The best Portfolio Platforms for creative Work – Designers/Artist/Illustrators
As an artist or designer having a portfolio online can be an important part in finding clients, customers and a following for you and your work.
Getting started and making a artist portfolio of your own doesn’t have to be hard, there’s plenty of platforms that let’s you easily create a portfolio (without coding) that will suit you and your needs.
If you’re making a portfolio for you illustrations, your design work or art work this guide will help you get started with making your own portfolio, I’ll be going over my personal favourites when it comes to portfolio website builders, both free and paid options.
Why have your own portfolio?
There’s a few reasons why I think it’s important to have your own site with your work on, first of f having your own site will give you a professional look for potential clients, it sends out signals that this is a serious business that you’re committed too.
If you’re using a social platform like Instagram or Behance as your portfolio you’re sharing that site with thousand of other artists, designers and other people in your line of work, that’s a lot of competition you got to share the visitor’s attention with. If you instead have your own site with only your work it’s all about you, and if you send a potential client or customer to your portfolio it’s only your work they will see.
If you have your own portfolio site you decide how it should look and you have a lot more say in the design of your site, if you’re instead using a social platform for your portfolio you don’t have the same control over it. The layout could change in a update or the platform could even disappear or be shut down (unlikely yes, but it happens).
Take control how your work is shown to the world.
- Adobe Portfolio
- WordPress (self hosted)
Adobe Portfolio is Adobe’s portfolio site service that’s integrated with Behance (their social platform for creatives). You upload your work on Behance and then the projects you upload will appear on your portfolio site.
You can then choose from different themes to get you started with your layout or you build your own portfolio from scratch. Editing a existing theme or making your own design is very simple, no coding is required.
The themes and designs available are very simple and stylish, I’d suggest you head over to the Adobe Portfolio homepage and see if there’s a theme or design that you like, because how they look is roughly how your artist portfolio will look like too. You’ll also find plenty of examples how other artists are using Adobe Portfolio.
If you have a Adobe Creative Cloud subscription then a Adobe portfolio site is included in that price (even for the less costly Creative Cloud Photography package). Adobe Portfolio is a great option for anyone that already uses Adobe’s Creative Cloud and want to make your own portfolio.
If you want your own domain name instead of “yourname.myportfolio.com” you have to buy that separately (you’re looking at around $10/year for the domain name), which I would highly recommend for any portfolio site.
Squarespace is one of the bigger services when it comes to artist portfolios, and it’s the favourite platform for many artist and designers to have an online portfolio on. Where many similar services provide a easy way to build any kind of website, Squarespace has specialised themself into especially supporting different creative professions and their website needs.
I’d suggest Squarespace over Adobe Portfolio just because there’s so many design options and it’s a really versatile platform that you can create any kind of website with without making it complicated. Adobe Portfolio can still be a great option if you’re happy with a simpler design, or if you already have active Creative cloud subcrition or already heavy invested in the Behance community.
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Squarespace let’s you build your portfolio with their site builder tool which is really simple to use (even for beginners), and you can of course create any kind of website with their tools (not only a portfolio), they even support having online shops for example.
They provide plenty of templates and themes you can use for creating your portfolio, I would suggest you pick one of their templates then just edit it and make the changes you want to make, it’s a easy way to get your portfolio online and most of their templates are really clean and beautiful, you can browse their whole section of templates over here.
Squarespace cost $16/month, if you sign up for a annually subscription you can get it down to $12/month, and you’ll also get a domain name for free if you pay for a year. There’s also a business package for $18/month (when billed annually) that gives you the option to have a online shop on your portfolio, plus a bunch of other extra features, for the full details of what included in each package head over to their Pricing page. (affiliate link)
If you want to see how Squarespace work you can create a account for free and start building your portfolio site, if you like how it looks and feel you can start paying for a subscription and get your artist portfolio online, and if it’s not for you you can just forget about it, no need to pay upfront to try it out.
WordPress (self hosted)
WordPress (self hosted) is the option that will give you the most freedom on how your portfolio should look, and it’s one of the best ways of building a more advanced artist portfolio without having to code anything. I would recommend WordPress for anyone that has more specific needs for their portfolio or if the layout that the other services isn’t what you’re looking for.
Before I continue I just want to clarify that I’m not talking about WordPress.com and their freemium blogging platform, that’s a completely different service, I’m talking about WordPress that you have to install and host yourself on your own domain and hosting.
To get you started with WordPress you need a domain name and hosting, installing WordPress is usually done through your hosting provider and it’s really simple. Getting comfortable with using WordPress requires some time and a lot of trial and error.
Themes & Design options
Having a premium theme for your WordPress portfolio is in my opinion a must have if you want your WordPress site to look good. There’s thousands of themes to choose from so it can be quite confusing to find a good fit, I recommend using the ThemeForest marketplace (affiliate link) to find a good portfolio theme. What I use for my own WordPress portfolio and for Creativehowl is Salient Theme (affiliate link) it’s a fantastic clean portfolio theme that has ton of customization options, by far my favourite theme I ever used.
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Plugins is another way to make your WordPress site to work the way you want too, there’s thousands of different plugins to choose from and I won’t get into detail about plugins in this guide just because this is only a breif guide to get you started with a online portfolio. But what I will do is list some of my own favourite plugins that I use on my own WordPress portfolio.
- Akismet Anti-Spam – Simple plugin to help reduce comment spam on your site
- All In One WP Security – Free plugin that will help you make your site more secure against hackers and unwanted login attempts, a must have in my book.
- Instagram Feed – Display your Instagram feed on your portfolio, plenty of design options in the free version.
- Smush – Plugin to reduce image file sizes
- All In One SEO Pack – Great plugin to help you with your SEO, basically help google and other search engines to read and find your site.
A good rule of thumb is to never download plugins that haven’t been updated for a very long time.
How much WordPress will cost you all depends on the price of web hosting and your domain name, installing WordPress itself is free for anyone. But you’re looking at around $10/month for web hosting and around $1/month for your domain, making the price tag even cheaper then if you’d go with Squarespace for example.
Most web hosting packages also let you host a unlimited number of websites on it. I set it up so that I have this website (creativehowl.com), my own artist portfolio and my girlfriend’s portfolio on the same web hosting, and I only have to pay for one web hosting, making the cost per website really low compared to other options.
If you have a friend that’s also looking to create a portfolio or website sharing the hosting could be a good idea, but you should only share hosting with people you really know.
As mention above I also recommend a premium theme, and that you don’t settle on a free theme, that will cost you anywhere from $20-60 depending on the theme you choose. There’s also plenty of premium plugin you can buy, but I have never paid for a plugin and the amount of free WordPress plugins is huge.
Free Online Portfolios website
When it comes to free portfolio services there’s usually some kind of premium option that you can buy and upgrade to, so be prepared that there will be some restrictions and missing features to your free portfolio site that will most likely be behind a paywall. A services might be worth paying for, just make sure to explore all other options before settling down on which service that have earned your money.
You might feel that it’s better for you to use a free portfolio for now, but I would still suggest you get your own domain name (it will give your portfolio a more professional look and it’s easier for you to refer people to a domain name that’s just your name or business name. A .com name will cost you around $10/year so it’s no heavy investment. Not all free portfolio services have the option to add your own custom domain, make sure to check if that’s a option before investing in a domain name.
Tumblr is the hugely popular blogging platform that can easily be turned into a simple portfolio for your work, and probably the best alternative if you’re looking for a free portfolio site.
You can also take advantage of the community of Tumblr to market your work, adding a few relevant hashtags when uploading your work can get some extra eyeballs on you and your work. There’s also the option for people to follow your Tumblr so that they’ll get notified when you upload new work.
Adding a custom domain to Tumblr is also easy to do, and they don’t charge anything for it (you still have to pay for a domain though).
Tumblr Portfolio themes
WordPress.com is a free blogging platform and not to be confused with self hosted WordPress, that’s a completely different thing, with this service you don’t need any web hosting but it’s also much more limited what you can do, the two services doesn’t really compare even though they share the same name. This is mainly a blog platform but you could use it sort of like a portfolio.
WordPress offers a bunch different themes that you can use to build your portfolio. They push pretty heavy for their premium service and their paid themes, which isn’t something I would recommend, you’re better off with the other services I talk about before in the guide (even Tumblr is a huge improvement from this). Worth noting is that you will have ads on your site if your using the free version of this service.
As you might tell I’m not a huge fan of WordPress.com but if you’re looking for a free option to display your work on it can be a decent option if you like how it looks.