The Ultimate Guide to Building a Graphic Design Portfolio Website

A portfolio is an important business asset for every freelance graphic designer.

A graphic designer web portfolio showcases your design ability, style, credibility, thought process, and versatility.

However, a graphic design portfolio isn’t just for putting together screenshots of your past work. It involves tailoring your work to your intended audience and building a website — including the small details like choosing appropriate themes, plugins, and the best web hosting.

In this guide, you’ll learn:

  • What a graphic design portfolio website is and why you need one
  • How to build a graphic design portfolio website on WordPress
  • Elements of the best graphic design portfolio

Why You Need a Portfolio Website To Show Off Your Graphic Design Skills

As a freelancer, a portfolio website is like an online resume or business card. Here are three good reasons why you should learn how to build a graphic design portfolio website:

  • It showcases your work. Having a graphic designer portfolio website also helps potential clients understand the thought processes behind your work, such as why you use and prefer certain design elements over others.
  • It gives a glimpse into your personality. A portfolio website is your personal online space where you can display your authentic self.
  • It opens you up to the world. We live in a global society — if you don’t have an online presence, you’re missing out. Having a portfolio website means potential clients can find you and reach out when they want to work with you.

There are many website builders out there, but most graphic designers opt for WordPress to build their portfolio websites. 

WordPress is one of the world’s most popular website builders because of its flexibility and ease of use.

Below, we’ll teach you how to build a graphic design portfolio in three easy steps using WordPress.

How to Build a Graphic Design Portfolio Website on WordPress in 3 Steps

  1. Choose a domain name and the best web hosting
  2. Install WordPress themes and portfolio plugins
  3. Add content

1. Choose a Domain Name and the Best Web Hosting

The first step in learning how to build a graphic design portfolio is creating a website identity. 

That’s where choosing a domain name comes in. Since a portfolio website is personal, you can always go with your name and a .com subdomain.

If you aren’t using WordPress as a website builder, you can get a domain name from various domain registrars. 

But since WordPress requires web hosting, most hosting plans already come with free domain name registration.

Choosing the best web hosting is imperative because the web host affects several aspects, such as website security and reliability.

There are several web hosting providers available, but Bluehost is the best web hosting provider on the market and is officially recommended by WordPress. Bluehost offers several types of hosting plans. 

The shared hosting plan is offered as low as $2.95/month, comes with free domain name registration, and is a great option for most portfolio websites.

2. Install WordPress Themes and Portfolio Plugins

After choosing a domain name and the best web hosting provider, the next step in learning how to build a graphic design portfolio is to create the structure of your website. This is where installing themes and plugins come in.

Themes function like templates that determine the look of your website.

As a graphic designer, you may be tempted to DIY your website. However, if you’re a WordPress newbie, it may be best to use premade themes. WordPress may be easy to use, but it does require more technical know-how than some other website builders.

WordPress has an extensive collection of both paid and free portfolio themes that can be modified to suit your needs.

To create a compelling design portfolio, here are some recommended features for choosing portfolio themes:

  • A simple and clean layout to make your projects stand out.
  • Built-in features that support and highlight media, such as slideshows, galleries, thumbnails, presentations, and mock-ups. 
  • Mobile responsiveness, especially since Google pushes for mobile-friendly websites.

You can find portfolio themes at the following websites:

Plugins are what add functionality to your WordPress website. Like themes, there are both paid and free WordPress plugins available.

A little tip before downloading themes and plugins: Don’t forget to check the date of the last update, user reviews, and the number of active installations to ensure what you’re downloading is trustworthy and updated consistently.

3. Add Content

Now that you know the basics of how to build a graphic design portfolio, you can start populating your website with content.

Elements of a Strong Graphic Design Portfolio

A solid graphic design portfolio must have good visual and written content.

Visual content shows what you’re capable of as a graphic designer, while written content helps you communicate what visuals cannot.

Visual Content

A solid visual graphic design component showcases the best projects you’ve worked on, as well as your personal brand and style.

Branding

Strong personal branding is critical to freelance success.

The first thing that website visitors look at when they enter your website is how the website is designed. Yes, you’re also being judged on how your website looks.

When thinking of your personal brand, focus on your unique approach to design and translate that into your website colors, fonts, and logo.

In this case, displaying your individuality is encouraged. Differentiate yourself by showing clients your unique identity and style.

Sample Projects

When choosing sample projects to display on your website, it’s best to focus on a few key projects that best showcase your skills.

If you have difficulty selecting projects, think of how you want to brand yourself. 

As a graphic designer, there must be one area or audience that you specialize in. Recall your previous design work — are there types of projects that you love to do, excel at, and often get contacted for? Consider focusing on those.

No experience yet? Creative Bloq and Invision share what you can do to build up your design portfolio, such as creating design projects of your own and joining design competitions.

Lastly, don’t forget to showcase your work with high-quality images.

Written Content

As a graphic designer, while your work is primarily visual, your communication skills are just as essential as the visuals you create.

As you learn how to build a graphic design portfolio, written content should be included because:

  • It helps people understand the thought processes behind your work.
  • It helps search engines find your website.
  • It establishes you as a thought leader in your industry.

Your portfolio website’s written components should include the following:

  • About page
  • Contact information
  • Case studies
  • Blog
  • Testimonials or reviews

About Page

New website visitors turn to the About page to learn more about a website’s creator.

When done right, a well-crafted About page can open doors for you. However, it can be challenging to write a page about yourself.

If you don’t know what to write on your About page, keep it simple and start with highlights, such as your:

  • Background
  • Professional and personal experience
  • Education
  • Skills
  • Platforms and media that you use
  • Awards and recognitions

New York-based designer Ayaka B. Ito shares a simple About page on her website’s homepage. 

Contact Information

Give potential clients a chance to reach out by adding contact information to your website. Include a professional business email address (the best web hosting providers include this when you sign up for a plan) and links to your social media profiles.

Alternatively, create a call-to-action button that invites website visitors to take action, such as signing up for a newsletter or requesting a meeting, call, or quote.

Case Studies

To complement your visual content and explain your sample projects, include a short write-up or case studies on how you’ve helped previous clients succeed.

Here’s some of the information you can include in your case studies:

  • Project purpose and objective
  • Project role and duration
  • Design approach
  • Results — Did you achieve the project objectives? Did it increase revenue for the client? Did you complete it before the project deadline?

Graphic designer Mary Silvestre includes a few project details on her portfolio page.

Blog

Adding a blog section to your portfolio website is optional, but it’s an excellent way to share your thoughts and brand yourself as a thought leader. It gives clients a reason to return to your website, and it’s also recommended to enhance your search engine optimization (SEO) efforts.

If writing isn’t your strong suit, remember that content doesn’t always have to be blog posts. You can offer freebies such as icon sets or typographies and include press you’ve received, such as awards and video or podcast appearances.

After adding content to your graphic design portfolio website, the final step is to share it with your network using social media marketing tools

If you’ve signed up for Dribbble and Behance, syndicate your content, so your online portfolio is also visible on those websites.

Testimonials or Reviews

Listing your abilities and showing off your skills isn’t enough if no one can vouch for you professionally. Three out of four people trust online reviews as much as peer recommendations.

To get testimonials, reach out to your previous satisfied clients and ask them for a brief review of the service you provided.

The Key Behind Graphic Design Portfolio Success: Choosing the Best Web Hosting

Online portfolios are generally static. Compared to other websites, they only require enough bandwidth to handle large image files. However, it’s still important to choose the best web hosting for your portfolio website.

Web hosting affects the following:

With portfolio websites that host large file sizes (even when those images are optimized), having a quick page load speed makes a huge difference to the user experience. 

  • Website security. Secure web hosts help keep hackers and malware at bay. Reputable web hosting companies also constantly update and scan their website.
  • Backups. Cyber attacks are no longer restricted to websites dealing with money because hackers tend to launch mass attacks. A good web host protects your files by creating multiple backups.

Final Thoughts: How To Build a Graphic Design Portfolio on WordPress

An online graphic design portfolio is essential for freelancers to showcase their skills and gain clients. There are several platforms where you can build your portfolio website, but WordPress is the best option because of its customizability and ease of use.

Learning how to build a graphic design portfolio website on WordPress is pretty straightforward.

Start by getting a domain name, signing up for the best web hosting provider, setting up themes and plugins, and adding both visual and written content.
Get the best web hosting plans for your portfolio website with Bluehost.

Machielle Thomas
Machielle Thomas | Content Manager
Machielle Thomas writes and curates web and email content for marketing professionals, small business owners, bloggers, and more.

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