Creating an illustration portfolio: Part III

Creating an illustration portfolio: Part III

We are getting closer to laying out the portfolio, but first I want to dedicate an entry to other basic elements that we need to decide before starting to lay out: composition, typography and color.

Remember that designing is an act of conscious creation, that is, before we start working we think about what we want to communicate and what is the best way to do it. Contrary to popular belief, designing is more about making decisions based on prior knowledge than expressing what we feel without thinking about it twice.

A note: Due to the size of the entries in this blog and as not to bore you, I will only briefly mention these elements. If you are interested in me making another more detailed entry on any of these topics, please tell me and I’ll gladly prepare it!

Back to what I was saying: in our case, what is most important are the illustrations, so we will choose a graphic style that adapts and accompanies them. Again, there isn’t one correct way to do it, but we will have to see what best suits each case.

Composition: you should treat the pages of the portfolio as if they were an illustration or a series of illustrations: apply the same principles of visual hierarchy (highlight the main elements), contrast, order, visual weight, space, rhythm…

Typography: Typography is very complex and rich and I am not going to get into it much because I am not an expert in this field. If you are interested in knowing more I can leave you some resources about typography later, but for now it is enough to know a series of basic rules:

  • Legibility: VERY important, we must be able to read the texts well, be careful with fantasy typefaces.
  • Sizes: the same principle. If you are not sure how it will be read once it is printed, one way to do it is to print a few pages (in a home printer or in a copy shop) and thus you make sure that it will read well. A high contrast between the titles and body text will give interest to the page.
  • Combination of fonts: the ideal is to use one or two fonts at most. When choosing, we must combine two fonts that are quite different to generate contrast, the classic example is one with serif and one without. Fonts with many bodies (light, book, medium, bold, condensed, extrabold, black …) give extra versatility.

  • Where to find fonts: Typically, people look on Dafont or 101fonts, which are free font directories. Be careful with this: many of them are free tests and do not have all the necessary characters (for example, the accents or exclamation points). I recommend researching on design websites and blogs and see how they use typography and which one may work best for you.


Colors: You can do whatever you want as long as it makes sense. For example, if you want to give an image of sobriety or elegance you can use black and white. If instead your illustrations are kawaii and colorful, you can use bright colors (remember that what should stand out are the illustrations, the layout accompanies but does not dominate). A reduced and harmonious color palette is always a good option.

Now I know that there are many things to assimilate but I firmly believe that it is worth researching and learning a little about design. You don’t have to be an expert, but having some basic knowledge will help you in your life as an illustrator. Regarding the portfolio, I think that pausing a moment to think before starting will help you a lot to know what you want to do and to do it with more confidence. It is not a matter of design done right or wrong, but of design serving  its purpose and expressing well what you want it to express.

Bonus tip: on a personal level, I think that when in doubt it is better to go for a simple design. If you don’t feel very confident with your level of knowledge of graphic design, making it simple will make your task easier and it will look its best. In the end, the strength has to be in the illustrations and that is what we have to highlight.

And so far today’s post, did you find the content useful? Would you like me to share some resources on graphic design, typography, composition, color, etc. around here or on my social media? We can comment on it on Instagram , Twitter and LinkedIn

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