As a Recruiter for OCAD U, I get asked about what to include in a portfolio all the time. And sometimes students don’t have resources, tools or space to make the kind of work they would like. It can be a real challenge pulling a portfolio together, but get creative! Be sure to check our website for the specific portfolio requirements here. This post is to help you if you are lost for ideas and have no money, time or tools to make stuff! Get creative, think outside the box and use what you have around you. I recommend that you don’t directly copy/or steal any of these projects. Make them your own, we want to see original work!

Use what you have at hand. Don’t have any art supplies? Well what do you have? A smartphone? old magazines or newspapers?  popsicle sticks? yarn? old clothes? corks? rope? wire? old lightbulbs? scissors and paper? scraps of wood? buttons? old electronics? Get creative!

Make a photo lens for you phone. If you have an iPhone or smartphone, use it to take neat photos. Check out this tutorial on using an old camera lens to make a macro lens for your phone, or this one which uses the light from an old CD player.  Don’t have access to an old lens? Than use a water drop like this one shows.

photo by Tested


Make a sculpture out of sticks and string.  Wrapped sticks are beautiful works of art! Paint them, wrap them in wire, string, yarn, thread, strips of fabric, ribbon etc. Check out some examples here. I spent my Christmas Holidays wrapping cord with embroidery thread to make beautiful collars and necklaces!


Make your own stamp.  Cut it out of an old eraser, an apple or a potato. Colour or paint it and stamp away! Try painting leaves or feathers and using those as stamps. Carve the small pink pencil eraser into a stamp. What else can you stamp?


Once you’ve stamped or wrapped, why not decorate a tote bag, or a t-shirt, or a pillow case? Make a necklace, wrap some beads! Or make some beads out of paper for your creative projects!  Learn how to here.

Hack your old electronics and teach them new tricks! Whether it is adding a laser to an old plastic kids gun (be careful!), to teaching your robot vaccum to draw, there are a million cool tricks for upgrading and rebuilding old electronics.  Check out some options here.

Make a collage. Collage can be a very versatile approach to making art works. You can collage onto things – bottles, old furniture – or make a collage image. You can save photos, stamps, scraps of paper, maps etc to create one. Check out a few unique examples here, here and here.


Make a digital 3D rendering! Interested in Interior Design, Architecture, Envrionmental Design or  Product Design? Check out Google Sketchup – it’s a free version of Sketchup Pro, a 3D rendering software program used by designers in these industries. It’s great for planning an exhibition layout, designing a floor plan, building a design for a prototype. Download it free here, and check out some examples!

Build a model! If you’re interested in a 3D program, build a model or sample of a sculpture (if, for some reason, you can’t make the actual sculpture), or build a model of a house or building! Make it out of cardboard, foam core, wood, toothpicks, Popsicle sticks or whatever you have access to! The trick is to come up with a clever design, and no matter the material, even if its a scraps, make it crisp and professional. Proper and clean execution can make all the difference! Google some samples, see if you can get inspired.

Make temporary environmental installation art. This truly costs nothing, you need nothing but the world around you! Using leaves, stones and dirt you can make beautiful images and pictures – check our Andy Goldsworhty who makes stunning temporary sculptures in nature and this guy here who makes images with snowshoes in the snow.

There a million samples and ideas I could give you or things to make for cheap and for portfolio ideas. Look around you at what you have to make art and design projects. Be creative. Be clever. Put things together well, cleanly, neatly and professionally. There is no excuse for not having enough in your portfolio, as there are options all around!

I hope this helps, and good luck to you all!