How to Make a Print Portfolio

Purchasing a portfolio to fit and present your photographs can be difficult and expensive. Fortunately, you can easily construct a case that will distinguish the presentation and protect the prints. Here, instructions will teach you to make a basic folding portfolio. Personalize these instructions to create the appropriate case for your photos. The portfolio demonstrated here would ideally hold up to a few dozen un-mounted photographs. If your portfolio needs to encase a book or several mounted photographs, build it with a spine: make an additional fold in each flap at the desired distance (usually between 1/2 and 1 1/2 inches) from the first fold. You can elaborate further on these guidelines by wrapping a lighter paper (in lieu of cardstock) around chip board for increase stability.


• 2 pieces of thick paper or foldable card stock. The papers can be different colors or materials; the interior paper should be acid-free so that it will not stain or mark the photographs.
PVA glue or wheat paste.
String or ribbon for tying the covers closed.

Ruler or T-square
Utility or Xacto knife

STEP 1: Assemble photographs
Choose and measure the stack of images you want to enclose (11 x 14 inches for our example).

STEP 2: Measure and mark the first portfolio paper.
This sheet should be oriented horizontally; it will be ultimately become a tri-fold whose flaps will fold in to become the front covers. The height of the back cover should be a 1/2” taller than the height of your artwork (in our example, 11 1/2 inches). The width of the back cover should be at least two inches longer than twice the width of the artwork (in our example, 30 inches). If you are building a spine into the portfolio, widen its width accordingly.


Draw vertical fold lines 1/4” beyond the widest dimension of the artwork (in our example, fold line to fold line will measure 14 1/2 inches). You can center or de-center the section between the fold lines according to where you want the flaps to overlap - in the middle or towards one side. For a portfolio with a spine, draw additional fold lines at the chosen dimensions beyond the first.

Cut and fold at the appropriate places. Use the ruler to keep your edges straight.

STEP 3: Measure and mark the second portfolio paper.
This paper should be oriented vertically, as it includes flaps that will fold down and up to secure the artworks. The width of the paper should allow it to fit neatly inside the other paper when folded: 1/4” is generally enough leeway between the widths (so, our second paper should be 14 1/4” wide). The paper's height should allow the flaps to nearly touch without overlapping when folded: generally, 1/2” more than twice the height of the artwork makes a good height. For a portfolio with a spine, include additional height as appropriate.

Mark folding lines on the second paper, just inside the vertical dimension of the first (here, the folded height should be about 11 3/8”). For a spined portfolio, make additional fold lines as needed.

Cut and fold at the appropriate places. Make sure that the two papers align correctly and allow ample room for your artwork.

photo: Make sure that the two papers align correctly.

STEP 4: Glue the two papers together.
On a clean surface, place the first piece of paper face-up with flaps open. Apply the glue to this paper between its folding lines (not on the flaps). Place the second paper on the first (also face-up, though folds can be closed to make the paper more manageable) so that the back of the second paper presses into the belly of the first. Make sure that all appropriate surfaces are entirely adhered. Take care that excess glue does not seep out onto the edges of the portfolio.

Place the papers under a weight or press so that they dry flat.

photo: Place the papers under a weight.

STEP 5: Mark and score the outer flaps to allow for the appropriate tie enclosure.
If your tie is made of ribbon, make a narrow vertical incision on each flap, parallel with the edges. Glue the end of each ribbon to the inside of its respective flap: to make the end look cleaner, cover the inside with a small piece of paper.

photo: Mark and score the outer flaps.

Ties made of string can be threaded through a small hole and then either pasted to the inner flap or knotted to stay in place. You can put one string on each flap or wrap a single string around an anchored object (buttons work well; this example uses a twig). The object can be glued in place or tied to the end of the string.

In our example, the string is tied only to the twig: knots on the other side of the hole keep it in place. The string is wound around the V-shaped notch in one flap and the twig anchored to the other.

photo: Create a tie by wrapping a single string around an anchored object.

photo: Create a tie by wrapping a single string around an anchored object.

photo: Create a tie by wrapping a single string around an anchored object.

Portfolio Resources

Franz Zeier
, Books, Boxes & Portfolios: Binding, Construct and Design, Step-By-Step (McGraw-Hill, 1990).
Benjamin D. Rinehart
, Creating Books and Boxes (Quarry Books, 2007).

Light Impressions

Sells archival and presentation materials.

Hollinger Metal Edge

Sells archival products.