Today I received this email: “I’m looking for some advice. I’m an aspiring comic artist, I’m still learning by attending the last year of comic school. I’d like to know what a professional penciler or colorist portfolio should look like for you.”

Here was my answer:  

Before submitting your portfolio, take the time to check out what the publisher is publishing.  Check out their website.  Look at their books. If your stuff doesn’t “fit” what they’re doing, it may not be the best place to seek a job.  

Be smart with preparing your portfolio.  If you’re preparing a .PDF of your work, create a cover page with some great art, your name and full contact information and credits (if any).  Make sure your name is in the file name of your .PDF, so there’s no guesswork who sent it.

See if the potential employers have specific requirements for your submission.  If they want a single .PDF of your work, don’t submit .jpgs. If they want a download link to your work, send tht link, not an email stuffed with a large file.  Don’t send them to an ArtStation or DeviantArt account that’s packed with old stuff or art unrelated to the job you want.

A professional portfolio should be clear about what kind of assignment or job you are applying for.  More important, it should look as though you’ve already been doing it for years.

For a professional editor or agent, it’s disheartening to see a portfolio that LOOKS like an “art school portfolio” stuffed with unrelated assignments and sketches.  

If you want to be a graphic designer, show your finished graphic designs that look like read book pages, ads, brochures, or whatever you’re showing.  If you want to be a cover artist, show me some covers.  If you want to draw licensing art (Disney, Dreamworks, whatever), you have to prove you can draw on-model without copying/tracing drawings you’ve already seen.

If you want to draw comics, then DRAW COMICS. Showing sketches of characters with balled-up fists and gritting their teeth are useless to me.  Comics are sequential storytelling where characters live and breathe on the page in consistent environments convincing in the style you use.  Body language, gesture, expression, are all critical.  Do characters interact with their environments? Do they make eye contact? Are they believable?

Also remember that experienced editors and agents already know all the tricks.  If your work looks digital to them, they’ll wonder why you didn’t do enough to make it look better.  If you swipe, they’ll usually catch the swipes.  

And if you use AI (plagiarism software), you’ve already lost the job.


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