As an artist, the portfolio is your primary tool in getting your work in front of potential collectors and gallery owners. The art portfolio is going to be the first impression you leave, and you want to leave the right impression so you can find the right gallery.

After photographing your artwork, there are three primary concerns in creating a portfolio are:

  • format
  • content
  • convenience

You want to present your artwork in a way that is easily accessible to the gallery owner – forethought and simple design will allow you to do this effectively.
You now have a selection of different portfolio formats. Twenty-five years ago, an artist’s portfolio was exactly that: a large portfolio with photos slipped into plastic sheets.
Now you can choose between many different formats:

  • including Image CDs
  • hard or soft-cover books printed online,
  • purely digital .pdf portfolios, etc.

Each of these formats has something to offer, and each comes with drawbacks.

The CD :

portfolio cds

The CD is filled with digital images of your work is an inexpensive way to get a number of your portfolios out there. You can burn dozens of CDs for just a few dollars, and they are inexpensive to mail. The drawback to the CD is that it is easy for me to throw away, without ever having looked at the images; and the truth is, I do this all the time. Looking at a CD is simply too much work for me in my busy life. I have to get it into the computer, close whatever else I was working on, only to discover that you created the images on a Mac, while I am on a PC, so my computer doesn’t want to open them. It’s honestly more effort than I care to expend.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t create CDs of your work; they truly can be great ways to multiply your efforts and get your work out to a larger audience. However, I recommend you use the CD as a supplement to your primary portfolio, and not as the primary portfolio itself.

The Digital Photo Book:

Portfolio Book

You can now print on-line inexpensively (visit sites like, or to see examples) and professionally, is another option to consider. This book reproduces your work beautifully, and looks like it just came out of a bookstore. Nothing will stroke your vanity like seeing your work in print in one of these books.

The problem? Unless you are willing to republish and reformat your book every month or so, it is quickly going to be out of date. This would be another great supplementary item for you to sell at art festivals, but is not flexible enough to be your primary portfolio.

The Presentation Folder:


The disposable presentation folder, a simple report cover with 20-30 plastic sheet holders inside is my favorite portfolio. You will find them at your local office supply store, and can use them to create a half-dozen identical portfolios. Print the images from your high-quality home inkjet, and insert the pages into the folder. You now have an easy-to-maintain, professional portfolio that will enable you to get your most recent images in front of your target audience.
Each portfolio page should include 1-2 images. With each image, you should include all pertinent information: title, medium, size, and price. Make it easy for me to know exactly what I am looking at.
I recommend you format your portfolio to make the images what the viewer sees first. Include 20-25 images in the portfolio, including several sold pieces, clearly marked as sold (or even better, show them in the settings of the owners’ homes or offices). Place your bio, resume and artist’s statement at the back of the portfolio.
A powerful portfolio will open doors for you to be able to share your work with collectors through galleries. Ensure you have invested the time and effort to present potential galleries with a strong portfolio.


Guest author: Jason Horejs is a Scottsdale, Arizona gallery owner of Xanadu Gallery. Jason is also and art business advisor.  For more information: Visit to watch a free 25 minute presentation on building a portfolio. To learn more about every aspect of organizing your work and getting into galleries, read Jason’s recently released book, “Starving” to Successful – The Artist’s Guide to Getting into Galleries and Selling More Art.
Jason, thanks for the great article! Lori 🙂


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