Portfolio Preparation

As part of the required application materials, your portfolio shows us who you are and why you're a good candidate to join California College of the Arts.

What Is a Portfolio?

A portfolio is a collection of your best and most recent artwork that highlights your art experience. It is a visual archive of your artistic accomplishments that demonstrates your ability and potential as an artist.

No matter how long you have been creating work, if you have a collection of your own art, then you have enough for a portfolio.

We encourage students to present a series of images that represents current interests.

Also, the portfolio should document additional work that demonstrates an awareness of formal visual organizational principles and experience with a variety of tools, media, styles, and approaches.

What Should Be in My Portfolio?

A portfolio submitted for admission consideration should consist of 10-20 digital images (jpg, gif, psd) of your best and most recent work.

Transfer applicants are strongly encouraged to demonstrate course assignments, personal projects, or work experience for transfer credit.

Your portfolio should include a focused series of images that shows your current interests as well as additional work that reveals an awareness of formal visual organizational principles and experience with a variety of tools, media, styles, and approaches.

We prefer the majority of drawings submitted in the portfolio be derived from direct observation, rather than other sources (such as photographs). Still life, landscape, figure drawings, portrait, perspective, and diagrammatic drawings are all recommended.

Further 2D, 3D, or 4D work may be abstract or representational and may range from design projects to fine art pieces or installation documentation.

Architecture Portfolio

Applicants interested in the Architecture Program should demonstrate the breadth of their creative work. While work with architectural content is not required, students who choose to submit architectural images in their portfolio should submit work that reflects design, not drafting skills.

Please include project descriptions, dates, and your contribution to the project.

Writing & Literature | Visual Studies Portfolios

Students applying to the Writing and Literature or Visual Studies Programs are required to submit a writing portfolio (5-10 pages). The portfolio for the Writing and Literature Program should include poetry, fiction, or both.

Applicants to the Visual Studies Program are encouraged to submit an example of a written history assignment.

How to Submit Your Work

CCA prefers undergraduate portfolios submitted as a series of digital images and recognizes three types of portfolios for submission: online, mail, or as application attachments.

Portfolios will not be returned. Although every precaution is taken to protect portfolios, the college cannot be held responsible for loss or damage.

Online (Preferred)

Applicants may submit their portfolio for review using SlideRoom. The digital platform allows you to create an inventory of your best work, which includes title, date, medium, dimensions, and notes.

Both still and video works can be uploaded. Applicants can upload up to 20 images to SlideRoom (minimum 10 images), then view and rearrange their work until the final submission is made. Each portfolio submission has a $10 fee.

You are neither required to submit the maximum of 20 images nor is an applicant penalized for submitting fewer than 20.

(Please note, no changes to your portfolio can be made following final submission.)

For portfolio submission technical support, email help@slideroom.com.


Applicants may submit their portfolio for review using a CD-ROM to store digital images or video works.

All portfolios submitted by CD-ROM must include an accompanying index file on the disc that contains a descriptive list identifying each work by number, title, dimensions, medium, completion date, and any other relevant information.

All portfolios must be sent to the attention of Enrollment Services Office (see address below). Name, address, and phone number must be written on both the disc itself and its jewel case.


Writing and Literature and Visual Studies applicants only
Applicants may submit their writing portfolio for review as an attachment to their online application or included on a CD-ROM. Writing portfolios include 5-10 pages of writing samples.

The portfolio for the Writing and Literature Program should include poetry, fiction, or both.

Applicants to the Visual Studies Program are encouraged to submit an example of a written history assignment. All work submitted may either be attached in an online application with the heading "portfolio" placed in the essay portion, submitted as printed documents mailed with the printed application, or as Word files on a CD-ROM.

Students who have visual work are encouraged to submit examples of artwork along with their written portfolio, using the instructions above.

If a CD is submitted, please write your name, address, and phone number on both the disc and jewel case.

Tips for Developing Your Portfolio

Start early
The more time you allow yourself to create, the more work you will have to choose from when preparing your portfolio. Ultimately, however, quality of work is more important than quantity.

Challenge yourself
Take advantage of resources available at your school, in your community, and on your own time. Supplement your high school art experience with outside opportunities. Challenge yourself to take advanced/AP art as well as art history classes.

If your school doesn't offer art classes, consider your local community college and community center workshops as viable alternatives.

Maximize your summers
Summer programs are a great way to build your portfolio. CCA's Pre-College Program provides an opportunity for high school art students to study art or writing in an art-school setting, while earning 3 units of college credit.

The program enables participants to develop strong portfolio pieces for college admission. Most summer programs offer housing and scholarship opportunities.

Include observational drawings
Most art colleges prefer the majority of drawings submitted in the portfolio be derived from direct observation, which means drawing or painting from still life, figure models, or landscape.

We prefer observational drawings, rather than drawings from photographs from your imagination (such as fantasy characters or animé). If you work in another medium (photography or video), be sure to include examples of your best work.

Explore ideas in your work
Strong portfolios typically include work that demonstrates solid technical skills and reflects thoughts and concepts. Consider including work that speaks to your personal experiences, your culture, and so on.

Get Feedback on Your Artwork

Get outside opinions of your artwork prior to applying
It is important to show your work to others and to ask for critiques with enough time to benefit from the feedback. This will help you be aware of your progress as well as areas that may need further development.

Teachers, other artists, mentors, and college representatives can offer this type of informal review. Be sure to do this before the year in which you plan to apply.

Practice discussing your work
Don't be afraid to talk about your work and what it means to you. Select a couple of pieces to discuss. Think about when and why you created the work, what the work is about, and what media were used.

Share what you like about the pieces, what can be improved, and which is your favorite.

Meet with college representatives
Admissions counselors meet with students on campus, visit many high schools and community colleges, and host special events for prospective students.

To make an appointment with a CCA counselor, contact the Enrollment Services Office at 800.447.1ART.

See the college's admissions events calendar listing for upcoming events. We look forward to reviewing your artwork during these visits. Your portfolio might even be approved for admission!

Attend a National Portfolio Day event
National Portfolio Day events take place all over the country, and California College of the Arts attends a majority of them.

Prospective students take their portfolios to these events, where they meet with admissions representatives from many different colleges.

Representatives review your work, offer guidance in the preparation and presentation of your portfolio, and provide information about programs of study, admission requirements, scholarships, and financial aid.

This may be another opportunity to have your portfolio approved for admission on the spot!

For more information, visit www.portfolioday.net.