Preparing For Your Portfolio Review

Portfolio Guidelines

All portfolios are reviewed by multiple full-time faculty members from the School of Art. We're just as interested in your imagination and creative thinking skills as your technical skills. We particularly love to see what you make for yourself, so we ask that your portfolio include as much work as possible done independently and outside of the classroom. 

Your portfolio should consist of 12 to 20 recent works. Your portfolio can include works in any or all of the following media, as appropriate:

  • Drawings and paintings done from observation and/or imagination
  • Photography, printmaking projects, collage works, mixed media, etc.
  • Computer-generated or computer-assisted imagery
  • Sculpture or other three-dimensional works in any medium or size
  • Environmental or site-specific installations (i.e, work created for a particular location, either indoors or outdoors)
  • Works that change with time, such as kinetic sculpture, animation, performance, live-action video, film, audio, etc.
  • Interactive projects (such as a game you programmed yourself) or work made with Arduino, Processing, Unity, etc.

We understand that some of the above work (such as performance, installation, or some interactive media) will need to be presented in video documentation. Applicants are also strongly advised to include a few page spreads from their sketchbooks.


Recommendations for your Online Portfolio

For images:

  • We recommend JPEG files of approximately 1MB, or roughly 1000x1000 pixels. Please don’t upload very high-resolution versions.
  • Please don’t include multiple variations of the same image taken with different camera settings; just pick one. 
  • Flatwork (such as paintings, drawings or prints) should be scanned or photographed so as to fill the digital image completely. Please don’t include picture frames. 

For sculptures, 3D media and other physical objects:

  • A neutral background is recommended, so that it doesn’t distract from the work.
  • For kinetic sculptures or complex installations, consider presenting a 30-second demonstration video.

For video and sound:

  • We ask you not to upload video or audio files longer than 3 minutes. If your work is longer, present an excerpt.
  • Videos are limited to no more than 120MB, and should be uploaded in .MOV, .MP4, .WMV, or .FLV format.
  • If your video uses a soundtrack (such as a song) by someone else, be sure to credit them.
  • Audio files are limited to 60MB, and should be uploaded in .MP3 format

For interactive projects, such as a game you programmed:

  • We recommend documenting interactive software projects with screen-captured demonstration videos, ideally with narration. Please keep any such documentation videos under 3 minutes in length, and under 120MB. Please let us know which programming languages you used.

Online Submission Frequently Asked Questions

How do I submit my portfolio online?

Carnegie Mellon has contracted SlideRoom, a private company, to manage applicant portfolios. Submit your portfolio online by visiting the SlideRoom portal. You must first register/create an account with SlideRoom in order to upload your portfolio. The SlideRoom website allows you to upload digital images, videos, PDF files, audio files and even links to external sites like YouTube.

I plan to come to campus to show my portfolio, do I still need to submit my portfolio online?

Yes. The School of Art requires all applicants to submit a portfolio for online review.  A campus visit is an excellent opportunity for an interview and discussion of a few select pieces from your portfolio with a faculty member, but it's purely optional.

Does Carnegie Mellon have any requirements, suggestions or recommendations for my online portfolio?

Yes. Please read our Required Portfolio Review page carefully. 

What if I have already registered/submitted an online portfolio through another institution's SlideRoom portal?

Many institutions use SlideRoom as their applicant portfolio management system, so if you’ve already created an account, you don’t need to create another one to submit your portfolio to Carnegie Mellon. You can use the email and password that you’ve already created on SlideRoom to submit a portfolio to Carnegie Mellon. If you wish, you can ‘tune’ your portfolio in different ways for each school you're applying to. Please note that SlideRoom only permits applicants to have one email account.

Who do I contact if I'm having technical issues with SlideRoom?

Once you’ve registered with SlideRoom, you’ll see a Help tab on the online portal. From this section of the website you’ll be able to submit any technical questions; a representative from SlideRoom will contact you. Questions about technical issues with SlideRoom should not be directed to Carnegie Mellon. 

Do I need to submit multiple portfolios if I'm applying to more than one area at Carnegie Mellon?

Yes. The Schools of Architecture, Art and Design at Carnegie Mellon are independent departments, with different faculty, admission processes and portfolio requirements. Portfolios submitted to one program will not be viewed by the others. This means you can tune your portfolio to the individual requirements of each Carnegie Mellon program if you wish. You may apply to no more than three colleges/programs when applying to Carnegie Mellon.

Do I need to submit a portfolio if I'm applying to one of the BXA (BHA, BSA, BCSA) intercollege degrees?

Yes. Carnegie Mellon’s interdisciplinary BXA degrees (BHA, BSA, BCSA) require applicants to be admitted to two colleges. So if you’d like to combine your interest in the humanities, natural sciences or computer science with art, architecture or design, you’ll need to submit a portfolio through SlideRoom.

How much does submitting an online portfolio cost?

Each portfolio submission requires a $15.00 fee that's paid online. For example, if you’re submitting your portfolio to the School of Art and the School of Design, you’ll be charged $30.00.

I have a piece of work that consists of more than one picture, like a 20-page illustrated book. Is it possible to submit multiple images of one work?

We realize that many applicants have works that cannot be shown in their entirety. It’s up to each applicant to edit and present their work in the way that best shows what they’re doing within the limited frame of a portfolio. For videos and films this means selecting the most essential portions of the films for reviewers to view. What you choose to include and exclude can show reviewers something about what you consider to be important about your own work. For a project with multiple portions, perhaps a compromise approach would work well -- one image that gives an overview of multiple pages, followed by one or two detail shots of individual pages. SlideRoom provides you with space to describe each work submitted, so you may certainly reference each item as a portion of the whole. 

Am I able to provide a description of each work?

Yes. SlideRoom allows you to provide a description of each work including a title.

May I send higher-quality documentation by mail, in addition to the versions uploaded to SlideRoom?

No. The School of Art doesn't accept any such supplements or mail-in portfolios. We only review the items selected, submitted and described within the online portal.

What should I bring for the on-campus interview?

The interview will focus on the conversation between you and the faculty members who interview you as much as, or more than, the work that you bring. Bring a small selection of work that you consider the best work in your portfolio. These pieces will serve as a starting point for the conversation. We ask all applicants to bring their sketchbooks or illustrated journals. In addition, applicants should bring up to 6 artworks comprising of any of the following:

  • Actual two-dimensional work such as drawings, paintings, photographs, prints, etc. smaller than 22x30. 
  • Small and non-fragile three-dimensional work such as sculpture, ceramics, glass, textiles, etc.
  • Another sketchbook, illustrated journal, etc. (Each of these is considered one item.)
  • Digital images, animation, or videos. These may be presented from your own laptop computer or tablet. If you bring a thumb drive, please ensure that it performs correctly on Mac OSX.
  • Interactive work (Please bring your own laptop to demonstrate your interactive software artworks such as games, etc.)
  • Website

Please don’t bring large or fragile work. Due to space and time constraints, and for your own convenience, we ask that you not bring flatwork larger than 30”x44”. For large, heavy and/or fragile works, bring photographic documentation instead.