I am not an artist, in fact, I am pretty rubbish at artsy stuff.
However, some weeks ago my girlfriend Catherine (she is the talented of the two) asked me to help her put together an online art portfolio for her graphic design work.
I did a ton of research and learned a few things about how to make an art portfolio website. So let me show you my findings, and give you a couple of tips to get more online exposure.
Overview of the Best Website Builders for Artists
But if you are in a rush and only want me to tell you what are the best portfolio websites, here you go:
- Wix: for pixel-perfect designs
- Pixpa: not only for photographers
- Ucraft: connect your domain for free
- Format: a portfolio expert
- Squarespace: elegant and minimalistic designs
- Webnode: multilingual online portfolios
- Weebly: the easiest to use
- Smugmug: for photographers
- WordPress: for advanced users & tailored solutions
Do I Even Need an Online Portfolio?
Let me tell you a couple of ways in which an online portfolio could help you and your art:
- Showcase your work: Having an online portfolio gives you a unique opportunity to present your work in a professional manner.
- Build a personal brand: Position yourself as an expert in your field (e.g. food photography), advertise your skills and share your vision.
- More exposure: Anyone with an internet connection will be a couple of clicks away from your work. So you’ll get more eyes on your art, and could even find potential clients.
- Sell online: Use your online portfolio to offer services (e.g. graphic design work), or even sell your creations online (e.g. jewelry).
- Make yourself available: Having a website with your contact information will make it easier for clients and followers to reach out to you.
- More than a resumé: When applying for jobs, having an online display of your visual work can give you an edge.
- Go viral: If you are lucky enough to create a successful piece of work that gets loads of traction (e.g. motion graphics), having your portfolio online would be a smart way to channel all that online success.
How to Make an Art Portfolio?
Building an art portfolio isn’t too hard these days with a solid website builder for artists. So let me tell you the necessary steps to launch your (even free) portfolio website in a couple of hours:
- Buy a domain name (e.g. from Namecheap)
- Open an account with a site builder – a free one at first
- Check their templates and choose one
- Select and upload your best work – include written descriptions
- Add the additional pages and content (e.g. contact, about, services, blog, etc.)
- Connect your site with your social media channels
- Ask for feedback to someone you trust
- Upgrade to a paid plan and connect your domain name
- Promote your portfolio
Portfolio Builders: Our Recommendations
The fastest and easiest way to launch your online portfolio? A website builder.
Let me go over the best website builders for artists that I’ve personally tested so you don’t have to:
Wix: Extremely Flexible & Very Customizable
Many artistic websites are created using Wix.com. This might be due to the fact that the editor comes with plenty of modern designs to choose from. You can make pixel-perfect adjustments by using your mouse, meaning editing photo galleries has never been easier.
Wix has a massive feature set – even video backgrounds and animations (e.g. slide in text) aren’t a problem.
You can integrate a web store as well, which can be used for both digital products (e.g. illustrations or photographs) and traditionally shipped goods. Music artists can use the Wix Music app, designed specifically to sell and distribute your music online.
The basic plan Combo costs $14 a month for annual plans. You can get cheaper prices if you opt in for longer deals (e.g. 2 or 3 years), however, be aware that you need to pay the full amount in advanced.
Wix Portfolio Examples:
Who is Wix for? For those who need sleek-looking templates and want loads of layout flexibility to create a top portfolio website. Wix Bookings is a smart choice if you are going to be selling services online.
Pixpa: Portfolio Designs for Everyone
As a builder that specializes in websites for artists, Pixpa put that little bit of extra effort into making their solution portfolio-friendly. Their template designs are visually striking, and their builder comes with impressive features such as client galleries, image compression controls, the ability to add IPTC data (the most widely-used standard for photo metadata) and even an online store.
You are a little limited, though, in how you control the visual elements of your site – the templates are rigid, and you don’t have the same level of layout flexibility as you’d get with Wix, for example. I also didn’t find their editor the most intuitive, but you get used to it soon enough.
Pixpa doesn’t have a free plan, but you’ll be able to test their system for free for 15 days. Their lower tier (Start) is fairly cheap ($6/mo). Use the code ‘websitetooltester10’ to get an extra 10% off during the first year.
Pixpa Portfolio Examples:
Who is Pixpa for? I think Pixpa works especially well for photographers and artists who need to make use of the client proofing features.
Ucraft: Connect Your Domain Name for Free
I find their responsive templates inspiring, but they could have some more options. Similar to Wix it comes with some neat effects (e.g. fade in images) that can give you an extra edge. It’s useful that Ucraft comes with loads of building elements; for example breadcrumbs, image sliders, image galleries, icons, buttons or forms – these allow you to create more complex pages.
I am a big fan of how Ucraft showcases images, especially with the image gallery customization options. On top of that, it’s also a multilingual system.
Their free plan will let you connect your domain name at no cost – no other website builder allows this. Ucraft premium plans start at $10/mo; it removes the Ucraft branding and lets you sell up to 50 products.
Ucraft Portfolio Examples:
Who is Ucraft for? Those looking for a structured and easy way to create a visual online portfolio. Especially suited to anyone looking to use some animations to create a more dynamic site.
Format: The Online Portfolio Expert
This Toronto-based online portfolio builder is all about design: I liked their responsive templates, available fonts, and clean layouts. I’d appreciate having more building block options (e.g. newsletter registration forms) to choose from, but the available ones should be enough for most art portfolio sites.
Format has portfolio-focused templates for designers, artists, illustrators, photographers, architects and even models. Unlike Wix you won’t be able to place elements exactly where you want them to be as it comes with pre-built sections.
Sadly Format doesn’t have a free plan, but their entry-level plan ($6/mo) is pretty affordable – limited to 100 images, 3 items for sale and 15 pages. If you need a larger portfolio, their Pro plan ($12/mo) should be enough – sell 20 products, store 1,000 images and have unlimited pages. Use the code ‘WEBSITETOOLTESTER10’ to get 10% off on the first payment.
Format Portfolio Examples:
Who is Format for? It’s a great fit for those looking to build their own visually-impressive portfolio easily. Be aware that Format won’t be the best option to create or expand into other types of projects (e.g. a massive blog).
Squarespace: Stylish but Expensive
Squarespace offers templates that beg to be used by artists and designers. Their style is elegant and reminds me of an avant-garde fashion magazine. There’s an online store feature too. However the interface could be easier to follow, I don’t find it particularly intuitive (which is why we put together a Squarespace tutorial).
Squarespace templates, which look terrific, rely a lot on professional pictures. So be aware that you’ll need pro photographs if you are planning to keep with their hipster style.
The price is also rather expensive, $12/mo is not the cheapest deal.
Squarespace Portfolio Examples:
Who is Squarespace for? Squarespace is for those looking for clean-minimalistic designs, bloggers and/or wanting to sell services online.
Webnode: Multilingual Portfolio Creation
Webnode is one of those tools that has been around forever (since 2008), and there’s one thing they’ve always done better than the rest – multilingual sites. It’ll be a good match if you’d need to create a portfolio in several languages.
I find their templates generally good, not the best, but they are responsive and modern-looking. In terms of design, they don’t have the most astonishing components (e.g. image galleries). Similar to Weebly or Squarespace, they have a layout-grid where you can attach elements – this means that unlike Wix, you won’t be able to place elements wherever you’d like them to be.
Their lower-entry plan Limited is $3.90/mo – bear in mind that it has a Webnode ad and it only comes with 100 MB of storage. The Standard plan, which costs $12.90/mo, is the first plan without ads.
Who is Webnode for? I would recommend Webnode for those wanting to create simple-looking portfolios in more than 1 language.
Weebly: Great Ease of Use
While Weebly is nowhere near as design-rich as Wix, every design can be customized to fit your needs. The grid structure allows you to create a nice and clean layout, but you won’t be able to place elements exactly where you want.
If you wanted to blog regularly, Weebly offers a really flexible system. With their fully-featured online store, you’ll be able to sell physical goods and digital products (e.g. videos, images, etc.).
Weebly has a generous free plan, but if you wish to have your own domain name you need the Connect plan at $6/mo. Be aware that this plan will show a Weebly ad on your online portfolio, to get rid of it you’ll need at least the Pro plan ($12/mo).
Weebly Portfolio Examples:
Who is Weebly for? Their structured approach for design and ease of use, make it a great choice for beginners.
SmugMug: For Photographers
SmugMug became internet famous when they suddenly announced their acquisition of Yahoo’s dinosaur photo platform Flickr. SmugMug focuses on photographers exclusively, and it has a bunch of interesting photography apps (e.g. integration with Adobe Lightroom). It also comes with unlimited storage for your images and videos. However I don’t find their editor super-intuitive, getting used to it may take you some time.
Surprisingly, it doesn’t have many display options for image galleries, although it has a built-in system to sell your pics online. Personally, I think other website builders (e.g. Wix or Pixpa) may be a better option for photographers.
To have your own domain name you’ll need, at least, the Power plan at about $6/mo. If you intend to sell your pictures online, you’ll have to get the Portfolio plan ($14.99/mo) or higher.
SmugMug Portfolio Examples:
Who is SmugMug for? It clearly targets photographers who want a simple portfolio and don’t need other features like (a proper) blog. Be aware that’s not the most straightforward tool; I’d suggest you check Wix or Pixpa out instead.
WordPress: Powerful but Technically Challenging
If you don’t want to use a website builder, there’s always WordPress. While there is an infinite number of great-looking themes (e.g. at Themeforest), customization is much more difficult.
By using plugins, you can include just about anything in a WordPress page: social communities, user ratings, online stores, membership sites, etc. But you’ll need to be a bit savvy to install, use and maintain a WordPress site.
It also requires you to purchase hosting services, which range from $5 to $15 a month – a good solution is SiteGround. On top of that, if you need premium plugins or professional help with your site (e.g. a developer), it can get pricey quickly.
Note: Since I already had a hosting provider, some WordPress knowledge and my girlfriend wanted a simple portfolio, I decided to use WordPress for this project. Check it out here.
WordPress Portfolio Examples:
What Pages Should You Include?
Your art portfolio site could be as small as 1 page if you wanted. However, most likely you’ll want to have more sections for your site. Let me go over the most popular ones for creatives:
- About / Bio: Most people will want to know who you are, what your ideas are and what you stand for (art-wise). Having an ‘about me’ page is a great way to let the world know more about you, unless you want to be the new Banksy.
- Résumé: Some artists like to share their educational background online. This may be convenient when applying for jobs.
- Contact: You want visitors to be able to contact you, but you don’t want to publish your email address. Creating a page with a contact form connected to your email account is a smart and spam-free move.
- Events / Exhibitions: Create a page with your upcoming (or even passed) events and exhibitions so your followers know where to find you.
- Online store: An online store may help you get some extra cash for your creations. Additionally, you can also sell services online (e.g. image retouching).
- Blog: If you are also good with words, you can start a blog to support your artistic creations. A blog is also a useful tool to do some content marketing and attract visitors to your site.
6 Tips to Promote Your Work Online
Once you publish your online portfolio, you should promote your work to get some traction and visibility to your creations. These are the most common online ways to promote your art:
- Publications and influencers: Getting mentioned by relevant publishers and journalists can give a nice boost to your online portfolio.
- Art competitions can generate (free) PR awareness around you – especially if you get awarded.
- Communities: Visual content is widely spread online, especially on social media. Therefore, being active in relevant channels can be an effective way to promote your art. Besides the big ones (e.g. Facebook, Pinterest or Instagram), there are a couple of interesting, and smaller, social media communities for artists (e.g. Behance, Dribble or 500PX).
- Paid ads: If you had the budget for it you could run paid ads in (visual) social media channels like Instagram, Pinterest or Dribbble.
- SEO: This one can take some time, but if you manage to position your portfolio in search engines for some interesting keywords like ‘nyc street artist’ or ‘tattoo artist london’, it can get you loads of free traffic. More information about SEO.
- Email marketing: Another online way to promote websites is to have an email marketing program. For example, you could send a newsletter promoting your upcoming events or new collection.
What Are the Best Free Website Makers for Artists?
There are some online portfolio builders that offer free plans, so you can actually build your art portfolio at no cost. But those come with a couple of limitations:
- Most providers won’t let you have your own domain (e.g. your-portfolio.com), instead, you’ll have a not-very-professional-looking subdomain. Something like: your-name.wix.com/your-portfolio.
- Another common practice is to offer top features only for paid users. For example, Weebly won’t let you use their media player unless you have a paid plan.
- Other providers also offer little space for your web storage. For example, free accounts with Webnode are limited to 100 MB.
- Bigger or smaller, all website builders will show a self-promotional ad on your site. For example, a sticky header banner or footer.
My top free pick would be Ucraft as they let you connect your own domain name with their free plan – your site will still show a Ucraft ad though. In my opinion, other providers with free generous plans are Wix, Webnode and Weebly.
So if these limitations don’t bother you, you could have your online portfolio for exactly $0 a month.
Last Thoughts on The Best Website Builder for Artists
If you’re the creative type, you’ll find that the solutions I reviewed here will be all you need to create your own portfolio. Website builders are made for beginners, so you can go ahead and start without reading up on too many of the details. Let me give you a couple of recommendations for popular use-cases:
- I would choose Wix if you are looking for the greatest design flexibility.
- Those looking to create a multilingual site should check out Webnode or Ucraft.
- In my opinion, the easiest website builders for artists are Wix, Weebly and Ucraft.
- If you are a photographer Wix or Pixpa would be my top picks.
- To have an online store or a blog along with your online portfolio check out Wix, Squarespace or Weebly.
- For those needing a tailored solution or wanting a technical challenge, WordPress seems the best fit.
That’s all there is to know about creating an online portfolio. If you have any questions, leave a comment below and I’ll try to help you.