Your art portfolio could be your gateway to a better career – or at least more credibility and respect in the local art scene. The trouble is, you might be competing with hundreds, or even thousands of other artists, many of whom are going to be more skilled and more experienced than you are. Your art portfolio is going to be one of thousands – a drop in the bucket – that potential employers, administrators, or other authorities are going to review.

How can you make sure that your portfolio doesn't blend in as white noise? What steps can you take to make sure your art portfolio stands out?

The Value of a Portfolio

Your art portfolio is going to be responsible for forming first impressions of you and your work. It's usually the first significant snapshot of your work and your abilities that your employers or school administrators are going to see. If it's not impressive to them, it may also be the last thing they see.

It's hard to overstate just how important your art portfolio is, since it could lead you to a near-infinite array of possibilities or kill your chances in the water.

With that in mind, how can you make sure your portfolio stands out and makes a good impression?

Review Other Examples

One of the best places to start is reviewing other examples. Take a look at other art portfolios in your niche online and in person. See if you can talk to people you've gone to school with, or some of your other peers in the art community, and get a feel for what they've put together. What commonalities do you see among most art portfolios? Are there any critical opportunities you have to differentiate your own work? Is there something that everyone seems to be missing?

Invest in Both Physical and Digital Versions

If possible, invest in both a digital and physical version of your art portfolio. Different schools and different employers are going to have different requirements; some may require only one of these, while others require both. It pays to be prepared – and showing up to an interview with a physical copy of your portfolio in hand demonstrates preparedness and professionalism.

Splurge on Materials

When printing a physical copy of your art portfolio, be sure to splurge on materials. The quality and appearance of your work, even if it's only superficial, it's going to play a significant role in how people think about your work.

These are just some of the major areas you can consider:

·       Pages. What stock are you using for the pages? In most cases, thicker stock makes a better impression. It also happens to be more durable. You may also want to choose a different color or a different finish to better suit your work.

·       Binding. Think about binding as well. A simple staple or paper clip isn't going to cut it here. Instead, make sure your art portfolio is professionally bound, with wire-O binding or some other professional binding. Thanks to online document printing, it's easier than ever to find inexpensive options in this area.

·       The cover. We probably don't need to tell you how much of an impression your cover is going to make. Ensure your cover adequately represents your brand and your work, while demonstrating quality.

Read the Criteria Carefully (If Applicable)

If you're submitting your portfolio to an art school, an employer, or some other organization, make sure you read the criteria carefully. What is this institution looking for? Are you fully meeting all of their requirements? You'd be amazed to learn how many people neglect this.

Include a Standout Introduction

What's the first piece of art you want to show off? Ideally, it will be something that demonstrates your technical expertise, while also introducing something novel. You want to both surprise people and impress them with your abilities.

Tell a Story

One easy way to make your art portfolio more compelling is to tell a story. Craft a narrative that allows you to tie multiple pieces together. Is there a way that you can tell a story, even if it's an abstract one, with your best pieces of work?

Add Controversial or Unusual Choices

You won't get anywhere by playing it safe. If you only include the pieces you feel absolutely confident about, or the ones most likely to please a general audience, your art portfolio is going to end up looking like everyone elses. Include some controversial or unusual choices if you want better odds of standing out.

Get Feedback

Finally, get feedback on your portfolio. You may think it's wonderful, and that it's entirely unique, but one of your peers or one of your mentors may have a totally different impression. It's better to catch this kind of thing early and make changes than to find out when it's too late. That said, if you feel particularly confident or stubborn on a specific point, consider trusting your first instincts; after all, this is meant to be a representation of you and your artistic integrity.

There's no such thing as a perfect art portfolio, since every artist is unique and every institution is going to be looking for different things. But with these strategies, you can at least make sure that your art portfolio has a chance of standing out – and that you can make a powerful enough impression to succeed.