Putting together a first portfolio...



  • Hey everyone! I am interested in putting together my very first illustration portfolio, but I don't have a lot of good pieces yet and don't really know where to start. I took the portfolio classes here on SVS and there's tons of good advice, but a little overwhelming when I don't have much to work with yet.

    Any ideas/advice on how to get started with creating pieces that can build up a first portfolio? (I am interested mostly in childrens' book illustration, with some interest in comics as well).


  • SVS OG

    @nkdrawings hi! That sounds great. I suggest illustrating a 1-2 classic fairytales. Nothing too complex maybe just 2-3 illustrations per story. This will definitely show your client that you know how to tell a full story and replicate your characters identically throughout the book. Also, I would suggest joining the monthly illustration contests here at SVS. They give great prompts. This is what I’ve been doing lately as well. I hope this helps.


  • Pro

    @nkdrawings I suggest making a list! First write down how many pieces you want in total (let's say 10, or 12) and a list of what subjects you want to cover. @Will-Terry has a great video on that which I believe is also in his portfolio training, just a list of topics you might want to cover like young/old, people/animals, interiors/exteriors, robots, etc.

    Just looking at that list might spark an idea for an illustration! Then take your time to think about it, keep a notepad with you or on your phone to jot down ideas if you get them in the middle of the day.

    Eventually you'll have quite a stack and comparing your list of ideas with the list of topics to cover, start to fill in your 10-12 slots. Maybe you want to do a piece about pirates and pair it with the topic young, showing children playing at being pirates. Maybe you want to draw a fairy tale and pair it with robots, giving a twist to a classic. You get the idea 🙂

    Important to remember:

    -It's important to show one consistent signature style throughout your portfolio! If you're interested in comics as well, I'd say to make a separate portfolio for that.

    • It's nice to show backgrounds, but there show be a focus on characters and storytelling! I made this mistake with my first portfolio, I excel at backgrounds so I drew impressive and complicated scenery to impress, but the lack of emphasis on characters was a deal breaker for publishers. For children book illustration, showing that you can make great characters is a MUST.

    • Don't have too many pieces, and leave out any that didn't turn out well. Your portfolio is only as strong as your weakest piece!

    @nyrrylcadiz also had great advice, fairy tales is always a great topic if you don't know where to start and it'll ensure that you're thinking of storytelling and characters as you do it. It's also possible to make several pieces on the same topic that way and fill out your portfolio quickly. Just remember Will Terry's list of topics and make sure you include as many as you can! Even if you make several illustrations of the Little Red Riding Hood for instance, they shouldn't all show the same character and the same backgrounds because each portfolio piece has to count and show something different. One can show Little Red in the forest (children and nature) and one can show the wolf with the grandma inside the house (animals, elderly, interiors). See what I mean?

    Good luck 🙂



  • @nyrrylcadiz @NessIllustration Thanks, those are really helpful tips!!



  • Also include some book covers if there are any certain books that you love!


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