 pixels to ensure that the entire work will be view able on almost any sized monitor, and the image files should be named in a logical and consistent manner.

Keep your portfolio updated

Any time you create a new body of work, have another show, or receive an award, this needs to be added to your professional portfolio. This will convey to the gallery representative that your work is timely and that you are active in the art world and continually producing.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]As a promotional gallery, we take pride in the diverse group of artists from across the globe represented by us. Want to give your art more time, and leave the marketing and promotional hassles to someone else? Book an online career development consultation meeting today.[/perfectpullquote]

A professional artist portfolio can really open doors for you and enable you to share your work effectively and attract the attention of galleries and collectors alike. Having a powerful portfolio can help you ensure that your work gets noticed and gets the exposure you need to move your art career forward.


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31 responses to “How To Create A Professional Portfolio”

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  21. bhaskar jyoti avatar

    Great article, especially the “Prepare a dual portfolio” part

  22. Hannah Shia avatar

    Thanks for the article! You’ve covered all the basic aspects of creating an online art portfolio. Format is the ground one, and I believe a visual artist should have all three portfolio formats: traditional portfolio, along with digital (a pdf or PowerPoint presentation) and an online portfolio. By the way, I’ve just googled “art portfolio format” and found that it’s a name of an online portfolio builder and it offers some ready themes for artists. Perhaps, someone reading this article can make use of it:

  23. Olivia Green avatar

    Great article, especially the “Prepare a dual portfolio” part.
    Its is important now for students to not just have an offline portfolio but also a portfolio website that represents their best work. The website can be accessed from anywhere around the world and helps get more clients than just from word of mouth.
    Being a professional artist, I’ve built my portfolio website with Pixpa and it has been a great platform. Apart from my portfolio website, I’ve also integrated an e-commerce store, my resume and a contact page to help clients reach out to me easily. Most of my income is generated through selling artwork online.

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    Lived in NY since 63 and now South Carolina. Worked between 45th And 34th street for 40+ years. Art Director to be specific. Spent many lunch hours walking the street of Chelsea. Agora was the gallery I saw myself in. Have shown in Southampton and Bridgehampton 3 summers in a row, but, I would definitely drive a thousand miles to show my work in your gallery. As always your tips are valuable. This one and the previous one, the use of social media, Instagram. Thanks to you, I have the opportunity now to be seen here and abroad, and the response is flattering. I’m 70. I hope I still have time and opportunity to impress you…one of these days.

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  27. […] often the front line of communication between an artist and the public. It will be used when you submit your portfolio to competitions, galleries, and museums. It may sometimes be displayed when people are viewing […]