9 Art Portfolio Tips for Artists

The art portfolio means many things to artists. It's their trophy case, their pride and joy representing career achievements, and their stock in trade. Above all else, it holds the results of a lot of hard work. Because of this highly personalized nature, art portfolios are often an interesting but messy and often confusing collection of materials. It's very much in the artist's own interests to have a well organized, properly maintained, portfolio.

Portfolios Basics

Anyone who's ever attempted to live a normal life near the event horizon of an artist's work will appreciate how much work artists can produce. Whole rooms can disappear under roughs, sketches, mock-ups and other strange artifacts. To turn this situation into a survivable experience for artists and their environments, portfolios are the solution:


Materials: Each form of artwork has particular requirements for storage. When in a portfolio, unless properly stored, materials can deteriorate. It's important to keep each piece in a portfolio chemically stable. That means creating special containers and folders for all hard copy products. Create a dedicated storage space for your works.

Commercial products: The other great delineator of portfolio materials is their context as professional products. It's important to separate your works into contexts for portfolios. This allows artists to keep a "stable" of working products for use in commercial ventures.

Private materials: These materials should never be mixed with your commercial products. The private and personal works should have their own separate portfolios, which makes them easier to find and most importantly reduces their exposure to damage.

Copies of materials for job interviews: Whatever system you use for your portfolio, make sure you have good copies of all your important works. Originals should be kept safe and not exposed to any wear and tear. Use copies for commercial job interviews, unless unavoidable. Create a special all-purpose portfolio of your copies as an easy to handle source of materials for jobs.

Commercial Portfolio Management

It may take a while to sort everything out, but you can create your commercial portfolios pretty easily. This is an example of a commercial portfolio system:

Commercial Roughs portfolio: All the drafts, in folders, with notes, filed alphabetically.These are useful for explaining technical issues and production methods.

Commercial products portfolio: Current commercial content, in folders as above. Older works should be retired to a secondary portfolio where you can access them when required.

Commercial products copies portfolio: This is the ready to use version of the commercial products portfolio, available for any job opportunity. This "instant" portfolio saves a lot of time, because no extra work is require to prepare the materials for use.

Online Portfolios

Another potential menagerie of miscellaneous materials, the online portfolio must be kept in a coherent condition. The simplest management systems are the best:

File categories: Use a straightforward system, like Advertising, Posters, etc., so the type of work is obvious.

File names: Use client names with descriptors, like ABC Roses, DEF Spaghetti, whatever name's most effective as an identifier.

Artists always have their own preferred methods of doing things. Just make absolutely sure your portfolio system works reliably for you.