How to Build Your Graphic Design Portfolio – Print, PDF, Or Website

Build Your Graphic Design Portfolio

First things first, a graphic design portfolio refers to a designer’s personal and professional compilation that is represented in an easy-to-view format. Additionally, graphic design portfolio encapsulates a designer’s skill set, styles as well as personality. That said, are you looking to put together a graphic design portfolio? With the help of high-quality images, seamless colouration, great layouts, and tasteful typography, you can put together an amazing graphic design portfolio that can convince employers and clients to hire you.

Besides, you can kickstart your career based off of a portfolio. All you have to do is create a tidy one with amazing features that sets your work apart from others. Just like a curriculum vitae, you could think of a graphic design portfolio as a visual resume that showcases your talent, skillset and your ability to adapt to challenges as a designer.

Having a portfolio isn’t an option when you are a graphic designer. Besides, we all know that a winning portfolio is key when applying for a new job. So, if you are looking to build, maintain, improve or evolve one, we got you covered. That said, whether you are starting out as a student or you are looking to evolve an existing one but doesn’t know which format is best to display your work, you are on the right page. I have compiled essential tips on how to build your graphic design portfolio.

Build Your Graphic Design Portfolio

Build your Graphic Design Portfolio here are your options

The big options available for building portfolios include the print, PDF, or a website. Now that you already understand how vital a portfolio can be, the next step is how to come up with one. Out of the formats available, you can easily pick one, but settling for the appropriate portfolio format that suits your needs can be involving.

Whether you decide to create an online version, attach a PDF or do both, it is up to you but bears in mind that whichever route you go, there are pros and cons to each. Read on to explore the ins and outs of each format and how to go about each.

The print portfolios

Print portfolios are majorly professional in nature, and they are book-bound. They constitute important pieces of information that represent your hands-on work. That said, it is important to note that coming up with print portfolios can be involving. From the time, effort, patience and monetary resources that are involved in building a portfolio, coming up with one as a designer speaks volumes about your dedication.

How to create a print portfolio

Creating a print portfolio is more involving compared to a PDF or the website format. From colour, the layout, the paperweight, typography and the design, there is so much more that goes into it, not to mention passion. But generally, the following are steps involved in creating a print portfolio

  • Do some research on the creative designs that you admire most.
  • Gather the most colourful and successful designs. You can do that by mock sketching them to see which one fits your individual needs.
  • Once you have established the best approach to your print design, gather all your quality pieces, arrange them in Adobe InDesign and start working on them.
  • Take your time to work on it because you can’t possibly finish creating a print portfolio in one day. Therefore, make sure the portfolio is the accurate representation of your work and who you are as a person.

Pros and cons of print portfolios


  • If approached correctly, print portfolios can set you apart from other designers.
  • Print portfolios represent the first-hand demonstration of effort, passion, thought, and knowledge of the surroundings put down on paper or print design. This way, showing up for an interview with one can move employers’ hearts.


It is time-consuming. This is because you have to put effort into the art of arranging your work with the aim of pleasing future clients and employers.

The work itself is hands-on. As such, it can be rather difficult to update your portfolio. This is because no part of your print portfolio is digital in nature.

It can be expensive to design print portfolios.

PDF Portfolios

These kinds of portfolios aren’t as popular as the print or website formats. They have a blend of characteristics that encompass both the print and the website versions. They aren’t as mainstream as the others but they re nonetheless picking momentum.

How to create PDF portfolios

The typical manner to create PDF portfolios is by use of layout software such as the ones provided for in Adobe InDesign. Whereas there are layout templates provided in the software, you can make use of some inspiring creative designs from elsewhere.

The best software you can use to create this type of portfolio is Adobe InDesign. That is because it has a limitless number of layouts, and it can accommodate multiple files at once. Whatever I featured in this application include grids and guides, image effects, master pages and text layout options.

Pros and cons of PDF portfolios


  • They are easier to make updates on or tailor to suit the needs of specific audiences.
  • They can be easily sent via email applications or any form of file sharing.
  • They are easy to store or access for future reference through PDFs on mobile or laptop storage devices.
  • It is quite easy to change from one layout to another, do colour combinations or use different typographic designs.
  • It is budget-friendly because you can design it on your computer within a short time. The layouts are provided for. Thus, you don’t have to worry about paying for paperweight or print.


  • PDF portfolios make up for big files on devices. As such, they run the risk of image compression or pixilation.

Website portfolios

The world of digital design has evolved drastically. As such, almost all creative works of art finds its way on to the online platforms. For this reason, website portfolios have skyrocketed in popularity. This has seen conventional designers shift to digital design. Artists and designers from all disciplines are choosing to display their work on websites.

How to create website portfolios

There are many web hosting services that you can make use of if you prefer creating a website portfolio. Besides, most of these services offer trials in case you aren’t fully committed at first. These services include:

  • WordPress.
  • Wix.
  • Adobe portfolio.
  • Squarespace.

The pros and cons of website portfolios


  • It is quite seamless because you can easily tailor its appearance, layouts and navigation to suit the specific needs of your audience.
  • It has pre-installed theme templates that you can choose from.
  • They are quite easy to update because all you will be required to do is create a new project page and then import your previous images and embed in a new description.
  • You can easily customize website portfolios to suit your brand image.
  • They are easy to store or access for future reference. This way, you can easily distribute to clients or sent them to employers for your professional work.
  • Most web hosting services allow you to include additional tabs and subsections if you deem necessary.


  • It can be expensive to host and maintain a website’s domain name as well as keep your portfolio running.

Overall tips to use in setting up a great graphic design portfolio

A stellar graphic design portfolio is perhaps the most important thing for aspiring graphic design professionals. The portfolio should be eye-catching, meaning, it has to show and not tell. Therefore, knowing how to create one is as vital as your professional career itself. The following tip is engineered to help you create a portfolio that will get you that job you have ever wanted.

Explain the backstory

Putting together a graphic design portfolio is an opportunity to showcase your skillset, work and creative process to the hiring managers. Moreover, it is also an opportunity to express how your skills have grown over time. The ideal scenario would be to design one that has a series of ideas that have progressed over time to come to the final visual design.

Select the right platform

The platform you choose can be as good as how you will present your ideas. As a graphic designer, presenting your work in an ideal way is the game-changer. That is why the best platform comes in handy. The following are some of the platforms you can put into consideration:

  • Carbonmade.
  • DevianArt.
  • Dribbble.
  • Dunked.
  • Portfoliobox.
  • Squarespace.
  • Weebly.
  • WordPress.

Optimize your images for easy presentation

After you have uploaded the images of your work onto your hosting platform, remember to optimize them for easy viewing. Images of your work shouldn’t take too long to load. The hiring managers wouldn’t have that patience, though, that is why optimization can be a make or break deal.

There are multiple viewing optimization techniques you can make use of such as resizing and compression. This is the best way to ensure that the images of your workload faster and also look good on all devices. For instance, a small picture with a high resolution on a mobile device may not have the same resolution on a desktop computer screen. You can make use of research websites that enable you to manipulate the images of your work to achieve the desired resolution by means of pixilation.

Integrate your personality into the showcase

This is one of those things that are easier said than done. But most employers want to have a look at your personality through your presentation. Your portfolio should be thoughtfully put together to ensure both aspects of your work, as well as your personality, is on display. The advice you will often get is not to overdo it, but if you get a chance to showcase your personality through your presentation, personal brand or any other methodology, it is vital you should.

Emphasize the process, not just the finished work

Most graphic designers make this mistake; they put more focus on the finished work and not the process of coming up with it. They say the end justifies the means, but that aside, most clients or employers are left frustrated because they can’t quite tell what or who else was involved in the project along the way.

Besides, employers want to know how much of resources went into the project, the challenges faced, and what you did to overcome such. The focus on the glossy final image of your work leaves a lot to b desired on the part of your clients and employers. Therefore, do not shy away from discussing where things went south in the course of your project. Furthermore, think of it as an opportunity to state what lessons you learned from the experiences instead of focusing on the negative side of things.

Get some critiques to analyze your work

One step towards creating a great graphic design portfolio is asking out for people to critique your work. From colleagues and tutors to creative design directors, get your work critiqued along the way as you find ways of improving it. Besides, it is the best way to make your work more reliable.

Whereas no one likes their output being critiqued, it is vital that you do. So, rather than discover you have poor work when it is too late, you would better get told earlier to have any chance of making amends.

The bottom line

For all graphic designers, a portfolio is a must-have. Your portfolio is as good as your personal brand. Therefore, you must weigh up the ideal way to present your work because that’s what you will showcase to any potential clients and employers. Put in the extra hours, beef up your portfolio, and remember that you are only as good as your worst project.