A portfolio is an essential piece of kit for any one working (or hoping to work) in the creative industries. We see a lot about having an online portfolio which is simple to update but what about when you get that interview or need to meet a client face to face? This is the domain of the printed portfolio.

As with most printed objects, the format you choose for your portfolio will dictate how easy it is to update. You could choose a professionally bound book which is only updated when you absolutely have to. Or you may go down the route of a loose leaf portfolio: no binding and complete flexibility on when to update. Or maybe something completely outside the box: a bespoke style representing you as an individual.

There are many articles to refer to that cover the types of work to include in your portfolio. The specifics vary by sector of the creative industries but they all follow the same trend: the work should be your best, it should show the skills you want to do most often and you should be able to talk about each project that is featured. In this article we will focus on the practicalities of printed presentation.

So, you have your projects picked, your synopsis written and you know that this is it. Your portfolio. The best of the best of everything you have ever done, but how to show it to other people?

Outsourcing Your Printed Portfolio | eInnovation News | Innova Art

Outsourcing Your Printed Portfolio Book

Shelf-life is the key point when thinking about using a professionally printed and bound book for your portfolio. You don’t want to labour over your book and lovingly create each and every page, only to realise that the project you just finished should actually be the centrepiece when the finished portfolio book lands on your doorstep.

The balance of cost and quantity also becomes a factor when someone else produces your portfolio. There are now many options for creating cost effective, professional quality, short run books using a digital press such as the HP Indigo but there is still a balance to be struck when considering quantity and cost per book.

Outsourcing is a great option because it removes all the stress of production. It gives you a wide range of choice for paper and binding types. Some print companies also offer templates for you to use for page layout. Or you can use your own creative skills to create a layout perfect for your brand. All you need to do is upload your files and wait for the delivery.

The downside of outsourcing is that it is not so flexible to change the contents of your portfolio. It can also become expensive if you just need one copy. This may be ok if that one copy will last for years, however, if you are regularly creating projects that are portfolio worthy you will need to update your printed portfolio regularly as well. This may make outsourcing prohibitively expensive.

Key questions before outsourcing the production of your printed portfolio book:

  • How often do you finish portfolio worthy projects?
  • How many copies of your portfolio do you really need?

Printing Your Own Portfolio | eInnovation News | Innova Art

Printing Your Own Portfolio

Portfolios printed by the creatives presenting them are fantastic as true representations of you and your work. You have complete flexibility over how many copies are produced and can work to a very specific budget. You can easily update the contents, as often as you need to. You have a wide range of paper types and finishing options.

If you are looking to create the traditional book option, there are cover options available which look professional but allow you to easily change the internal pages. You can also easily create a loose leaf portfolio yourself: all you need is a great looking box or folder to store the sheets for transportation and presentation. You can easily experiment to find the format which works best.

However, going down this route means you need to be very honest with yourself about the production skills that you have. Quality is key in any printed portfolio. This is your best work so it needs to be shown to the highest possible standard. If you don’t know how to get the best out of your equipment then you will not be able to produce a great portfolio. There is no point in producing beautiful prints to then lower their impact by not finishing them at an equally beautiful level.

Key questions before printing your own portfolio:

  • How good are your printing and finishing skills?
  • Are you willing to learn new skills to be able to produce your portfolio to the highest possible quality?

Collaborative Printed Portfolios | eInnovation News | Innova Art

The Hybrid Method For Printing Portfolios

This can be a good option if you are strong in one area but need a bit of help in another. For example: you may struggle to get the best out of your printer (where do those black marks on the paper edges come from?) but you may be obsessive about all the finer details (measure ten times, cut once). Decide where your skills lie and outsource the areas you are weaker in.

Get a production group together: trade your skills to give everyone the best quality printed portfolio possible. If you are a whizz kid at trouble shooting printers but can’t fold a straight line to save your life then reach out to someone who can. Offer to print their portfolio for them if they will help to create the amazing pop up presentation piece you have designed and printed for your portfolio.

Look into what is available in your local area, is there a printer who specialises in short run prints? Perhaps they can print your portfolio for you and you could do all the finishing touches at home or in the studio.

Key questions before using the hybrid method:

  • What are your weakest skill areas?
  • Who can help?

The best thing about printed portfolios is that they can be almost anything. There is no limit imposed by screen resolution or server speed. Printed portfolios are tactile experience of your brand. The presentation choices you make should compliment the work you produce as a creative.

If you are known for an ultra modern style, carry this through to your choice of print media. An ultra modern logo design will look and feel different if printed on a heavily textured, natural white paper compared to a smooth, bright white paper. Follow it up with your presentation choice: stick with something clean and simple to present your work.

General thoughts on creating printed portfolios:

  • Keep in mind that people will be handling your portfolio: don’t make it too big (and awkward to handle) or too small (so everyone needs a magnifying glass to see it) unless this is a very deliberate design decision. 
  • There is a possibility that you might not be in the room when someone looks through your portfolio. Include a short description of each project for viewers to read – keep it brief, if they want more information, they will ask.
  • Know what you want to say about each and every project, if you can’t talk in detail about each and every one, why are they in there?
  • Quality is key: however you choose to present your printed portfolio it should be rendered in the highest quality. No ink marks on paper edges or weak bindings making pages come loose.