Thursday, November 30, 2017

The Stigma of Style

Perhaps the biggest debate in the illustration field is over the importance of having a style. Strangely enough, the real question doesn’t concern whether an illustrator has a style or not, but whether an illustrator has an individual style. That all illustrators have a style is without a doubt. Even whether they have their own individual style is also without question. After all, every illustrator is an individual artist. However, the questions are: Is one illustrator’s individual style like other illustrator’s individual style? And, what exactly constitutes a “style”?

Lets explore the latter question first. The following is an abridged amalgamation of definitions according to several dictionaries for style and several synonyms. It is abridged for the purpose of sticking to those aspects that relate to illustration and the visual arts as the word has a number of definitions that pertain to a variety of uses since style is both a noun and a transitive verb.


1. The combination of distinctive features of artistic expression, execution, or performance as characterizing a particular person, group, school, or era.
2. A quality of imagination and individuality expressed in one's actions and tastes.
3. A particular mode or technique by which something is done, created, performed or expressed.
4. A fashion of the moment.
5. A distinctive quality, form, or type of something.

1. A particular form or variety of something.
2. A possible, customary, or preferred way of doing something.
3. Form, arrangement, or condition.
4. A particular form or manifestation of an underlying structure or substance.
5. A distinctive or peculiar and often habitual manner or way.

1. Method of artistic execution or presentation.
2. A body of skills or techniques.
3. A kind or sort.

1. Way, technique, or process of or for doing something.
2. A body of skills or techniques.
3. The quality of being well organized and systematic in thought or action.

1. The visible shape or configuration of something.
2. Established method of expression.
3. Manner of coordinating elements of an artistic production.
4. Arrangement in an artistic work as distinct from its content.

Modifying Terms
Fashion, buzz, chic, craze, dernier cri, enthusiasm, fad, flavor, rage, sensation, trend, vogue.

As you have read the definitions above of style and those of its derivative words, I’m sure you reflected upon those aspects that might align with the opinion you have regarding your own illustration. If you did, you might have overlooked the fact that the majority of the definitions apply both to an individual as well as a group. It is indeed possible for a group to have an individual indivisible style. In the art world this is called a “school” e.g., the Pre-Raphaelite school of painting, even though it isn’t a school of instruction. In the illustration field a school is more of a way of looking at a variety of illustrated works that share a common trait. And sometimes that school is summed up under the identity of a single prominent illustrator, e.g., for Maxfield Parrish it’s the Magic Realism school or for Shepard Fairey, the Guerrilla Pop school. These designations were determined after the fact, i.e., after the work was created and disseminated. It was most likely not the intention of either artist to deliberately invent a style. And in both cases it came about by way of a volume of work executed over an extended period of time.

It takes a while to achieve or be recognized for a style. Many young illustrators who feel they don’t have one, are tormented by the stigma of having their work quickly reveal a unique style. For those that are at the beginning of their career, this can come down to having to formalize a style in the first 20 illustrations they’ve ever been assigned. The important thing is for an illustrator to just do what they do, like Maxfield Parrish and Shepard Fairey.

Magic Realism School

Illustration by Maxfield Parrish.
Illustration by Christiaan Bos.
Illustration by Hernan Valdovinos.
Illustration by Arlene Graston.
Illustration by Michael Park.
Illustration by Tomek Setowski.

Guerrilla Pop School

Illustration by Shepard Fairey.
Illustration by Joey Machete.
Illustration by Rigel Stuhmiller.
Illustration by Greg Bunbury.
Illustration by Tyler Stout.


Simply put, illustration, like any other commercial enterprise, boils down to economics and marketing. In fact, it’s basic marketing 101. As illustrators, we either produce a product, or provide a service. And, in order for our product or service to be distributed, we must market it, or in the case of providing a service, market ourselves. Illustrators must produce a product or offer a service, make the market aware of it, have it be identifiable, create a desire for it, deliver it, and meet the expectations of the customer/client. In other words apply marketing theory. Style, although it can be important, is only one among several other traits needed to achieve economic success as a professional illustrator.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Managing Tangents

Off On A Tangent

It's time to transgress about tangents; those stealthy compositional gremlins that sneak into illustration compositions and cause all manner of visual mischief; those linear leprechaun's that leap out and steal a viewers attention; those pictorial pixies that spoil a pastoral scene for young and old viewers alike; those magnetic mystics that overpower a center of interest with the simplest touch; those confusing cherubs that place a spell on a viewer who then looses the ability to direct their attention to anything else; those mesmerizing medusas that place viewers in a trance and turn their gaze to stone; those gob smacking ghosts that invade the imagination of illustrators who unknowingly apply them to their canvases.

Illustrators know what they are, and at one point or another, have fallen under their influence. And, some illustrators who have taken to the tangent habit have become unsuspectingly addicted to composing tangents. Indeed, some severely afflicted illustrators mainline their tangents through the point of a very sharp pencil. And the most tragic cases succumb to tangents through the use of indelible India ink.

Acting as if a Las Vegas Justice of the Peace, an illustrator joins two objects in holy matrimony; and as the saying goes, "until death do they part". With surprising regularity, illustrators are able to put two and two together, without ever realizing they actually had any trigonometry skills in the first place. They fly their pictorial planes on autopilot resulting in unforeseen collisions. To put it mildly, shit happens.

The Trouble With Tangents

When it comes to pictorial composition, few things are as powerful as a tangent. Tangents have the power to glue a cloud to a tree or even to a person's head. A tangent can cause a man and a woman who don't even know one another to suddenly be in love. The old familiar phrase "attached at the hip" was a result of a rash of tangents that suddenly appeared in children's books in the 1930's. I once saw a tangent graft a monkey to a dolphin. Sadly the monkey was drowned, appearing to be underwater and all.

Tangential Meditation

Scientists and physicians discovered about 75 years ago that tangents come from an area of the brain called the cerebellum, or "little brain". So with the use of little brain, it is possible for any illustrator to produce an impressive tangent. When, in the 1960's, mind-altering drugs were introduced to illustration, their effect on the little brain could be seen all across the profession. All of a sudden fields of paisley patterned tangents were locked in a floating oil stain of fluorescent color. The profound power of the tangent had finally come to fruition. Why, viewers who gazed upon these tangential explosions actually lost their ability to think. This tangent induced, momentary lapse of reason even influenced one of the best-known rock bands of all time, forcing them to string together a series of hit albums.

From Tangent to Tangent

Like the human race, which has grown from two billion people in 1930 to seven billion people in 2010, tangent use has grown from a mere five or six hundred at the beginnings of art school education a little over 150 years ago, to as of one minute ago, 2.5 trillion and counting. One art school in a European country that shall remain nameless, last year produced 47,722 tangents, with 36,453 from the freshman class alone.


Identified in the late 1930's, tangentitus was brought to the attention of the medical community by, believe it or not, mothers, who upon reading picture book stories with their children, became noticeably annoyed with the number of illustrations that depicted children tangentially tangled in their mother's apron strings. This was exacerbated by the fact that their own children began to mimic the tangents they saw in the illustrations, thus always being under foot. The immediate conclusion was that tangents were contagious, and that they could be spread from an image to a person in a single glance. This explained how a single illustration with a bad case of tangents, when displayed in a showcase, could spread tangentitis to the entire student body of an art school. Even sculpture students were infected. All of a sudden, in abstract work, cubes began to be balanced on one and other by their corners. In figurative sculpture, fingertips began touching nipples and worse. The situation became ugly, not only in sculpture, but printmaking, illustration,  etc. Tangentitis even showed up in industrial design where students began designed vehicles with doors that couldn't be opened.

7 Warning Signs of Tangentitus

1.     The never-ending line. Where lines connect to other objects beyond the object they depict.
2.     The letter "K". Where a shape or a line touches another forming a K.
3.      "X" marks. Where lines cross and form an X.
4.     Edge tapping. Where shapes touch the edge of other shapes or the picture plane.
5.     Fused forms. Where two shapes converge to form a single shape.
6.     Common edges. Where two objects share a single edge.
7.     Implied alignment. Where two separated lines or shapes form a visual grouping.

Never ending line. © 2013 Don Arday.
The letter "K". © 2013 Don Arday.
"X" marks the spot. © 2013 Don Arday.
Edge tapping. © 2013 Don Arday.
Fused forms. © 2013 Don Arday.
Common edge. © 2013 Don Arday.
Implied line. © 2013 Don Arday.

Tangent Therapy

All kidding aside, tangents can, and do, disturb the harmony of a pictorial composition. And the only way to control them is to recognize them when they occur, and to make adjustments as needed. Below are some tips and tricks for identifying and developing sensitivity to tangents.  

7 Treatments to Cure Tangents

1.     Produce refined sketches. Define shapes and lines clearly to improve the readability and recognition of tangents.
2.     Examine object relationships. Look for awkward interactions between shapes and/or lines.
3.     Examine sketch perimeters. Look at the relationship of lines and objects in proximity to all edges.
4.     Turn the sketch upside down. The change of attitude will impose a focused examination of form relationships and minimize distractions related to content.
5.     Flop the sketch. The reorientation will draw attention to uncomfortable or problematic shape or line relationships.
6.     Mask off portions of the sketch. Cut a 1” square whole in a piece of plain paper to mask out all but a small portion of the composition for examination.
7.     View in outline form. An outline version makes it easier to see tangents that are caused by shapes. 

Tangents Can Be Our Friends

Not all tangents are bad. Tangents can also be used to deliberately and very effectively focus a viewer’s attention. They can even be used to form relationships between elements within an arrangement. To do this, tangential relationships of shape and line must be thoughtfully considered and intentionally designed into a composition. Like medicinal vaccines, recognizing tangents; using them sparingly; and/or controlling them completely; can result in an illustration that is immune to boredom.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Why 24 Point Size Fonts Don't Measure 24 Points

So, why isn’t type true to its classified size? For instance, why is 24 point size type less than 24 points in height? And for that matter, why is any size or any style type font less than its classified size? And, on top of that, why do different fonts in the same point size differ in height? Understanding why, makes it a little easier to deal with the frustration of using letterforms that have to visually conform to a finite layout dimension in an illustration. 

It all has to do with historical type production and practice before the digital, and even the photographic type environments came along. Printing type was originally produced as wooden or metal letterforms that were used to print documents on a printing press. The letterforms could be arranged or “composed” into manuscripts, and then taken apart and reused. Printing presses used a considerable amount of pressure to transfer an image, or make an “impression” of the type onto printing paper. And, in order for this to occur without causing damage, the raised letterforms were affixed atop a supporting “body” of metal. An engineered “body” below the letterform was required to reduce the stress the printing press exerted on the letterform. Thinner font styles required a larger body to be used, while heavier fonts could get by with a smaller body and less support. As printing presses became more sophisticated, the relationship of size between the letterform and it’s supporting body also became a decision made by the type designer based on the intended use of the font and the aesthetic appearance the designer desired.

So, in keeping with tradition and the conception of users, printers, and designers regarding the appearance of a specific font in a particular size in both photographic and digital type, designers and transcribers, adopted a virtual approach to sizing type rather than an absolute one. In other words, even though it wasn’t needed, an imaginary bounding space was adopted for translating non-digital fonts into the digital environment.

The following letters are all set to 72 point. The rectangle around the letterform indicates the cast body the type was affixed to for usage, which shows why all the fonts shown are classified as 72 point, and in turn why although the letters vary in height, they are all classified as 72 point.

Letterforms set digitally at 72 point.
Letterforms and letterform bodies
overlapped for comparison.

Comparing Type Size

Depending your size needs when applying type to an illustration, type can chosen using different standards. The three examples of typestyle comparisons below show fonts sized using three different priorities. The first example shows two fonts chosen for the same capital letter height, but having different “waist” heights, i.e., the height of the lower case letter "x". The second example shows fonts chosen for the same waist height, but differing cap heights. And the third example shows two fonts used to make equivalent ascender/descender heights, but differing cap and waist heights.

Type with equal cap heights, unequal waist height.

Type with equal waist height, unequal cap and ascender/descender heights.
Type with equal ascender/descender height, unequal cap and waist height.

So, there is more than one criterion that can be used to determine the visual size of a typestyle. Some situations require an illustrator or designer to rely on the height of capital letters to make decisions about selecting a typestyle while other uses rely on the waist height or lower case to determine the selection a font. 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

More Resources To Help You Create A Professional Portfolio

© 2017 Don Arday.
There are many excellent companies with products, and services to help illustrators and designers create a professional customized portfolio of their work. These companies provide portfolio boxes, binders, clam shell cases, and attache carriers that come in a wide range of materials and sizes. Many portfolio suppliers provide special services such as engraving, embossing, and printing to enhance the uniqueness of a portfolio. Some companies even offer image printing and full assembly resulting a a completed finished portfolio. An artist just has to choose the portfolio product and upload digital files with their branding and interior page images.

Studio eQ
Studio eQ offers custom laser-cut and laser-etched portfolios and books for customers looking to showcase their artwork, project or memories. They offer custom portfolios in a variety of materials including bamboo, birch, teak, anodized aluminum, stainless steel & acrylic

Studio eQ's laser-etched books are bound with 3 aluminum 'Chicago-style, blind' screw posts in 3/8" standard, additional post lengths are available if required. Design your book using our template and upload your artwork, along with your desired options. Once checkout is complete they will send a digital proof confirming artwork location. Then once approved they will produce your book and ship it soon as it is complete.

Shrapnel Design
Your support and collaboration have helped us to design and develop a line of presentation portfolios and 3-ring binders like no other. Their production techniques continue to develop and by working together with great clients and suppliers we continue to innovate and improve our custom products. We consider style and structure in order to create products that will stand the test of time. We create portfolios that will weather beautifully using sustainable materials and processes whenever possible.

Shrapnel believes in sustainability. Being green comes naturally. They consider every aspect of the process and how it affects the world around us. They create very little waste from our production processes, up-cycling our off-cut material to create new objects of desire. Shipping and packing materials are recyclable and are re-used with the minimum amount of waste generated. Portfolios are manufactured in Vancouver, Canada.

Mullenberg Designs
An upscale bookbindery owned and operated by Scott Mullenberg, Mullenberg Designs has been collaborating one-on-one with visual artists and designers over the last two decades to create custom portfolios and presentation structures that stand apart from rest. Mullenberg Designs presentation portfolios are fabricated with a screw-post binding, allowing flexibility when switching out images or customizing a body of work for a specific presentation. Below you will find sizing and base pricing. Call or email if you have any questions and they’ll be happy to walk you through the process of a portfolio build-out.

For over 30 years, we’ve been the best kept secret of artists and photographers around the world. Shop our wide variety of stock portfolios ready to ship today. You can also find a custom presentation solution in a striking and distinctive handmade product from Portfoliobox. With their team of artisans, skill and care that goes into crafting a truly singular work because that is precisely the energy they put into each and every Portfoliobox.

Clearstory’s personalized portfolio books are printed with high quality paper and inks, and traditionally bound and covered in several ways — from leather covers to canvas. Get started creating a book today! Or see how to make a  book with Clearbooks software. Combining your creative talent with their state-of-the-art digital printing equipment and professional book design templates will help you present your work effectively.

Kristin Dunn

Kristin Dunn bookbinding & design  offers a large selection of ready to ship {RTG} and customizable presentation products online. From clamshell boxes to screw post portfolios you are sure to find a unique and personalized solution to your presentation needs. You will find our most polular size and color combinations available here. Products come in portrait, landscape, and square formats. These portfolios are packed up and ready to ship out in 1-2 days so if you are in a time crunch and don't need any personalization or other embellishments buying your portfolio from the RTG collection will save you time and money.

Disclaimer: The list of website links is provided to be a resource for illustrators and artists. It was not intended for the purpose of advertising or endorsing one source over another. Nor is it by any means complete. There are many other excellent sources not mentioned here.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Things To Do To Create An Effective Portfolio

In the past, if an illustrator asked what they needed for a successful portfolio, he or she would have been told, “every portfolio must contain the three h’s -- head, hands, and heart”. Head referring to concepts, hands referring to skills, and heart referring to desire. These days, a portfolio is expected to contain much more than that. It not only must demonstrate what you have done in your past, but must also predict what you might achieve in your future. A portfolio must be able to weather all situations. Below are a number of tasks a portfolio must now do.

© 2013 Don Arday.

Do Establish the Purpose for 

Your Portfolio

Is it to obtain full-time employment, a freelance commission, a teaching position, a gallery exhibition, etc?

First and foremost, it is important to know what you want your portfolio to do for you. The purpose for a portfolio is the single largest determining factor in how the portfolio will look and function. A portfolio constructed for interviewing for a full-time position will have to function differently than one that is meant to attract freelance work, or is for some other purpose.

Do Know Your Audience

Are they a creative person such as an artist or designer; or are they a non-creative person such as an editor, writer, marketing person, or business owner?

Just as advertisers, marketers, product developers, and manufacturers exhaustively research their audience to get to know their customers, you should do likewise. Differing audiences will require varying forms of communication and possibly even different language sets depending of their knowledge of what it is you do. These factors will affect the form and content of your portfolio presentation.

Do Know How to Reach Your Audience

What are their job responsibilities, and the type of business they work for? Do they have a preferred method of contact? Can you contact them through a referral?

It’s important to know if you are dealing directly with someone who has the power to make a decision, or someone who can only relay information within a company. It’s also essential to know if the business they are in can hire your services directly, or whether you should be in contact with another outsourced company or division. For instance, to work for Pepsi, you will have to deal with an outside firm.

Do Know What Will Attract Your Audience

Have you seen the work they do and what their company does? Are you familiar with the type of work they typically commission? Do you know who their customers are?

Every company has a set of criteria that provide guidance for the type of work that they do. The criterion also sets the personality and style of their business. For some companies like children’s book publishers for instance, it is obvious, but for design firms and advertising agencies it may take some research on your part to know what demographic they specialize in and who their clients are. The work shown in a portfolio should be chosen accordingly.

Do Select the Appropriate Portfolio Media

Will you need a physical hard copy portfolio, a virtual digital portfolio, a website portfolio, a disposable portfolio, etc.?

Pertaining to marketing, aspects of presentation and a portfolio’s function, you should know whether you are seeking a job or commissions locally or nationally. Whether you can get by with a digital or web-based presentation, or whether you will have to appear for an interview in person, and with whom.

Do Select the Best Format

Does the portfolio need to be small or large, physically shipped or emailed, horizontally formatted or vertical, individual panels or a bound presentation?

If most of your work is vertical, arrange your portfolio so the spine is vertical. If the work is predominantly horizontal use the cover or case to indicate that orientation since there are relatively few commercial portfolios made with a horizontally oriented spine. Choose a format that will easily allow you to reconfigure your portfolio quickly if you will frequently need to do so.

Do Determine the Number of Illustrations

Should you show many illustrations or a select few? If you have a series, should you show all of its pieces? How similar in style, format, or appearance should the work be?

Most illustrators show more pieces than they should, and most reviewers tend to experience visual fatigue and attention deficit somewhere between 20 and 25 pieces. The main goal is to leave a lasting impression with the work. Work that is repetitious in composition, color scheme, point of view, and content tends to blend together. Work that presents a variation of aspects tends to be more memorable.

Do Choose the Right Illustration Content

Should you include only published work? Should published work be presented as tear sheets? Should it be full-page illustrations, or should you also include spot illustrations, icons, etc? Should you include black and white work? Should you show all finished work, or add in concept sketches?

Illustrators who have a few years of experience are expected to show published work. Illustrators just starting out are not subjected to the same expectation. The content of a portfolio should be a combination of “absolute best work” and work that relates to the opportunity at hand. If black and white or other forms of work are a part of the repertoire of the reviewer than they should be in the portfolio.

Do Seek Opinions on Content

Are you the best judge of your own work? Have you gotten positive feedback about specific pieces? Do you know someone who can lend you an opinion?

One of the most difficult tasks in creating a portfolio is selecting the work. Even illustrators with years of experience need help when it comes to curating their work. Artists often develop a bias towards certain pieces. It may have to do with the great amount of effort it took, or successfully pleasing a difficult client, or some other prejudice. These situational conditions should be overruled by quality.

Do Provide a Context For The Work

Have you provided relevant titles or client information for the illustrations? Can you provide a sentence to summarize an assignment or to explain the purpose for the work?

Any information that explains to a viewer what they are looking at can be as valuable as the work itself. In a portfolio, all images appear to be very similar in proportion whether they were produced for a 3’ x 4’ poster, or a small format magazine; or whether they were done for a nephew, or a multinational company. Having the work placed in it’s proper context is important for a reviewer.

Do Match the Context to Your CV

Are you showing illustration examples that match the employers and clients you list on your resume? Do the examples demonstrate the skills you have listed? Does the work reflect either your job objective or your experience summary?

It is very easy for a resume and a portfolio to present a split personality. A common example, although it is not necessary, is to list freelance projects on the resume. Reviewers will want to see the pieces that correspond to the listings. And, should the work shown in the portfolio diverge from actual past experience, it can be easily addressed with a career objective statement on the resume. Both credentials should be mutually supportive.

Do Design Your Portfolio

Can your portfolio case or binder be differentiated from other portfolios when it is closed? Does the interior layout of your portfolio compliment your work or compete with it? Is the layout uniquely identifiable? Does the page size and scale of images show off the level of detail in your work? Do images sit opposite one and other on page spreads if you are using a bound portfolio? Does your portfolio shift from a horizontal orientation to a vertical one several times?

All aspects of your portfolio presentation should be customized to leave an identifiable impression on a reviewer, from the materials used, to the layout, color scheme, and application of typography. Reviewers sometimes look at a dozen or more portfolios, which equates to viewing 200 to 250 images within a single sitting that lasts less than one hour. So in addition to the work, a portfolio’s design must also form a memorable impression.

Do Work on the Order of the Work

Do adjacent illustrations compliment one and other? Is there a natural progression of work? Does the order of the work support a presentation narrative? Does the arrangement of works at any point cause a reviewer to make a “this is better than that” judgment about two pieces? Is the arrangement the visual equivalent to Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony?

Organizing the sequence of work in a portfolio is a subject unto itself, and although there are unlimited possibilities, there are some strategies that work better than others in certain situation. The work itself must be high in quality to provide the best source for a portfolio, regardless of any organizational tactics. Some of the most common approaches will be covered in a future posting.

Do Support the Work With Branding

Do you have a logo or specific type treatment you can apply to your materials? Do you have a specific color scheme? Does your portfolio coordinate with your resume, mailers, business card, website, etc.?

Branding goes hand in hand with portfolio design and function. Branding not only serves to promote recognition, but it reinforces memorability and reveals the rank of a professional. Branding, once established, provides solutions for many design and promotional problems that arise when preparing marketing materials like the appearance of the resume, cover letter, mailers, stationery, home page design, etc.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Resources To Help You Create A Professional Portfolio

The number one error that young illustrators and recent graduates make is underestimating the extraordinary power a quality-based, professional portfolio presentation can make in a job or freelance solicitation interview. I have personally witnessed where the failure to invest an additional $100 in a portfolio has resulted in a job offer that was thousands of dollars less than what the work and the artist deserved. For some unknown reason, the importance of a portfolio’s appearance, with reference to its contents, is grossly underestimated.

© 2013 Don Arday.
It may only be human nature, but human nature is unwavering. Value and worth are presented materially, and potential employers view portfolios in relation to potential worth. An applicant must present himself or herself at the same level that an employer views their own business status or higher. As the saying goes, “first impressions last a lifetime”. Portfolios presentations that appear to be in an economic bracket below that of the potential employers will not be considered seriously, no matter how good the work may be.

The following is a list of resources that cover the three major formats for portfolio presentations; 1) paper portfolios, 2) digital portfolios, and 3) e-portfolios or remotely accessed virtual portfolios.

Paper Portfolios

Custom Portfolios

Brewer Cantalmo
Brewer Cantalmo have been manufacturing portfolios for professional artists and illustrators since 1928. With a full line of superb quality products, and unlimited custom manufacturing, Brewer Cantalmo is one of the premier portfolio providers in North America. We are manufacturers selling worldwide directly to the public, There is no minimum quantity required and the typical turnaround time for a custom portfolio is about 2 weeks.

House of Portfolios
Thomas Lombardo, founded The House of Portfolios over thirty years ago. He began his apprenticeship in Italy and relocated to the USA where in 1990 he single handedly established his own company "The House of Portfolios" in NYC. He is a master craftsman in the top echelon of the custom-made portfolio industry.

Bella Forte
Extremely exclusive and highly crafted, Bridget, the company founder, began her bookbinding career over twenty five years ago in Italy. After studying the arts of bookbinding, papermaking and book restoration abroad, she returned to the US and opened her first bindery in Center City Philadelphia.

Klo Portfolios
Tarlan Seyedfarshi began Klo Portfolios to customize portfolios by size, color, material, with the treatment desired by the artist. Klo does all the rest. Typography and custom graphics can be applied to the portfolio binder of case. Every portfolio book is unique, handcrafted and injected with lots of love and care.

Etsy Portfolios
Etsy the web community for artists and craftspeople has numerous listings for custom portfolio cases constructed from a wide variety of materials that range from fabrics, to woods, to metals. And although the producers of these portfolio cases and binders are “home Grown”, there may be the perfect solution for a portfolio just waiting to be purchased and put to use.

Readymade Portfolios

Portfolios and Art Cases
Portfolios and Art Cases has specialized in prefabricated portfolios since 1995. Their inventory comprises an extensive selection of portfolio types for both flat art and rolled at presentation, storage, and transportation. Portfolios can be easily selected and ordered through their website.

Archival Methods
Archival Methods manufactures and offers a wide range of professional presentation portfolios. Customer service and delivery times set Archival Methods apart form their competitors. They offer complete portfolio solutions such as portfolio and board combinations, onxy portfolios, etc. Their service is professional and pricing is extremely competitive.

Light Impressions Direct
Established in 1969, and long having been the first choice for professional photographers and museums, Light Impressions offers the world's largest variety of fine archival storage, display and presentation materials for artwork and documents, negatives, transparencies, CDs, photographs, etc. Light Impressions is considered to have set the standard for readymade archival portfolios in the US.

Pina Zangaro
For the past 24 years Pina Zangaro have been redefining the way the world presents artwork and documents by designing and making innovative, attention-grabbing and functional portfolio books, binders, boxes and related accessories for the presentation and storage of artwork and documents.

Digital Portfolios


Apple/Apple App Store
For Apple hardware devices turn to the Apple Store. The iPad has now become an acceptable portfolio presentation format for certain situations and settings. Its size is just large enough for display. The iPad Mini is also available, but due to it’s smaller size, is inferior to its larger sibling. For apps to support the pad hardware use the Apple App Store. Although not covered here, a future blog will go into detail about specific portfolio apps.

Although the name implies a Mac exclusive inventory, MacMall is a great place to get tablets and products made by other manufacturers including Samsung, Lenovo, Acer, Viewsonic, etc. PCM, formerly PCMall sells tablets manufactured by nine companies including Dell, Toshiba, Asus, Motion Computing, etc. Apps for these tablets use the Android operating system.

Portable Storage

CD’s, flash cards, and jump drives are available from local electronics stores or online from vendors like These devices have the storage capacity to easily accommodate most portfolio presentations. Software to prepare the presentation for remote viewing like PowerPoint and Keynote are available from Microsoft and Apple.

Picture Frames

Best Buy
Digital picture frames offer a lower cost alternative to using a tablet to display a body of work. However, they don’t offer much in the way of versatile functionality. These frames are made by a variety of companies, some which also manufacture tablets like Viewsonic, Sony, HP, etc.


Free/Limited Free Portfolio Sites

There are a number of sites that allow an illustrator to upload a body of work. Some are totally free, while others place a limitation on the number of pieces that can be placed on the site without incurring a fee. Many of the sites provide a number of resources such as categorization, subject search engines, direct contact sales, and order taking mechanisms, etc. Researching, choosing and actually using the right portfolio sites may be a daunting task, but one thing to remember is ”it’s the company you keep” that will reflect back on you and your work. Choose those sites that project a personality you are comfortable with, and are directed to the markets you wish to reach.

Note: The site links below are for portfolio sites that do not require an illustrator to sign up webpage hosting or use unique website building features. Those sites will be featured in a future post.

Paid Portfolio Sites

There are several paid subscription portfolio sites to choose from, and the cost of having a listing on them can vary considerably, anywhere from $300 a year to upwards of $2000 per annum. Of course, the cost relates to the amount of service these sites provide. The main difference between a paid site and a free site is that the paid sites aggressively e-market your work, while the free sites do not. With the cost there are also amenities that may be well worth it. Paid sites can provide very specific individual data and demographics about who has viewed your portfolio and when. And, some paid sites can even provide the company and profile information as to who looked at your work.

Logo Portfolio Sites

Website Hosts

Any list of resources in this category will have no end to it as there are new hosting sites literally going live on a daily basis. There are many reasons that go into choosing a specific website host, ease of use, capacity or bandwidth, reliability, pricing structure, accessibility, web identity services, security, etc. Ease of use or flexibility of the website building engines provided by these sites may be the deciding factor. What is more important is to secure the proper domain name, one that will be uniquely explanatory and identifiable, i.e., your own name. A proper domain name will assist potential clients and employers to more easily locate your portfolio on the web.

Note: This is a partial listing. It is meant for the purposes of getting you started. Many of these listings are not specifically designed for illustrators, but are popular hosting sites on the web.

Disclaimer: The list of website links is provided to be a resource for illustrators. It was not intended for the purpose of advertising or endorsing one source over another. Nor is it by any means complete. There are many other excellent sources not mentioned here.