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A guide to digital folios

By Ashley Monaghan in Easy Reading
2nd of July 2020
Folio tips - ATAR Notes

Usually, it’s very common to make a traditional folio, carrying around a large A3 book with the appropriate art supplies and hoping to never lose it. However, have you ever considered making a digital one?

Digital folios have both their advantages and disadvantages in comparison to their traditional counterparts. As someone that has transitioned from a traditional folio to a digital one, these are some of the main differences from my perspective:


1. Your work is stored in one place and easy to access.

All you need to bring with you is a computer, much lighter than carrying around a huge art book and thousands of different markers. A great alternative for those that have to travel long distances to get to school.


2. It’s easy to manipulate your work.

This includes making multiple copies of it and being able to freely try using different colours without the fear of ruining your work.

Folio tips - ATAR Notes


3. There is huge flexibility in the way you can organise your work.

If you don’t like something, you can just copy and paste it onto a new document and ‘restyle’ it again.


4. You save much more time typing a folio up rather than writing it.

This means you can go more into depth with other areas of your folio, which may improve your marks.


5. There is no such thing as losing your folio, spilling water on it and having a breakdown because all your hard work is gone.

When this happens, all you have to do is reprint your folio and put the pages into a large A3 binder with some plastic sleeves. Problem solved.


6. Drawing digitally means you can alter your designs whenever you receive feedback without having to start again from scratch.

If you don’t like the colour or shape of something after you finish drawing it, it takes less than a minute to change it.


7. There are many auto-colouring programs, which can provide a base-layer for your artwork and save you many hours of colouring by hand.

The one thing you can’t get with traditional folios is the freedom of ‘Ctrl Z’.


The only disadvantage with digital folios in my view is you may have to purchase a drawing tablet ($80 – $100). However, it’s an investment I recommend as it can be used for your other subjects too! There is also the cost of printing coloured A3 sheets, but in comparison to the amount of markers/pencils/art books you will purchase while doing a traditional folio, the costs will be roughly the same.


Ok, I’m interested in making a digital folio. What applications can I use?

Note: Most of these programs will require you to have a drawing tablet to be able to perform at its maximum ability.


Drawing programs:

Clip-Studio Paint

Out of all these applications, this one is my personal favourite when it comes to sketches and fully rendered drawings. Not only is this one of the easiest to use applications, but it can also auto-colour your designs in a quick, simple and efficient way for any last-minute drawings.

For students who are considering to be primarily drawing for most of their folios, this application is a must-have. There are many tools and textures you can achieve while also being very easy to put annotations around a piece. This program is expensive to buy on its own, however, if you are buying a drawing tablet for the first time (Wacom) this program may come included in your package. (Note: Paint-Tool-Sai is like Clip-Studio-Paint however it is more expensive.)

Folio advice - ATAR Notes


Adobe Illustrator

This application is commonly used in design subjects where you making technical/working drawings. Used by design students around the world, if you plan to pursue a tertiary study in design, learning to use this program for your high school folios could be useful.

Illustrator is more suited for making digital art from scratch as there are more tools to use for your drawings. Illustrator uses a ‘vector’ graphic type, meaning that it will not lose its original quality when scaled into a bigger or smaller size.


Applications/Websites to put your work together:


A free website with thousands of templates to construct your folio of any size! All you need to do is create an account and all your documents will be saved under it. It’s easy to use and you can import your images into the website while also being able to freely annotate around it.

Once you are done, there are multiple options to export your work such as a PDF, PNG, JPEG or even a video. This is my favourite website for constructing my design folio and I highly recommend that if you plan to pursue a digital folio, you use this!

Folio tips - ATAR Notes


Mainly photo-editing but can do small digital sketches:

Adobe Photoshop

A great starting point for editing art for both beginners and professionals. Perfect for small edits or final touches to your drawings. Creating layers, merging them and applying effects such as gradients are very easy to use and there are plenty of other functions such as transformations to use if you find you need to ‘tweak’ your art in a specific way.

You can also create digital art on here, however, it will be ‘pixel-based’, meaning that if you try to reshape your image it may lose its quality.


Purely Photo-editing software:

Adobe Lightroom

An application solely for processing digital photos and changing lighting, exposure, etc. It is commonly used as the final step to make any last modifications to a piece. This app is a must-have for photography/media/design students that will be taking many photos and need them to be ‘mass-edited’.


That’s it for all you need to know to get started on creating a masterpiece digital folio! Look after your folio buddies and have a great time making your first or improved digital folio!