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Portfolio preparation

When you apply to a course in a hands-on subject like fine art, photography, illustration, fashion or graphic design, it’s very likely that we'll ask you to submit a portfolio of relevant work.

Make sure you check the ‘How to apply’ section of your course page to find out if you need a portfolio and exactly what you need to provide.

Your portfolio is often the most important part of your application, which is why we’ve put together guidance and advice to help you to prepare a portfolio or improve an existing one.

What is a portfolio?

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 your work demonstrating how your creativity has developed over a period of time.

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, yet human – we want to see you amongst the pages.

Do different levels of study require different portfolios?

Portfolio requirements are different for pre-degree, undergraduate and postgraduate levels of study and also vary from course to course.

Check the ‘How to apply’ section of your course page for information about entry requirements.

You can also watch some videos with tips on portfolio preparation for different study levels on our YouTube channel.

What should my portfolio include?

  • Examples of your research, development of your ideas and finished pieces.
  • Your most recent work, even if it's not finished.
  • Your own independent work; for example, work completed at summer school or on a short course, photography and/or your own experimentation.
  • Your sketchbooks – they're a really good way to show us your research and development of ideas. They should include primary and secondary research, rough ideas and notes, descriptions and annotations. They should demonstrate a variety of media and experimentation.
  • Your portfolio could include the following areas of work - 3D and product design; drawing and painting; fashion and textile design; film, video and animation; graphic design and illustration; interior and spatial design; printmaking and digital prints; performance; photography; printmaking and digital prints; sculpture and installations; written work including essays, journals, blogs and magazines.

How should I present my portfolio?

  • A portfolio can be any physical size, depending on the work it contains, but make sure it's practical to carry around.
  • If you specialise in photography, and your portfolio is contained in a blog, you may bring a laptop and have your blog ready to be reviewed at interview.
  • There's no limit to the amount of work it can contain, but be selective and choose your best pieces – usually a selection of different projects and 2-3 full sketchbooks is a manageable amount.
  • Large pieces of work, such as 3D objects or large paintings, can be photographed and presented in your portfolio. You can bring 1-2 physical examples with you if you’re invited to an interview, but only if they're small, light or difficult to photograph.
  • Keep it simple, uncluttered and relevant – mount work onto same-sized sheets of white cartridge paper.
  • Give your work space to breathe. For example, if you have 10 similar prints, choose only the best 2 or 3 for your portfolio.
  • Position your work logically and try to present it so that everything’s facing the same way up
  • Start and end your portfolio with your strongest pieces of work and make sure you show variety.

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

2. Bring portfolio to interview

You’ll be invited to interview and you may be asked to bring your full portfolio to discuss.

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 advice and guidance or need 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:


Short Courses

A huge range across our 6 Colleges.

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Student work

Pre-Degree courses

1 year in length. They help develop the skills, experience and portfolio required for undergraduate study.