How to Create a PDF Graphic Design Portfolio [Step by Step Guide]

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As a graphic designer, the quality of your work and how you present it are the best ways to differentiate yourself from the competition. In a competitive industry like graphic design, the window to impress potential clients or employers is narrow. You need to be strategic and demonstrate your process, skills, and value.

Unlike other professions, a graphic design portfolio actually serves as a resume -- a tool to close deals, land jobs, and projects.

In this guide, we'll walk you through the process of building a shareable and effective portfolio using DocFly's PDF tools.

Why Create a Static PDF Design Portfolio?

Although online portfolios have gained popularity over the last few years, static design portfolios are still one of the most powerful tools you have.

A PDF portfolio can hold a recruiter or client's attention longer, has fewer constraints as you don't have to work with code, and allows you to tell a more vivid story than online counterparts.

Also, PDF portfolios will save you money (you won't need hosting nor site builders) and time (you can create more iterations faster).

Note: you can always create a website to give your potential clients an overview of your skills and let them download your static portfolio for a more in-depth look into your work.


Building Your Graphic Design Portfolio Step by Step

If the advantages we mentioned above are appealing to you, then it's time to get to work on your document.

1. Define your target audience

Keep in mind that you're creating a marketing asset. As such, it needs to have a target and a goal.

The goal of your portfolio is clear: getting hired!

Your audience is the type of person you want to encourage to hire you. Your design choices will vary depending on who you are targeting. You should pick different work samples when showcasing your portfolio to a recruiter versus a potential client.

These are a few examples:

  • If you are looking for a job in a marketing agency, your target audience is recruiters. In a marketing agency, you'll likely be working on different types of projects like PDFs, feature images, social posts, graphics for articles, etc. So a broader work sample is a good choice.

  • Suppose you are looking for clients in a specific niche. In that case, a better approach is to pick work samples that reflect your expertise in their industry. In some instances, hyper-focus your pieces to a specific type of work like branding, product design, UX/UI, etc.


2. Look for inspiration

Like any other design project, having a pool of references and inspiration is ideal for getting the creative juices flowing.

You want to pick two to three references to build your layout.

Here's a Pinterest board full of PDF examples you can choose from to make the whole process easier.


3. Add your personal brand and style to your portfolio

Inspiration is just that: inspiration. Your graphic design portfolio is about who you are as a designer and what you have to offer.

Your document shouldn't blend in with the rest. It should stand out by being unique.

  • Add your logo or name to the cover of your portfolio and at the end.
  • Choose your brand color scheme.
  • Use consistent typography and make sure your overall aesthetic matches your personal style.


4. Focus on showcasing your strengths

We're sure you're a multifaceted designer with hundreds of interests, a whole book of knowledge, and various work samples. Because of this, you'll be tempted to add everything to your portfolio.

However, you might want to consider a tighter approach.

By honing your skills, you're building a crucial factor to land a client or a job: expertise.

So, how do you focus on your core skills? Simple, you first think about your target's needs.

For this experiment, imagine you're looking to break into the UI industry. By definition, you'll create user interfaces for websites, mobile apps, web apps, etc.

Following this train of thought, adding your logo design skills is kind of irrelevant because it's not what your target audience is looking for.

That said, there's a deeper layer: the industry.

Suppose you know your target industry. You can go even further and only showcase your work for similar companies.

At the end of this exercise, you might end up with UI designs for software products.


5. Sketch the layout for your portfolio using DocFly

The layout is one of those things that can make or break your design.

Sketching your layout is not a must, as you can always try different configurations while working. However, experimenting with different configurations can quickly become inefficient.

If you want to nail your static portfolio, you have to treat the entire thing as a design project. You can think of it as a magazine.

Grab a piece of paper and start drawing different layouts. Once you settle for one, you can go to your DocFly dashboard and click on New File > Blank PDF.

DocFly new file


Unless you want your portfolio to be vertical, you'll need to rotate the file. To do so, click on the Organize tab at the top of the page.

DocFly organize tab


There you'll find the rotate option.

DocFly rotate PDF

After that's done, you can use the shape tool to create your layout.DocFly shape tool

Note: you can do the same using PowerPoint and then turn it into a PDF using DocFly's PDF creator tool.


To add new pages, just go to the Organize tab and click on Blank Page to add as many as you need. If you need to modify your PDF file after creating it, you can use Docfly's edit PDF feature.


6. Pick your best work

Congratulations! You have streamlined the essential elements of your PDF portfolio. It's time to pick the actual parts you want to share with your prospective clients.

For this step, focus on the best workpieces you have in your arsenal.

Even if you have only three samples, it's better to showcase one awesome project than three average ones.

Thinking logically, your client or employer will judge you based on the weakest piece in your portfolio.

Make sure only to add those you are most proud of or ones that better met the project's goals (like increasing brand awareness, increasing attention, making the user experience better, increasing the CTR of an ad, etc.)


7. Write a brief case study for every project

There are three things you want to convey with your copy:

If you can show those three things to a potential client or employer, your chances of success will skyrocket.

However, copywriting requires a different set of skills that might not be your forte. Worry not, here's an excellent guide on how to write design case studies.

Even if you are in another niche, that guide will save you hours in writing.

  • The problem you needed to solve with your design
  • The process you followed to solve it, and
  • The goals your design achieved


8. Put everything together in the editor tool

Alright, you have all the building blocks of your portfolio. It's time to make it happen.


Step 1. Upload your layout to DocFly

If you designed your layout on DocFly, you can move to the next step.

First, we need to transform our PowerPoint layout into a PDF to make it editable.

Convert PowerPoint to PDF


After uploading our slices, they will be converted into PDFs, and we'll be able to use them for our project.

DocFly uploading


After it finishes uploading, DocFly will send you to your dashboard.

In there, click on the three dots on the right from your file to open the menu.

DocFly open file

Now, click on convert to PDF.

DocFly convert to PDF

After finishing the conversion, you'll now have two files: the original PowerPoint file and a new editable PDF file.

DocFly dashboard ppt pdf


Step 2. Add your images following your layout

Now that our layout is in the editor, we can add images, text, and everything else we need.

DocFly add images

On the top, you'll find a tool menu. Click on the image tool and replace the placeholders with your images.

DocFly image tool

Once the images are on the canvas, just place them in the right positions.

DocFly place images pdf

Step 3. Add your case study on the page

The next tool we'll use is the text tool. Just click on the button and now you can place any text anywhere on the canvas.

We already have a place for our text so let's copy and paste it.

DocFly text tool

You can also use the setting menu to change the font size, color, and family.

After that's done, just do the same with the other pages following your layout design.


9. Add your contact information

The last thing we want to add is a contact page. Add the following information to this page:

Then click save and that's it. Your portfolio is ready for proofreading.

  • Full name
  • Email
  • Phone number
  • Website (if you have any)
  • Call to action


10. Proofread your copy

Spelling mistakes are a quick way to get your portfolio sent to the trash.

Rest for one day and read it carefully the next day so you have a fresh pair of eyes ready to spot all of those grammatical errors.

You just finished your portfolio! Now, you're ready to download your file and start closing more deals.