View Full Version : Building an Illustration Portfolio
July 3rd, 2009, 03:32 PM
Currently I am Webd Designer by trade but I've also had a strong interest and certain amount of talent in Illustration. Lately I've been thinking of building up an illustration portfolio to hopefully get some Illustration work at some point.
However I'm curious about what a good starting point would be? For all you professionals out there...what's a good size for a portfolio? How many finished pieces should I have? Variety is good but I don't want to spread myself too thin in terms of styles I can offer to potential clients. Anyone have any input on this?
I'd be very curious to know how people out there got their first illustration jobs.
July 3rd, 2009, 05:07 PM
A portfolio doesn't need to be big at all. I've heard art directors say that as few as five can be good if they are very strong, consistent, and hit the right notes. A more typical answer would be 10-12, but I think in many cases that could be over kill. Fewer pieces, although they have to be killer, might be better.
A basic procedure to getting paying illustration work is:
- Put together a strong, consistent portfolio. One look, one style, clearly communicating what your strengths are.
- Do some research and find places where your work might fit in well. It pays to know your target market.
- Don't be afraid to do some local work. The year before I started doing paid freelance work I did a lot of posters for local events I supported. No pay, but still good experience, and it gave me a work history I could discuss to bigger clients. (I still help out my local Roller Derby league with posters just because I like them). Don't take just any unpaid work, but the right type of work can be useful.
- Send out samples. Go ahead and send samples to your dream jobs, but also don't ignore the smaller presses. Those smaller jobs may not pay well, but they give you valuable experience and give you published credits, which shows bigger clients that you can meet deadlines and deliver what you promise.
- Stay in the public eye. Keep creating new work. When you have new samples you are proud of send out new samples. Odds are eventually your name sticks in someone's mind and they give you a shot (assuming your work is what they are looking for). A blog or website is good. You need to do a fair amount of self promotion, and it's not always the most obvious stuff that works best.
July 3rd, 2009, 09:55 PM
Great answers, thanks so much for the reply.
I thin my first step will definitely be nailing down my style. I'll certainly take your other points under advisement. How long have you been working as an illustrator? How long did you do the 'smaller' work you were mentioning before you were able to work for the larger clients. At this point I'd be happy to do even the smaller stuff.
Anyone else have input?
July 4th, 2009, 07:12 AM
About the being seen part, a good way to do that is to enter art contests on well traveled websites such as Conceptart, The Art Order blog and other places that get visited by lots of art directors.
July 4th, 2009, 11:46 AM
an oldie but goodie:
July 4th, 2009, 02:50 PM
I've been getting steady freelance work for about a year and a half, so not long at all, and I still consider almost all of it "small". I'm not a full time freelancer, but it's a very nice and fairly steady supplement to my day job. I do mostly CCG artwork, about 6 different games so far (from 3 different publishers), some of them for several expansions.
As I mentioned above I did local stuff for about a year before starting with the CCG work. I went to art school, and then fell into graphic design (which is still my day job). I can't say I ever gave up on illustration, but it definitely fell by the wayside for a few years, and I didn't really do any of the things I should have been doing during that time period self promotion wise.
I credit Conceptart.org for lighting the fire under my butt to take it seriously. I'm not 100% where I'd like to be, but I have a few steady clients, and I almost always have work on my table, so I consider the illustration a success so far. Probably more importantly, I have a plan for how to grow. I think having a plan is probably one of the biggest things beginners fail to consider.