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Portfolios

If you are hoping to study an arts based subject such as fine art, fashion or graphic design at college or university, it’s likely that you will need to present a portfolio.
Led by a workshop leader, young people sit around a table in a room with artworks.
Arts Emergency workshop at V&A Museum Late. Photo: Hydar Dewachi

Top tips

  1. A portfolio is a chance to show people who you are and what you are interested in. Show them what you love and are passionate about. It can include drawing, video, painting, sculpture, textile, sound… anything
  2. Make sure you have checked with your college or university what the requirements are of your portfolio. How many pieces do you need to submit? What is the deadline? Do you need to submit it online? Do you need an accompanying essay?
  3. Your portfolio should be personal and reflect you and your art practice. What work best shows what kind of artist you are and the themes that you like to explore. Remember that admission tutors are looking for potential. They won’t expect your skills to be fully developed or refined.
  4. You don’t need to only include your final and completed pieces. Tutors will want to see your artistic journey so don’t be afraid to include your experiments and studies that lead up to your final piece. They want to see your thinking through your portfolio selection and not just final pieces.
  5. Think about the sequence and arrangement of your portfolio. Most universities advise against a chronological approach. Instead think about the story you want to tell with your portfolio and how one page can lead to the next. This will show your development and approach to the material or theme you’re exploring.
  6. If you need to upload a digital portfolio, make sure that you take high quality pictures of your work. Make sure you evenly light your piece of work and photograph against a plain background. shows how to photograph your art.
  7. Look at some examples of recent course portfolios to gain an idea of what is expected. Most universities and colleges will have examples of portfolios on their website that you will be able to access.
  8. Give yourself time. UAL describes a portfolio as a ‘visual diary’ which is not something that you can put together in a day. Start creating a portfolio as soon as possible and far in advance of your submission date. You can read more of their tips on their website.