Want to Develop a Brilliant Art Portfolio? Build it By Hand. Here’s How.

By Detroit Art & Business Institute / Andrea Bogart

In preparation for Embrace Creatives’ premier Portfolio Review Detroit 2019, here’s the steps you need to put together a physical portfolio.

As an artist who’s spent all of her years creating art without use of computers, I feel it’s important to physically build things if you want to connect with it. Yeah, we’re in the digital age and most art portfolios are online, including here on EC and a lot of commercial clients want the ease of viewing your professional documents at their leisure but there are many who want to sit with a sampling of your work, in person.

And if you want to build a great portfolio, one that’s succinct, organized and looks damn good, make one by hand.

Showing someone your work professionally presented in a print portfolio can really set you apart from everyone else who only has digital portfolios available.

First, a few tips

  • The best portfolios are easy to review and visually captivating.
  • Your Portfolio should capture the brand of your art and company.
  • Professional-looking binders keeps contents tidy and easy to review.
  • Have your statement handy.
  • Make sure your art images are curated, quality, clear and printed on good paper.
  • Have your CV handy.


  1. Disposable presentation folder (or)
  2. Simple report cover
  3. Up to 12 plastic sheet covers (or)
  4. A nice binder, such as an Itoya Portfolio binder – 12 page (24 view)
  5. Typically, printed portfolios are 11x17in.


  1. For images: Laser Photo Paper 220g (Heavy “Brochure” paper – can be printed both sides)
  2. For text content: 24 lb, white paper is best.
  3. Image Works has the right paper and is offering special discounts on their capture and printing services for all EC Portfolio Review Detroit 2019 ticket holders through October 31, 2019.

Be found by Commercial Art Buyers. Info here


  1. If you create on paper and will not be dropping off or mailing your portfolio then you can put your originals inside, otherwise, have prints made.
  2. If you’re presenting to a specific client, pick pieces that target the viewer.
  3. Place your best works first and last.
  4. Images should be in pristine condition with no marks, smudges, or creases.
  5. If presenting for an exhibit or showcase where it will be hung or shown together, make sure it’s a series or vignette.
  6. Do NOT include sold pieces.
  7. No watermarks!
  8. There should be some cohesion among the pieces you present in terms of style, color and subject. Try to group the works following a logical progression. Pretend that you’re laying out a solo show. Think about the flow of your pieces and set your portfolio up that way.
  9. If you are presenting at a Portfolio Review and want to get feedback on technique, course of action, or have general questions about your art, you can include what you have.
  10. If you create 3D work, add a few images for each piece to share different sides.
  11. You may add the title, media and size to each image if you’d like or put everything on a price sheet (instructions below). This text should be easy to read but not overshadow your artwork. A san serif font like Arial or Helvetica, 12 pt max or if your brand text is easy to read in a smaller font size, use that.

Editing image to print

  • With JPG’s, you have the option of choosing a file size. For printing, choose 300dpi (dots per inch) and set the inch size to fit the paper you’re printing on.
  • JPEG L (Large)
  • Pixel dimensions – 3872 X 2592 pixels, minus cropping
  • Print size – 19.4 X 14 in. / 49.27 X 35.56
  • Resolution – 300 ppi standard
  • Image size – 2 – 4 MB

TIPS: Always make changes to a COPY of your master image. File the original, a master, and the different versions in a titled and dated computer folder. The un-enhanced original is your BACKUP.

Title Page

Your title page is just that, a blank page with your name (or company name) or logo, contact information and the word, “Portfolio”. You can style it any way you please while staying “on brand”.

Cover Letter

Your cover letter will introduce both you and your artwork so it needs to be written to catch the reader’s attention and help your portfolio stand out BEYOND the images. Place this at the behind the title page.

Artist Statement

Dust off and update your statement if necessary and place it behind your cover letter.

Useful article: How to Build an Artist Statement


Make sure your CV is up to date and place it behind your statement.

Useful article: How to Build an Artist’s CV

Price Sheet

There’s two school’s of thought when it comes to pricing artwork in a Portfolio. 1.) Add the retail price to the image itself or 2.) create a price sheet. It’s up to you which you prefer. If you add the price to your image and the price changes, then you have to reprint the image. When you type up your price sheet, make sure you add the title, medium and size so the viewer can match the price to the work.


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