Illustration – Portfolio Basics

Illustration – Portfolio Basics

One of the most important “must-have’s” for an illustrator is a professional-looking portfolio. Wether you are a student with no experience or a seasoned professional, your portfolio needs to show your best foot forward. It is the first impression given of you and your work, talent and style, and you only get one chance to make that first impression!

I’ve compiled a few links to articles discussing the basics of setting up your best portfolio impression, and I will add some of my own tid-bits based on my experience over the years in past positions as an Art Director, designer and freelance illustrator.

Here is some valuable reading on art portfolios from Computerarts.

Portfolio “How-To’s”.

Portfolio tips from children’s book editor Cheryl Klein.

Preparing a Student College Portfolio.

You will definitely want to be specific in directing your portfolio to the specific area you would like to focus on.

As a children’s book illustrator and a graphic designer/technical illustrator, I have several different portfolios.  If I am showing my work to an art rep who promotes to children’s publishing, I will obviously show the specific portfolio for my children’s illustration.  Trust me, they do not want to see highly technical renderings of machine parts, or the latest and greatest ad you just completed for that fortune 500 company.  I have seen artists lump everything together into one portfolio and show that one portfolio to everyone.  All it does is dilute your work and the viewer will have a difficult time sorting out and remembering exactly what it is you do that can be of use to them.

Start out with a great looking case, even if it doesn’t cost a bundle of money make sure it is in good, clean condition.

With a “screwpost” portfolio you can control the amount of page inserts in the book.  For illustrators, try to keep it at 10 to 12 of your absolute best work.

Try to get a professional’s, (or 2) opinion on what your “best” work is.  Sometimes we have a hard time choosing for ourselves.  I was lucky enough to sit down for a portfolio review with award winning children’s illustrator E.B. Lewis.

His feedback and pointers were very helpful and the images that he was choosing as my strong pieces were different than the one’s I had thought were.  He also suggested that I follow a “post and Rail” theme to the book, meaning that you intermingle strong “Post” pieces with the weaker “Rail” pieces.  That’s not to say that the “rail” pieces shouldn’t be just as high quality.

I hope this information has helped you in setting up your illustration portfolio.  Feel free to add a comment.  Thanks for visiting!

Lorraine Dey

illustrator – Deystudio, LLC (
(click on the “about” tab above to see more about Deystudio, LLC)

FREE Vector of the month from Deystudio, LLC:

click on image above to get a PDF file.


This month’s featured site…”Brewer-Cantelmo Presentation Cases”

Quality Presentation Cases for illustrators and Photographers.


Featured image for this month…(from my RF stock portfolio)

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