How to Put a Children’s Illustrator Portfolio Together

Children's Illustrator Portfolio Header

Spring is finally here and that can only mean Conference Season has started!

With that in mind, I thought I would write a Blog Post Series about The Craft of Portfolio Making.

Today we will focus on the making of the Physical Portfolio. We will be talking materials and how to best present your work for a Portfolio Show or a face-to-face Meeting. When we are done (post purchases and put-togethers) you will be walking around town with a new portfolio under your arm. Let’s get started!

1. Portfolios.

There are several options of what to use to display your artwork. You can make one from scratch or you can purchase something made and customize it a little. I personally prefer the latter. With that in mind, I will list some of the Portfolio options I have seen used that I think looked wonderful. Please click on images for enlarged views.

{ Pina Zangaro } This company makes portfolios that are beautiful. With a large variety of cover options, you will definitely find one that fits your personality. For an extra fee, you can laser etch or color print your logo on the cover. If you opt for that, congrats! They look fantastic! Most of the portfolios come in 8.5″x11″. Some are also available in 11″x14″. Their screwpost design allows for easy adding and subtracting of pages. Refillable. Price: $60 and up. Images courtesy of Molly Idle.

{ Kolo } These are my personal favorites. With 12 cloth cover options, you are bound to find one that fits your brand. Black leather cover also available. Screwpost design for easy adding and subtracting of pages. Available in 8.5″x11″ and 11″x14″. Each album comes with 10 cloth-hinged sheets. Extra sets of 10 sheets are sold separately. Sheets can be off white or black. Refillable. Price: $30 and up.

{ Blurb } An uncommon but really nice looking option. It demands a bit more time and some design skills but if you have both, you will end up with a GREAT looking portfolio. Only Con: when it is time to replace an image, you will have to print a new book. Price: $30 and up. Images courtesy of Santiago Uceda.

You also have all the other portfolios that are easily available at any art store. Most of the time, these are not refillable which leaves you with too many or too little pages. Another dislike, the plastic sleeves. They reflect light at times which makes the art hard to see. Sleeves also get scratched and wrinkled easily.

2. Image Selection.

Select 10 to 12 pieces. Those pieces will introduce your work to Art Directors and Editors. How do we best tackle that? Here is how to accomplish it in 5 easy steps:

{ Step 1 } Create a folder on your desktop and save .jpg files of what you consider to be your strongest work.
{ Step 2 } Come back the next day and make your selection smaller. If you are like me, it is clear we have picked too many. 15 to 20 will do.
{ Step 3 } * Grab your calendar and call the cavalry! Find a date that works for your core group of children’s illustrators and write it down in your calendar. You are getting together and debating the selections.
{ Step 4 } * Make high resolution prints on high quality paper of your best 15-20 pieces. One image per sheet. Print them as large as you will show them in your portfolio. Good reproductions are key to represent the work well.
{ Step 5 } * Make it to the meeting. Show your reproductions to your friends. Together you will select your 10 to 12 best pieces. Once done, continue celebrating. You are out of the house and with friends. Take advantage of it!

* These may be challenging if you live far from civilization. What to do instead? Meet via Skype, Facetime or Google Hangout. Don’t like stepping in front of a camera? Create a Dropbox folder, move your selection of images there and share it with your online critique group. Don’t want to have your work up in the cloud? You can always email your selection to your closest illustrator friends. They can reply with their votes.

Next Tuesday, I will share the images and thought process while I was putting together my 2011 and 2012 portfolios in my post: “Mentee Portfolio vs. Grand Prize Winner Portfolio”. Make sure to come back for that.

3. Mounting the Work.

Mounting your work can be as easy as putting your images in a plastic sleeve or mounting your reproductions to a page. If you choose to use a { Kolo } album, you will have to cut and mount your pieces on the sheets.

On May 28th, I will share the details and secrets of how to do that in my post: “The Craft of Portfolio Artwork Mounting”. The post will include a Giveaway. What would you get? A brand new { Kolo } Newport album. Come back and enter!

In the meantime, here are some images from May 28th’s post.

4. Flow and Continuity.

This is something Molly taught me: You must think of your portfolio as a book. Pay close attention to the order in which you have placed your pieces. One page should lead you to the other. If you feel one illustration stops the flow, move it somewhere else or take it out completely.

Once you are satisfied with the flow and continuity of the illustrations, put it away. Look at it with fresh eyes a couple of days later. If you are happy with it then, Congratulations! You have done it! You have put a fantastic portfolio together!

Now you can carry it around town, bring it to the Portfolio Showcase or proudly take it to your face-to-face meeting.

5. Examples.

Before I leave, I want to share pictures and details of some great portfolios. Please make sure to visit the illustrators’ websites. I have included the portfolios of:

Click on images for enlarged view. See image captions for credits.

6. Other Posts.

Two Portfolio Winning Children’s Illustrators have also blogged about Portfolio Making. Here are the links to their posts. I would say read them and decide for yourself what YOU want to make of your portfolio:

Thought of any more portfolio brands to add? Have any portfolio tips? Have links to add to the list of Other Posts? Leave a comment. Please, do come back and let me know if this post helps you this Conference Season.

From here, all my good vibes to you! Until next Tuesday for the new post in this Portfolio Making Series :)

Children's Portfolio Series and Giveaway

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  • Awesome information! Thank you so much for sharing!

    May 14, 2013
    • Thanks, Hannah! Glad to help :)

      May 16, 2013
  • Thats awesome, great information, I always wondered and thought about putting something together.

    May 14, 2013
    • Hi, Nora! And now you can do it :) Thanks for reading and visiting the site! Nice to meet you!

      May 16, 2013
  • Great post Juana!

    May 14, 2013
    • Thanks, Jen! :)

      May 16, 2013
  • A wonderful resource, Juana! You’re right on the money, as I’m gearing up for SCBWI LA again, and am trying to approach my portfolio with eyes wide open. The timing of this series is great! Fab tips. :)

    May 14, 2013
    • Glad to help, D! Thanks for everything :)

      May 16, 2013
  • This is the absolute perfect post for me! I have been to the summer conference twice and each time I learn a little more about making a better portfolio. I have been looking for those cloth-hinge pages! Thank you for sharing the site to get them from. I will definitely be ordering them for my portfolio this year! Thanks to you, we will all have professional looking portfolios!! :D

    May 14, 2013
    • Hi, Lauren! More than happy to help. It took me a looooong time to find Kolo. I figured others were looking as well :)

      May 16, 2013
  • This is fantastic and really got me thinking! Thank you and can’t wait until your next post!

    May 14, 2013
    • Thanks, Renee! Thanks for reading and your support! :)

      May 16, 2013
  • Thanks for putting all this together – great for me, just starting out!

    May 14, 2013
    • Glad to help, Julie! Make sure to read Eliza’s and Molly’s blog posts as well. Great info!

      May 16, 2013
  • Laura

    What an amazing resource! I’m new to this as well and appreciate such user friendly suggestions.

    May 14, 2013
    • Glad you find the post an easy breakdown of what it means to have a physical portfolio. Good luck this year! :)

      May 16, 2013
  • Thank you, Juana! Very inspiring portfolios. I used to teach portfolio classes, but attitudes, supplies and requirements change over time, so I’m looking forward to a super refresher course!

    May 14, 2013
    • Hello, Kathryn! And nice to meet you. Thanks for your comment. I am really glad this helps you. I feel humbled :)

      May 16, 2013
  • Juana, thank you for this instructional post. Couldn’t make it to SCBWI this year…hopeful for next year, which will be my first. I love your site and illustrations. Glad to meet you. I have also subscribed so I don’t miss anything. Blessings, Laura

    May 15, 2013
    • Hello Laura Anne! Nice to meet you! Thanks for the support and kind words. Please let me know how it goes when you put your portfolio together.

      May 16, 2013
  • Juana,

    This post is fantastic! I’d love to share it with my readers as a guest post at Let me know! And again, wonderful information!

    -Wilson W, Jr.

    May 15, 2013
    • Glad you enjoyed it, Wilson. I’ll be in touch. Thanks! :)

      May 16, 2013
  • Thanks so much for this great post, Juana, and for including my portfolio pics.

    To others: If you like my handmade portfolio cover, I know that Beckett Gladney takes custom orders on her Etsy shop: — She has a wide range of gorgeous fabrics, and I highly recommend her work.

    May 15, 2013
    • Glad you added Beckett’s info and link, Debbie. And thanks for your help, time and pictures :)

      May 15, 2013
  • Thank you for those links for portfolio displays!! This is so helpful!

    May 15, 2013
    • Glad to help, Linda! :)

      May 16, 2013
  • This was so informative and helpful. Thank you.

    May 15, 2013
    • Glad to liked it! Nice to meet you and thanks for reading, Carolyn! :)

      May 16, 2013
  • Bonnie Adamson

    Thank you, Juana,

    Just in time for me–I’ve been researching, but had not found Kolo–thanks for the information, tips and great examples. Looking forward to the rest of the posts!

    May 21, 2013
    • You are very welcome, Bonnie! Glad I could help :)

      May 21, 2013
  • Thank you, Juana! I’ve been looking for a new portfolio and this information was very helpful.

    May 23, 2013
    • You are very welcome, Andy! And very nice to meet you. Really enjoyed looking at your work. Good luck with the new portfolio! :)

      May 23, 2013
  • Ana maria

    Thank you for this absolutely amazing information, i was trying to do my portfolio of my illustrations..and you are giving me an amazing, neat and very colorful ideas..thank you thank you!!.

    May 24, 2013
    • Hola Ana Maria! You are very welcome. Thanks for the comment and good luck with the portfolio! :)

      May 24, 2013
  • This is the most helpful post I have EVER read on this subject. I am self taught, but somehow managing to get work- so I need all of the info I can get! I LOVE it :)

    June 18, 2013
    • Hi Alex! Congratulations on your determination and projects! I’m glad to know the post is helpful for you!

      June 18, 2013
  • This is really interesting and helpful. I was wondering if you could give more details about the actual prints you show in your portfolio… do you make them on your home printer? (If so, can you be specific about dpi, paper types /finishes /weights, RGB vCMYK etc). Or are they color laser copies? Or even (cost-prohibitive!) Giclee Prints??

    And I have also always wondered how to deal with the problem of having very wide pieces, and then very “tall” pieces… Is it OK to make the viewer have to keep turning the portfolio around to look at things, if you see what I mean…

    Great series of posts… and wonderful blog, too!

    June 20, 2013
    • Hello Maral! Thanks for your comment and questions.

      Prints – I do my prints at home with my Epson Stylus Photo R3000. Images are RGB, .tiff files at 300 dpi. For paper I use Epson Ultra Premium Presentation Paper Matte – my original work is also matte so it fits. I have to tweak and do a few prints before the color is just right.

      Format – I prefer avoiding the portfolio flipping but it’s a personal choice. I stay with a horizontal layout since most of my pieces are horizontal.

      I hope this helps!

      July 2, 2013
  • Very nice.

    September 2, 2013
    • Thanks, Jennifer!

      September 3, 2013
  • […] You can find her priceless tutorial on creating a Children’s Illustration Portfolio here. […]

    September 20, 2013
  • thanks so much for so generously sharing this with the rest of us. I’m shooting for the feb. 2014 sbwi conference this year and hope to create a portfolio for review. I will definitely draw from your insights here.

    thanks so much!


    October 13, 2013
    • Hi Linda! Glad to help. Best of luck at the Conference!

      October 13, 2013
  • Kim Jolly

    Hi Juana!
    Would you NOT recommend placing images on the front and back of portfolio pages?

    October 17, 2013
    • Hi Kim!

      I would give each piece it’s own page with plenty of white/black room around them. I think that putting 2 pieces side by side would make them compete for the viewers’ attention.

      If you have more questions, please do not hesitate to ask :)

      Good luck with your critique and/or show!

      October 17, 2013
  • […] to twelve of the strongest ones. On my blog, I have a series of posts about portfolios, including how to put together a children’s illustrator portfolio, a comparison of my 2011 and 2012 portfolios, and a how-to on mounting […]

    December 5, 2013
  • Thank you for this great resource! I’m attending my first conference in NY and your information and links were immensely helpful. Off to create my portfolio now! :)

    January 15, 2014
    • Thanks for the comment, Christine. Glad to help. Best of luck in NY!

      January 15, 2014
  • Hi Juana,
    Thank you so much for the wonderful post! I am working on putting together my first portfolio for my first SCBWI conference and loved the beautiful blurb books you showcased. I have heard/read that an illustrator should put their name/website on each page but I haven’t been seeing it on the examples. I wonder if you could give some insights on this? I’ve also heard that it is good to have loose sheets of each page for people to take? Thank you so much for this incredible post. It has been a huge source of information and inspiration!

    March 12, 2014
    • Hi Christina,

      I don’t know how I missed your comment. My apologies.

      In regards to your questions, I’ll speak from my personal experience:

      A1 – My portfolio only has my name on the cover. I think less is more. A page where only your work is showing will give the viewer more time to really see it. Nothing to distract them.

      A2 – If you are going to a meeting, then you can carry some extras to leave behind. At the same time, these days we can just email samples after a meeting while you thank for the opportunity to meet with the person.

      I hope this helps. Feel free to ask if you have any more questions. I normally reply within a day :)

      April 30, 2014
  • Bethany Ann

    Hey, I’m currently updating my portfolio but I’m not sure what’s acceptable to put in it, does my work have to be COMPLETELY original or am I allowed to include (my own) illustrations from well-known books, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea etc? I can’t find an answer anywhere! Please help.

    February 1, 2016
    • Bethany Ann, it is perfectly fine to do illustrations of traditional fairy tales, well-known books, and/or folktales. Good luck!

      February 1, 2016
      • Bethany Ann

        Thank you so much!

        February 2, 2016
  • Matthew

    Hi Juana. I stumbled upon your blog a few months back and I’d like to say thank you. Your illustrator portfolio posts have been a tremendous help as I have been putting my recent work together for upcoming conferences. Also, your work is beautiful and inspiring. I can see why you won the SCBWI portfolio showcase!

    I do have a technical question if you don’t mind. I prefer an 8.5 x 11 (horizontal) size portoflio and I am trying to figure out how to show a wider spread without shrinking it down to fit one page. Do you find it’s acceptable for the spread to go across two pages? My portfolio is a screw post, so the binding won’t show, but there will be a break in the spread due to the sleeves. Any advice would be great. Thank you!

    April 11, 2016
    • Hi Matthew! Thanks for your kind words. Glad to hear that the posts have helped you!

      In regards to the horizontal portfolio, I personally prefer to show the illustrations on one side only. I feel the cut distracts the viewer from looking at the illustration.

      I hope this helps!

      April 12, 2016
      • Matthew

        Hi Juana! Thank you for getting back to me so quickly. I appreciate you sharing your opinion and expertise. It makes total sense. You’ve confirmed my concern with regards to the page break distracting from the artwork. I will stick to one side going forward. Also, thank you again for your informative posts about putting together a portfolio. I really searched far and wide for any information on this topic a few months back. I found a few small articles here and there, but none that were as specific and detailed as your posts. Take care! Matthew

        April 12, 2016
        • Thank you for the comments and visits! Feel free to email me anytime. Good luck with the portfolio!

          April 13, 2016

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