Wednesday, March 24, 2010

PDFs for your portfolio

If you've been looking for work lately, you're doubtless aware that studios large and small are looking for ways to avoid having to deal with applicants bringing in physical portfolios as part of the application process.

Yesterday, one of our signator studios announced it will only accept portfolio submissions in PDF format. Like it or not, more and more studios are refusing to accept physical portfolios, and are requiring that submissions be in a common format such as PDF.

PDF is the document format supported by Adobe Acrobat. Chances are you have a copy of the free Adobe Reader program that reads and prints out PDF files (if not, click the link to upload it.) However, Adobe Reader only reads and prints out PDF files. To convert your graphics or resumes to PDF you will need to use an online converter, or a program such as Adobe Acrobat Professional.

There are several websites that offer free or low-cost online PDF conversions; Adobe offers this service at for $9.99 per month. Other similar sites include, and Most of these sites have restrictions as to the types of files they can handle or the size or number of files you can convert for free.

If you own other Adobe programs such as Photoshop or Illustrator, check to see if they include a free version of Acrobat Pro. Also, if you own a scanner it might have PDF conversion built into its software, so you can scan and convert in the same step, and you may not even need to buy a separate program.

It may also be the case that you have a PDF print driver on your computer, in which case you will see an option labeled PDF or Adobe PDF when you are prompted to choose a printer. Choosing this option will "print" a PDF copy of your document as a file on your computer.

If the free websites are inadequate and you don't have a PDF-compatible print or scanner driver, you may want to invest in Adobe Acrobat Professional software. Go to and type in the phrase "Adobe Acrobat Professional" (and make sure you're buying actual software and not a license or guidebook.)

As is the case with anything in the computer world, shopping around will result in some good bargains. For example, you don't necessarily need the most up-to-date version of Acrobat Pro, but make sure the version you buy is compatible with your computer and operating system.

We have Adobe Acrobat Pro available in our computer lab if you'd like to come in and learn about it. Contact Ken Roskos at for details.


Anonymous said...

All Macs using OSX can print to PDF. Drag your images into Preview app and Print. In the Print dialog you will see a pull down menu that allows you to save as PDF.


Anonymous said...

Open Office can export to PDF, and it's completely free.

Tim said...

You can also create a multi page PDF with Photoshop. It's in the submenu File/Automate/PDF Presentation.

(I am still using PS CS2, so the menu may have changed in newer versions.)

Just make sure you compress the file enough to make it small enough for email, unless you also have an app like Stuffit to make a zip file.

Llyn Hunter said...

Is anyone aware how long it takes to scan and produce a .pdf portfolio? There's another week of unpaid labor and time the studios will take from our hides. I personally am getting fed up with the HR departments constantly coming up with new ways to have us do their jobs. Now along with unpaid storyboard tests that might or might not get us a position, we have to have not only a hard copy portfolio, but a website and a .pdf portfolio (not to mention .mov animatics, .swf's, and every other computer animation program under the sun). It's getting to the point that the work it takes to get the job is more work than the job itself.

Anonymous said...

On the other hand, you don't need reams of portfolio cases, bound copies, the hassle of shipping them, etc.

I think there's plenty of artists who have no problem with this, and see it as a benefit.

yahweh said...

Not to mention it gives you the ability to apply for more than one job at a time and easily customize your portfolio to suit every job.

It also might be a way to pre-screen artists...if you can't figure out how to make a digital portfolio than why assume you can handle anything in the digital animation world...

Don't be a Ludite.

Tim said...

I agree with the last Anonymous statement. If you scan your artwork as you complete it, or keep a file if you work digitally, it's not a huge ordeal to assemble a portfolio. And well worth it if you land a decent position.

When I was in a position of hiring people, I tended to be more likely to look at candidates who had put some effort into their presentation as well as could manage to follow the steps for application. Those two little things are good indicators if someone will be a good worker as well as understand and follow directions.

Review boards look at hundreds of portfolios at a time (at the large studios, anyway). Make it easy for them to see your work. Don't get gimicky, the quality of the work should speak for itself.

Anonymous said...

If it takes a week to scan your folio then you have got some serious workflow problems. Having a digital copy of your folio hardly "HR's Job" it's simply a long overdue step forward in convenience and efficiency for everyone. If it's a huge issue to make a pdf I'd say step aside and make way for the new people coming up.

Anonymous said...


I think what Llyn was reacting to, and I agree, is the my-way-or-the-highway tone of this job opening. Yes, digital portfolios make a lot of sense in many ways, and most of us are adapting to it, but why be so hard-ass about it? Those of us who want to compete for this job and may not have our work completely digitized and published are looking at suddenly having to process our samples virtually overnight. That's just wrong and unfair.

It's actually worse; what the producers are looking for are artists who can prove that they have experience doing production boards in Photoshop. They are not willing to consider anyone else. They are not simply looking for digital potfolios. They are not looking for freshly scanned paper artwork.

Steve decided to open this topic up for general discussion, which is fair enough, but it has almost nothing to do with the issues of this specific job opening.

Anonymous said...

"..step aside and make way for the new people coming up."

Yes, that's the problem today; youth discrimination! OK, hears the deal, young hip world-beater: I'll step aside if you give me your address so I can send you my bills.

Anonymous said...

I think what Llyn was reacting to, and I agree, is the my-way-or-the-highway tone of this job opening.


Try telling the director of the film that their "my way or the highway" attitude is unfair. You'll be fired that minute.

Thats the business.

They are not looking for freshly scanned paper artwork.

Bullshit. You're just telling yourself that to have a pity party.

Anonymous said...


So lets extrapolate that a bit. Lets pretend you submit your genius, scanned-paper-PDF portfolio to Disney or Dreamworks; you're telling me they will PASS on you for a candidate with an inferior portfolio but done in Photoshop?

Your source is wrong (or made up)

Anonymous said...

What the hell are you talking about? You're too busy tossing snark to make sense. I wasn't generalizing. As I said in my first comment; digitizing
samples is a good idea. My comments were addressed to the specific job opening referenced in the posting. My source is the actual source of the job. If the facts don't fit your point of view, consider that maybe,just maybe, your point of view might be wrong?

Anonymous said...

So, just to clarify, you're saying that for this SPECIFIC job, they will only hire you if the work you present in PDF form, was originally done in Photoshop?

Anonymous said...

And also, what posting are you talking about? I see no reference and no link. All I see is:

"Yesterday, one of our signator studios announced it will only accept portfolio submissions in PDF format"

Anonymous said...

Man, there is NOTHING people won't bitch about on this blog...

Anonymous said...

If you don't know the posting I and Steve were referring to, than you are not union members. Nevertheless, you have arrogantly righteous opinions about our work our portfolios and our attitudes, based on-what?

Yes, a specific job listing. Yes, Photoshop boards and yes, PDF. Here is the point: For the first time in my experience in any job listing I have ever seen, portfolio format has taken precedence over content. IMHO that's bad news.

Anonymous said...

IF what you're saying is true then they have to know whether you are able to work in their desired format - digitally in PS. It makes things a lot simpler for them if you're portfolio shows that style of work. I'm assuming if you are a well known storyboarder and explain you are capable of doing that, but just don't have anything in your portfolio currently there won't be a problem.
But for you to start crying about this now seems silly. There's always been a "if I don't see it in your portfolio then you probably can't do it" attitude by many productions. If you have only funny animals in your book then they assume you can't do action/adventure and vice-versa. That's why the tests exist. Those that are hiring SHOULD be able to figure out your abilities from your credits, recommendations and what's in your portfolio, but that rarely happens.
I once got turned down for a job that I was highly recommended for because I didn't have any drawings of their specific character in my portfolio even though I had credits that showed I'd been drawing the character for years on other productions. And this was by a supposed 'artist'. Silly and stupid? Sure. But you learn something about the person who was doing the hiring and move on.
In regards to the digital PS thing: IF you don't have anything to indicate you can work that way there really is a concern since there are a LOT of storyboard artists - that are good - that have a lot of problems learning PS and they obviously don't want to take the time to teach it to you when there are plenty of others who do get it.
If you're not somewhat proficient with at least PS nowadays then you will have some problems getting a storyboard job.

Llyn Hunter said...

Wow, This discussion went a-ways. Note, I've been in this business almost 20 years and am proficient in Photoshop, Toonboom and Flash (for the individual criticizing that It shouldn't take a week to put together a .pdf portfolio, maybe you don't have the body of work I do to organize in, once again, another format).

Note, .pdf's are the way we are going, but this reminds me of the situation around 2001 when Flash 5 just came out and every HR department was demanding 2 years experience in the program. Remember gang, story boards only STARTED to be done in Photoshop about 5 years ago, and most board artists in TV are still working on paper.

And, for the person who wrote "step aside" I'll talk to you another 10 years - when your brave enough to post your name with such a comment.

Anonymous said...

If you don't know the posting I and Steve were referring to, than you are not union members

I AM a union member, but Im not a board artist and Im not looking for a job. So whatever you're talking about (from some posting on some job board I assume) I still have no idea. If you'd like to provide a link so we all could have the information, that would maybe help the discussion along. Or not. Who cares.

I think the point Im trying to get at was already summed up by Anonymous 6:34am.

I still remain highly suspect that any respectable studio would place proficiency in photoshop over artistic ability, imagination, and the actual content of the panels in your portfolio.

Anonymous said...

Geez, of all the places on the internet, you'd think that a trade blog would be a little more civil.

Kevin Koch said...

The job listing in question was sent out to everyone signed up on the Guild's job email list. Any Guild member who hasn't signed up to be on the list should contact Jeff Massie.

Kevin Koch said...

And, yes, the job listing stated that experience in digital storyboarding with photoshop was a must, and that only PDF files would be accepted.

Anonymous said...

Geez, of all the places on the internet, you'd think that a trade blog would be a little more civil.

You think this isn't a civil discussion? Man, go read some of the more political/religious posts.

This is tea and crumpets in comparison.

markZ said...

I just need to jump in here. I know Llyn, and I know she is extremely proficient with digital production. FYI, many artists who were submitting their portfolios to the studio requesting PDF's had bad experiences with their portflios returned with missing pages, pages out of order, or damaged. I think the overall frustration artists have is the general lack of consideration and competence (as demonstrated in those bogus storyboard tests) of the people who are holding the key to their employment. BTW, I've been making digital storyboards for over ten years now. I can't believe it's taken this long for studios to scratch the surface.

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