PDF Portfolios for Web Design

Snapshot your best web designs through a static PDF portfolio

A woman working at a computer using software to analyze qualitative data.

mihailomilovanovic / Getty Images 

When you build a web design portfolio, first create it as a website. Most clients expect to see your web design work on the web, and that is where your skills in things like web programming and scripting will show up to best effect. Image rollovers, Ajax, and other DHTML don’t show up in print.

A Portable Portfolio

Most designers rely on printouts of their designs and hope that they can get access to the internet to show off their designs online to clients. But with a PDF portfolio you can create a portfolio that's printable, but also includes features like links and some animation to better show off your pages.

With a PDF portfolio, customize it to showcase your best work and focus on the needs of the client. And because it is a stand-alone document, you can simply email the portfolio to your prospects.

Building a PDF Portfolio

The easiest way is to start in a program that you are already comfortable in, like Dreamweaver or a graphics program. If you think of your portfolio as a website (or you already have it built as a website), you can create a design that works for your needs and showcases your best work. Remember that the portfolio is an example of your work too, so don’t skimp on the design. You will get more offers from a good portfolio than a bad one, so take the time to make it good.

Choose your best work to include in the portfolio. Don’t include everything. Leaving in an example of less-than-stellar work just because it’s the only example you have of that skill will have a larger negative effect than leaving it out and just including those skills in your resume instead.

Include informative details about the pieces you do choose, including:

  • Client name and date it was created.
  • Project description and URL of the live site (if it’s still live).
  • Your role on the project.
  • Any awards or industry recognition the project received.

Finally, your portfolio should include details about yourself such as:

  • Your name, contact information, and a short biography.
  • Your website URL including where to find the full portfolio online.
  • A list of your previous and current clients.
  • Services you offer or an extended list of skills that might not be showcased in the portfolio.
  • A cover letter including your goal or mission statement.

If you including nothing else, you must include your name and contact information in the PDF. The goal of a portfolio is to help you get a job or more clients, and it can’t do that if the prospective employer or client can’t contact you.

Saving Your PDF Portfolio

Many software programs save files as PDF or print web pages to PDF with tools like these 5 Great Tools for Converting HTML to PDF. For the best portfolios, however, use a program like Photoshop or Illustrator to design your PDF and then modify it with links and additional pages using a PDF tool like Acrobat Pro.

Save your PDF so that it’s got a small file size, but not so small that the quality of your designs is affected. If you are planning to email your PDF you should limit the size to less than 25 MB. Some email clients (like Gmail and Hotmail) enforce attachment-size limits.