Promo University

What are the Differences Between a Padfolio and Portfolio?

Alyssa Mertes

Published: October 28th 2020

Portfolios and padfolios have become staples in the business world. Portfolios have handles and zippers that run to the top to bottom for easy access. Padfolios, on the other hand, do not have handles and come in either letter or legal size.

It's easy to understand why some people think padfolios are the same as portfolios. Both are available in a variety of materials, though leather is the most popular. They also both contain places to hold papers and/or a legal pad, and both have space within them for additional office supplies (such as pens, pencils, highlighters, calculators, maybe some candy, etc.).

What You See is What You Get

So what are the differences? Portfolio is kind of a fancy way to say briefcase. Portfolios were designed for carrying by hand, and they generally have two handles at the top. Portfolios also have a zipper that runs from the top to the bottom to allow easy access. 

Of course, some portfolios are a lot bigger than a briefcase. The larger versions have carrying straps or longer handles so that they can be carried over the arm like messenger bags or purses. Larger portfolios are often used by artists and models to show their artwork or pictures to potential clients. You've probably seen people carrying them around the city.


Padfolios are slightly different. For one, they lack the handles at the top because they're meant to be carried under the arm. Also, they're available in two sizes: letter size and legal size, which refers to the size of the padfolio when it's closed. The letter size fits standard-sized pieces of paper (8 1/2" x 11"), while the legal size holds a standard-sized legal pad (8 1/2" x 14").

Some padfolios have zippers and some do not. Many have a buckle-type closure on the front just in case you have an aversion to zippers, or are particularly fond of buckles.


It's What's on the Inside that Counts

So that's the skin-deep difference. Now let's get to the guts, or the "internal" differences between padfolios and portfolios. Portfolios are typically larger or thicker because they're designed to hold a multitude of items (remember, some are big enough to carry around artwork). Many of them open accordion-style to accommodate more than just papers (although they won't actually make music, unfortunately). On one side of the portfolio there is space for a steno or a legal pad, and on the other side there are extra pockets used to store miscellaneous office items.


A padfolio is kind of like the portfolio's younger sibling. Padfolios are thinner and more lightweight because they are designed to contain "flat" items like paper or notebooks. They have the same space on one side for a notepad or a legal pad, but instead of having extra pockets like portfolios, they usually have only one pocket. This pocket is large enough to store a thin file or several extra sheets of paper. However, there are some versions that have small storage compartments for pens or pencils.


It is very easy to become confused when shopping for either a padfolio or a portfolio! It helps to know your clientele, and anyone else who will be using your giveaways. If you need a quality promotional item to for taking notes (or to encourage others to take notes) at a seminar, the padfolio would probably be a good choice. Then again, if you're a salesperson whose office is the nearest place with free WiFi, the portfolio would be the one to go with.

Bubba breaks it down

So the next time someone comments on how awesome that debossed logo is on your portfolio you can say, "This is actually a padfolio, but don't worry. It's a common mistake."