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Sketchbook by Miguel Desport and Marion Bisserier during their Internship at Pentagram

Portfolio advice

Preparing a portfolio is an exciting opportunity to select your strongest work and present it in a personal, professional way. To help you prepare, we've gathered advice from across UAL.

When you apply to a course in a hands-on subject area, it's likely that you'll be asked to submit a portfolio. Your portfolio will ideally show a range of relevant work, from initial sketches and ideas, to contextual references as well as some finished pieces.

A chance to showcase your creative potential, your portfolio is an important part of your application. As courses vary in their selection criteria, we encourage you to read all application information native to your chosen course while preparing your portfolio.

What is a portfolio?

Our definition

At UAL we like to think of a portfolio as a window into your world through which we can see your skills, personality and potential. It's a collection of work demonstrating how your creativity has developed over a period of time. It will vary depending on the level of study you're applying to and will likely develop over time – both in content and format.

It shows your ability to work with different materials, themes and techniques, as well as how you research, develop and plan your ideas. A portfolio should be professional, but ultimately human – we want to see you amongst the pages.

6 tips for your portfolio

We've gathered 6 informative tips to help you while you're preparing your portfolio. From being decisive, to showing us what you love – these tips will provide direction so you can concentrate on making your portfolio the best it can be.

Download the guide (PDF 572KB)

Hear from staff and students

When you're preparing your portfolio you'll likely have a lot of questions. What to include? How to present it? What should it look like? To make life easier we've asked UAL staff and students their advice on everything from the type of work to put in your portfolio to tailoring it to specific study levels.

00:00

A portfolio should really tell us who you are.

00:11

Portfolios are a visual, or sometimes digital representation of someone's work.

00:16

It's the place where you show people what you're about and what you're interested in.

00:23

You can show video, you can show audio you can show drawing, painting sculpture, whatever. It is something that you're proud of.

00:32

It can be a range of different types of work, it can be a range of different techniques but really we just want to see who you are as an artist, designer, maker.

00:39

It's really about cherry-picking the things that students are most proud of, that they can really think of as “this represents who I am as a person and where I want to go, the things I want to develop and progress further”.

00:50

Think of a portfolio as a visual diary, if you're writing a diary you can't do it in a day, it takes place over time.

01:02

Show the process of how you got to an idea from the original research documented, the concepts and then a selection of those concepts into more finished and refined pieces of work.

01:12

So it needs to tell a story that you can't be there to tell.

01:14

If you can show how you've progressed from a really dodgy doodle in your maths text book four years ago, slowly to a beautiful life-size sculpture, they can understand a lot about you and how your mind works.

01:31

When we actually do portfolio reviews or interviews, we're looking for the individual. From everything from fashion to filmmaking we want to see how their future is going to be supported by the work they've done to date.

01:43

Often we have portfolios that look very similar and that is a problem for us, so when when we review them we'll see one portfolio and think “oh that's a really interesting portfolio” and then we'll see the next one and it just looks the same and the next one and it just looks the same, and we think actually that's not a real indication, that's not that applicant’s story.

02:00

What we want to see is all the aspects of your creativity, your personal journey that's brought you there, nobody can do that for you and the more we learn about you through your portfolio the better it is for us to know you're right for one of our courses.

02:13

It gives you an opportunity to see how you've grown yourself as a filmmaker, an animator, a sound artist so you can really see “okay I started off here” and you know that it tells a story of your own development.

02:27

It's okay to be messy people want to see the mess. It has to show us the potential, it has to show us curiosity, it has to show us how you've worked through things.

02:38

I should hopefully be able to look at your portfolio and then meet you and go “oh yes that kind of matches up.”

Portfolio advice videos

Watch the first video in our portfolio playlist, 'What is a portfolio'.

Head over to our YouTube channel to explore the full series which covers everything you need to know about preparing a portfolio for UAL. Our videos include animations by Rosa Beiroa, graduate of MA Animation at London College of Communication.

Our videos cover the themes:

  • what is a portfolio
  • what to include in a portfolio
  • how to structure your portfolio
  • preparing a portfolio for foundation, undergraduate or postgraduate level
  • interviewing with a portfolio.

How to submit your portfolio to UAL

For a course where a portfolio is required, there are 2 different paths you typically take once you've made the application. In both, you submit a portfolio once you've made the initial application.

1. Online portfolio submission

You’ll be invited by email, usually within 2 weeks of applying, to submit a digital portfolio through UAL’s online submission tool, PebblePad, for the first assessment of your work.

If successful, you may be invited to an interview and asked to bring your full portfolio so you can talk about it. For some courses, you may be offered a place based on your digital portfolio without being invited to an interview.

2. Bring portfolio to interview

If you've been invited to an interview you may be asked to bring your portfolio along. Our portfolio advice videos can help you decide what to bring as well as how to best present your portfolio within an interview.

We've also developed some helpful tips to help you prepare for your interview.

Download the guide (PDF 571KB)

International applicants

If you live outside of the UK and have applied through your local official UAL representative, you may have a face-to-face interview in your country with one of our academic staff. They'll also give you feedback about your portfolio.

If you’re unable to attend an interview in person, a digital portfolio may be accepted instead. This will be arranged by our Admissions Service, who will contact you once they receive your application and ask you to submit your digital portfolio through UAL’s online submission tool, PebblePad,

Need more help to create a portfolio?

If you’d like more portfolio advice or need further guidance to produce more work, we offer a number of courses to help you prepare your portfolio for entry onto our pre-degree, undergraduate and postgraduate level courses. They vary in length from a few days to a full year.

Collage by James Frost BA (Hons) Textile Design, Chelsea College of Arts
Collage by James Frost BA (Hons) Textile Design, Chelsea College of Arts by Alys Tomlinson

Portfolio preparation courses at Chelsea College of Arts

Browse our range of 6 week courses geared toward portfolio preparation at Chelsea College of Arts.

Sketchbook by Marion Bisserier
Sketchbook by Marion Bisserier, Central Saint Martins Graduate by Alys Tomlinson

Portfolio preparation courses at Central Saint Martins

Central Saint Martins offer a range of portfolio preparation courses. Choose the length that suits you best.

Michelle Chong working in the Studio BA (Hons) User Experience Design
Michelle Chong working in the Studio BA (Hons) User Experience Design by Alys Tomlinson

UAL Short Courses

We have a vast selection of short courses available across our 6 Colleges.

Materials composition by Lucie Hands BA (Hons) Textile Design
Materials composition by Lucie Hands BA (Hons) Textile Design

Pre-degree courses

Our pre-degree courses are 1 year in length and will help you develop the skills experience and portfolio required for undergraduate study.