Creating an Effective Online Portfolio: 40+ Tips, Tools & Inspirations

Nowadays, everyone is getting rid of the paper trail. Everything is now done digitally: commerce, accounting, advertising, marketing, shopping and even design. Every freelance graphic designer should now own an online portfolio. If you don’t have one, or worse, if you don’t know what it is, you have absolutely no chance of making it in the world of graphic design.

This article will teach you how to build a solid and effective online portfolio, guide you through the best online portfolio tools available , and then show you a few awesome portfolio themes and sites for your inspiration.

Building a Strong and Successful Online Portfolio


Photo by Asif Akbar

1. Know your objectives.

Know your objectives for creating an online portfolio. Is it to get new clients, land a job, provide a solution, network, or to build reputation? Define yourself—what kind of designer are you? What’s your main focus?

2. Narrow your scope.

A common mistake most graphic designers and freelancers make is to try to impress clients by showing off as much work as they can. This can lead to a cluttered and disorganized online portfolio.

The goal is to simplify. You do not need to bombard your clients with too many graphics or information. You just need them to see a clear message. Focus on a specialization.

From the home page alone, visitors should already have an idea of what you do.

3. Use the ‘About Me’ page to your advantage.

The ‘About Me’ page is where you promote yourself. Give a description of yourself, what you do, what you can offer and contact information including your business number, e-mail address, etc. Do not make the description of yourself too long – 50 words or less will suffice. The shorter and more precise, the better.

Be brief and precise with your ‘About Me’ page.

4. Use only the best tools for the job

Your portfolio must be user-friendly and easy to navigate.  Navigation must be a primary concern. Use the necessary tools to make the portfolio more fun and entertaining.

A great web site makes use of the right tools such as Flash and music to make it fun, interactive and interesting.

All the main tabs and important information must be found on the home page. Another is to use SEO to optimize search engine results. Traffic will increase if your website ranks high on search engines. Good SEO will increase client reach and awareness. You will have a constant stream of traffic without doing too much of the work.

5. Promotion through Social Media

You don’t stop after creating an online portfolio. You need to promote it afterward through social media. Join online design communities like GDF or Estetica to network with fellow graphic designers. Connect with like-minded people through social networking sites like Linked In, Facebook and Twitter. Get involved in social sharing platforms like Digg, StumbleUpon and Delicious so that others can share and re-post your content. Social marketing is a very powerful tool for promoting yourself.

Create social networking sites like Facebook and link it back to your website.

Start a blog and write quality content. Post valuable insights regularly. By regularly updating your online content, you can maintain a constant following and increase the page rank. Guest blog for other blogs and look for others to guest blog for you. Guest blogging provides fresh angles to a topic and helps drive more traffic to your own site. You can find many willing guest bloggers via networking–it’s easier than you think, you can even find one by just simply looking through your blog comments section.

Online Portfolio Solutions

How do you get all your artworks in one place? Photo by Sara Heinrichs

If you have the coding skills and knowledge, you can create a comprehensive online portfolio that’s HTML, CSS or WordPress based. It’s the best way to create an online portfolio since you can tailor it to your needs and objectives.

But if you don’t have the capability, resources, or patience to do the coding, there are several online portfolio web sites online that you can try.


Carbonmade is one of the most popular online portfolio sites out there.You can get a free version that can support up to 5 projects and 35 images, or upgrade to the premium version for US $12.00 a month that allows you to share up to 50 projects and 500 high-res images.


  • Supports images, videos and Flash.
  • User friendly for both the graphic designer and the viewers.
  • Sleek interface and professional looking themes.
  • Carbonmade online portfolios are Java-supported.


  • Too expensive. At $12.00 a month, the price is ridiculous for only 500 image uploads.
  • Limited uploads. For free account, you are only allowed 35 images. The premium account allows you 500. Price is ridiculous, especially if you compare it to other online portfolios. Free accounts from DeviantArt, Flickr and Behance allows you to upload unlimited images.


Behance is a creative professional platform for artists and designers. It’s free, but exclusive. Behance has good reason to be clique-y—it is the online base of some of the best artists in the world.


  • It’s free! What could be better than that?
  • Great reputation. It’s a high profile website, where clients expect to find the best in the industry.
  • High stats, thus wide exposure for your portfolio–you’re connected to the best there is, after all.
  • Packs more features than other portfolio sites like DeviantArt or Flickr.


  • Behance is exclusive and by invite-only. If you want to create an online portfolio, you need to apply for it. You need to be really good!
  • Banner ads on every page of the site. What do you expect? It’s free, after all.
  • Because it has more features, it’s a bit more complex than other portfolio hosting sites. It can take some time getting used to.


DeviantArt is the largest online community for artists to show off their work to fellow artists and art lovers. They use DeviantArt to get praise and feedback in order to continue to improve their craft.


  • Unlimited image uploads, for both free and premium accounts!
  • You can sell your prints.
  • Fellow artists, colleagues and peers can comment on, and ‘favourite’ your artwork. You can also disable the comment feature if you want to.
  • Create multiple art categories and group them per different collections.
  • You can create a journal to keep your clients and colleagues updated with your artwork, work and everything else.


  • Unlike other portfolio websites, DeviantArt does not support video and audio files.
  • It’s more of an online art community than a professional portfolio hosting site. It’s a place for artists, and not for clients. If you want a more professional setting for your portfolio, you can try DeviantArt’s DaPortfolio.
  • Not much freedom for customization. No DeviantArt themes to differentiate your profile from other DeviantArt users.


Flickr is a very popular photo management and sharing site. You have full control of your photo’s privacy settings. Viewers can comment and rate your photos. Because of its effective sorting, tagging and management system, it can be used as an online portfolio as well.


  • Easy-to-use interface
  • Supports photos and videos.
  • You can utilize Creative Commons copyright licenses for your uploads.
  • Many interesting features such as blog, groups, places and more.


  • Primarily used to share photography. Digital art, painting, graphic design is not as popular on Flickr.
  • Easy for others to steal your work.

WordPress-based Portfolios

WordPress is often thought of as a blogging platform, but WordPress is a powerful tool capable of so much more. With WordPress, you can create all kinds of websites, including an online portfolio website.


  • Powerful blog features for your online portfolio.
  • Generally inexpensive–all you need is to pay for the web hosting and your own domain.
  • Features, content, widgets and the look and feel is highly customizable!  There are several WordPress themes online, but you can also create your own if you have the coding capabilities.


  • A bit more complicated to use than other portfolio sites–but I assure you, it’s worth it!
  • I can’t think of anything more–I like WordPress too much!

It’s highly customizable, you can choose several WordPress themes to match the desired look and feel of your portfolio. Here are a few WordPress themes we recommend for online portfolios:

1. Classica: Minimalist

2. Striking

3. Dandelion

4. Versatile

5. Seduction

Great Online Portfolios for Inspiration

1.Nathan Sanders

Clean design with cool blue green hues, making it easy and relaxing on the eyes.

2.Loulou & Tummie

Loulou & Tummie’s online portfolio made me feel like Charlie in Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory.

3.Visual Box

Visual Box is an online portfolio on art direction, motion graphics and screening. Everything about this site, works. It’s visually delectable and artistically appealing.

4.Iain Crawford

Great conceptual online photography portfolio by Iain Crawford.

5.Design Gopa

This interactive web site is lovely. You can admire their work like a three-course meal. Their designs look almost good enough to eat!

6.Kristen Ulve

Kristen Ulve’s style is happy-go-lucky, in a childish, fanciful manner. Her whimsical style of caricatures and fashion illustrations is palpable on her portfolio.

7.Tom Hussey

Tom Hussey’s photography portfolio welcome us with an interesting photo set. It shows ordinary people and their secret thoughts in the mirror.


Booreiland’s portfolio is exploding with life and energy. It makes use of bright colors Cyan, Magenta and Yellow–a popular color palette that never fails to attract.

9.Simple Art

Simple Art’s website is simple, but we can clearly see the designers’ almost obsessive attention to detail. The portfolio depicts the typical workspace of a graphic designer to a T: computer, camera, tablet, and a few magazines for inspiration.

10.Andrej Krahne

The Andrej Krahne portfolio looks like a page from a magazine–chic and stylish.


An online portfolio owned by Kristy Anne Ligones, a talented graphic illustrator from the Philippines.

12.Paul Lee

Paul Lee’s online portfolio is surreal and creative. It’s a combination of watercolor hues, abstract shapes and origami themes, which are common elements in his graphic design works.

13.The Farm Project

Simple and no-fuss. This online portfolio makes good use of  Helvetica and color.

14.Make it Happen

Another great interactive and minimalist web site, MIH is dedicated to making it: clear, clever, work, helpful, personal, special and grow.

15.Meca Graphics

The youthful and modern online portfolio of  UK-based graphic designer Ed Vinicombe.

16. JFotography by Jean Fan from Carbonmade

I like the easy interface of her photography portfolio. The unique block style of her thumbnails is reminiscent of a classic Mondrian painting. The portfolio’s minimalist style allows viewers to focus on her beautiful work.

Effective Online Portfolios Take Time.

Producing a strong online portfolio requires plenty of time: hours of client and audience research, followed by brainstorming for concept and design, and afterward, execution. Bear in mind that your online portfolio serves as the online front porch of your office–and first impressions matter. Add interactive tools or music. Use the online portfolio tools mentioned. ‘Woo’ your clients in order to seal the deal the moment they click the URL of your site.

Rachel Arandilla

Rachel Arandilla is a curious subject -- she appreciates things that are quirky & clever. She loves spontaneity and adventure. She is a carefree soul, has a deep love for travel, culture and languages. And she's beginning to wonder she keeps on referring to herself in third person perspective.

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  1. Judit says

    Really helpful guide, succinct yet still illuminating and I love your passion!

  2. Shane Harwood says

    Very good post, something that can be easily neglected by designer but is of utmost importance.

  3. Roger says

    Thanks for the post.I have been looking the Web for this information and I want to thank you for this post. It’s not easy to find such perfectly written information on this topic.I really like your post.

  4. Lisa says


    Booreiland’s portfolio is exploding with life and energy. It makes use of bright colors Cyan, Magenta and Yellow–a popular color palette that never fails to attract.”

    This is the one I’m currently doing for my online portolio, except I added black to it to make it complete.

  5. Natalie says

    Wow, thanks for including Tom Hussey’s portfolio link, aside from having a great layout, I love his photography but could never put a name to the work!

  6. mell says

    Just wanted to suggest ProSite for building an online portfolio off your Behance work! We just launched it–you can create a fully customizable design, and it syncs with which has millions of visitors seeking top creative talent. Also has unlimited hosting, unlimited projects, and no programming required. More info, video, tour, examples, etc. at

  7. Freebious says

    I feel the SimpleArt website to be the most creative & beautiful of the lot. Haven’t come across a better one.

  8. KoolDot says

    Nice post.
    My websites can definitely take advantage of your list. Especially item 5. “Promotion through Social Media”.

  9. says

    Great article. Think I may have to go and create a Deviantart profile!! Good tip about not bombarding your customers with everything you’ve done. I have been known to try and do that. Guess I just get a bit excited!! lol

  10. Guaraci says

    Hello Rachel Arandilla, I found great useful your article.
    But that information about Flickr “Easy for others to steal your work” is scaring me, and if you can comment a bit more about this I’ll be grateful.

    • says

      Hi Guaraci,

      Unfortunately it is easy for anyone to steal people’s work online, not just on Flickr. If they can see it they steal it. Even if you can’t directly save the picture, you can make a screenshot. However, there are companies trying to stop this right now though, and are fining people for using copy written material. I wouldn’t stop putting your art work online because of this, and if someone steals your work, you must be doing stuff that’s worth stealing!!!

  11. Masenchipz says

    great tips…
    i think Simple Art is amazing portfolio… like true a room.. not site… great!!! :)

  12. says

    Keeping your social media very clean. Because when I look at a person for a job opening the first this I do is google their name. Look for them on all social media websites and try to get as much personal info as possible.

    • says

      It’s very true, I’ve had people come and tell me that I talk too much on social media. But it’s not only that – portfolios should be very clean. People just want the basics and then they’ll quickly decide on whether to contact you or find someone else.

  13. says

    Brilliant post and nice finishup of inspiration, im about to redesign my portfolio and this has gave me many pointers, thanks a million!

  14. says

    nice tips, you can also included your blog in your portfolio if you are a blogger to make it more effective as people know you the subject well.