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Creating A Compelling Portfolio

Every artist and creative should have a portfolio. A portfolio should showcase your creative talents, problem-solving intellect, and communication skills all in a quick glance in order to land the job you want. Here’s some advice about building your portfolio to help you land more jobs, get more money, and give you a creative edge.

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The Specs Before we get into the do’s and don’t of a portfolio, we need to address a couple of key questions and outliners that will help build out a strong foundation for building out a portfolio:


There are many faces to a portfolio in today’s world. Identify where yours should live, mainly that’s either in print or online. Online is often the most cost-effective way of developing a portfolio, there are plenty of places that offer free profiles. There are places like Behance, ArtStation, and a Dribbble who offer these. Avoid using out-dated sites that aren’t commonly used by professions, like Facebook (duh) or Deviantart. If you’ve already established some of these, then it might be time to build out something you can manage on your own. I suggest getting a personal site utilizing Squarespace or Wix to house your work. Over-sized pieces and traditional work styles that are too large to carry around should all be presented in a professional bound folder, into a book, and should have the best photos possible. There are self-publishing sites like Lulu or Blurb that can elevate your work into printed materials.


What do you want your portfolio to accomplish for you? Identify what your goals and objectives are for your portfolio. This will help you to determine how to build out your portfolio for the job you want. Remember, if you bring your portfolio online, you should differentiate between your lists of services you offer and when showing your work.


Your portfolio should have some type of overarching theme. That might be your area of study or you can be a loose theme that caters to the job you want. It’s okay to leave it open or broad that your work can umbrella under. For instance, Memento Mori was a subject matter I was obsessed with and was broad enough for each of my pieces to fit into the portfolio. If you’re getting a book printed, you should probably use the theme as the title. It’s important to only show work you’re excited about and not your entire body of work.

Body of work

How many pieces? Your portfolio should be between 12–15 works. Include variety and some pieces that include process and can inter-change for the job that you want. Be Subjective — detach yourself from your body of work.

Add Talking points

Be sure to group similar pieces today and make it a clear line across the entire body of work shows your problem-solving skills. Sell your work, be sure to add merits if you have them.


  • Build your portfolio to the work you want.

  • It’s okay to use self-initiated pieces for your portfolio. Just make sure the project looks real.

  • Take time to write out information about each piece. Showcase the passion you have for your work.

  • Each piece should be able to sand out on its own.

  • Add variety to your pieces, including applications, to cast a wide net. Include process shots and sketches.

  • Show work that you’re excited about.


  • don’t have too many pieces included in your portfolio.

  • Don’t become emotionally attached to sub-par works.

  • Make sure every project looks like a finished thought.

  • Avoid hot-button topics unless it fits the job you want.

  • Remove any pieces that show poor judgment or don’t show a straight line of thought.

  • It’s a portfolio, not a collection of all the work you’ve ever done.

  • Don’t take a failed interview personally.

About the writer, Britta Buescher Britta is a creative director for one of the most progressive comic book companies in the United States. She’s a leading voice for professional women illustrators, designers, and animators.



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