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https://www.haydnsymons.com/blog/how-to-create-an-illustrator-portfolio/ How to Create an Outstanding Illustrator Portfolio English An outstanding illustrator portfolio makes all the difference. It’s a make or break scenario. An outstanding illustrator portfolio has three distinct advantages. It encourages clients to hire you, you receive more commissions, and adds to your revenue. What could be... https://www.haydnsymons.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/how-to-create-a-illustrator-portfolio.png 2023-10-15

How to Create an Outstanding Illustrator Portfolio

An outstanding illustrator portfolio makes all the difference.

It’s a make or break scenario.

An outstanding illustrator portfolio has three distinct advantages. It encourages clients to hire you, you receive more commissions, and adds to your revenue. What could be better? The stronger your illustration portfolio, the more successful you will be. That’s how highly I rate an illustrator portfolio. Unfortunately it can’t be average nor good, it has to be phenomenal.

The crowded illustration industry they say… Hundreds and thousands of illustrators are competing against each other. For this reason, you need to make yours the best. Do you want to be good, great, world-class, or a living breathing icon?

Your portfolio gets you noticed in a world full of illustrators screaming for attention. I frequently improve my illustrations and skillset, focusing on high-quality. Mine isn’t perfect, but I’m coming from a place where I have built a strong body of work that is constantly improving.

Within this blog post you will learn how to create an illustrator portfolio. I’ll go into depth about what you should include, how to create a digital and printed portfolio, and share my tips and advice throughout.

Not only will we be looking at your offline portfolio, but also your online portfolio too. Ultimately, you’ll learn how to create a stunning portfolio that attracts clients. This article is perfect for those of you who are wanting to become a freelance illustrator, or want some tips to help create your portfolio. If you’re also interested in graphic design, check out my guide to help learn how to create a graphic design portfolio.

Why is it important?

Let’s start with an example of your toilet leaking in your house. You decide to call a professional to help you fix the godforsaken mess. Your top priority when hiring a plumber is trust. You need them as soon as possible, you wish for the best price, and most importantly, you want them to do a good job. If it’s not a good job, then you’ve wasted your money. You’ll need to hire another plumber to re-fix the leaking monsoon.

Norman Rockwell Quote

This is not too dissimilar to what customers looking for in an illustrator. They desire a good price, they want it soon, and they also crave a fantastic job. If you’re illustrator portfolio isn’t up to scratch, then they will look else where. Your illustrator portfolio is your window front, and it needs to deliver. If customers notice you’ve worked with other customers (social proof) and also done a great job, then they will be less inclined to look elsewhere.

A common job title for those commissioning illustrators is an Art Director. Their main industries are in the publishing, advertising or editorial. They want their own designs to sing, and I don’t blame them either. Everyone wants to work with the best, for others to recognise their work. There’s also nothing worse than designing with poor imagery and illustrations. They may also secretly crave others noticing the great illustrations they’ve used, bolstering their own credentials and merit.

This is why it’s crucial to nail your illustrator portfolio, so these customers don’t look elsewhere.

What does a perfect illustrator portfolio look like?

An illustrator portfolio converts potential clients into customers.

It reveals your illustration skills, your style and should ‘wow’ the audience. It gives potential customers a clear sense of your style, your experience, and how you can help them. Feeling like they have to hire you.

An illustration portfolio has to be clean, it has to focus on your work, and it has to be clear and targeted. If you manage to make sure you have these components nailed, then you’re going to see success.

Paris Art Print

Customers want to visual your illustration style inline with their project. For example, if they were to commission an editorial illustration, your illustration style is what they would expect. It’s the same style that’s shown within your portfolio. It has to fill them with confidence that you are the right illustrator for the job, and that they can trust you to deliver for them. This is evident in your previous experience which is on shown in your illustration portfolio.

Splitting up your portfolio

You can’t please everyone, which is why you have to target your work within your portfolio. Suppose you want more map illustration commissions, a good idea would be to;

  • Highlight map illustrations throughout your portfolio.
  • Position map illustrations at the start, middle, and end (which I’l discuss later).
  • Reach out to potential customers who have a need for map illustrations.

Think of it this way, you wouldn’t visit Apple for furniture. You would go to IKEA instead (other brands are also available). With your portfolio it’s exactly the same. If you want children’s book publishing commissions, this needs to be at the forefront of your portfolio.

This is a scenario that you should aim for within your illustrator portfolio. Think carefully about your perfect client, what they want to see and gear your portfolio around this person (or people!).

Pro tip: Build a portfolio that ‘wows’ potential customers. Focus on quality, rather than quantity, and gear your portfolio around what you want to be commission for.

How to create an outstanding illustrator portfolio

When potential customers look at your illustrator portfolio, first and last impressions count. First impressions count in all aspects of life. Even though we don’t want to admit it, it’s true. You’re remembered from these impressions. According to artofmanliness:

“It might seem unfair that people form such a firm assessment of you in such a short time, and think that these snap impressions are bound to be faulty. Yet dozens of studies have shown that first impressions are actually highly accurate in gauging a person’s true personality and abilities. It turns out you can actually judge a book by its cover after all.”

How does this relate to your illustration portfolio? You want to amaze others by your first impression, that introduces them to your portfolio and starts on an fantastic note. You also want to leave them with a couple of amazing illustrations, that they will remember at the end of your portfolio.

Cornwall Map Illustration

This might sound like a given, but it’s often overlooked. It’s important in a digital website portfolio, and even more so in a physical portfolio. For an online illustration portfolio, it’s slightly different, as users might not scroll down a page. So you want to arrange your best work at the start of your online portfolio or above the fold, with your weaker ones at the end.

This draws people into your website, makes users click around and keeps those bounce rates down. Create that ‘wow’ moment from the get-go and you’ll have fans for life!

For a physical portfolio, put a couple of your best work at the front and then at the back. This ensures you deliver that great first impression. Equally, you’ll leave a strong lasting impression.

Tip one – With your physical portfolios, arrange your best illustrations first and last. With online portfolios, put your best pieces first, or high up the page.

Let your work do the talking

You want your illustration work to be the focus. This is what the likes of Art Directors, those who commission commercial illustration on a regular basis want to see.

Focus on your work and nothing else. So how can you let your illustration work do the talking?

Online portfolios

  • Place your illustrations on a white background.
  • Remove gimmicks.
  • Make it easy to navigate and discover more about your work. Think about a good user experience by constructing signposting with easy navigation.
  • Add content and explanation to each project. This can help your website’s SEO (search engine optimisation. You could add sketchbook work to each project or an in-depth analysis of your though processes.
  • Create a super clean website that’s easy to use and is accessible for all users.

Physical portfolios

  • Keep text to a minimum and give a brief explanation of each project.
  • Consider purchasing a leather bound portfolio.
  • Carefully think about the size and orientation. Do you want to make a big bold statement? Maybe A3 size is best. Do you create landscape illustrations a lot? Perhaps a horizontal arrangement is ideal.
  • Remember the focus is your work.

Tip two – Make your work the focal point. This is key for a online and physical portfolio. Remove those gimmicks and make your work shine.

Create a personal brand

Branding doesn’t just work for big companies, but also works excellently for personal brands. Even though big company brands have a considerable branding budget, a personal brand offers you complete control. Unlike the likes of Nike to Tesco, you can dictate how you communicate your personal brand. No going through lots of jurisdiction to change the tiniest of brand elements, you can change what you want, when you want to. What is it you want to communicate with your brand? Is it edgy and modern? Or are you the traditional, trusted illustrator? The typography you use, your illustrations, and colours need to be consistent. In regards to colour, it’s worth seeing what colours make up the colour wheel, and deciding on three or four colours to fit into your brand.

Solidifying consistency

If you look at popular brands like Microsoft to Apple, you will see that they stay consistent with everything they do. From their marketing, their communications, to product packaging.

You remember consistent brands. Keep this in mind when designing your illustration portfolio. Use the same typefaces, the same colours, the same messages, everything. You want to guide people effortlessly and consistently throughout your portfolio. This adds consistency to your portfolio, which in turn, adds another level of consistency to your illustrations. They go hand in hand.

Surfing Landscape Illustration

This relates professionalism, but also helps them remember you in the future. For example, I use orange within my branding. I love orange, and my work is often quite striking and eye-catching, which is why this colour works well.

What is the brand that you want to communicate?

If you’re a editorial illustrator, your brand may be powerful, striking and bold. Whilst if you’re a children’s illustrator your branding may be fun and playful. It’s always worth to consistently refine and improve your branding, as it can benefit your freelancing, and illustrator portfolio considerably. This helpful branding guide has a ton of tips to improve.

Tip three – Continuously improve your personal brand, which helps not only your business but your illustrator portfolio. Make your typography, colours, to your tone of voice consistent. A solid brand sticks in people’s minds, and helps them remember you.

Owning an illustration style

Similar to a consistent brand, you want to have a consistent illustration style too. The word ‘style’ is often thrown about in the world of illustration. It’s important, so potential customers can visualise the style they’ll receive if they commission you. However, it’s what a lot of novice illustrators fret about. A style comes naturally from practising your craft, and working out what you like, and how you like doing it.

Forcing a illustration style can lead to more frustration, and doesn’t always achieve the outcome you want (a style you like). It’s a catch-22, you need a consistent illustration style, however forcing it doesn’t lead anywhere! The worse thing is to have an inconsistent style. This confuses potential customers about the work they will receive if they commissioned you

Instead of becoming frustrated by the lack of ‘style’, this is your chance to have some fun. Experiment with different mediums, subjects to ways of working. This is your personal time, that you can be your artistic self.

Tips to see what sticks

  • Whip out your sketchbook and have fun.
  • Use different mediums. From digital, acrylic to drawing.
  • Take a deep dive into an illustration industry, are there any you would like to work for?
  • Experiment! This is your chance to just be creative, no rules here.
  • Look at other illustrators in the space, what inspires you?

These will certainly help point you in the right direction. It’s crucial that you don’t copy an illustrator’s style because you like it and it’s popular. Don’t be synonymous for that, as you have your creative voice. It’s great to take inspiration, and I think we all take away bits and pieces from the work going on around us, but please don’t simply copy.

John Singer Sargent Studies John Singer Sargent Drawings

Away from illustrations, there’s so many famous artists that you can take inspiration from. From Monet, Van Gogh to Rembrandt, you can certainly steal a fraction of each, and make it your own. For example, looking at the colour of famous artists can be a great starting point. The image above shows master studies from the great John Singer Sargent. I’m looking closely at how he drew his portraits, for me to learn his process. It doesn’t mean my illustration style is now pencil drawing based. However, I can use this knowledge to help fulfil my illustrations. A fine quote from Ron Lemen on Muddy Colours:

“Copying from successful works of art is a way to connect with the thought process, the techniques, the choices that the previous generations of historically famous artists made.” – Ron Lemen.

Stepping away from illustration, plunge into fine art, graphic design to even fashion. Lunging into other artistic avenues will make you a better illustrator. You’ll have a greater depth of knowledge, and your work will benefit hugely.

Tip four – make sure all of your illustrations have a consistent style. If you don’t have one, experiment, inspire yourself and work on personal projects. Take your time with the process.

Practice, refine and improve

Always refine, improve and experiment with your illustration style, was an outstanding illustrator portfolio is 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 average, keep improving until you’re satisfied. Aim for it to be your best work.

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

Illustrator Portfolio

Tips to improve your work

  • Draw and practice your craft everyday.
  • Push your skill and learn something new.
  • Go above and beyond for every customer.
  • Ask others for their advice and constructive criticism, instead of aiming to receive positive comments about your illustrations.
  • Surround yourself with inspiration, go to art galleries, immerse yourself with creativity.
  • Work on personal projects, especially outside of commissioned projects.
  • Collaborate with a fellow creative and produce an awesome illustration.
  • Learn a new discipline and completely get out of your comfort zone.
  • Work on your weaknesses.

These are a few ways to improve and refine your illustrations. Work hard, progress and be rewarded handsomely!

Tip five – Work daily on improving your illustrative style and your portfolio will improve as a result. Experiment, practice your craft and push that skill level.

Include commissioned work

Potential customers want to hire an experienced illustrator, so make sure you’re illustrating (pun intended!) your commissioned illustrations first.

This gives you an advantage, as you’re not just an amateur, but a fully-fledged professional. Social proof is crucial in all walks of life, and within your illustrator portfolio is no different.

For example, if your portfolio included illustrations for Vodafone, potential customers and clients will assume you know what you are doing, and are amazing at what you do too. “They have worked for Vodafone? Well, then they must be good!”

Rebranding Designs

The catch 22 is when you have zero commissioned work to show. This is an interesting and sometimes tough problem when first starting out on your freelancing journey. Before you ask, it’s perfectly ok if you don’t have any commissioned work though.

I suggest you showcase your personal work, and the pieces which you’re proud of first. Making sure you put your best foot forward by placing your proudest pieces first. Having no commissioned work isn’t the be all and end all, but it can definitely help seal the deal.

Once you secure a few customers under your belt, don’t tuck them away. Arrange the illustrations at the fore front of your portfolio, even placing their logo next to the work can help with that social proof.

Tip six – Another great social proof is the art of the testimonial. After an illustration project, ask the customer if they can give you a testimonial, to put on your portfolio, website or even social media platforms. There is no harm in trying, and if you have produced some great illustrations for them, they will be more inclined to accept.

Focus on quality

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

Sometimes we want to show absolutely everything in our illustration portfolios, which results in including too much.

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

Direct on the quality of your work, and maximise each project or illustration you have. Especially with your online portfolio, include details like sketchbook drawings and paintings, and make others sit up and take notice.

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

Creating your portfolio illustration website

One of the most important aspects for any freelance illustrator is their website. This is your shopfront, and when done correctly, can lead to repeat business. A simple illustrator website is usually the best, as you want the user to fixate on just one thing; your work.

To have a successful portfolio website you can simply house three webpages:

  • Work page
  • Contact page
  • About page

If you want to make your website even more simple, have an illustration portfolio page and contact page, as these two are the most important pages.

To start, create a website with WebFlow or Adobe Portfolio (which is free with CC), or hire a website designer (like me!), to help you design and create your portfolio. These are great starting blocks. WebFlow is quite expensive, however I’ve heard countless great things about this product. You are in control of how it looks, without the expensive development time, perfect!

The advantage of using a freelance website developer is that your website will be totally unique to you. Fortunately for many illustrators (hopefully including you too), you will have some design skills. The bonus is that you can design your own website, saving you a bit of dosh. Building a individual website is unique but it’s more of an expense.

I recommend you use your name as your website URL. If you want to be totally different and wacky, you can choose something not even related to your name. The whole idea of a portfolio website is drawing people to your work, gaining intrigue and ultimately hiring you.

If you become overwhelmed whilst designing your illustrator portfolio website, go back to basics. Keep it super simple and let your work do the talking.

Improving your website’s SEO

Take the time to make sure your website is SEO-friendly, as a lot of traffic can arrive from search engines. Make sure you have a good amount of descriptions and keywords, your website is fast loading and mobile friendly.

If you already have a website and want help with SEO, one recommended avenue for you to consider is by setting up on a blog on your website. Here you can become a thought leader in your space, draw more traffic to your website and add more content from your blog. If you have your own blog, check out these blogging tips to help you improve.

As your website will be image heavy, it’s a good idea to optimise your images for web. This makes sure your images load fast and keeps load time down. This improves your SEO ranking.

To do this in Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Illustrator, make sure you’re always ‘Saving for Web’ at 72dpi, saving either JPG, PNG or WEBP. WEBP is often the best for web, as it has a small file size and still looks great on screens. On top of this, further optimise your images by using Tinyjpg – which reduces the file size of most images.

Tip eight – Use your own name for your website URL, keep it simple and if you’re overwhelmed, house only three pages. Create a blog on your website to gather more traffic.

Purchasing a physical portfolio

Even though an online portfolio is critical, having a physical illustrator portfolio is also recommended when you meet customers face-to-face. Admittedly I don’t use mine too often, and you can certainly get away with not having one. But it comes in handy, and I certainly recommend you create a PDF at least, if the time arises. Flicking through pages feels like a greater personal touch than on a laptop screen.

If you want to purchase a physical portfolio, I recommend you choose a leather portfolio, either in A4 or A3 size. A4 is great for transportation, however A3 delivers that instant ‘wow’. I use A3, as I feel A4 is too small.

Illustrator Portfolio

Whatever size you choose, aim for a maximum of fifteen pages, with a minimum of five pages. Anything more than this, and your client can become bored, and too little looks like you haven’t done much work..

I recommended PRATT portfolios, which are high quality, leather and communicate a professional vibe. Definitely avoid ring-bound portfolios as these look cheap.

Things to consider with your physical portfolio

  • Design your portfolio on a white background.
  • Consider a splash page at the start of your portfolio (which showcases your contact details, your brand and who you are.
  • Place a few business cards or tear-sheets (an A4 sheet of paper that advertises your work, which customers can take away) at the end of your portfolio.
  • I recommend designing your portfolio on Adobe InDesign (or similar software).
  • Stick to one orientation. It can be frustrating going from landscape to portrait, and then back to landscape.

Tip nine – Create an illustrator portfolio website with WebFlow, Adobe Portfolio, or hire a website designer. Create a simple website that concentrates on your work. For a physical portfolio, choose leather portfolios.

Should you include a splash page?

A splash page is an introduction to your portfolio, often showing your branding, logo and your contact details, like mine below:

Splash Page

But should you put a splash page within your physical portfolio?

I personally recommend it, as it offers a nice introduction to you and your work. It’s also recommended if you’re sending your portfolio as a PDF via email – so potential clients know your contact details if they want to get in touch with you.

What about a splash page within your online portfolio?

In contrast to a physical portfolio, I don’t recommend a splash page for your online illustrator portfolio. A splash page on your website can be annoying, and requires an extra click to users, it’s an unnecessary action. Users online don’t have a lot of patience (they say you have 15 seconds to capture their attention), so get them your portfolio immediately.

Tip ten – Avoid a splash pages for your website, however add one to your physical illustrator portfolio as it’s a good introduction.

What orientation should your illustration portfolio be?

This is a personal preference.

For me, my physical illustration portfolio is portrait. If I want to place a full scale landscape illustration in there, I spread the piece across a double page spread.

Equally, a landscape portfolio can be beneficial too. There’s no right or wrong approach with this, as it’s up to you.

What can swing the balance is the type of illustrations you commonly produce. If you illustrate lots of landscape illustrations, then choose a landscape orientation. However if you produce a lot of editorial illustrations (which are commonly portrait) or portrait illustrations, then go for portrait.

Tip eleven – Opt for an orientation that suits you and your type of illustrations best. There’s no right or wrong option, however one orientation might serve your illustrations better.

Segmenting your illustration portfolio

Segmentation is great if you have multiple projects, themes, or if you work across multiple industries. For instance, if you’re main focus is children’s book illustration, but you also dapple in editorial illustration.

Separating your physical portfolio gives the viewer a breather, and offers a nice introduction into the next section. For my own segments, I use my brand colour for the entire background, with typography on top.

I certainly recommend segmentation if your portfolio is complex and you work across multiple industries.

Tip twelve – Segment your portfolio to break up your portfolio. Use segments for multiple projects, themes or niches.

Should you include descriptions?

Within your physical portfolio you may want to include a description or annotation for each illustration or project. Like the orientation of the portfolio, these are a personal preference.

Saying this, they can advise the viewer about projects. Descriptions are longer in length, however an annotation gives a brief overview of who the customer was and its title. It’s especially useful if you’re not there in person to run through projects with potential clients yourself.

Be careful about how much text you’re including, especially with descriptions. Keep these tips in mind when using them:

  • Give an project overview.
  • Who the illustration for?
  • The idea behind the piece.
  • Any associated stories.
  • Concentrate on your illustration work, so a maximum of one or two short paragraphs.

With my own physical illustration portfolio, I include a brief, 8 word maximum annotation per illustration. This insures they are clear, concise but informative.

Although, with an online illustration portfolio, I would recommend a project or illustration description. It can be two or three paragraphs in length. Indubitably, your portfolio shouldn’t be a ridiculous amount of content, as users simply don’t read it! However, content is great for SEO, and can certainly help you build that traffic. It’s said that 200 words per page is a good indicator. Resist ramming the content with keywords and write as you would normally write.

Tip thirteen – With physical portfolios, you can include a short description to help the viewer understand the customer, idea and project. An annotation offers a brief indication of customer and title, this is shorter in length than a description. Whilst online, it’s certainly recommended to include a description.

Creating an impeccable design

It’s essential you master the design of your illustration portfolio. Design impacts both your online and physical portfolio. Have a great design, and your illustrations sing. Create a poor design, and your illustrations suffer. This all comes down to effective design of your illustration portfolio. An illustration portfolio designed and arranged beautifully dramatically adds appeal of your illustration work. Branding, layout and typography all helps sell your work. It’s that crucial!

First of all, stick to a clean, engaging and consistent layout. For example, have a look at this 4 page layout with a physical portfolio.

Layout Design

This layout becomes tedious over four pages. Now imagine how boring it can become over fifteen pages! The same layout throughout isn’t engaging and can bore potential customers to death. Don’t do it! Now look at this example below:

Layout Design

You can see that adding variety to your layout creates interest in your work, and avoids your portfolio from becoming tedious. I would certainly recommend getting to grips with the backbone of graphic design fundamentals, including typography, hierarchy to composition. If it’s any help, take a look at some of my design work to help inspire you. I also list my recommended design resources that I love, including a great book titled ‘Thinking With Type’ by Ellen Lupton. This one book can improve your typography tenfold. Check out my design, illustration and creative resources here.

Furthermore, it’s also important to make sure your pages use grids. Grids create cohesion throughout your portfolio, and aid layout. Learning how to use grids can help create a sense of professionalism with your portfolio.

Tip fourteen – Reinforce your illustrations by learning the backbone of design fundamentals. This includes typography, hierarchy to composition. Not only does learning these fundamentals help your illustration portfolio, it can help your creative work in so many ways. Think of social media imagery, marketing materials showcasing your illustration work, to business cards.

What about external portfolios?

If you don’t own a website, then you might have a Behance, Deviant Art or Tumblr page. These are brilliant at building your audience and I love them, including Instagram too. Saying this, it’s still crucial for you to showcase your work on your own illustration website. You can use these other websites (like Behance), to direct traffic to your portfolio website.

External websites are out of your control. One minute they may say X, the next minute they may say Y. They might change one of their algorithms and your work may be negatively impacted. Additionally, you’re not in control of how the website looks and functions.

However, you are in control of your own website. You dictate how it looks, it’s content to it’s structure. I have my own Behance portfolio and Dribbble portfolio, that points to my main website. Not only can you control your own website, but you can also build traffic to this website, without it going to another website!

Tip fifteen – Keep updating your external portfolio pages and build that audience. However it’s highly recommended that you create your own website, that you can control yourself.

What software should you use?

I recommend you use a publishing software to create your illustrator portfolio, like Adobe InDesign for example. You can set the page size, margins, grids to bleed, and is the best software out there to create publications.

I wouldn’t recommend Illustrator or Photoshop (or another brand similar to use, like Affinity), as these are more appropriate for image creation.

Adobe InDesign can be quite daunting if you’re new to it, so I’m going to share a quick tutorial to help you build a simple portfolio PDF.

With Adobe InDesign open, go to ‘File’> ‘New’ > ‘Document’.

Creating Your Portfolio In Adobe InDesign

You can set your page size, bleed and margins. I recommend you click on the ‘Print’ tab at the top of the box, and set your bleed to 3mm (you can leave all other fields default).If you want to learn more about document bleed, this is a great resource. Once you’ve done this, click create, and you’re ready to start developing your illustrator portfolio.

Creating Your Portfolio In Adobe InDesign

Creating Your Portfolio In Adobe InDesign

Then use the Rectangle Frame Tool (or F). Click and drag to draw boxes onto the page. This tool allows you to place images into these boxes, to create your portfolio. You then locate your image on your computer, click and drag an image into each frame (an image could be a PSD, AI to jpg file).

Creating Your Portfolio In Adobe InDesign

Creating Your Portfolio In Adobe InDesign Creating Your Portfolio In Adobe InDesign

Creating Your Portfolio In Adobe InDesign

An image can be made to fit within a frame by clicking on the bottom on the top navigation, in the centre.

Creating Your Portfolio In Adobe InDesign

Creating Your Portfolio In Adobe InDesign

To create new pages, select the page tab on the right hand side, and click on the new page button on the bottom right.

Creating Your Portfolio In Adobe InDesign

You can then export to a PDF from ‘File’ > ‘Export’, and choose PDF (Interactive) or PDF (Printed). Interactive option is for a PDF shared digitally. For example, if you were to include hyperlinks in your PDF, and you’re not bothered about printing the portfolio, choose the interactive option. If you’re going to print the PDF, choose printed. There you go, your illustrator portfolio is created!

Any optional extras to include?

Now you have the fundamentals sorted, are there any optional extras that you might want to include in your online and physical illustration portfolio?

  • Include a business card, which you can leave with a potential customer if they want to reach out to you in the future.
  • Add an about and blog to your website. This is great for increasing traffic and gaining more exposure.
  • Include real life examples of your work. For example, you may insert a printed magazine illustration sample within your physical portfolio, to demonstrate the front cover illustration.
  • Use Google Adwords or social media advertising to increase the number of eyes on your work.
  • Create an epic brand that supports your illustrations.

How have you improved your illustrator portfolio?

Wow, we covered a lot in this article! I hope you’ve enjoyed reading and you’ve learnt how to create an epic illustrator portfolio.

If you’re still stuck with creating your illustrator portfolio (especially your online portfolio), take a look at my website for further inspiration. Heck, see what I do and steal some of my ideas (just remember me when you become rich and famous).

The key with creating an outstanding body of illustration work is by concentrating on quality. If you nail quality in everything you do, then you’ll succeed. Energy, talent and quality is the magic formula! Quality always wins, as the cream rises to the top.

In conclusion

  • When arranging your illustration portfolio, make sure you’re putting your best work first and last.
  • For online portfolios, put your best work at the top of the page.
  • Keep your portfolio simple, with the focus on your work.
  • Increase your social proof by showcasing your commission illustration work at the start of your portfolio. If you haven’t worked for any clients, make your personal illustrations shine.
  • Purchase a high-quality leather portfolio.
  • If you don’t have the funds to hire a web designer to design your website, choose an external website to help or design one yourself.
  • Always look to improve your illustration skill, it pays dividends with your illustration portfolio.
  • Consider studying design to help aid your illustration work. Graphic design through to UX / UI design has helped my overall freelancing and illustration game considerably.
  • Use Adobe InDesign (or a software equivalent) to produce your illustration portfolio.
  • Showcase your brand and personality with your folios!

I would love to know how you have created, designed and arranged your own illustrator portfolio. Have these tips helped you? Comment with your thoughts below!

If you dabble in design, consider taking a look at my ultimate guide to creating your graphic design portfolio. Much like this article, it’s the bible when it comes down to building your graphic design portfolio.

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

Discover more blog posts like this one by heading over to my blog for more. I’ve recently published a new article all about how learning tertiary colours can improve your colour theory. Or take a look at my recent perspective article, all about the horizon line.

If you’re not well versed with who I am, I’m a freelance illustrator based in Hampshire. I’ve been illustrating for over a decade, in advertising, editorial and publishing illustration. I’ve have worked for many organisations such as The UKScouts design, The Clerkenwell Post to National Museums Liverpool.

Many thanks for listening and visiting my news page today. You can follow what I’m up to on my Twitter or Facebook 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!

How to Create an Outstanding Illustrator Portfolio

Haydn Symons

Freelance Illustrator Haydn Symons - Freelance Illustrator For Hire
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