Category Archives: Personal

Guide to Showcasing Sketch and Photoshop Skills in Your Portfolio


Both Sketch and Photoshop are great tools used by almost every designer to accomplish a huge variety of tasks. To Photoshop has even become a dictionary verb. It doesn’t come as a surprise that most clients will expect a designer to have a high level of Sketch and Photoshop expertise. The majority of Toptal design jobs have either Sketch or Photoshop listed as one of their main required software. All of this is probably making you want to demonstrate your Sketch and Photoshop mastery throughout your portfolio.

Before proceeding, keep in mind that both Sketch and Photoshop are just tools and although tools do not make great designers, being a master of the tool gives the ability to execute your ideas professionally and efficiently.

So, how do you showcase that you are a Sketch or Photoshop expert in your portfolio? It mostly depends on the kind of design work you mainly use either program for.

You do visuals, photo manipulation and illustration

If the focus of your design work is in the creation of visuals, illustration, photo manipulation and photo editing in Photoshop, you’ll want that to shine from your portfolio. When deciding which projects to showcase in the portfolio be sure to choose only your best work and try not to be repetitive. There might be some clients that fall in love with your unique style but often clients prefer designers who can adapt to different styles and trends.

Choose work that demonstrates your mastery in detailed visual compositions, combining various layers, masks and advanced blending and some other qualities that demonstrate your proficiency with using light and shadow. Show that you understand perspective. Include an example that illustrates how immaculately you manage colors. In addition to showing complete visuals or illustrations put some emphasis on perfectly crafted details and make a few close-ups of the most interesting details that really demonstrate your perfection. Share your work process in the portfolio, give some sketches, display how raw materials looked like and what you’ve accomplished to make out of them. If it’s appropriate to showcase photo editing skills, put in some before and after the visuals.

You are the branding expert

While developing the visual identity as a part of a branding project you preferably won’t use Photoshop as your main tool of choice but one of the vector tools such as Illustrator. However, Photoshop will come in handy to visualize how that identity (logo, chosen colors palette, and typography) will work and look on stationary, signage, visual identity guidelines, website, apps and other additional advertising materials.

To showcase your branding project at its best, the first step you’ll need to do is to find or make some 3D mockup templates. Be careful to choose ones that won’t interfere with work that you are primarily showing, but instead, choose ones that will put emphasis on its best features. Avoid weird perspectives, too many distractions in the form of surrounding objects, colors, patterns.

Remember that you are showcasing your branding capabilities to prospective clients and not trying to sell them good looking mockups, especially if you haven’t made them by yourself. If you are buying or using some free templates be sure they are of quality. When applying your work inside a mockup, give attention to details, align everything perfectly, take care that there are no pixels hanging around.

Double check that you are putting your pages or screens in the right perspective, that lighting, white balance and shades are all adjusted and that nothing looks pixelated or distorted. Keep in mind that the scene you are building must look like a real one and although it might not be noticed at the first glance some inconsistencies could signify to a potential client that you are not giving enough attention to details or that you are not so versed in Photoshop.

You are a web or UI designer

Photoshop was not developed for web and user interface visual design, but since no completely corresponding tool existed at the time, most web designers were using it as their primary tool. With the adoption of responsive design and the arrival of more appropriate tools and workflows developed specifically for web and user interface design, Photoshop lost its web design tool throne. There are still some designers, especially those not working on Macs that use Photoshop, but Sketch is now the leader in the field.

If you are working as a web or user interface designer, no matter which tool you use you’ll want to show your proficiency and effectiveness in it and that could hardly be accomplished without revealing your process. High-quality visuals can be produced even if you are not a master of your tools, but glancing through your work files and workflow can show potential clients and collaborators that you are one. That is the reason for showing and describing in your portfolio how you use grids, artboards, structure your layers, and deal with Sketch symbols or Adobe CC libraries, handle typography and styles. Show some close-ups that will place emphasis on your attention to detail. If you craft your pixel-perfect icons and other elements in Sketch, display them with pride.

When choosing mockups in which to present web design or UI work stick with ones that won’t interfere with your designs. Let them be clear, without any unnecessary clutter. If using 3D perspective views, be sure that your work, which is core content of your portfolio, is shown in a way all important components are visible and understandable and there are no perspective distortions.

No matter what, take care of this

If you claim to be a Sketch or Photoshop expert, be sure that all your portfolio projects and presentations look professional. Some minor details, like the wrong direction of a shadow, or any pixelation might show a well-trained eye that your design skills are weak or that you lack the ability to polish your projects up to the last detail.

Be sure that all pictures you are putting in a portfolio are sharp and that nothing is pixelated, posterized or distorted. All elements in photomontages should blend seamlessly, and perspectives of different elements must be aligned and lighting effects, shadows and white balance in compliance.

Remember also that although the presentation of projects in your portfolio is very important, and can be a good means of showing your Photoshop skills, don’t let it become more important than the work itself. If by looking at your portfolio, one is more aware of the presentation than the content, be sure that something went wrong and reconsider rebuilding the portfolio around your best projects.

Source: Toptal

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Guide to Building a Top Web Design Portfolio


Writer’s Note: This is the first of a series of portfolio guides that aims to help those among our readers with the skill set that is featured.

A portfolio is a very important link between a designer and a client. It aims to impress a potential client by showing the designer’s work and skills. At Toptal, we screen a lot of web designers and review a lot of portfolios. Creating a top web design portfolio is by no means easy, even for experienced designers. We’re sharing our tips to help you create a top portfolio.

1. Content Is King

Most web designers are no strangers to the concept of content first. Content is king in web design, so why not apply that same concept to your portfolio? Make content the star of the show and focus on the quality of the message you are trying to get across. Try to avoid eye candy in the images you use and concentrate on engaging potential customers through the statement you are making. This is not to say you should neglect the images — after all, they will without a doubt attract clients and open a few doors — but the copy is likely to make you the ideal candidate for a job. Without great copy, there’s no top portfolio. As a result, you might easily appear less professional and the client could choose a different designer. Well-written content is your best chance to communicate your skills and expertise and sell your work to a future employer.

2. Take Your Target Audience Into Account

Another well-known web design strategy is not to think of yourself (the web designer) as the user. As you would with a web design project, think of your target audience and their wants, needs, and possible limitations. Put yourself into the shoes of the people who will be viewing your portfolio, find pain points and fix them. Help them understand the message you are sending.

Remember that a portfolio is about projects, so aim to find the right balance and remove everything that gets in a way of a clear, concise message. The goal of a portfolio is to showcase your work to potential clients and impress them. They need to find a quick and easy path to the information they want, so think of a way to provide just that.

3. Tell a Story

Engage potential clients by telling a story. For instance, explaining the process behind a project could come a long way. Showcase not only a finished product but also the way you solve real problems. This will help clients appreciate the time and effort invested behind the scenes and get to know you as a web designer. Explain your role in the project and mention the techniques and technologies used to demonstrate the value of your work. Your skills should be reflected in the images you provide.

If you were a member of a team, mention and promote the success of the entire team and the project, not only your role. Are there some detailed UI problems you solved which you can share? What deliverables were produced and why? Which of the major KPIs can be used to demonstrate project goals and success? Was there a part of the project that was not a success and why was that the case? Try to be objective and honest — not every step of the project is without flaws and no web designer is error free. Honesty might just be the best policy and it might impress clients. While you could do all this in a Skype meeting with a potential employer, why not save yours and their time and tell a story in your portfolio? It’s a definite win-win situation.

4. Don’t Make Your Clients Think

“Don’t make me think” by Steve Krug is one of the most famous web design books and, generally speaking, lessons in web design. Avoid being vague to let clients accomplish their task without hitting roadblocks. Make sure your work, as well as personal and contact information is easy to understand and digest. Present goals, results, and features in a direct and concise, intuitive fashion. If your project is live, make sure to provide a link to the website and let the client discover more. The browser is the natural environment for any website, so it only makes sense to let clients view your project in it. If the project is not online, maybe you can provide a link to a detailed case study, a front-end prototype, or a style guide. This might be your only opportunity to make a lasting impression, so invest extra effort.

5. Be Professional

The final tip may be obvious, but is by no means insignificant: be professional in your presentation. Assure clients you are not willing to gamble with the quality of their projects.

There is a number of ways you can do this. Here are a few:

  • Use spell-check software to avoid spelling errors and come off superficial.
  • Consider specifying the start and end dates to provide additional information and add to the credibility.
  • Optimize images without sacrificing quality — no-one wants to see pixelated images, but no-one wants to wait for them to load, either. After all, we’re web designers and therefore no strangers to image optimizations.
  • Be honest when stating your work experience and job title.
  • Give credit where credit is due. If other agencies and team members were involved in a project, mention them and their role.
  • Select only your strongest portfolio pieces — quality will always win over quantity and you may well be judged by your weakest work.
  • If the project was a success, ask the client for a testimonial and add it to your portfolio.
  • Ask peers for a review to find ways of improving your portfolio.
  • Much like any website, your portfolio is never finished, so remember to update it regularly and keep improving it.

This wraps up our tips for creating a top web design portfolio.

Source: Toptal.