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This is a loaded question, because it depends on how you’re trying to sell your textile designs and who is seeing your portfolio. You’ve got about 8-seconds to grab someone’s attention with your portfolio, so you need to make sure you show them what they want to see, and nothing else.
So, let’s cover a few different portfolio scenarios.
Textile Design Portfolio For Full-Time Jobs
While it’s really hard to get a job and make money as a full-time textile designer, if you want to find employment, the number one focus of your textile design portfolio should be making sure it *visually* matches the brand’s aesthetic. This is first and foremost what they will care about. Unless it’s a huge brand that creates tons of different categories, they won’t want to see a ton of different aesthetics in your portfolio. Even if you’re capable of different types of prints, you should focus your portfolio and only show them the work that is relevant. Look at the type of artwork they’re currently using for their brand and show them stuff that compliments that.
Because of this, your portfolio doesn’t need to be huge. 3-4 print collections with 3-4 prints per is sufficient. If you want bonus points, show mockups of your prints on items relevant to the brand. For example, if it’s a home decor brand, show home decor mockups. If it’s an athleisure brand, show legging mockups. Just make it relevant! You can do mockups in 3D using free tools – just google “3D fabric mockup [leggings / bed spread / etc].” You can also do mockups in flats using Adobe Illustrator.
Textile Design Portfolio For Freelancing
My favorite path to working as a textile designer is as a freelancer. If you’re pursuing freelancing, your portfolio should be focused and niche based on what kind of brands you’re pitching to. Just like looking for employment as a textile designer, freelancers should only show relevant work. If you reach out to a kidswear brand that does a lot of whimsical prints, that’s what they’ll want to see. They don’t care about your photorealistic florals, so don’t show them!
Now as a freelance textile designer, you may want to do more than one type of print aesthetic. That’s fine, and you can. Just make sure to control what brands see. This may be with different pages on your website (ie one for whimsical and one for photorealistic florals) or it may be with different PDF portfolios. Because yes, you can do your portfolio as a simple PDF!
Curious what a textile design portfolio looks like? Here are two examples from successful students inside our Freelance Accelerator: from Surviving to Thriving (FAST) program.
Lucia Sanguinetti-Jonescheit is a textile designer from Argentina who lives in Germany. Lucia began freelancing because she had 2 young boys at home and she didn’t want to do the 9-5 grind anymore. She has plenty of work and is earning $60/hour as a freelance textile designer.
Lucia’s niche is baby and kids textiles. While her website portfolio is impressive, you only need a couple projects like this (not a whole website!). Here are a couple example projects:
Katerina Dimovska is a textile designer from Macedonia. She didn’t go to school for textiles and didn’t have any industry experience doing repeats. Yet after losing her tech pack job during the pandemic, she decided she wanted to pursue her passion of painting and designing. She launched her freelance textile design career and in her first year of freelancing, outearned her in-house income when she was doing tech packs.
Katerina focuses on working with brands that match her aesthetic, regardless of the category. Her LinkedIn portfolio is super simple and visually speaks to a very specific look.
Textile Design Portfolio For Licensing Your Work
Licensing your designs is a complicated and difficult way to make money in textiles. That said, if you want to do it, your textile design portfolio for licensing your work will vary depending on who is seeing it. Are you going directly to brands to get licensed? If so, you’ll want to include work that matches their brand aesthetic. Your portfolio will look a lot like the full-time job and freelancing portfolios described above.
If you’re working with an agent or a print studio, you’re going to want to show a variety of work. Agents and print studios work with a variety of brands who have a wide range of looks. They’ll be more interested in textile designers who have a broader range of work in their portfolio.
Textile Design Portfolio For Working With Print Studios / Houses / Agencies
While working with print studios isn’t my favorite way to make money as a textile designer, if you want to go this route, you’ll want to have a more diverse textile design portfolio. Print studios love diverse textile designers who can offer a range of aesthetics since they sell to a range of brands with different looks.
To create an effective portfolio for working with print studios, you’ll want to put together 3-5 different print collections (with 3-5 prints each) to show. You don’t have to worry about covering every aesthetic, and it’s ok if all your work is hand painted or all vector. Just include prints that show you can do different types of Artwork.
Want More Help With Your Textile Design Portfolio?
Check out my free book on portfolios. It will walk you through the step-by-step process of creating yours, including what to include, how many projects you need, and what formats are best. (Hint: a few projects is enough, and a PDF works great!)