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How to Design an Effective Art Portfolio

Portfolios are a stressful time for every art student trying to get into the school of their dreams. Most schools have different requirements depending on the subject you’re applying for, so advice can be inconsistent sometimes. However, there are consistent things that adjudicators look for, and consistent things you should do in order to get your portfolio to be the best it possibly can be!

We host annual portfolio nights during portfolio season that helps students get into the schools of their dreams, whether it be illustration, animation, design or game art! We’ve hosted quite a few, and you can see the recorded live streams on the Winged Canvas YouTube channel, as well as check out our other videos for students looking to hone their portfolios in our art portfolio tips playlist!

Samantha Chow, Sheridan Animation Portfolio 2019

Want some portfolio tips for animation programs? Check out Art Portfolio Advice for Sheridan's Animation Program.

How is a portfolio for Art School different from one for your dream job?

When it comes to art school, as mentioned previously a lot of them have different requirements and expectations depending on what you’re applying for. A portfolio for your job is majorly up to you -- you know what you’re applying for and what they may be looking for, but there aren’t any restrictions when it comes to your portfolio.

While a school may require 3-5 extra personal pieces, consider a portfolio for a job application as nothing but “personal pieces”. A school may ask for a portrait drawing, or a drawing of a room, or a character turnaround, etc. When it comes to a job, they’ll have the job description up, ask for your schooling experience, and then ask to see your best work.

It may not be as easy to show off your full artistic personality when it comes to a school portfolio, however when it comes to a job portfolio you’ll really want who you are as an artist to shine through. That way, it’ll be easier for them to see who they’re truly hiring -- authenticity is appreciated.

Is showing your art style a good idea in a portfolio?

Depends on what you’re applying for! For instance, photographers and illustrators are hired for their style most of the time. When you look for an illustrator or a photographer, you’re usually hiring them because of what they’re known for, or what they’re the best at. This usually revolves around their art style -- you wouldn’t hire a cartoonist to do a hyper-realistic portrait. In order to know what illustrator or photographer is right for a job, seeing their style is highly essential.

However, when it comes to designers, designers have to be able to adapt to client needs or client requests. Designers are meant to pick up on branding styles and marketing strategies, and that has to be something they can adapt to depending on the company that hires them. They need to be able to bounce between a children’s company to a tattoo parlour to a sushi restaurant with the drop of a hat. In that case, designers should instead show off versatility and thought process rather than personal style.

What are some of the key things to remember when you're preparing your portfolio?

There are TONS of things to keep in mind when you’re preparing a portfolio, whether it’s working way ahead of time or triple-checking your work. It’s hard to single out just a few! But if you want a more detailed rundown on how to create a stunning portfolio, check out our blog on 12 tips for building a winning portfolio!

Want to hone your skills in preparation for your next big portfolio? Check out our art mentorship programs, where you can get personalized help and feedback from artists within specific fields, such as animation, illustration, game art, and more! (41).webp

Virtual Art Classes

Live, interactive art lessons from the safety of home. Flexible enrollment. Join in anytime! (42).webp (39).webp

Art Mentorship

This is an art program specifically for students who know what they'd like to learn, or those seeking one-on-one style lessons. (40).webp (43).webp

Teacher Resources

Doesn't matter what grade you teach, you can use our free teaching resources to help you educate the next generation of artists. (44).webp

Access the Best Art Education From Anywhere!

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