A few readers have asked me how to make an art website, so I decided to make a detailed tutorial to help anyone who’s interested and ready to start sharing their artwork online. If you want to create an art tutorial website like mine, I also share the WordPress theme that I use for RapidFireArt.
An art portfolio or art blog is a great way to market/sell your artwork, attract new clients or get your voice out there. If you want to make an artist website but have no idea where to start, here’s a full step by step guide to help you start a professional art portfolio or blog from beginning to end.
Step #1: Choose your Website Platform
A website platform or content management system (CMS) makes it easy even for non technical people to build a website. It requires little to no coding or design skills. The most popular platform is WordPress, which is what I use for all my sites and sites I build for other people. It’s very beginner friendly and that’s why I’m recommending it to you. Also, it’s FREE!
You can access thousands of free website themes to create the website you want with just the click of a button. Here are just a few examples of the free designs you can download for your site:
One of my favorite things about WordPress is how easy it is to install new designs and plugins. It’s like playing with lego – you can remove a piece just as easily as you attached it. Plugins are add-ons to your site like slideshows, galleries, social share buttons and more. Currently, the WordPress plugin directory contains more than 46,000 plugins and the number grows everyday. Whenever I look for a specific plugin, I’ll have at least 15 free plugin options to choose from.
For a non techie person like myself, WordPress makes building websites fun! Plus, there’s a huge community of developers and free how-to guides and videos everywhere on the web.
If you’re not interested in WordPress, here are some other popular platforms you can checkout:
This step by step tutorial is specific to WordPress. So you may want to find another tutorial if WordPress isn’t the CMS of your choice :)
Step #2: Choose your Web Host and Domain Name
Selecting a platform is only the beginning, you also need to have a web host and domain name for everything to work. Since this guide is on how to build a professional art website, I’m suggesting a paid host.
There are free options out there, but I highly discourage using them because your site will have a low cap on bandwidth, load slowly especially for portfolio sites, rank lower in search engines, have limited design and customization options and be hosted on a sub-domain which looks unprofessional to prospective clients (Eg: yourname.freeblog.com).
I Recommend BlueHost.com – it’s Cheap and Great for Beginners
Bluehost is a very popular web host for beginners and a great option to start your art website. BlueHost’s prices are very affordable, with their basic hosting package priced at $3.45/month. When you register, they even give you a FREE domain. I usually purchase my domains from namecheap.com, so this offer saved me $14 right off the bat!
BlueHost’s control panel is friendly for non-techie people, you can create professional business emails with them (eg: firstname.lastname@example.org), their bandwidth is unmetered and they offer one click wordpress installs so you can start designing your website in minutes! (I’m going to take you through the entire process later).
Select a Domain Name
This part is fun! Get your pen and paper out and start brainstorming!
- If you’re like me and you want to create a brand for your website, choose a name that is easy to remember, easy to spell and is short. Avoid using hyphens and make sure your domain name looks good without spaces. Eg: DrawingMastery.com instead of masterofart.com
- If you’re creating an art portfolio or personal website, it’s a good idea to use your name. It looks great on a business card and is easy to remember (unless your name is Eedara Veera Venkata Satyanarayana). In that case, it may be better to stick to your initials.
I always choose a .com address because it’s easy to remember, looks more professional and I strongly believe Google prefers it over .club, .online, .design and even the popular .net.
I can never remember if a domain ends in anything other than .com. If that applies to you too, you can be sure that your clients are the same as well.
You can use the search box below to check if your domain name is already taken:
Step #3: Purchase Hosting and Get Your Free Domain
If you want to host your art website with BlueHost, go to www.BlueHost.com and select a package that best fits your needs. If you just want to create multiple sites, the second plan offers you the ability to host an unlimited amount of websites (please note that when you sign up, you only get 1 domain for free).
After you select the package you need, you’ll be able to enter your desired domain name:
Next, you’ll need to create an account. At the bottom of the page, you’ll be asked to select a few package add-ons before checking out. The most important ones to me are Site Backup Pro and SiteLock Domain Security. But you can easily backup your website and protect it from malware using free plugins. If you want to sell products/services on your website, having a SiteLock certified site will be a good idea. I personally do not check any of the add-ons.
Once you go through the payment system, continue to step #4.
Step #4: Install WordPress
Once you’re signed in, you will land on your BlueHost dashboard. From there, scroll down to the tab labelled ‘Website’ and click ‘Install WordPress’.
You’ll be asked to do the installation yourself or with the help of a pro. To install it yourself, select the domain you want to install WordPress on. I leave the directory field blank (this will install WP in your website’s root folder).
After you hit the ‘next’ button you’ll be prompted to enter the name/title of your site, username and password. Your username cannot be changed easily, so choose a good one.
After you hit the ‘install’ button, your installation will start. It should take less than a minute. Then click the ‘here’ button.
On the next page, you’ll be given your site login link, username and password. Click on the link and enter your login credentials to sign into your website.
If you click on the link and land on a page that looks something like this. Don’t panic. Refresh the page in 30 or 60 minutes until you get the WordPress login page.
After you login, you’ll be introduced to your WordPress dashboard. When you try to access your site in a new browser (where you’re not logged in), it should display a “Coming Soon” page. Before you launch your site, you’ll want to install a WP theme.
Step #5: Choose and Install a WP Theme for Artists
If you’re creating a portfolio website, here are a few free and premium WP portfolio themes you may like:
Magnetic – Free HTML5 Responsive WP Template
Heat – Premium Responsive Portfolio Theme
Create multiple grid, masonry and even video galleries for your artwork and display as many images as you want in each. Responsive design looks and behaves well on desktop, tablet and smartphone.
Ad Hoc – Responsive Portfolio
PILE – Responsive Unique Portfolio Theme
Simple drag-and-drop interface with a minimalistic, sophisticated and slick design. Enjoy smooth scrolling and unique transitions between pages. Arrange your pages into a grid style gallery or break it up with a dynamic flowing layout.
Mentas – Responsive Elegant Multipurpose Art Portfolio Theme
Choose from 4 different gallery styles: masonry grid, grid view, expanding grid and pinterest style. Comes with Visual Composer, the #1 most popular drag-and-drop page builder (value of $34).
Do you like the theme I use on RapidFireArt? You can get it here. It’s called Newspaper – my favorite theme of all time because of how customizable it is (I’ve tried more than 20 different free and premium themes and was never satisfied until I got this one). You can check out the different layouts using the preview button on the sales page.
Note: This theme is not a portfolio theme! It’s great for blogging though :)
Newspaper – Responsive Magazine Theme with Visual Composer Drag-and-Drop Builder
Installing Your Theme
After you download your theme, it should show up as a zip file. If you purchased a premium theme through ThemeForest, make sure you select the download option of ‘Installable WordPress File Only’.
Now go back to your WP dashboard and click ‘Appearance‘ and then ‘Themes‘.
On the next page click ‘upload‘.
Then click ‘upload theme‘
Select your theme’s zip file and hit ‘install now‘.
When the upload is complete, you’ll get a screen that looks like this. You can choose to preview the theme or activate it. The preview option is good for when you already have your website fully setup and want to test out other themes without actually changing how your site appears to clients or readers.
Hit ‘activate’ and wait for the next page to load.
Your theme installation is now complete! Depending on the theme you installed, you may be recommended some additional installations (plugins) which compliment your theme.
Once you’ve installed the necessary plugins, it’s time to customize your website. For the newspaper theme in this example, customizations such as site colors, page layouts, fonts, etc can be made in the ‘theme panel’ under the ‘Newspaper’ tab. If you can’t find the tab for your theme, go to ‘appearance’ > ‘customize’.
If your theme has a drag-and-drop builder like visual composer, you can design the layout of a page or post by selecting the backend editor when creating/editing a page or post.
Once your gallery or blog post is up, launch it so you can share your artwork with the world!
Now you’re on your own! That wasn’t so bad was it?
Before you go, let me leave you with a list of free and premium plugins I use on RapidFireArt that I find helpful:
Google XML Sitemaps – Help search engines better index your pages
Wp Smush It – Minimize the weight your images to increase your page speed
All in One SEO Pack – Optimize your art website for search engines
Easy Social Share Buttons – Beautiful share buttons with endless customization options
Social Locker – Increase your social media shares by locking things like premium content, guides, etc.
Mail Munch – Collect emails and grow your list of subscribers
I hope this tutorial was helpful to you and wish you the best of luck with your new art website! I’m no tech wiz, but if you need any help or have any questions, let me know! I’ll try my best to help you out :)