As I’ve had a few emails from new illustrators with questions about my Owlstation portfolio, I thought it might be helpful to write a blogpost to share some tips and advice for creating your first website. Firstly a disclaimer *I am not an illustration portfolio expert!* however I do enjoy a creative and fulfilling freelance career and I’m very happy to share with you what I have learned (and am still learning) as I grow.
I’ll keep these short and stick to 3 portfolio tips for now. If you have any further questions on these or would like me to elaborate, please feel free to leave a comment! Finally to note that this advice assumes you’ve already made some initial steps on your path as an illustrator, perhaps by taking a course or lessons online and want to keep things moving…
1. You Need a Portfolio!
If you’re looking to pursue a career in illustration, you’ll need to get your work out there. Most clients will expect you to have a portfolio website that shows off a selection of your best work. When starting out, and even later on – think quality over quantity.
Select a handful of relevant projects that you’re proud of, for each of these select a few, strong images that best show off the work you did. Make sure they are high resolution, not blurry or pixellated in any way. Nowadays I like to include one or two process images as well – a scan of early sketches or high quality photograph of relevant sketchbook pages can give a client insight into your process. But these should come after the final images, a dessert after the main meal!
Include some information about the project/illustration; perhaps what you did, the goal, how you achieved it. But keep this short and use simple language, no need to be poetic or flowery here. A spelling and grammar check afterwards and you’re ready to publish.
Carbonmade’s Website Design Tools
2. Choose a Good Template
My very first website looked hideous. I didn’t know much about website tools and picked a very clunky, free service. It was difficult to use and the ugly template made it look like a website for a bank designed when the internet was first born.
Luckily, I followed my instinct that there had to be a better way and moved on. The template I have now is very clean and simple. A white background, a home page with evenly spaced images, my logo at the top and a neat menu button. I have four main pages – a home page showing my projects, about page, contact page and a page link to this very blog. Tapping a project thumbnail on the home page opens a new page where your project images can be viewed. Navigation is simple.
Having poured over many illustrator’s websites, most have a very similar approach. I like to think of it like a gallery in the real world – white walls, space for artwork to breathe, minimal text, no nonsense!
3. Find a Good Service
Unless you’re going to build and code your website yourself, you’ll need to find a portfolio/website service that works well for you and fits into your price range. As this is the shop front to you career as an illustrator, it’s worth investing a little money and time into making your portfolio the best it can be.
I use Carbonmade which has served me very well over the years. It has a selection of cleanly designed, ready to go templates (called themes). It’s very user friendly and quite affordable. I use the ‘Whoo’ option which is approx £9 ($12) a month. I hear very good things about Squarespace and know they offer loads of different templates that also include blog or news pages and shop features, which could be very useful as you expand your practice and start selling work.
I use Behance for my digital freelance portfolio (I keep my digital and hand drawn portfolios separate, but that’s a whole other blogpost right there!). It’s free and pretty easy to use. I understand it’s fairly well respected and is a great platform for sharing work too. Ultimately, you’ll need to do a bit of research and find what works best for you, but hopefully these suggestions will help you get started.
There’s lots more I could say about how having a portfolio is a constant task, that it always needs checking, updating, trimming and cultivating…that looking at other illustrators websites is very helpful when creating your own and so on… but I’ll leave it here for now.
Good luck! If you’ve found this helpful do pop back as I’ll be sharing more of my illustration learnings in the future.