Wednesday, July 31, 2013

A few thoughts on editing your portfolio

my portfolio for the SCBWI winter conference

The SCBWI LA conference is just a few days away and all of you are probably putting the finishing touches to your portfolios. There are already several great posts out there with wonderful information on how to put a great portfolio together. I wanted to post a few of the links to these insightful posts again and add a few thoughts that helped me especially in editing my portfolio for the conference in New York this winter, where I was honored to receive the portfolio prize.

First of all, the links:

 - Eliza Wheeler's post on her beautiful prize-winning portfolio, with a comparison of her 2010 and her 2011 portfolio

Juana Martinez-Neal posted step-by-step information about her process of putting her winning portfolio together, and also shows her entire portfolio before and after.

Molly Idle , another SCBWI portfolio winner, posted great information of her process here.

- And last but not least I want to recommend taking another look at the advice on putting together a portfolio in SCBWI’s THE BOOK.

Here are the things that stood out to me and that helped me improve my portfolio:


In the SCBWI BOOK it says on putting your portfolio together:„submit only your best work, 10 to 15 pieces“. Scary? Yes. Especially if you want to cover all the subject matter that should be presented in a children’s book portfolio. And while that is important, I believe it is even more important to make sure that you show your very best work. 

But how to decide?

What worked for me in the end was sitting down with a blank sheet of paper and writing down the titles of the pieces I ABSOLUTELY HAD to show. You know, the ones that pop into your head right away. This got me started with an already well-sorted list, and after printing these pieces looking at them in sequence (see 3. FLOW) helped in refining the selection further.

putting together the list of illustrations I want to show...

2. SIZE:

Show the illustrations in the size they are meant to be printed. When printing your images, of course it is vital that the quality is good and the presentation is clean ( Juana posted a lot of great information about choosing and putting together a perfect portfolio presentation ). But something I hadn’t paid enough attention to before was size. This is something Yuko Shimizu said when she talked about putting a portfolio together: if the illustration is meant to be big, show it big.

... consider the size in which you want to show an illustration...

3. FLOW:

You should consider page turns, flow and consistency in your portfolio as much as you consider it in making a book dummy, because it shows how you will solve this issue in your books.
Molly Idle explains this very well in her post.

For my book, I laid out the pages I had printed on a big desk, and looked at them in sequence, taking pieces out, exchanging their place, until it felt right to me:

...lay out the pages of the portfolio like the story board for a book dummy. Consider flow and consistency...

Then, I put them into the book, and went through them again, checking how the page turns worked:

...put the pages together and look at how the page turns work...

Sometimes it makes sense to group your images or divide your portfolio into sections, like Eliza Wheeler did with her portfolioBecause I have a lot of work for MG and YA books, I ended up dividing my portfolio too,  into a color and a black and white section.


I also realized when putting this book together, that it took a lot of concentration to make choices and stick to them. After working on it for a while, I felt my resolve dwindling. I realized that for me it was best to work on this at the start of the day, when my mind was fresh and focused, and to take a break when I got stuck.  


And then there are a few little things that I guess should be no-brainers but can get lost in between the big decisions:

-       your name and information should be on there, e.g. on the left side when you open the book, or you can start with a lovely introductory page like Molly Idle does.

...include your information at the beginning of the book...

-       A flap at the end of the book with cards or printed samples would be nice, so the interested art directors or agents can take away your information:

...and take away material at the end...

-       This is your book, you are introducing your work and yourself. Have fun and make it exactly what you want it to be!

... my portfolio and the case I made for it.

I hope this helps, and wish you all the greatest success in putting together your books!

Andrea Offermann is an illustrator living and working in Hamburg, Germany. You can see her work at


  1. Awesome post Andrea! Thanks for the tips.

  2. Great post Andrea! Wonderful to see your portfolio process!

  3. This was a fantastic post, Andrea! Thank you so much for giving all of this great advice and compiling great links (and also for including mine!). This will be the new post I'll link anyone to asking for tips on portfolios. Great work!