How to Put Together a Children's Illustration Portfolio

Last week I had a big scramble and finally put together version one of my children's illustration portfolio for the 2017 SCBWI Austin Conference. This is a little break-down of each step in the somewhat arduous process of putting together a physical portfolio. 

Materials I Used 

+ Pina Zangaro Portfolio :
+ Archival Sleeves :
+ Canon Pixma Printer :
+ These Super Cheap Inks :
+ Linen Resumé Paper *note, wouldn't recommend because of watermark

01. Choose Your Format 

There are SO MANY options - I'm going to try to list some of the most common and uncommon that I've seen. I tried to choose a format that best represents my work, and doesn't distract from it. So, the snow white matte Pina Zangaro it was. 

  • Binder with archival sleeves (this is the route I chose) 
  • Binder with hinged attachments 
  • Photo album with archival corners 
  • Bound book (perfect bound, stapled, accordion folded) 
  • Handmade book 
  • Zine(s)
  • Loose cards in a box or on a ring

02. Layout Your Story

Art director Guisseppe Castelano who was at the conference has a great post about laying out children's portfolios. I took his advice and treated my portfolio like a storybook that I'm taking people through. I assigned each section a character, and made little chapter breaks in the book to introduce each one. 

03. Printing & Proofs 

My biggest mistake in putting together my book was waiting until the last minute to get it printed. Printing is KEY! After you've put so much care and effort into creating the illustrations, it's super sad to have the horrors of CMYK ruin everything. Which happens a lot. Here are some printing options: 

  • Print at home (need a good printer + good paper + lots of ink)  $$
  • Print locally (this is nice for pro factor + in-person help)  $$$$
  • Print online (good quality, less cost and control)  $$$
  • Print at Kinkos, Office Max, Staples (JUST DON'T, not worth it)  $ 

I printed mine myself, which turned out okay for some of the lighter pieces, like flamingos and T-Rex, but was a nightmare for anything with a starry sky (which is like a third of my work). But, the benefit of printing yourself is cost (less than professional printing) and flexibility. 

Bottom line, proof your printing method as early as possible and build it into your plan and budget. 

04. Construction Time 

Put it all together with loving care. (Ideally not in the wee hours of the morning. ;) Give it a flip through, don't be too hard on yourself, and appreciate all of the hard work that went into getting here! 

05. Promotional Side-kicks

Every good portfolio should come with something to sit next to it and for the viewer to take away. This should be a good representation of the best of what's inside your book and contain your contact info. More on making promotional pieces coming soon...!