Visual art is all over the internet, with amazing websites that make it a delight to see. As a visual artist, having an online portfolio of work is not only good for business, but it’s just easier to share that way. Even if you mainly share art on Instagram, a website can add a lot more value to your art, or even enable you to sell it in a more professional way. Creating a website for your art is easy to do yourself, and we’ll walk you through all the steps in this post.
Step 1. Medium, Style, and Goals
Over years of creating websites, I’ve learned that a website with no goal in mind—no matter how inconsequential—isn’t useful at all. Also, the medium of your art is important to consider for choosing a WordPress theme and figuring out how you want to display your art as well.
The best answer is research. We looked into some examples of great visual art portfolio websites built with WordPress, and found some commonalities that seem to work best in the current trends.
First, we found that many art websites, especially photography sites, have prominent search functions.
This makes a lot of sense in our day and age, with websites like Unsplash becoming the primary way to find stock photos. It also provides a much richer user experience with the ability to find exactly what interests you.
They key to doing this right is to have well-defined metadata and alt tags for the photos you upload, so that users can find them easily with their search terms. Adding alt tags and descriptions to images is a stock feature in WordPress. (Search functionality also comes with WordPress.)
Sorting Your Art by Category
Another built-in WordPress feature that many artists are taking advantage of is category sorting.
In this case, the artist has created their website using a basic WordPress blog feed, and provided links to categories above. It’s very easy to find exactly what you’re looking for, and makes browsing easier.
Many portfolio features, and portfolio-specific WordPress themes feature fancier ways to do this. You can easily create categories for specific media, series of work or projects, or even create collections that feature different themes or styles to showcase your versatility and interests.
Following and Shopping
If someone finds your art and falls in love, chances are they want more of it, and probably want to buy something. That’s why great visual art websites always feature social media links and either a link to buy art somewhere, or a built in store.
If you post your art on social media, you should have prominent social links, even at the top of the navigation as this artist does.
Also, why not sell your art yourself? Many great WordPress themes come ready to create an online store with complete functionality using the WooCommerce plugin. Here’s a video that explains how to set it up, if you choose to create a store.
Set Your Goals
What you want your website to achieve should determine how you design it and what features you’ll include. Think about what you are looking for, and try to translate it into features.
For example, if you want to sell art primarily, you may want to set up your site as a storefront, which displays your art like products. You don’t have to follow your goal so rigidly, of course, but it’s good to know what you want to get out of your site before you build it.
Step 2. Creating Your Art Website
If you have a goal in mind and some ideas about how you want to show your art, you’re ready to start building your art website. Follow these steps to get going.
Website Hosting and Domain Name
To build a website, you need a place to store it and a name/address for people to access it. This combination involves website hosting—a service that enables you to create a website on a secure server and connect it to the internet—and a domain—the address people type to access your site.
Website hosting companies, like Bluehost (the leader in WordPress hosting), provide hosting services and sometimes also domain names.
As an artist, you need to think about your medium, goals, and audience when choosing a domain name. For example, if you’re showcasing your work to build your name, you might consider yourname.com or yournameillustration.com, unless you already have a personal brand you’re working off of.
Next, you need what’s known as a CMS, or content management software, to make changes to your website without writing code (unless you can code websites yourself). WordPress is the CMS of choice for many artists, and it powers nearly 30% of all websites.
WordPress is great for artists. It allows you to customize all aspects of the visual design, and the technical features, using your visual acumen. But you don’t need to know code or pay someone to do it. You can express yourself with your website without having to translate that to a developer.
The key to WordPress is that you start with a WordPress theme—a template. This theme includes many features and design elements you can use to create an amazing, responsive, up-to-date website. But first, you need to install the WordPress core software.
(Remember you need website hosting and a domain name before this step).
To install WordPress you simply need to find the one-click WordPress install button provided by most hosting companies. This will be found in your control panel, or cPanel, and it will only take a few seconds. Your host will then email you some log in credentials for WordPress. You can then sign in to your WordPress admin dashboard—where you’ll customize your site and create content—by accessing your domain with /wp-admin added to the end, for example: yourdomain.com/wp-admin.
Choose a WordPress Theme
Because WordPress is open-source, there are millions of themes to choose from, and it’s easy to get stuck down a rabbit hole. The key to choosing your WordPress theme is finding the best design to start with, matched with the best features, responsiveness, and cleanest code. There are both free and paid WordPress themes (otherwise known as premium themes).
Premium WordPress themes include the most customization, best features, and cleanest up-to-date code, as well as dedicated developer support and updating. Free WordPress themes can work, but there are often too many limitations.
Install Your WordPress Theme and Import a Demo
Now, when you choose a WordPress theme, the next step is to install it on your website. So log in to your WordPress admin dashboard again, and follow this guide:
If your WordPress theme came with one or more demo designs that align with your goals, this is a great way to save time and build a quality site without reinventing the wheel. Once your design is imported, you can still customize it and change anything you don’t like. Follow these guides to import your demo and begin customizing the demo content:
Customize, Update, and Release Your Art!
Once your site is up and running with a WordPress theme, the sky is the limit. You can explore tons of WordPress plugins to add features to your website, optimize loading speed, and make your art and portfolio stand out. Check out these additional resources that will make your life easier and working with your website more enjoyable.