How to Make a Good College Art Portfolio

Written by lisa porter
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How to Make a Good College Art Portfolio
The portfolio plays a crucial role in art school admissions. (The portfolio symbol of reflective on a white background image by onlinephoto from

Applicants to undergraduate programs at art and design colleges and university art schools typically must submit a portfolio of recent artwork along with other application forms and components. The portfolio plays a crucial role in the admissions process, so you should select images that represent your best work. Specific portfolio requirements vary by school, but you can follow certain basic strategies to produce the best portfolio you can make.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Take as many art classes as you can in high school. Enrol in Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate art classes if your school offers them. If your school has limited studio art course offerings, you can attend weekend or summer pre-college or portfolio preparation programs at art schools such as the Rhode Island School of Design or the Maryland Institute College of Art. These programs will help you develop a body of work to include in the portfolio.

  2. 2

    Photograph your artwork. Most schools require you to submit images of your work rather than original works. Though some schools still accept slides, most schools now prefer digital images uploaded online or submitted on CD or DVD. Photograph your work against a clean white or black background using a combination of natural light and studio light. Make sure no shadows fall across the work. If you do not feel confident in your own abilities with a camera, you can hire a professional photographer to photograph your works.

  3. 3

    Consult experienced art teachers, professional artists or college guidance counsellors to ask for advice about putting together your portfolio. You and your parents might not be able to judge your works as well as an outside observer. Ask for other adults' opinions about which images represent your best ability.

  4. 4

    Attend a National Portfolio Day in your area to show your work to admissions representatives at art schools around the country. You can get useful feedback at these events.

  5. 5

    Select a group of images to include in the portfolio and put them in order. Different schools require different numbers of images, but most require about 12 to 20 images. If you have the option to include 10 to 20 images, do not automatically include 20 images. Instead, include only those images that represent your very best work, even if you end up with only 15 images rather than 20. Some schools might require you to include specific types of work, such as drawings from observation. Follow these and any other guidelines about portfolio content carefully.

  6. 6

    Follow any guidelines given about digital image file size, format and labelling. Clearly label your slides, CD or DVD with your name and address. Test the slides or disc with multiple projectors or computers to make sure they work.

  7. 7

    Prepare an inventory sheet according to each school's guidelines. Inventory sheets should typically include a list of all the works included in the portfolio along with each work's title, medium and dimensions.

Tips and warnings

  • Begin working on your portfolio well in advance of the admissions deadlines.

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