A portfolio is a gallery of your work that you’ll show to people to demonstrate your artwork whether it’s in a book or online. It’s a reflection of the type of art you do and what art you want to be hired to do. Some could argue that a portfolio also represents what kind of person you are.
If you’re an artist and you want to get paid making art for people, you’ll need a portfolio to tell people that yes, you’re an artist and your services are for sale.
Visual art portfolios vary depending on the art job that you want but these are some universal tips to making a portfolio in general
Show Your Best Work
Demonstrate how amazing of an artist you are by showing people your most amazing work. Many say to show your best pieces first and last, but truth be told, your whole unit needs to be strong.
I recommend making a top ten list of pieces you want to show before you die or take to a deserted island. With those limited slots you’ll take more time deciding what to keep and what to not keep in your portfolio. If you have a shred of doubt that a piece isn’t strong enough, you can keep it out of your portfolio.
Don’t overthink your work too much though, because your portfolio will frequently change to your needs and other needs of the potential job.
Put it Somewhere Accessible
Have a singular place that someone can go to find you stuff quickly and easily. Art Directors, Editors and Fans are constantly strapped for time and attention, so they can’t spend so much time hunting for that one good piece you drew several years ago.
In the past, artist printed their work and slipped them in portfolio cases and carried them around to art directors and editors to show them. At the time of this writing, people still do. I did that when I was taking my portfolio to various comic conventions to show my meager collection of story pages, character designs for dead games, and misc sketches.
I recomend having a link an online gallerey that you can point people to see all of your top notch work. If you don’t have an online gallery or a blog to display your work here a list of free, easy to set-up websites and blogs in no particular order.
Things like having an Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter might be good for sharing work and Editors do look at those to find fairly popular artists, a good website not at the mercy of ever changing algorithms, shadow bans and useless drama will keep your artwork more in focus.
A good idea is to have a PDF file as a sharable digital version of your portfolio. You can email it to art directors and store them in your phone or tablet. Art Directors tend to be iffy about showing a portfolio from such a tiny screen on your phone, but others are more accepting to it, this is anther option to consider when you don’t have space and you don’t have internet access. You can use Adobe Bridge to make PDFs from individual image files or Foxit Phantom PDF or IrFanView for your PDF needs.
Keep It Relevant
Build your portfolio to the job that you want to do or get hired for.
If you want to be a character designer, don’t show someone a gallery of vehicle designs (no, Cars Characters don’t count.)
Research the art career you want to be doing. Look for tips on how to make artwork related to the career choice. Find art that’s already there and see the standard needed to get in that career. Chat with pros who are already doing what you want to do and listen to their recommendations or stories on how their portfolio got accepted.
There are other factors to having a good portfolio, like timing, format, or presentation, but these are the super common factors. Show your work to people and don’t feel too bad about getting rejected. You can never account for peoples tastes, so if one person doesn’t like it, there’s probably someone else who will.
If you really care about being a professional artist who wants to make a living doing this, you just got to keep showing work and keep finishing work for yourself.
Don’t stress, this isn’t a contest.