As a creative professional, it’s not enough to put in the time and effort to hone your skills and create great work—you have to be able to show it off, too! That’s why it’s an absolute must to have an online portfolio. There are so many benefits of having a portfolio, from showing off your style and accomplishments to establishing your personal brand to attracting potential clients.
Wondering how to create an online portfolio for graphic design or photography, or polish yours up? Here’s everything you need to know about the best portfolio design to make your work shine.
Who Needs to Create an Online Portfolio?
In short, any creative who wants people to see their work—and especially to get hired to create more work—needs an online portfolio to show it off. Think of it as a visual resume: Just as an employer wouldn’t hire you without learning more about your past experience, it’s unlikely folks will be excited to work with you without first seeing what you’ve done before. While you may already share plenty of your work over social media, a portfolio allows you to curate your best work and present it in a compelling way.
In particular, anyone visual artist or creative absolutely needs a portfolio, including:
- Graphic designers
- UI/UX designers
- Web developers
- Videographers or editors
- Fine artists
- Creative directors
- Product designers
- Fashion designers
How to Design Online Portfolios
Okay, so you’re convinced you need a portfolio—but how do you make one, and a great one at that? When it comes to online portfolio design, there are a lot of ways to go about it, and it can be a daunting task, even if you create beautiful things for a living. But creating a simple yet effective portfolio doesn’t have to be all that hard. It could even be a weekend project with enough focus! Here are the steps to take to get your portfolio live in no time.
Sites to Use for Online Portfolios
First, you’ll need to choose precisely where your portfolio will live on the web. There are options ranging from easy services that allow you to simply pop your work in to completely custom-built sites, and they all have their pros and cons. Here are some of the best portfolio websites so you can choose what’s right for you.
Social Portfolio Sites
There are several free websites out there created specifically to help you show off your work—the most popular being Behance and Dribble. These sites have done all the hard development work for you, taking the basics of the best portfolio design and creating simple landing pages so all you have to do is sign up for a profile and start uploading. Both sites allow you to organize your work and display it as a simple grid on your profile page, with the option for people to click on each project for more detail (e.g., a project description or more images from the series).
As an additional bonus, both of these websites are a social network of sorts—you can browse around to be inspired by the work of others, and many clients and employers will specifically use these sites when searching for new talent.
While using one of these sites is undoubtedly the fastest and easiest way to get your portfolio going (and potentially get it in front of a wider audience), the downside is that you have less control over the look and feel of your portfolio. If you want your online portfolio design to match your visual aesthetic or brand, or have a specific vision for how you want it organized, you’ll need to create something more custom.
Build Your Portfolio on Behance
Live Encore: Creating the Perfect Portfolio
The other option for online portfolio design is to build a standalone website, or add it to your existing website. There are so many sites that make creating your own portfolio website easy, while also giving you a lot of control and flexibility to adjust design aspects to your liking. Sites like Squarespace and Wix provide beautiful, designer-made templates to get you started, easy-to-use editors that allow you to personalize your website without needing to code a thing, and plenty of other bells and whistles for creating a gorgeous home page for you and your creative work on the web. At their simplest, the best portfolio design templates include a grid or gallery to put your work into, the option to link each piece of work to a page with more details, and a contact page.
The downside is that these do take a bit more work than the options mentioned above, and it might take you a few tries to learn how the different editors work. They also tend to cost a little money—usually around $150-200/year to get all the features you’ll want. (Though, if you already have a Creative Cloud subscription, it’s worth noting that Adobe Portfolio is a similar service that comes free with your plan.)
And, of course, you could also create an online portfolio website completely from scratch. If you are a web designer or developer, this is a good option because it allows you to show off even more of your chops—your portfolio design almost becomes part of your portfolio itself. For anyone else, this is probably overkill since there are so many easier options out there.
How to Choose the Best Portfolio Website For You
If you’re looking to get something up ASAP, we recommend starting with one of the social portfolio sites. If you’re ready to put in the time to really build up your brand, creating your own website is probably the way to go. Finally, it’s worth noting that many creatives will have multiple portfolios—creating one on a website where they have more control and using the social platforms—so they can get the best of both worlds. Pick one to get started with, but know you can always add more ways of showing off your work down the line.
What to Include in an Online Design Portfolio
Now that you know where your portfolio is going, it’s time to fill it up! The bad news is, it’s not as simple as uploading images of all your work and calling it a day. The good news is, a solid graphic designer online portfolio (or portfolio for any creative field) really only needs three main elements.
1. A Curated Selection of Your Work
Obviously your creative work should be front and center when making an online design portfolio—but, unless you’re just getting started and don’t have much to show, your portfolio shouldn’t include everything you’ve ever done.
Instead, focus on curating your portfolio down to the work that best represents you—usually around 20-30 projects max. A couple of things to consider when picking and choosing:
- What’s the work you’re proudest of? This is often the easiest place to start! The projects that light you up most will probably light up potential clients and collaborators, too.
- What type of work do you want to do more of? Choose projects that align with this, instead of showcasing old work that might give people the wrong idea of what you want to be hired for.
- What projects show different aspects of your skillset? Think about including a mix of projects that show the range of what you can do. For instance, a graphic designer online portfolio may include projects that show off logo design, typography, and more.
- Have you worked with any big name clients? As long as the work is aligned with what you want to continue doing (and you don’t have any sort of NDA preventing you from sharing it), including projects you’ve done with recognizable brands can build your credibility.
If you do multiple different kinds of work (e.g., graphic design and illustration), it may be helpful to divide your portfolio into different categories for each one so people can browse precisely what they’re looking for.
While some projects may speak themselves, consider including short descriptions or even linking to longer case studies. The best design portfolios explain the context for the project, the brief, your role in creating it, and anything else that will help someone understand just how awesome it is.
2. A Bio or Artist’s Statement
Potential clients or collaborators want to know a little bit about the actual person they might be working with—so include a page or section in your portfolio where you share a peek behind the curtain. Include a professional photo of yourself, along with a bio sharing information including:
- Your education
- Your past work experiences
- Any awards or recognition you’ve received
- A description of your style
- Your inspiration or influences
- Any specific industries you tend to work with
- Hobbies or other fun personal details
3. Info on How People Can Work With You
Once you’ve hooked people in with your impressive work and background, you don’t want to let them down by making it hard to get in touch! At the very lease, include a contact page or your contact info somewhere prominent. If you want to go the extra mile, include a short description outlining exactly the types of projects people should be reaching out to you about.
Example Online Portfolios
Finally, we’ve gathered some of the best portfolio websites from a variety of creative industries to leave you with an extra jolt of inspiration! These simple-yet-effective sites are easily within reach for any creative professional to achieve.
Best Design Portfolios
Best Photography Portfolios
Other Great Creative Portfolios
Step 1: Portfolio. Step 2: Job.
Creating a Portfolio That Gets You Hired