How to Design an ARTIST Portfolio Website

How to Design an ARTIST Portfolio Website As a professional artist, you need to have an online space that is yours to showcase your artwork and reflects your goals as an artist, illustrator or creative.

Today I take you through some of the steps to set up a website and a few best practices in building an artist portfolio website.


Video Transcription:

Today we're going to talk about website, but not just any website. We're going to talk about artists' websites and how you can improve yours.

I've had a website for about 10 years now. It started out when I was doing graphic design work and has slowly evolved into the artist's website that it is right now. Over that period of time, I thought it would be interesting to share with you the things that I've learned and would recommend.

But before we get into things, I want to talk about why you should have an artist's website. Unfortunately, a lot of artists that are starting out, artists, illustrators, creatives of any sort, think that they need to have a website. They want to have a website before they have the work to show.

Photography Ideas Creative Occupation Design Studio Concept

While I think it's important to have a website, having one too soon and displaying artwork that may or may not be very professional yet — when you're still working on your portfolio, I think a website is the last thing that you need to focus on.

That being said, once you do have a well rounded portfolio, I highly recommend having some sort of online presence, especially a website.

For myself, a website is kind of the hub for everything that I do online. It connects my social media accounts to each other. It's one way that I can have people easily sign up for my newsletter, contact me, read about me as an artist and my history in other shows and galleries. I could have a detailed description about me on my Facebook page, but it's not really going to have the same effect.

Why have a Website?

Before you sit down and start a website, I want you to sit down and think about why you need one in the first place. For a lot of illustrators, this is a great place to display your work, have collections of your projects that you've completed, have an area that's easy to contact you, for fine artists this might be where you release your collections of work, where a gallery owner can contact you. These things are super important for these two sets of artists and this is why you have a website.

Where to Make a Website?

So you might be wondering where on earth you can go to make a website if you don't have one or maybe you would like to upgrade and I have a couple of recommendations for you. My personal preference is Squarespace currently. Squarespace is something that I've been using for the past three years and it has been incredible. It is super easy to set up, has beautiful themes and allows me to be consistent throughout my website design. It does not a require any updating or coding and is always online.

Another option is Wordpress. I think wordpress is perfect for the tech savvy artists. If you're interested in coding at all or maintaining your website at a more detailed level, wordpress websites are definitely for you. You can customize them more. They have a lot more features often and they also require a lot more work and set up and yeah. It's totally okay to hire someone to do this for you. I have no idea what they cost, but that's something you look into.

Other platforms that you might consider are Shopify if you're interested in running an online store, Wix I hear is a great platform and there's several others. If you haven't tried Squarespace yet, I highly recommend popping over there and trying out their trial websites. You can flip between different themes, edit things on the backend and get a lot of time in playing before you post your website live. Any of these are viable options as long as you're taking into consideration your end user. If the website is broken or if it's kind of you know, funky, you're going to be really frustrating the people that are trying to use your website.

What do you put on your website?

Now that we've got that out of the way, let's talk about what should be on your website and this is going to vary slightly depending on your goals. Probably the most important things to have on a website as an artist are three things.

  1. A gallery page where someone can view your work or your projects or whatever it is that you're creating.

  2. An about page that tells us about who you are as an artist, what you're working on. Perhaps a little resume on what you've worked on before.

  3. And a contact page which has an email address that anybody can find in order to be able to contact you. You don't want to leave people searching for your email address or a contact form that's broken.

For Myself, I've had quite a few other things to my website. I have galleries broken up into several different collections of work. Everything on those separate pages are apart of a collection that I am currently adding too. I also have a page that is about myself as an artist. Next, I have a studio page that features me here in my studio. Just kind of a nice way to make people feel a little bit more a part of my process. I have a blog page as well as several more information pages about my upcoming shows and events, contact and a shop. Be sure to browse around if you're all curious what my website looks like.

My purpose for having a website is to engage with my current collector base and reach a new audience and I use my website as a portfolio of sorts that showcases all of my work and also allows people to get to know me a little bit better.

Website best practices

So if you're considering redesigning your website, let's talk a little bit about what you can do to make it better?

A couple of those things include curation and I think it's really important to really hone in on specific styles of artwork and collecting those into galleries or collections of work and making it really easy for people to be able to read. One thing that I see a ton of artists doing is creating websites for themselves and not for the end user. Often artists use websites as sort of just a dumping ground for anything and everything that they've created. I know I've done that lots of times in the past and this is not the best way to use your website. Your website needs to be curated, finished product. It could be something that you even have to touch for the next three months because these are pieces of artwork that represent you as an artist and are something that are going to live on for quite some time.

This is something that I see a lot of artists struggle with is stepping back from their work and getting a mile high view of it, not being romantic about what things are or not are not included in their website. I think it's okay to be aggressive about what kinds of things you decide to exclude. Really just honing in on those specific clients you're trying to attract or those specific collectors. For example, if you're interested in doing book cover work, make sure that you have a selection of book covers in your portfolio. You don't want to be including a whole bunch of random illustrations and projects that have nothing to do with the Tor book cover that you really, really want to get. If you're a fine artist, you want to represent the kind of work that you're currently creating and wanting to sell. It doesn't make sense to include those old paintings from five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten years ago that no longer represent you as an artist.

Sometimes it can be really hard to step away and peel away those old parts of our artwork that maybe we're associated with. Speaking of curation and on the topic of branding, think of your website as a branding project. You want to be consistent throughout your website in color scheme and in font.

As far as displaying your work goes, I think it's very important to display full images of your artwork. Having tiny little thumbnails can be really confusing and most people nowadays want to see a large image on their screen.

I want to touch a little bit on photography and presenting your work in its best light. I speak a lot about this in person and I think it is so important that as an artist you showcase your work to the best of your ability. Having a clean, clear professional images on your website is so very important and I've taken the steps to hiring a photographer to shoot myself in my art studio and that has leveled up my website incredibly.

I am so very happy with how those have turned out and the difference between my website now and what it was before is night and day. This however, isn't a requirement for me personally. I'm trying to create an experience on my website and for a lot of artists are maybe more interested in courting a certain client or showcasing specific projects that they've worked on. I still think it's really important to have a professional headshot in your about page and having someone professionally shoot that for you or maybe a friend that has an eye for photography. Having that shot is super important and is going to allow people to connect with you as an artist.

Ecommerce & Selling your art

Chances are you're also interested in selling your work online. Having a store connected to your website is super easy and something that I recommend a lot of artists do, especially if you're selling original work.

If you're using Squarespace, storefronts are already integrated and I think this is probably the easiest way to add a store to your website. Wordpress Woocommerce is a plugin that you can use and also Shopify, Store envy and Etsy.

A Squarespace store is as simple as uploading an image, setting a price point, setting a weight and dimension for that product and then hitting publish. You can add categories to this, tags, other metadata to that product, but setting it up is super easy and stress free. I will add, this is not a sponsored post. However Squarespace, if you want to sponsor me, I will not object!

If you're an artist interested in creating a project around yourself and your work and brand, I think it's really important to utilize your website. Websites are incredibly powerful and can be used in a way to cultivate a whole new world within the web and this is something that you can do so easily.

Final thoughts

Finally, I want to wrap it up with who is this website for? I think a lot of artists get confused that their website is for themselves and it actually isn't. Your website is for the gallery owner, is for your collectors, it is for that potential amazing client that's going to stumble across your work somewhere on the interwebs. It's for them.

When you're putting yourself in their shoes. I think that helps to simplify and streamline a lot of your content that you put on your website. Often, a lot of artists want to get crazy and creative with themes and different designs, and while it can be a lot of fun for you, it can be really confusing and really frustrating for the end user, which is the person you actually care about.

I hope you guys have found this useful and educational. If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments below. I'd be more than happy to answer them. Also, if you haven't already, go ahead and check out my website. My website is Naomivandorn.com. Thank you so much for watching. I'll see you in the next video.