Art and design portfolio guide

Art and Design Portfolio

For the majority of our courses, we will ask you to submit a digital portfolio of your recent practical and contextual Art and Design work and attend a portfolio review day.

Application Process

The process requires you to complete the following steps:

  1. Make an online application for your chosen course via the college website
  2. Prepare and submit a digital portfolio for review following the instructions we will send you after receiving your application
  3. Attend a portfolio review day if invited to do so

Once you have submitted your online application, we will send you specific instructions on how to submit your digital portfolio and information on the portfolio review date for the course you have applied for.

We will then make you an offer for a course that best suits your individual needs based on your application and portfolio review.

Many applicants are offered a Further Education funded UAL Diploma or NC before progressing onto specialist SAAS-funded HND. This is common practice and is beneficial for your long-term development and progression as an Artist or Designer.

Please read and refer to the following general guidance regarding portfolio content, formatting and the review process.

What should I include in my Portfolio?

After we receive your application we will send you more detailed information regarding the content, portfolio review date and the specific e-mail to send us your portfolio for the course you have applied for. 

In general, your digital portfolio should be ordered into projects and demonstrate your enthusiasm, commitment and understanding of the creative process relating to your chosen course. 

You can include work from School, College and personal study with good-quality scans or photographs of 2D and 3D research, development and final outcomes. Web links can be used to include videos or websites you have created. Try to include a variety of work that shows your creative potential and imagination as well as showing your drawing abilities using a range of approaches and media. We recommend you include your most recent and current work. 

Strong digital portfolios usually contain sketchbook pages that show contextual and visual research and the exploration and development of your ideas and concepts. Use imagery with written comments to show us what Artists, Designers and other interests have influenced your creative journey. 

Please add a short written personal statement and scans of your qualifications at the end of your digital portfolio. Essentially, we want to learn more about what makes you ‘tick’ creatively from your digital portfolio and why you want to study your chosen subject within your Personal Statement. 

Format of your Portfolio

You will be asked to send your digital portfolio to us by email so we recommend submitting your digital portfolio in the format of a PowerPoint saved as a pdf file. We recommend you use a white background as this allows your artwork to be the main focus. Each slide/page can contain one or more images. 

We recommend you title each slide/page and remember to include your Personal Statement along with your qualification certificates at the end of the portfolio. 

How much work should I include in my Portfolio? 

  • If you are applying for a BA(Hons), HND or UAL Level 3 Foundation Diploma you should submit 10-15 slides/pages of your Art and Design work. Remember each slide/page in your portfolio can include multiple images. 
  • If you are applying to an NC or UAL Level 2 or 3 Diploma you should submit 5-10 slides/ pages of your Art and Design work. Remember each slide/page in your portfolio can include multiple images. 
  • Links to videos can be included in the digital portfolio if you wish to show moving imagery. 
  • Please include clear scans of your qualification certificates and your Personal Statement at the end of your digital folio

Saving your PowerPoint as a PDF Digital Portfolio

  1. Select File – Export. There you will find the option to Create a PDF/XPS Document.
  2. Click Create PDF/XPS
  3. Title your file with your full name and the course you have applied to, for example, JoBlogs-UALFoundationDiploma.
  4. Save as a PDF in your chosen location
  5. Email as an attachment to the portfolio email address you will have received after submitting your online application. 

Information and Advice

Portfolio reviews

Once we have reviewed your portfolio and application we will send you an offer for you to accept. You can then start to plan, enrol on the course and apply for student funding.

After you have accepted your offer you will be sent an invite to meet the staff and current students to learn more about your course along with your future classmates in early June.

The session will enable you to best prepare for starting your course in late August 2024. You will see examples of student work and we will be able to answer any questions you may have. 

Support for School Teachers

We can offer advice to School Teachers supporting pupils in making applications and portfolio submissions. We encourage School Teachers to contact us at to request support to arrange tours of our Granton campus and to request online portfolio advice sessions or visits from our staff to the School.

Portfolio Submission Deadlines

Many of our courses are highly competitive so we strongly recommend you complete and submit your application in early February and March. This gives you time to prepare and submit your digital portfolio before our first portfolio and application reviews scheduled for the week beginning the 18 March 2024.

We will then be reviewing portfolios and applications week beginning the 22 April 2024 and then on a rolling basis after this date.

We do welcome applications and digital portfolio submissions after this date and recommend later applicants submit their digital portfolios ASAP and within 10 days of receiving the instructions. 

Don’t Have a Portfolio?

We understand that not everyone who wants to start to study Art and Design has a portfolio of work ready from either school or personal study. We have introductory courses that are ideal to help you build up a portfolio that is suitable for progressing onto higher-level courses the following year.

If you don’t have a full portfolio we would ask you to apply for our introductory course, the UAL Level 2 Diploma. We will then ask you to complete and submit five drawings of household objects, for example, jars, bottles, bowls, fruit or plants. Try to use more than one type of media for example, pencils, pens, crayons, charcoal, paint or ink that you may have available.

Enjoy the process of creating the drawings and we look forward to helping you on your creative journey to become a successful Artist or Designer.

Applicants who apply for our UAL level 1 Diploma course do not need to submit a digital portfolio. UAL level 1 applicants will be asked to attend an in-person meeting to discuss their support needs and interest in Art and Design by looking at examples of their work. 

The best aspect is the relationships you create in the studios. It’s a creative, collaborative atmosphere where everyone’s ideas bounce off each other. You feel inspired and open to experimentation.
Art students working on a project in an art studio classroom.

Browse our Art and Design course

The School of Art and Design is one of the largest of its kind in the UK with over 700 students. It has a strong reputation for progressing students into degree-level study and employment in the creative industries.

Our students regularly present their art and design work in exhibitions at industry nights in venues across Edinburgh. Our graduate diploma shows in 2019 were held at The City Art Centre, The Fruitmarket Gallery and the Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop.

Art and Design courses