A Look at Lookbooks

Photo of Kris Ruff Lookbooks

What is a Lookbook? 

For surface designers, the term lookbook generally refers to a multi-page promotional piece, usually in digital form, showcasing your art. It’s a valuable tool for marketing your surface designs.


How is a Lookbook Different from a Portfolio?

A lookbook is like a movie trailer, which showcases a film in a way that entices viewers to see the full movie. The goal of a lookbook is the same —  to showcase your art and your style in a way the reader wants to see your full portfolio.


Or you could think of it as your personal store window — your job is to create a beautiful display of your newest, most eye-catching work that will bring the buyer in to see the rest of the inventory — in this case, your portfolio.


What Should a Lookbook Look Like?

The sky’s the limit, but most lookbooks feature a combination of mockups and pattern swatches. They often include a short artist bio. Many designers group their art into collections. And obviously it should include all your contact information (email, phone number and social media links) and visually, it should reflect your brand.


The best lookbooks are well organized, uncluttered, have lots of white space and minimal text, so the artwork can really shine. They have high quality, well-executed mockups with patterns and color choices appropriate for the products. 


Put Yourself in the Buyer’s Shoes

Imagine you’re an art buyer searching for art for your product line. Your production deadline is fast approaching. You have a (digital) stack of lookbooks to go through. You probably won’t take time to look through a 50-page lookbook. And you’ll probably skip the artist bios. In fact you may only spend a few seconds looking at one artist’s work before moving on to the next.


With that scenario in mind, carefully choose what you want the buyer to see in those brief seconds. I keep my lookbooks short (12-20 pages), put my bio at the end and keep text to a minimum. I want buyers to spend ALL their time looking at my art.


Pick a Lane

I recommend limiting product categories within your lookbook. Don’t try to show bedding, fashion, tabletop, accessories, stationery and wallpaper mockups all on the same page. If you really want to promote your work in all those different product categories, consider creating multiple lookbooks — maybe one for home goods like bedding, wallpaper and table linens, another for stationery, tech cases, and accessories and a third one for fashion.

Issuu Lookbooks
See examples of Lookbooks on Issuu.com

Lookbook Inspiration

Issuu.com is a good place to study lookbook design. Just type “surface pattern” into their search bar and you’ll get a page that looks similar to the one above.

The Same Old Mockups

As you look through isuu.com you’ll start to see the same mockup photos used again and again. Which means art buyers are seeing them again and again. You want to stand out and be different! So continue to develop your mockup-making skills. Then you’ll be able to create the most unique mockups from the most unique stock photos.  Pro tip: If you purchase stock photos instead of relying on free stock websites you’re even more likely to have unique mockups.


What’s the best way to learn how to make mockups? Mockup Academy of course! Whatever product you want to mockup there’s a Mockup Academy class that covers all the skills you’ll need.

Look Book or Lookbook?

Is it one word or two? I have no idea! I’ve seen it both ways. You say tomato I say tomAto. I usually make it one word (although auto-correct always turns it into “cookbook” which is really annoying!).

Kris Ruff

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