Tips on creating the perfect printed portfolio

Posted by iscd@admin on March 28

Some of our Interior Design students have recently had an incursion with Kenneth from Carbon 8, a specialist printing company in Sydney. Kenneth spoke to the students about the many different elements of printing and the importance of the printing processes when it comes to portfolios.

We caught up with Kenneth to ask him for some tips when it comes to creating a ‘perfect’ portfolio…


Printing has different stages, one of the most important being before you even press print. What things should be considered before printing?

Think about the quality of your images and resolution. Ideally images should be 300dpi for best quality printing but images above 180dpi usually look acceptable. If in doubt, zoom in on it so that you are seeing your art at 100%. If you see imperfections in the image, you will see it in printing. You tend to notice imperfections more once printed than on a screen. So be very critical of your imagery.

The other big point is that colour is very subjective. Your monitor and phone will look different and that is the same with printers, they can all differ. For the best chance of colour consistency always make sure photos you work with have a colour profile embedded. And that you always choose to honour colour profiles and continue to embed them in your workflow. It is what tells our machines what version of colours your file is talking about.

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When designing a portfolio what will make someone stand out from others? How can work be presented so that it will stand out from the crowd?

Don’t put too many small images on a page as they will look cluttered and you will lose detail. We believe in the maxim ‘less is more’, so just keep refining and asking yourself if everything needs to be there. Anything that doesn’t contribute to the story, remove it.

Your work and our print quality should speak for themselves. No need to overcomplicate it with lots of other stuff.

What advice would you give when bringing the final portfolio together?

Always work in InDesign to lay out. It is far easier and better than Illustrator for laying things out. Never paste a file into a document, always link it as you can then edit the link and update it. A pasted in image is locked in time.

If you are working on a multipage portfolio, you can design in spreads but before outputting for print always change to single pages and export from this view.

Also remember to think about bleed for print. Printing is nearly always cut as a last process so we need all colour or images that meet the cutting edge to bleed over it. It’s often forgotten by students but is vital or you can end up with an ugly sliver of colour where you thought your booklet should be trimmed. Bleed it over the edge by at least 2mm to allow some tolerance in cutting and never run imagery or colour closer than about 8mm of the edge if you want it to have a white border. It can look very cramped if you have things running too close to the edge.

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How many pages is the ideal amount?

This is hard to say. How much do you have that is worth inclusion? Again, ‘less is more’ applies. Having said that, you have to convey your point of difference and you don’t want to undersell yourself. But if something feels like it’s a repeat or upon reflection a few days later seems a little off, rework it, reshoot it, redesign it.

Should a portfolio have a consistent look/feel?

Yes, I think this is vital. Even if you are presenting a mix of themes you need to find a way to make them as cohesive as possible.

It all needs to talk with the same accent or it may feel a little disjointed.

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We also asked our iscd General Manager, Wendy Greenhalf, her thoughts on what potential employers are looking for in a designer’s portfolio. Through her connections to industry her advice is worth a moment’s reflection as you create your portfolio.

“Interior design firms and Senior Designers are generally looking for two main things. Your design style and being able to stretch your thinking to create different looks to meet a client brief. So when you design your layouts, use your personal style to tie the overall portfolio together. Create a unique theme that is well thought out and well designed. Then make sure you include a variety of work that details your thinking around different client needs.”

“Take the time to think about how you pitch yourself. Sell your benefits and value adds. Are you a go getter who works autonomously? What are your values? What do you bring to the organisation or team?. They are after your design skills, but they also need to know how you will fit in their team and culture of their business.”

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