Best Portfolio Websites for Promoting Your Design Work
The internet is a fantastic tool for artists and designers. Creating an online portfolio allows you to present your work in a much more dynamic fashion than a traditional printed portfolio, while also reaching a wider audience.
There’s no need to be a computer whizz either; there are a number of websites dedicated to helping you design and host your own professional portfolio, in an easy and simple way.
As always, we’ve done the hard work for you and narrowed them down to bring you a list of the very best portfolio websites for promoting your art and design work.
Honourable Mention – BEHANCE
Behance hasn’t made our main list, as it’s technically a network for uploading and sharing your design work with others, rather than a platform for building your own portfolio site.
It would be an omission not to mention it though: Behance is huge and is an absolutely fantastic resource for artists and designers.
The robust selection of social features means that you can gather followers, receive private messages and gain recognition for exemplary pieces of work.
Plus, its ownership by computer giants Adobe means that much of the company’s most popular software (for example, Photoshop) have built-in features for sharing via Behance.
In short, even once you’ve created your own domain for your online portfolio, it’s still well worth maintaining a presence on Behance to maximise your profile – even the best portfolio websites struggle to compete in terms of simple exposure.
Squarespace is a beautifully designed website builder with a very sleek interface. Art and design is a visual medium, and Squarespace’s lovely design focus makes for some highly attractive and professional looking portfolio layouts.
There’s a tonne of great templates, for anything from restaurant menus to e-commerce and portfolio sites. As well as these, there’s a massive array of fonts to choose from – enough to satisfy even the fussiest typography aficionados.
There are free usage options available, but to get the most out of the available features you should consider one of the monthly subscription packages (either personal or business depending on your needs).
It may be slightly more expensive than some of the alternatives, but for your investment you’ll end up with a very refined and alluring online portfolio.
Pro Tips – Molly Wilson on Squarespace
“When you spend all your time designing things for others, it can be difficult to take the time to focus on being your own client. You may have a hundred and one other things to do, but it is so important to put together an online design portfolio.
The kind of designer you are will mould the kind of website you have.
For example, if you have amazing coding skills then take the opportunity to show this off to the world through a brilliantly designed and executed website. But if, like me, you’re coding skills are limited, then make it as easy for yourself as possible.
I personally love Squarespace as I’m a sucker for lovely, presented-on-a-silver-platter design. It has a wonderfully designed, slick interface that is easy to use and, almost more importantly, makes updating content a breeze.
I’d recommend paying monthly for your own domain as it looks far more professional and comes with benefits such as being able to set up a custom email address, better SEO ranking and, simply, it’s easier for your customers to remember.”
Cargo may appear to be a more basic, no-frills option at first glance – but don’t let that fool you. Yes, it’s cheaper and the interface is not nearly as slick and fancy as that of Squarespace – but it also allows for greater flexibility in customisation.
For those with a little more knowledge in CSS/HTML, there’s a wealth of more advanced options available. Plus, there’s still a number of templates available for everyone else who doesn’t want to get their hands dirty with coding.
The straightforward design approach actually serves to make the showcased work really stand out. Most of the featured work is of a particularly high-standard too, given that Cargo has an application process for users to be granted an account.
Once again, there’s a more stripped-down, free version available (assuming that your application is accepted) – but pros will likely want to upgrade to a premium account to obtain use of the site’s best features and unlimited allowance for pages and projects.
Pro Tips – Winston Chmielinski on Cargo
“Your online portfolio can be an archive or a place of discovery. That depends on your philosophy and approach, and also where you are in your career.
I designed my own site in 2005, the migrated to WordPress in 2008, and have been a member of Cargo Collective since 2011. Ease of updating keeps me there, as does their effective customer support, strong artistic context, and thriving community.
In its current iteration, my portfolio offers a comprehensive but in no way exhaustive overview of my work, showcasing my paintings while offering glimpses into other recent forays: site-specific installations, and pure text.
You have to be honest to yourself without alienating your audience. And first and foremost, focus on the work.
I am a painter, and nothing makes me cringe more than thinking someone will just scroll through three years of work in 30 seconds or less. So I’ve tried to strike a balance between clarity, intrigue, and ease of navigation.
Each painting is presented on its own, within a chronological selection of only my strongest works. There’s no descriptive text, though I’ve propagated titles, and an unorthodox ‘about me’ page aptly named Hi, to bolster the context around the paintings.”
Carbonmade‘s more fun and quirky aesthetic is likely to appeal to artistic types. This is no accident, what differentiates Carbonmade from a number of competitors is that it isn’t simply a generic site-building platform – the site was tailor-made for designers.
This really shows with some of the stunning themes on offer. Artists could well find themselves losing plenty of time just scrolling through the featured examples of their peers’ portfolios.
Price plans range from the basic “Okay” to the comprehensive “LASER WHALE” [of course they do]. So, whether you’re an experienced pro or just starting out, there’s an option to suit you.
Pro Tips – Alice Parsons on Carbonmade
“Do your research! I spent a lot of time examining the best portfolio websites of artists and illustrators that I admired before designing my own.
Looking carefully at how they presented their work, the images they had chosen and how they wrote about their projects gave me plenty of inspiration and reference when it came to starting my own.
When you’ve chosen a site you like, consider paying for a premium option. For a small price each month you can upload more projects, try out extra features and gain better support if anything goes wrong.
If something isn’t working the way you want it to, drop an email to the site’s support team. When I recently updated the theme of my Carbonmade site, it worked beautifully on desktop but appeared very small when viewed on a mobile.
After a few emails with the support team and one quick fix, the theme’s mobile layout kicked in, looking much better on hand held devices with larger buttons and imagery.
Finally, test your site on different computers, in different browsers, on mobiles and tablets. We all use so many devices now and if your site doesn’t work well or look good everywhere then you may miss out on opportunities.
If the portfolio builder you’ve chosen doesn’t offer themes that work well on mobile, it’s time to look elsewhere!”
Functionality is a major selling point with this one. Wix operates an innovative and intuitive “drag and drop” website-builder which is extremely customisable.
On top of the catalogue of available templates there’s also a variety of apps, graphics, image galleries and fonts to choose from. And while Wix is technically a general web-building platform, there’s also a dedicated section of the site specifically for designers.
Wix operates on a “freemium” model whereby the platform is free, but premium upgrades are required to unlock the more advanced features and remove adverts etc.
The free version is actually fairly substantial though, making Wix one of the best portfolio websites for self-starters on a tight (or non-existent) budget.
An often overlooked feature of the social networking and “microblogging” site Tumblr, is the ability to create your own portfolio site, completely free.
Tumblr’s basic format of a continuous “scroll” of posts is perfect for showcasing visual media (there’s also the option to include other, static pages for viewers to click to, of course).
Other than the lack of expense, the real appeal here is the ability to tap into the site’s social network of users – but unlike Behance, your portfolio on Tumblr is actually a redirect to your own personal domain name rather than a page hosted on Tumblr itself.
A great balance between broad exposure and personal branding/customisation.
Pro Tips – Omar Barco on Tumblr
“Tumblr is a free, easy, professional looking way to create your portfolio. You get a massive creative community to connect with, and it offers a lot of customized/premium themes either for free or for a small fee.
It’s very quick and easy to update. You don’t need to know about coding – but if you do, it gives you the option of customising your website as you like. My recommendation is to get your own domain: it looks more professional when presented as a personal website.
I use it myself to share my latest projects as blog posts, which appear chronologically on the homepage. I’ve also created static pages for a few distinct sections (branding, video, etc.), which I update either manually or using Tumblr’s provided editor.
6. Adobe Portfolio
The comprehensive selection of features here includes full integration with Behance, enabling you to sync and import your existing projects and portfolio.
Add to that a vast suite of font options, a sturdy security setup and the fact that Adobe portfolio sites are natively mobile responsive, and you find yourself looking at one of the most complete platforms around.
Adobe Portfolio comes as part of their Creative Cloud service, with a wide range of pricing options depending on your needs – but there’s a free trial option, so you can sample the service before forking out for it.
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