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How to create an online illustration portfolio

If you want to work as an illustrator (full-time or as a side project), you need a portfolio. At least in my opinion and experience. Potential clients and employers almost always want to see some of your work before they decide to work with you, so having something to show will increase your chances of being hired.

Quick links:

📦 What do I put in my portfolio?

Your portfolio should showcase your best work. Don’t try to put everything you’ve ever made into it. Focus on your very best pieces, the ones that are most likely to catch the eye of your potential clients.

Include pieces of work that you enjoyed making. Your portfolio is basically saying “I make this kind of work”. That means that people are most likely going to commission you for work that’s similar to what they see in your portfolio. If you love making infographics and would love to make more, fill your portfolio with them. If you hate designing slide presentations for example, don’t include presentation design work in your portfolio, because clients will assume that you make slide presentation designs and offer you projects that you actually don’t want.

😱 But I don’t have any work to show! What do I do?

I don’t have any work to put in my portfolio…so I can’t get clients…so I don’t have any projects to work on…so I don’t have any work for my portfolio…it’s a vicious circle, right? I’ve been there! If you aren’t getting commissions yet, don’t worry. You can still make a portfolio by using personal work.

My advice is to create a personal project for yourself, as if you were the client. Think of a project that you’d love to make, and once you finish it, you can add it to your portfolio.

🖥️ What platform should I use?

Once you’ve collected all the pieces that you want to showcase, it’s time to start building! Where you create your portfolio is your personal choice. It depends on how much time and money you’re willing and able to spend on it. Here are a few options:

  • Free portfolio sites For example Behance, Dribbble, Artstation Some platforms allow you to simply upload pictures of your work without worrying about page design, text, or anything. Some of them are more focused on a specific industry, like Behance for graphic design and Artstation for visual development. ✔️ Pros - It's free. - It's super quick and you can focus only on uploading images. - These pages are usually well optimized and designed. They load fast and the potential customer viewing your portfolio will usually have a good user experience. Cons - Usually it's very easy to navigate from your profile to someone else's, and sometimes your work is shown next to other illustrators'. - There's not much opportunity to customize your portfolio.

  • WordPress (more or less free) I say more or less because you usually have to purchase hosting and a domain for your site, although these are usually a low cost. ✔️ Pros - There are many free themes that you can use to customize your portfolio. - By having a separate website, you keep your audience focused solely on your work. - You also have the opportunity to add extra things, like a contact form, a blog, and a page about you. Cons - It has a bit of a learning curve. - Some of the free themes have very few options for customization, and if you want to do more fancy editing, you might need to code.

  • Visual website editors (freemium) For example Wix, Squarespace, Weebly, Carbonmade These are editors that allow you to create a site by dragging and dropping elements, so you don't need coding skills. Wix is the platform that I use for this website, and in my experience it's a great option for an online portfolio, as well as easy to use. ✔️ Pros - They usually have a free version (sometimes with their own branding). - It's very easy to create a custom website without knowing how to code. - They often offer premade and customizable templates. Cons - To remove the watermark from your website you usually have to purchase a premium plan. - Like with WordPress, if you want a custom domain you have to purchase it, and for example in Wix, you also need a Premium plan if you want to connect a custom domain.

There are other more premium options, but if you're just getting started, in my opinion using a free platform or plan is a good way to begin. I hope you found this post useful! If you have questions about digital art or working as an illustrator, feel free to reach out. I'll be happy to help or maybe answer your question in a new blog post.


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