by Caleb Goellner

Tips for Creating an Awesome Print Portfolio

You know the old saying: you never get a second chance to make a first impression. For art students, and pros, a portfolio is that crucial first impression. It can make or break entry into art school, or an interview for that dream company.

We want to help you build a portfolio that makes a great first, second and third impression so we asked the pros for their tips. Not just any pros, two people who graduated from Ringling College of Art and Design and are now considered some of the most influential people in their fields: Aaron Blaise and Nick Burch. After graduation, Blaise went on to work for that dream company: Disney. He animated movie such as, The Rescuers Down Under, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King, Pocahontas, and Mulan to name a few.

Nick Burch is a computer animator who founded Digital Three and counts the U.S. Navy, Verizon, the University of Florida, Ringling College of Art and 10Vox Entertainment among his clients.

Read on for tips from these two pros.


1. Treat your portfolio itself as a project or work of art. - Consider looking at professional art books. How is work presented? Pay attention to page layout, fonts, margins, etc.

2. Include your résumé, contact info and label your work. - Often individual images will become separated from the main portfolio. Make sure if an art director or potential employer pins your image to the wall that it includes your pertinent info.

3. Keep it clean - Simple layouts are good.

4. Limit your portfolio to 10 - 15 pieces. Keep it focused. - Know the purpose of each project in your portfolio and be able to defend them.

5. Be ready to talk about it.

6. Show only your best work - Be able to self-edit.

7. Get feedback. 

8. Create multiple customized portfolios. - Know your audience.

9. Invest in a format that you’re passionate about, but make sure you can afford to reproduce if needed.

10. Create an order that works for you. - However, don't make the viewer “drive" the portfolio. This means don’t make them flip back and forth between horizontal and vertical page layouts. If you divide your work this way, try to only do it once. 

11. Do not send originals.

12. Include as much professional work in your portfolio as soon as possible. – If you don’t have any that’s ok but consider taking on projects outside of your class work. Your art and your portfolio will benefit from this.

13. Accept that your portfolio is never really finished. It is a living document.


*Bonus: Rule of Thumb - Try to show nothing older than 3 years unless it’s a major professional accomplishment.

Pitfalls to avoid:

1. Don’t try to please everybody.

2. Don’t hold on to work for sentimental reasons

You can watch Aaron review some portfolios below:

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