In Defense of the Print Portfolio

I’m not here to debate the merits of whether creating a print portfolio makes sense for design professionals, but I do know one thing: I enjoy making them.

These days, the bulk of my work is done entirely on the computer. Although I share my work on various social networks (and this portfolio site), seeing my illustrations in the tangible form of a book makes my work feel more “real” to me.

Every element of making a portfolio book requires careful and meticulous detail. Unlike posting work on the web, there is no instant gratification when making a portfolio book. (Print on demand books generally take anywhere from a week to 15 days to process.) But when it’s all done, my portfolio book is a thing I can hold in my hands, carefully scrutinize and share with a client or colleague.

I use my portfolio book as an ice-breaker tool when meeting with new clients. Seeing clients interacting physically with my work helps me build value and credibility in both myself and the services that I offer.

I like making portfolio books because it’s permanent, in that once it’s finally printed, the work within it stands as is. There is no undo. Printing a book represents a formal commitment (both money and time). Organizing work within a print portfolio involves careful curation and planning, and adhering to specific constraints. Those constraints include the size of the book and the page count.

Size-wise, I prefer big portfolio books – setting my artwork at full bleed whenever possible. A large portfolio book (11″ x 13″) gives my work room to breathe and allows the details to show through. Making images full bleed is a conscious decision on my part, to give the viewer a more immersive experience.

I find that having page constraints is a wonderful thing, because it forces me to make editorial decisions on layout and size, what work stays in the book, and what gets tossed onto the cutting floor.

For the past two years, I’ve been using for my portfolio books. I’ve gone with the 11″ x 13″ hardcover option with semi-glossy premium paper. I make every effort to keep the page count between 30 to 40 pages maximum.


Earlier this afternoon, my 2014 portfolio book arrived from Blurb. The book costed me about $60 after discounts. It took approximately 12 days to receive the book after submitting the electronic files to Blurb’s server.

Blurb offers several methods of submitting files; I opted to use their new BookWright software to assemble and organize my portfolio book. From start to finish, the entire process of making my book was painless. I’m really pleased with the print quality. Blurb does a terrific job with packaging, enclosing the book within shrink wrap, with outside protection via a firm cardboard shell.

Here are a few photos showing the interior of the book.





So why do I like making portfolio books? Mostly because it’s a curated “thing” that I can hold in my hands. It represents the best of my work for a given year, and it allows me to chart my growth as an artist. Plus, it’s a great ice-breaker when I’m meeting with a new local client.


Comments (1)

  1. Rasmus

    I remember seeing this back when you posted it a few months ago, but for some reason I didn’t comment on it, but I just gotta say that the book looks AWESOME! And I can’t believe how cheap it is to make one, I feel like making on myself now. How many pages are in it (and how many pages are minimum and maximum)?

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