15+ Great Portfolio Services for Artists and Illustrators

A great portfolio can be an enlightenment to the viewer!
Most established illustrators and graphic designers know exactly how important it is to cultivate an up-to-date portfolio.

CG-artists, digital painter or designers who have their work available as a digital file but not the time to built a sophisticated gallery page just want to keep work up to be seen.

So the need for a ready-to-use customizable portfolio page which serves as a fitting frame to existing artwork is steadily growing, but where to go?

There are different venues and leagues where you can play, so if you are new to the arts, CG-art, illustration or design business, this post might be of interest for you.

As artist you might think a blog is all you need, but this is only 50% of the truth the other 50% is : it´s all about presentation!

Most people think of a portfolio as something static, like a website and believe in terms of SEO that a dynamic content site like a blog is much better and easier to maintain, but let me show you in this post why this is not the case.

If you have a blog you need to maintain it, and you need to write, in fact you have to write a lot.
When I scroll down through my huge feed of blogs, I see many artists post just images with less to no words of a description.

In terms of SEO this is just like putting a blind man in front of a television.
A search engine cannot view pictures by god´s sake, so please do yourself a favor and at least describe in a few sentences what "a blind man would see".


Try to see a blog like a stage: Compare it to a concert and ask yourself which concert has left the most impact on you, the one show that was just brilliant but with little to no personality from the artist, or the one that was not big and technically imperfect, but with that absolutely personality that spread from the stage across the room (that also made you think about it, even years after)

A portfolio on the other hand is a page that you forward to potential clients and where a short bio describes to that special art-director or curator why they should work with you. Period.

There is often a big misunderstanding about what a portfolio is; some artist use it as a website, some throw in all of their work, some don´t update it and some just don´t need it at all.


My suggestion is:
If you want to keep online time under 3 hrs a week then just setup a blog with "written" updates and sketches or finished works once a week and put together one or two portfolios to link from that blog. This way you have dynamic content in a growing and searchable site and a portfolio that people can forward or have a fast overview about the body of work.

Here is a short guideline what a portfolio is, because we all love bullet posts:
  • A portfolio should reflect only your best works, think of it like a chain: the weakest piece breaks it all.
  • A portfolio is something to target a specific audience,
    different audience = different portfolio
  • A portfolio is not a website or homepage where you post holiday or party pictures
  • A portfolio is always up to date and reflects current works that represent consistently your quality and style
  • A portfolio should consist of a maximum of 15-20 works (per gallery) and galleries should be limited
Always keep in mind that a director or curator has just a few seconds up to a minute in which he/she needs to get that "first impression that counts".

In most cases its also a matter of minutes to setup a portfolio service site, assuming you have all images, text and profile pictures at hand.

Here is a quick overview of different portfolio types :
Its important to know what types are out there, so that depending on budget the time invested don´t lead to a disapointment.
  1. Free Portfolio services
    Pro: Free Contra: Advertising, No promotion at all, No personal setup service, No SEO, Tied to subdomain, sometimes invite only or beta test mode
  2. Paid Portfolio services ( $30 - $90 per year)
    Pro: No advertising, affordable, often combined with network promotion, SEO Contra: Tied to subdomain (often) No personal setup service, No personal promotion
  3. Premium paid portfolio service ( $99 - $650+ per year )
    Pro: No advertising, Personal setup service and promotional plan, Not bound to subdomain, SEO Contra: Expensive
Note: I´m not talking about homepages, or webdesign, wordpress themes or anything like that, there are a lot tips and tricks out there for these kind of portfolio utilization.
I just gathered my personal experience from over the past 5 years and put it into this post, in the hope someone might find it helpful .


Free of charge portfolio services | category #1:

Artstation:



Artstation is a relatively new site, programmed and designed with co-founder of CGSociety Leonard Theo, the site features a community on the back-end much like google+ but gives artist a portfolio page feature option on the front end as well - and best of all it is free!


Glossom:
Quite recently (after I posted this blogpost) I got an invite to Glossom, a very new service (AFAIK) and I have to say its a very intuitive way of managing a portfolio, with very sophisiticated showcase options (such as different size of thumbnails), for a free service I´m very impressed! The uploading can also be done through flickr and other services. Its recommanded to check this service out, its possible that they´ll get costly in a year or two.

Carbonmade:
Carbonmade is a free service with no advertising (AFAIK), no html knowledge required, tagging possible, but it has limitations; users can only upload 5 projects and 35 images to a free account, definitly something for a quick and clean setup.

béhance.net

béhance is rather a network of creatives and has its advantages, but is invite only and powered by advertising, but if used right it can be utilized and personalized as a great portfolio. Think of it as a profile and portfolio page on the creative-freeway. It makes sense to utilize such networks since searches on the whole site can lead towards your page.

Artician.com 
Artician is similar to béhance but without invite and has an "import-from-deviantArt-feature" which is quite a timesaver, its fully customizable even with CSS hence usable as a portfolio page, but it has advertising. The history of artician was a different approach, they started out as an invite-only site and changed to a good deviantArt alternative.

CGArena 

A site for professionals in the CG -industry and the profile pages can be used as a portfolio page, works similar to béhance and CGPortfolio. But there is also advertising and you can see the presence of the community-site on every page.

dribbble



dribbble is a "project-sharing-community" rahter than a portfolio page, but since the quality is very high, it doesn´t matter and a designer or artist can showcase parts of his work through this site effectively. The downside is that it is not possible for everyone to post images. Joining and commenting is open to anyone though.

Zerply



Zerply has also a free feature plan, but has one limitation: it is invite only. Similar to dribbble, the site features rather project shots to allow artists to connect with movie, animation and advertising professionals.


Paid services that are affordable | Category #2


Ononano 
Recommended! Ononano.com did a great job with personal service at such low cost and the setup of this comprehensive portfolio with css and logo customization took just one day. Benefits are: it looks just like I wanted it too, and no advertising at all. A growing list of templates to chose from makes it easy to find something that goes well with the art and makes it complementary to any existing website or blog.  (This specific layout does cost $30 per year)

deviantArt portfolio 
The service from deviantart. com has some nice features, you can have more than one portfolio, no advertising, entry page, however the site has just a few fixed layout variants with some cusotmization features and it takes some time to go through the setup process but its definitely worth the premium membership that cost around  $30.

CGPortfolio

Paid membership in the CGSociety include unlimited number of images to upload and customizable header banner and the ability to have animation hosting also the inclusion of books represented on the left panel is a valuable showcase (only in case you are published in ballistic books of course) If one makes use of the blog its a very nice homepage-replacement next right to the CG-art-freeway.

Portfoliopool 

Portfoliopool is a relatively new site and still in development but has all in all nice features, the pricing is depending of number of images one want to display, up to $75 per year, not that much customizable.

Artlimited 
Artlimited has a free feature, as also lot options for a paid service, which includes highly customizable layouts for a fee of $50 per year, which is reasonable. The site is more targeting at photography and fine arts, preferably in the square or 6X7 format. Works meeting their criteria are likely to be featured regardless if premium member or not.


Premium portfolio services | Category #3



Altpick.com 

Altpick is similar to theispot.com but less expensive, has a focus on a magazine / editorial related target audience and the startpage resembles that quite clear. Pluspoints are awards, curated member features and online promotion. Standard listing account is free but limited to one picture only. Premium account is $99 a year which is still affordable if you are serious.
 
Dripbook

Dripbook is a different kind of portfolio, making a projects appear like a book through which a user can browse or flip. This service can cost up to $350 per year for the premium membership.  Online promotion and no advertising plus highly customizable portfolio pages make it an interesting alternative.

 Creativeshake 

Semi-premium to premium service.  Its possible to shose between 3 different types, the most expensive one "platinum" is about $588 per year with the most amount of images to add and a bigger listing in the directory, keyword refinement and personal service included, the quickfinder is something notable about the site.

As free listing only 5 images are shown, similar to CGPortfolio.
TheIspot 

Theispot is definitely premium when it comes to pricing, with a setback of $650 + $100 setup fee you are in, red carpet included.

I have no experience with them so I cannot tell much about the service, but I know they promote a lot via social media and I guess the concept behind connects serious reps or agencies with the needed talent via the website, directory and daily features.
It can pay off if you get one commission through the site, but depending on the style this can take longer than one year. Had made this experience myself with creativeshake, so take this just as a word of advice.

Conclusion:
Finding the right place to showcase a portfolio is a long process and consists of "trial and error", if you accept portfolio -refinement as a neccessary part of the job and learn to have fun doing it, you are on the sunny side.

In general there are a few things that more or less are accessible in most of these service sites and that a paid service should ultimately have to be considered:
  • Analytics and page statistics
  • customizable layouts
  • different folders for differnt projects
  • personalized page adress (yourname.ourpage.com)
If you have more intersting links that fit into this direction and are the "place to be" in your opinion, let me know! Always remember: sharing is caring.

Useful resources:
Illustration Island (EFII) recently had a topic about fine tuning the portfolio, which is definitely a recommanded read.

ArtOrder has a great series of articles answering questions on "what to put into your portfolio" most interesting for fantasy and sci-fi illustrators.

Freelancefolder and FreelanceSwitch have vast number of articles about this topic.

What else is there?
Besides these more or less time-consuming setups, there is a growing number of sites that enable you to just submit one or two images into a pool of many free of charge, I´m not sure in which regard the artist is benefitting out of that concept, except you have a very own high-profile page in the end like coolshowcase has. Freshcharacters allows users to upload works without registration and illustrationmundo allows illlustrators to setup a mini- representation profile.

Complete the list:
Before you complain why this or that service isn´t listed, please read carefully, this post is a result of my personal experiences with portfolio pages and services over the past 5 years.

If you can share in a comment your experience with one of the above or another service, this would be highly appreciated and a great addition to this topic.
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Oliver aka Fantasio is a creative blogger who likes to share his insights about art, marketing and social media. Follow Fantasio on twitter or facebook

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