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How To Create An Outstanding Illustrator Portfolio

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An outstanding illustrator portfolio makes all the difference.

It encourages clients to hire you, helps you receive more commissions, and brings in more revenue.

The better your portfolio is, the more successful you will be.

That’s how highly I (and hopefully others in the field), rate an illustrator portfolio.

Unfortunately it can’t be average, it can’t be good, it has to be outstanding to really receive the commissions that you desperately want.

Your portfolio gets you noticed in a world full of other illustrators screaming for attention.

I’m constantly tinkering and improving my illustrator portfolio, with the focus on creating an outstanding portfolio. Mine isn’t perfect, but I’m coming from a place where I have built a strong body of work.

Using my first hand knowledge I’m sharing tips and tricks to help you create an outstanding illustrator portfolio. Enticing clients to work with you, a portfolio which you would be proud to share, whilst maintaining a clear and direct style.

You’re going to discover tips on how to improve your offline and online illustrator portfolio, and learn how to create a portfolio which attracts even the hardest critic! I believe it’s paramount to becoming an illustrator, so sit back, and let’s get started!

How Can You Create An Outstanding Illustrator Portfolio?

Show Your Best Work First & Last

When others look at your illustrator portfolio, first and last impressions count.

You’re remembered from these impressions.

First impressions are important in all aspects of life (including your portfolio).

You want to amaze others by your first image (which introduces them to your portfolio on an excellent note), but you also want to leave them with an amazing illustration (that they will remember).

This might sound like a given, but it sometimes goes overlooked within a physical portfolio.

It’s a bit different for an online illustrator portfolio. Users might not travel down a page, so you want to arrange your best work at the start of your online portfolio.

Tip 1 – Physical portfolios: your best illustrations first and last. Online portfolios: best pieces first

Let Your Work Do The Talking

As a creative, you want your illustrative work to do the talking.

This is what the likes of Art Directors (who commission commercial illustration on a regular basis) are truly interested in, and hire you for.

Focus on your work and nothing else.

So how can you let your illustration work do the talking?

– Arrange your illustrations on a white background
– Remove gimmicks
– Make it easy to navigate and discover more about your work
– For a physical illustrator portfolio, keep your text to a minimum and give a brief explanation of each project (remember to focus on your work)
– Online portfolio: give more of an in-depth feel to each project, which also helps SEO
– Create a super clean website

I believe the more refined and focused you are, the better your work will appear.

Really celebrate your work!

Tip 2 – Remove gimmicks, place your illustrations on a white background and make it easy to navigate

Focus On Your Branding

Much like a company’s brand – text, images, and colours need to be consistent.

If you look at the popular brands, you will see that they stay consistent with everything they do. From marketing, their communications, to products.

You remember consistent brands.

Take this forward when designing your illustrator portfolio.

Use the same typefaces, the same colours, the same messages, everything. You want to guide people effortlessly and consistently throughout your work.

This leaves a good impression of professionalism, but also helps them remember you in the future.

For example, I use orange a lot within my branding. I love orange, and hopefully I’m remembered for it too (as it’s a bit different).

Tip 3 – Create a consistent look and feel to your portfolio (your branding)

Have A Consistent Illustration Style

Much like a consistent brand, you want to have a consistent illustration style too.

Clients want to know the sort of style they will receive if they commission you. The worse thing is to have an inconsistent style.

This leaves potential customers confused about the work they will receive.

We like knowing what to expect, hence why the biggest companies out there are so popular – think about a shop, restaurant or holiday vacation you have been to more than once.

You went back there because you know you wouldn’t be left disappointed, know they offer a good service, and are satisfied by the outcome.

Encourage a client to keep working with you by showing a consistent style.

Tip 4 – Make sure all of your illustrations have a consistent style

Practice, Refine And Improve

Always refine, improve and experiment with your illustration style.

An outstanding illustrator portfolio, as I said previously, it’s all about your work.

You’re judged from the outset, so if you’re not happy with your current portfolio, or you feel your current illustrator portfolio is just average, keep improving until you’re happy with it.

This will take your work to new heights, and your illustration portfolio will benefit as a result.

Here’s some ways you can improve your work;

– Draw and practice your craft everyday
– Push your skill boundaries and learn something new
– Go above and beyond for clients
– Ask others for their advice and constructive criticism of your work
– Surround yourself with inspiration, go to art galleries, immerse yourself with creativity
– Work on personal projects
– Collaborate with a fellow creative
– Learn a new discipline

There are a few ways to improve and refine your illustrations – work hard and you’ll be rewarded!

Tip 5 – Work daily on improving your illustrative style

Include commissioned work

Clients want see your experience and see the work you have done for others.

This gives you an advantage, as you’re not just an amateur anymore, but a fully grown professional.

Social proof is crucial and gives you the edge.

For example, if your portfolio included illustrations for Nike (I chose a big company on purpose), others would presume you know what you are doing, and are amazing at what you do too.

If you don’t have any commissioned work, that’s ok! Show your personal work and the pieces which you are most proud of. Having no commissioned work isn’t the be all and end all.

Tip 6 – If you have it, include commissioned work to raise your social proof

Focus on quality rather than quantity

If you feel a particular project isn’t good enough, remove it!

Sometimes we want to show absolutely everything in our illustrator portfolios that we include too much.

You might think including everything is wise, but it’s actually counter-intuitive, as it devalues the quality of your work.

Try and focus on the quality of your work, and really maximise each project or illustration you have. Especially within the online portfolio space, include details, sketchbook development, and makes others sit up and take notice.

Tip 7 – Remove pieces of work which aren’t good enough!

How Have You Improved Your Illustrator Portfolio?

I hope you have enjoyed this blog post!

The key with creating an outstanding body of illustration work is by concentrating on quality. Quality always wins, as cream rises to the top as they say!

But I would love to know how you have created, designed and arranged your own illustrator portfolio. Comment be below with your thoughts, and do comment if you have any questions for me also!

Keep illustrating, having fun with it, and action these points mentioned above.

If you would like to discover more blog posts like this one, head over to my blog page for more, or have a look through my own illustration portfolio, and see what you think! I’m well versed in editorial and publishing illustration, and have worked for many companies such as The UKScouts, The Clerkenwell Post to National Musuems Liverpool.

Many thanks for listening and visiting my news page today. You can follow what I’m up to on my Twitter, Facebook or Google + pages, I’ll really appreciate it if you do, and don’t be afraid to say hi to me! Many thanks again, and have a great day!

Have an illustration, design or creative project you want help with? Contact Haydn today!