12 Essential Tools to Build Your Online Portfolio

As a creative professional, you need a repository of your work that you can show other people. This is called a portfolio. Since we now live in the internet age where anyone can access anything anytime, it is imperative that you have an online portfolio. The only real problem is figuring out where to put your work – there are so many online portfolio tools and communities, it can be challenging to determine which one will work best for you. I’ve written this article to help you decide how to get your portfolio up and running ASAP.

Portfolio

Dribbble

Dribbble

Dribble is a portfolio networking platform where designers share “shots,” small screenshots of the designs and applications they are working on. All types of creatives are welcome here – Dribbble is designed for show and tell – to promote, discover, and explore design.

The Dribble interface is pleasant and simple. The Shots boxes show many many people have viewed, commented, and liked a shot. On mouseover, a short description and timestamp fade into place. Clicking on a shot takes you to its page, where you get more details. Dribble allows users to create “buckets,” or curated lists of shots. Dribble also allows users to sort shorts by popularity, submission time, color, & project (multiple shots for one project.)

Dribbble

Dribble also features a “Find Designers” section, where prospective employers can search for designers by skill and location. Members of Dribbble who can post are called “Players,” and new members are called “Rookies.” New members sign up as “Prospects,” who have to be recruited by Players to become Rookies. Dribbble offers a jobs board for designers to find work.


Dribbble is a growing platform with a lot of promise – the gamification of just getting your shots posted (having to be recruited by an existing member) is intriguing and also useful to maintain the quality of the Dribbble community. Dribbble is a great place for designers to interact and discover each other, not to mention gain recognition and potentially find jobs.

Coroflot

Coroflot

Coroflot says they are the largest, most established, most diverse pool of professional creative portfolios in the world. Coroflot is an open system – there are no membership requirements, application processes, or invites. Coroflot gives you all the basics – a place to host your images and videos, sharing tools, a job board, & a featured member gallery. The presentation that you would expect for an online portfolio tool just isn’t here though – there isn’t any customization that you can do to the design of your portfolio – it looks disconnected; it doesn’t feel cohesive.

Coroflot

Coroflot’s job board works very well functionally – designers can contact employers, and employers can contact designers. Coroflot’s featured groups and member gallery do a good job of showcasing the most active and popular members to the Coroflot network.  Overall, Coroflot has good tools that perform their function with simplicity and ease. The signup process is almost nonexistent, and the site does have a large pool of designers and employers all communicating with each other. Unfortunately, as a designer, I want my portfolio to be hosted where I can either A) control the design (at least to some extent) or B) have something that already looks pretty nice.

Coroflot

In the end, Coroflot just doesn’t cut the mustard for me, mainly because it doesn’t look as good as other tools that serve the same purpose. As a designer, looks do matter.

Behance

Behance

Behance is a portfolio networking platform for introducing talent to opportunity. Behance is growing quickly, and attracts millions of page views a month. Behance also powers creative networks for top schools and organizations like Adweek, LinkedIn, AIGA, RISD, and more.

Behance

Behance allows users to explore all different disciplines of art and design in the “explore” section. You can filter the categories that you would like to see easily, which then takes you to beautifully presented project pages. From here you can comment, share, and view the artist’s portfolio (which are also beautiful.) On the back end, Behance features robust community tools like an activity feed, groups, performance statistics, curated collections (like Dribbble’s buckets), and even curated, branded sites (such as “Illustration, Served” – these sites showcase the best of the Behance network towards a wider audience on the web.

Behance

Behance takes pride in connecting talent to opportunity by way of these sites, as many recruiters view them to find top talent in a particular niche. The site also has with a dynamic job board. Behance holds regular competitions from recruiters, like AOL and Nike.  Behance is beautiful. The menus are beautiful, even the way and the time they take to animate. The site feels cohesive all the way though, which really lends to a fluid workflow for users to be able to use the site the right way – as an effective tool.

Behance

In addition to providing a free online portfolio networking portal, Behance offers a paid, hosted portfolio building solution called ProSite for $11 / mo. Prosite is a branded, white label portfolio (no Behance logos) that pulls from your exising Behance portfolio and allows you to customize your portfolio in depth, without any HTML programming. Prosite is really the meat of Behance’s portfolio offering, whereas Behance.net is the bread and butter for portfolio networking and talent recruiting.

Overall, Behance has (in my personal opinion) set the bar extremely high for everyone in the online portfolio / portfolio networking business. With beautiful presentation, robust functionality, top talent recruiters, and rich tools like Prosite, Behance leads the way in bridging the gap between talent and opportunity.

Carbonmade

CarbonMade

Carbonmade is a personalized online portfolio building tool. It focuses on simplicity and beautiful design to make the process of getting your portfolio online both easy, efficient, and beautiful. Carbonmade has ingenious, quirky graphics and copy throughout their entire site which really makes you feel at home as a creative.

Carbonmade doesn’t feature any job boards or networking features – it’s strictly a tool to build a portfolio online, which is great because it’s simple and straightforward. Carbonmade’s portfolio presentation shares this sentiment with extremely straightforward and minimalistic design, which makes it stand out from the competition. Carbonmade banks on their simplicity to sell their product, and it works – having foolproof tools is really a great selling point, especially for newcomers looking to make their first online portfolios.

CarbonMade

Carbonmade offers both a free and a paid ($12 / mo) offering; the free option is great for getting a feel for the site, but the paid option has all the features that you need to make a robust portfolio, like the ability to add up to 50 projects, 500 images, 10 videos, custom domain binding, and access to Carbonmade’s staff for technical support.

CarbonMade

However, there is something to be said about the price to feature ratio that Carbonmade offers – cheaper alternatives like Behance’s Prosite provide much more robust tools and storage space for the price. However, there is something so personable, so artistic, so deceivingly simple about Carbonmade that it makes all logical rationalizations about features (almost) irrelevant.

Carbonmade is working on a “talent pool” for their network that hasn’t launched yet – I’m sure that when it does it will be every bit as simple and beautiful as the rest of Carbonmade, complete with ridiculously adorable graphics and illustrations.

All said and done, Carbonmade offers a ridiculously simple, unique, beautiful portfolio building tool that is sure to satisfy newcomers and artistic types who don’t need all the “feature bloat” that other portfolio tools offer.

ViewBook

ViewBook

ViewBook is an online portfolio building tool that focuses on clean design and image management. It offers paid options to showcase your images, and has a well reviewed iPad app for showcasing your work in person (when you hand someone your iPad. iPad required.)

ViewBook

ViewBook is only meant for static images, which sets it apart from the competition by defining their niche. On the front end, ViewBook portfolios are very simple and elegant, but still allow you to achieve a high level of customization when it comes to layout and theme. Viewbook’s back end is extremely quick and minimalistic, feeling much more like an app than a website, which is nice.

ViewBook

Viewbook offers support for Adobe Lightroom, Apple Aperture, Fotomoto, Tumblr, Twitter, Flickr, Google Analytics, Facebook, and Wufoo forms (which are a great and free service to create user friendly forms – superb for freelancers!). ViewBook sets very reasonable prices compared to other tools, starting at $4 / mo for unlimited galleries, albums, the iPad portfolio app, and 1000 images worth of hosting. Another $5 a month lands you single page portfolios and advanced customization options, along with the ability to remove the Viewbook logo and add another 1,500 images. ViewBook’s $19 / mo professional option allows you to create unlimited portfolio websites with album, text, and video dedicated pages, along with full customization, a 5000 image cap, and the ability to use your own domain name.

ViewBook really sets themselves apart from the competition by offering a much cleaner, simpler looking product than anyone else and appealing to freelance image professionals with massive storage space, options, and a great looking and responsive iPad App for showing your portfolio off in person.

Additional Resources

For Photographers

PhotoShelter

PhotoShelter

PhotoShelter is a portfolio building tool specifically for photographers. It features many customization options including white label branding, custom domain name, CSS / HTML editing, WordPress integration, and more. PhotoShelter shines for selling images with a built in shopping cart that pays you instantly and allows you to self fulfill orders however you like – you can sell rights-managed or royalty-free photos in 16 different currencies with a built in pricing calculator!

Photoshelter features advanced marketing features to help you get found on the web, like SEO and analytics tools in addition the ability create virtual agencies with other photographers on PhotoShelter. Photoshelter also features a robust image management system, including advanced FTP distribution & access, password protection, private invitations, batch downloads, and more to help you organize and deliver work on time. This feature of Photoshelter makes it absolutely stellar for photographers as an all in one solution.

For Logo Designers

LogoPond

LogoPond

LogoPond is a free tool specifically for logo designers that allows them to showcase their logo designs and receive feedback from the community. It allows users to request critiques, comment, and use their forum to communicate. Logopond looks nice, but doesn’t offer many features and is full of advertisements – which is ok, since LogoPond is a growing platform.

For Illustrators

IllyPads

IllyPads

Illypads is a free tool specific for illustrators from the creators of LogoPond that allows you to showcase your illustrations with a portfolio / profile page. Illypads is very basic and not yet refined – which is good, because it’s a growing platform. If you are looking for a quick, free way to simply showcase your illustrations online and aren’t looking for any other advanced features, IllyPads offers you a chance to grow with them.

For DIYers

Indexhibit

Indexhibit

Indexhibit is a DIY, self service downloadable web application that you have to install yourself (technical knowledge required.) Indexhibit acts as a framework for you to upload exhibitions, and list them in an index. It’s basically as simple as it sounds (if it doesn’t sound simple, Indexhibit offers in depth tutorials, help, and a forum), and due to this simplicity has a number of applications beyond just making portfolios – Indexhibit gives a few examples on their website, such as showcasing your collections of stamps, records, toys, coke cans, receipts, snapshots of your clothes, the list goes on and on! Overally, Indexhibit is a powerful free tool to manage your own framework for your portfolio or any other exhibit project online.

Subfolio

SubFolio

Subfolio is another DIY framework that allows you to manage and configure your own portfolio and beyond on your own server – Subfolio features support for themes, users, and even groups. Subfolio is based adding all of your folders of images, documents, video, etc into one place – literally – you just upload everything that you want to showcase on your website into one folder, and Subfolio automatically creates page hierarchies based on what you’ve added. Like Indexhibit, sub folio is completely customizable and manageable by you alone (though there is support and a forum on their site.) If you know how to manage your own framework on your own server, Subfolio is a unique tool to help you build your online portfolio (or community) just the way you want to.

For Job Seekers

Krop

Krop

Krop is first and foremost a robust job agency for creatives. Many top recruiters looking for talent post job listings to Krop. In addition to their job board, Krop offers professional online portfolio solutions for $9.99 / mo. The portfolios are highly customizable, dynamic, and responsive, with advanced customization options. All of the portfolios are accessible from Krop’s Creative Database, the back end tool for recruiters that allows them to target creatives with astounding accuracy. Krop also features a section called Pluck’t, which showcases daily staff selection of Krop portfolios. If you’re hard up for a job, Krop is definitely a great tool to use to ensure exposure to recruiters.

SortFolio

SortFolio

Sortfolio is a tool for recruiters to find top web design talent. You can sign up for a free listing, or go big and pay $99 / mo to get larger interactive display ads, up to 6 large images on your portfolio, placement above other free ads, and branding (you can add your logo.) Is $99 / mo worth it to get listed? If you’re a web designer, it just might be. If you’re interested in checking out portfolio, you can always sign up for free to get a feel for the listings and upgrade later to promote yourself more fully.

Conclusion

This concludes my list of the 12 most essential tools to build your online portfolio. Whatever creative discipline you practice, you can rest assured that there is an online portfolio tool specific to your niche waiting for you to create your very own portfolio and help you market and sell your talent. There are plenty of portfolio tools that we didn’t cover here; however, this resource provides more than enough free tools to get your portfolio online today. What are you waiting for? Build an online portfolio to connect the world to your talent today!

About the Author:

Erik Hans Rasmussen is a writer & designer for Fibers.com.  Erik also writes for T-Shirt Talk, a t-shirt industry blog, and tweets @lookrad.

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25 Responses

Comments are now closed on this post.

  • Nina Churchill, April 25, 2012

    Great resources! There were a few I wasn’t aware of and will be checking out! Thanks!

  • Mike, April 25, 2012

    For any artists reading PortfolioWebsites.com is a great option,

  • Pablo Massa, April 25, 2012

    Hey! It’s 2012 man! Pinterest is essential for designers. Is a must for this article.

  • Steven Snell, April 25, 2012

    Hi Pablo,
    I didn’t write this article, but in my opinion Pinterest doesn’t really fit here. The resources discussed in this article exist specifically for the purpose of setting up a portfolio to show of your work. While Pinterest has value, it’s primary purpose is not to allow designers to set up a portfolio.

  • Menj @KreativeKo, April 25, 2012

    this is very helpful article thanks for sharing this.

  • Carmen Brodeur, April 25, 2012

    There are quite a few online portfolio sites that I was unaware of. Thanks for the thorough run down.

  • O'Leary, April 26, 2012

    This is a fantastic review. Personally, have tried most of these. The Behance & Prosite connection made the most sense for me (for both personal website and integration with the network to get found by others)

  • ThatsjustDucky, April 28, 2012

    Good sites here. I’d throw SmugMug in for the photographers as well. It’s great for building a portfolio and a business.

  • Radar Kilowatt, April 30, 2012

    Shouldn’t artists in this age of digital technology, be able to show their basic skills in current technology by being able to design and publish a custom web portfolio themselves?
    Even just a WordPress site with a custom theme that portrays the artist’s vision?
    Canned portfolios = canned talent?

    • Steven Snell, May 1, 2012

      Radar,
      I agree with your point for the most part, except that not all designers or artists create websites. There are plenty of creative people who need to showcase their work that do not design websites. Also, not all of these resources serve as a replacement for a portfolio website. Take Dribbble as an example. Most designers on Dribbble also have their own portfolio site, they use Dribbble as a way to network and to gain additional exposure.

  • Ursina, May 18, 2012

    What is missing in this list is ALLYOU (www.allyou.net). It is very easy-to-use, total frontend editing, no hidden costs, and above all: very stylish! The perfect place for designers, photographers, artists, architects, …

  • Vince P, June 12, 2012

    Any free site to create an online portfolio leaves out the most valuable tool to getting your work noticed. I have been building websites for my fellow students for awhile now and I always insist they buy a domain and hosting so they can build up a web presence. You need your site to be search engine friendly and search engines don’t give weight to free subdomains.

  • Sophie, July 9, 2012

    AS much as the online versions of portfolio promotion is the hub of this post, I have to say that the cover image of the hard copy absolutely sold it to me! You could almost smell the print!

    Saying that illypad wins for me :)

  • Tom, July 18, 2012

    Great list Erik. I am aware of some of these, but some are new to me, will check out soon. :)

  • Karen, July 29, 2012

    Does Indexhibit have an e-commerce option, paypal link, ect? I am new to starting a website, but would like the option to sell my work through the site.
    Thanks

  • thibaud, August 5, 2012

    obviously missing the most essential one ;)
    http://www.pikibox.com

  • Régis, August 17, 2012

    and a touch one, http://www.tabfolio.me could be used and edit on ipad and viewable on iphone too

  • John Pasquet, September 13, 2012

    I would be interested in getting your feedback on our portfolio product. We have a standards-based assessment tool for institutions of higher learning. We also provide the users of that system with access to our presentation portfolio product, which is also a standalone.

    You can view it as http://presentation.foliotek.com.

  • Abraham, December 6, 2012

    I wonder if there are any options for a company (not a person) that might allow for password protected portfolios

  • Lucas, March 13, 2013

    hi, we launched a completely free website building tool for visual artists : http://www.foliodrop.com any feedback is highly appreciated!

  • Steve, March 14, 2013

    Things no one tells you up front:

    Dribble requires a minimum $20 fee just to look at a list of their designers.

    Coroflot charges a minimum $275 to post a single job ad. (They don’t just let you look at their designers, you have to post an ad and let the designers find you.)

    Behance will spam you for the rest of your life if you give them your e-mail.

  • Denis Marsili, March 21, 2013

    Exactly what I was looking for, I’m sharing this! Awesome! Thanks!

  • James Pasko, April 16, 2013

    If you’re looking for yet another option, I’d suggest you check out http://folio24.com/.

    This is (admittedly) a bit of shameless self-promotion, but Folio24 does compare well to sites like CarbonMade by offering better pricing and more customization options, as well as all the usual features (domain mapping, images+video, etc.).

    We have a fully-featured free version, no ads, a simple interface, and a clean look. We’ll never spam anyone, we’re small and responsive to your concerns, and we keep adding new features.

    Plus, we’re upgrading the next 25 memberships to a paid account, so definitely check us out!

    James

  • Steffanie Loverink, June 13, 2013

    Surprisingly revealing many many thanks, I do think your readers may well want further blog posts such as this carry on the excellent perform.

  • Shelly, June 24, 2013

    Behance FTW!