Since I'm trying to wake up and writing helps a lot... I decided to split it in parts. It's too much for one entry. Simple fact on my side.
Edit: I will move everything into one PDF when everything's done. This is the noob-version for total beginners. The rest: bear the basics.
The preparation can be split into different parts. Each part has to be done, so don't leave out anything and complain later.
1. What kind of job is my goal?
Okay, you decided you want to apply. Somewhere... but "somewhere" doesn't work. Suck it up and make up your mind WHERE you want to apply because that normally also leads to for WHAT POSITION you want to apply. That's basically the same for freelancer/full-time job.
Ask friends or maybe even those who wouldn't pet you on the head every time you show them a crappy doodle where they see you. Look around and check if your desired company needs somebody like you and if you'd actually fit in. Do some research and prepare for a goal company or at least an industry sector. Stalk them and get acquainted with the company, their work and where you can meet somebody (fair/con?) or how you can apply.
If you want to get into the children's book and publisher industry your portfolio would likely look very different regarding illustration material. Maybe even half traditional, half digital or only traditional. There are a lot of companies preferring only traditional.
Example: I got one portfolio from Person XY and it's only traditional. It's was a "one fits all" kind of. But... only traditional and damn, she applied with it for a job in a company that does 100% digital work. She mentioned she can do Photoshop but hell, how should I know her level if nothing's included? I can't risk to teach an employee Photoshop up from scratch, I simply don't have the time for it. So that was an out- obviously.
See my point? Do your homework.
If you have a lot of stuff in different media types make stacks/folders. Sort through, check everything. If something looks odd/too old or simply boring throw it out before it makes it into the preselection folder. You don't want that in your portfolio. Worst-case you have to explain why it's in (by accident) and I bet the explanation has to be very creative to make up for it.
Sorry but that shouldn't wander into your portfolio. It's a nice thing you love something but fanart is and was will always be a gray zone in every industry. If you apply at a comic publisher I might see why'd you do it or if you want to be one of the minions drawing Lillifee and apply with a folder full of Lillifee... yes, maybe. But normally it's a no go- I don't want to see if you can paint other people's characters perfectly in another artists style if you are hired to draw your own. Check if it's really okay and ask around. Don't simply assume it's okay.
3. The selection
The selection of images comes for me still before any kind of actual work starts. You can make a draft where you want to put which illustration. You have your folders. And you will sort again. This is your "dove picks out lentils" moment and it sucks. But it's important. Select the favourites, those representing you the most and vary.
It's nice if you like to paint cats but trust me, two cats are enough to show if you can do it. I am always annoyed if I see a portfolio with only 1 very simple topic and ten images basically looking all the same with a slight variation. Wooow, that's very creative. I hope you get what I mean. Vary...
Normally I check my folder and try to make up a logic. Like "game art", "commercial art", "book and story art". This works best if you've already done a lot. Otherwise stick to the common topics like "character design", "background illustrations", "concepts" bla bla. I won't tell you where to choose which topic. Use your brain and ALWAYS keep an eye on the goal company. If you know what they do you can make check boxes for the topics they love and you can cover.
And now you have 20 topics... with hundreds of images.
Well, bummer, that's too much.
Say your max is 40 pages (one double spread= 2 pages..., as a book that'd be 20 sheets to flip through). Exluding cover/back and informations like vita and fact sheet. Try to reduce your topics, merge them into one big one or simply throw the uninteresting ones out. Than... tackle the folder itself. Ask yourself if the 20 images are really needed. If you have 2-3 examples per project that really rocks it's okay and enough. If they don't like these they likely won't fall in love with the 20 others.
Old work: It's up to you if you include old work. I'd say: Only include the essence of the very best. You have to rock on 40 pages. There is no space for a lame or not so strong one. You have to start with wow and keep the wow up till the end. This is not a novel preparing for a show-down. If you start with weak they'll never click to the show-down boom. Or might be surprised why they had to bear the crap to see one good image.
Things nobody wants to see in a portfolio:
- pixelated art (as long as it's not 8bit art... )
- scan borders
- dirt, coffee stains (as long as both are not part of the art)
- dark borders, smudges and eraser crumbs
- the fine use of ALL photoshop filters. It's nice you're totally excited about those and found every single one but... no!
- porn and gore if you apply for a children's book publisher... you forgot to read part 1.
- selfies (if you have no proper photo of yourself don't include a selfie... really. I'd rather see no photo at all than a selfie which brings you down from "I am a pro" to "I'm a facebook bitch")
Make sure you prepared your illustrations/art/sketches/scans top notch. I hate scan frames on print outs and I hate accidental smudges and eraser marks even more. You will look like a total slob and too lazy to deliver a good presentation- details, ladies... it's all in the details.
You were in rush? Well, and how is that anybody's problem but yours? My professor's mantra was "presentation is 50% of the mark". It's also 50% of the job. You want the job, work for it.
5. The format of the portfolio
You have tons of options but let's concentrate on the three regular ones:
printed out (either bound as a book or neatly sorted in a not so cheap folder)
For web basically the same as for a printed out applies. Don't overdo it. You can't expect somebody to click through 1 million categories and pictures. If you have a gallery like here on Deviantart you can add a link at the end of the portfolio to your gallery. If the person loves your stuff and wants to crawl through more for dessert give them the option. But again: If you can't make the wow happen with 20-40 pages, 100 won't do it either.
Web is for me a plan B, for other's it'd be the plan A. It totally depends on where and how you want to apply. If you go to a fair, the web-based portfolio won't do you any good. People expect a folder or something on a tablet they can scroll through. Folder is imo better to flip back and forth or show somebody else or keep a finger between sheets because they found something -for them- interesting. But again... your choice.
PDF is basically the printed version as something you can send per mail or link per mail. If it's small enough to send it... fine. If not... not a problem. Store it somewhere safe and trustworthy and send the link. If porn-pop ups happen or the client has to wait 30 seconds for download... that's not trustworthy and you're a lazy bum again. Dropbox, ge.tt, some cloud service... you get it. Use something that won't frustrate the client.
Something regarding PDF you should keep in mind:
There are a lot of distiller and programms (even free ones) that merge your print version into a 100 dpi screen solution thing. If it's for screen only you don't have to send a 300 dpi monstrum.
Eg I got one PDF with 15 MB and thought that'd be a nice and shiny portfolio. My own portfolio has 46 pages (including information sheet, CV, cover bla bla) and is 15 mb as well. I expected something good..... I got 2 A4 pages print out CV with a crappy sample image that was blown up.
WTF?! That was a B.Des guy. I wondered if he slept through all courses and how on earth he got his degree. I didn't really want to find out.
A lot of companies offer decently prices for soft cover binding and printing. If you have a fair appointment or go to an open map comp-out decide what your budget allows you to invest. If you have a lot of appointments I'd say stick to binder.. you have no idea how many sticky fingers might touch your soft cover version. I use both print and bound (if the very rare appointment occurs) and it depends on "one for all" or "everything for one".
What you should keep in mind: Keep it small. No A2 folders. If you can afford one good investment go for a high class ring binder, not a college MLP folder nightmare. Very good ring binders with 20 sheets don't have to be expensive. The good thing about the pro ring binders are the presentation sheets. You want to go for acid free, crystal clear. No nubby surface- that's only okay for your college folder. Make sure you regulary check the sleeves! If they start looking dirty or used or too scratched up replace them.
I induldged in the luxury of a flexible leather bound ring binder some years ago which gets every year some more scratches and the edges start to soften which looks great. This binder will make me happy for the next couple of years (or longer) and keep rollin and was totally worth the investment. If anybody is curious: It's the PRAT Pampa and I love it. The only thing I have to replace now and than are the sleeves.
Where you should be now:
- you know where you want to apply
- you know why you want to apply there and what you can offer
- you know which pictures to include -if you're still unsure ask friends and again, please as those who don't roll around ecstatically over every stroke you make. These are nice but not helpful. You want to go for those who openly criticize you and challenge your decisions.
- you have a proper photo (or not...)
- you have cleaned up everything and checked twice... and again twice the next day because you might still oversee something
- you made a decision about the format
The next part will cover slapping the actual portfolio together. Layout/what can and needs to be included/regular mistakes & programms.
I hope I didn't miss anything. If you still have some questions regarding THIS entry let me know. Regular questions regarding portfolios can be posted here:
And again, this is my opinion and experience and following the steps doesn't mean you will land the job you want because for that you still need to be very good, fitting to the job/project and maybe a bit beyond awkward with some decent soft skills and charming. It's still lotto/karma/luck and you are swimming with a lot of fishes in an international pond. Don't expect people to jump out of a bush screaming "Whoopee, finally you applied!" because they waited all the time just for you to pop up. It doesn't work that way. You have to be proactive and sitting around depressed doing nothing won't do any good.
I didn't check for spelling mistakes. As always English is not my mother tongue so ignore the mistakes as long as you can still understand the context. Favs are appreciated neverthelss. I spend a lot of time and brain activity on it... so show me it's not for the dustbin.