Putting Together a Professional Portfolio for Review

When I was a student at SCAD, we were strongly encouraged to solicit portfolio reviews from industry professionals whenever possible and prudent.  Although I had prepared a portfolio as part of my application to SCAD's Sequential Art graduate program, I'd never received any formal instruction on doing so until I'd already started SCAD.

Presenting a portfolio, or keeping a neat and organized digital portfolio are skills that are important long after you've finished school.  Portfolios are often a necessary part of finding a job in illustration.  Even if you intend to work as a self-employed artist attending conventions, putting together a portfolio is often an important part of applying to juried conventions.

Creating a Portfolio for Professional Review and Job Applications

Physical portfolio:

  • Decent book-style portfolio with individual plastic page protectors.  Itoya makes several affordable options.
  • 12 images total- should be your best work.  If you have difficulty deciding, have others give their input.  Remember though, you get the final say.  These images should represent what you actually want to do, so if you want to do children's watercolor comics, you should include examples of this.  If you want more general work, consider having good examples of various stages of comic craft- pencils, inks, colors, lettering.
Many artists are now using tablets to showcase their portfolios digitally.  This is great if you do a web comic, prefer digital coloring, or have limited space, but keep in mind that the suggestions for physical portfolios are applicable to digital portfolios.  For some artists, a physical portfolio may best showcase their work, especially if the majority of their work is traditional media such as acrylic, watercolor, marker, or pencil colors.

Digital Portfolio:

There are several gallery sites where you can host your portfolio, or you may choose to have your portfolio on your website.  Sites include Behance, DeviantArt (utilize their Portfolio option, not just the general gallery).  When selecting a portfolio site, keep in mind that any perspective employer may be distracted by other artists on the site.  You may also opt to show potential employers your digital portfolio on a tablet, and may opt to have the images saved to that rather than trying to access a site.
  • Consider having your portfolio images in their own folder, or in a separate section of your website
  • Have this loaded up and ready for viewing beforehand

Should also bring:
  • Your sketchbook, but don't shove it in their faces.  Just have it in case they want to see it.
  • Copies of your most current resume
  • Business cards

Can also bring:
  • Mini comics
  • Copies of things you've been published in

Creating a Portfolio for Convention Applications

This portfolio does not need to be as tightly curated as a portfolio intended for in-person presentation, although curation is still wise.   Portfolios intended for juried conventions should include the following:

  • Favorite examples of past conventions table setups and displays
  • Examples of what you intend to sell
      • Comics (not the entirety of.  A few shots of the assembled books and a few interior pages are fine)
      • Buttons (The finished product, preferably)
      • Charms (The finished product, preferably)
      • Prints (The digital file is fine)
      • Example commissions, if you intend to offer commissions
In general, you want to aim for a mix of fanart and original art, within more emphasis on the original art.

If you intend to utilize this portfolio when applying for panels, you want to include a copy of your resume and a list of other panels you've presented, including the year and the convention.

I keep my convention portfolio and work portfolios separate.  Right now, my Behance houses my work portfolio, and my DeviantART Portfolio is my convention portfolio, because I'm trying to appeal to two very different audiences with very different needs, and I don't want to run the risk of confusion.


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