An online portfolio is an essential self-promotion tool for any freelance designer. Often the first thing a potential client sees, it's a shop window to show off your work, as well as yourself – and you need to get it right.
A professional-looking layout is a must. If front-end web design is one of your skills, then you should practice what you preach and create something bespoke. But for illustrators, graphic designers and photographers, there are a wide array of off-the-shelf portfolio templates and website themes to choose from, which can be customised into an original design with little – or none – CSS tinkering.
Read on for our pick of 10 of the very best portfolio templates to choose from, representing five of the most popular portfolio website platforms...
01. Adobe Portfolio: Andreas
Its minimal layout is ideal for photography as each piece of work is shown large, and alternates between being left- and right-aligned, giving each image space to breathe.
Given that Adobe Portfolio is bundled with Creative Cloud, existing subscribers may well find the option attractive. But there are many other platforms out there, as we'll show...
02. Squarespace: Flatiron
Flatiron is a Squarespace template with a particularly eye-catching gallery display, which locks together images of different aspect ratios in a visually pleasing grid.
The site navigation is simple and unobtrusive at the top left of the page, making sure your work is the star of the show.
03. Wordpress: Helium
As a platform, Wordpress gives you plenty of versatility when it comes to customisation – particularly if you have some coding skills. Helium is a strong choice for a portfolio template, as it's much richer in features than many of the other examples on this list.
The theme costs $48 (around £34) for a regular license, but the developers have thrown in various premium-rate plugins as part of the package. It includes a built-in blog, as well as the option to add a fully functional online store if you choose.
04. Cargo Collective: Betelgeuse
A common problem when presenting images of your work in a simple grid format is how to tackle different aspect ratios, as well as how to create hierarchy.
The Betelgeuse template for Cargo Collective enables you to make individual thumbnails double the size, to vary the layout and emphasise particular projects.
Inside each project page, images and videos automatically scale down to fit the template, but never scale larger than their original size.
05. Wix: Urban Photography
Another stylishly designed gallery-style homepage, the Urban Photography template for Wix is minimal and elegant, giving most of the screen real estate over to large imagery.
While it's particularly effective for showcasing photography, this theme is versatile enough to display any kind of creative work, particularly illustration, and has built-in social sharing.
06. Adobe Portfolio: Marta
Another Adobe Portfolio offering by a well-known designer, this stylish theme comes courtesy of Amsterdam-based art director Marta Veludo.
Its fixed navigation can change colour when you scroll, and keeps your core details visible while visitors browse the site.
Your logo is centred, with navigation options to the left-hand side – and the whole site is built on a responsive grid with fixed gutters. It's a slick, colourful and eye-catching option for any creative.
07. Squarespace: York
Created specifically with designers in mind, the York template for Squarespace is refreshingly minimal compared to more thumbnail-led approaches.
The main area above the fold is reserved for a large, punchy introductory statement, while large project images are either full-width or half-width.
It's a simple portfolio template that exudes confidence, and you need the work to support it. It's all about picking a handful of killer projects and letting them shine.
08. Wordpress: Throne
Another ultra-versatile Wordpress template, Throne is as suitable for a freelance creative as it is for a fully fledged design studio. It's particularly well suited to those with a deep and broad portfolio across multiple disciplines, as the navigation filters your work by category.
Like Helium, it'll set you back $49 (around £43) – but it comes equipped with plenty of widgets, CSS3 animations, video support and a wide range of page layout options.
09. Cargo Collective: Cassiopeia
Cassiopeia is a responsive portfolio template for Cargo Collective that fills the width of your browser window with columns of thumbnails. Like its Cargo stablemate Betelgeuse, Cassiopeia automatically scales project images by width, and you can also opt to do so vertically to fit a browser window.
The theme supports Sets, as well. The function enables you to easily organise your projects by category, discipline or type of client, for instance.
10. Wix: Emma Brewer
Many of the portfolios templates available for the Wix platform are pretty versatile in terms of end use, but there's usually a suggested discipline that each would suit best.
Pitched at art directors and graphic designers, this Emma Brewer theme features large, half-page-width thumbnails on the homepage, which click through to expansive project galleries.
Each has a killer screen-filling hero image at the top, a paragraph of info, and a selection of secondary images beneath – an ideal way to show branding and design projects with multiple touchpoints.