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So you finished your art education and/or training and you’re ready to take the next step. Employment. Looking for a job means networking, polishing your resume, but most importantly, building a beautiful and effective portfolio.

Student Art by Hanting Fan in Narrative Illustration and Characters.

A portfolio should show off your capabilities, your style, and your understanding of the work that needs to be done. When no one portfolio looks the same, it can be difficult to determine whether or not you’re on the right path. Thankfully, there are several general guidelines you can follow to ensure you have a beautiful and impactful portfolio that will land you a job. Without further ado, here are 8 tips to assemble the best portfolio for the entertainment design industry.

  1. Curate a Portfolio for the Jobs You Want
  2. Find Just Enough Variety
  3. Push Each Piece to its Best
  4. Do Research on Employers
  5. Quantity Yields Quality: 10/30 Rule
  6. Don’t Be Afraid to Use (Good) Roughs
  7. Highlight Your Workflow
  8. Take a Breath, Practice Patience

1. Curate a Portfolio for the Jobs You Want

When it comes to choosing what art will go into your portfolio, never forget the employer or client. They want to know you can create the exact art they do, not something similar.

Storyboard Artist Lanny Markasky recalled his early days of applying to jobs. At first, he couldn’t understand why he wasn’t gaining traction. But then it hit him, his portfolio didn’t match his end goals. “If I could go back in time, I’d probably laugh at myself and ask ‘Why would you think you could be a concept or character designer for this video game studio when you don’t have any characters in your portfolio?'”

Student Art by Ivanov Alvarado in Creating Stylized Game Assets.

Enroll in Getting Started in the Game Industry: Interviews, Portfolios, and More for a job-hunt jumpstart.

2. Find Just Enough Variety

Variety can be tricky because you want to show range, but you always want to demonstrate your strengths and style. Here is another place where it helps to reference the specific job applications and understand the range of skills they require.

Check out Lanny Markasky’s two CGMA courses: Analytical Figure Drawing and Storyboarding for Live Action & Commercials.

For storyboard artists, Lanny suggests finding some appliances, some outdoor shots, and definitely humans. But this looks different for every type of artist, from 2D drawing to VFX. Just imagine, what would this position ask you to create. Can you create it?

3. Push Each Piece to its Best

This may seem obvious, but it’s important. Only include your very best work in your portfolio. Don’t sacrifice quality to try to fit the application or prompt. Concept Artist and Matte Painter Igor Staritsin explained why.

Student Art by Farid Perez in Art Direction for Character Designers.

Igor said if you submit five incredible pieces and 5 mediocre pieces, while someone else only submits 5 incredible pieces, the other person will get the job. “They will always judge you on your weakest piece.”

4. Do Your Research on Employers

If the application doesn’t include helpful clues on how to curate your portfolio, put on your detective cap. You can reach out to artists working at your favorite studios and ask about what the studio looks for in artists. This can take a lot of networking energy, and you may not always get responses. But if someone agrees to talk to you, it can be extremely informative.

Student Art by Melissa Paff in Character Design For Production.

5. Quantity Yields Quality: 10/30 Rule

So how do you know if a portfolio piece is good enough? It’s a tough question that becomes easier to answer with time. But until then, here’s a quick tip: quantity yields quality. You need to create a lot of art. Don’t just have 10 good pieces ready to display. Create 30 pieces, then choose the best 10.

Be sure to enroll in Matte Painting and Concept Art for Production taught by Igor Staritsin.

This step requires a hunger to improve and grow as an artist. The more art you create, the better it will be. So get to work!

6. Don’t Be Afraid to Use (Good) Roughs

Lanny Markasky includes roughs in his portfolio but is very clear about one thing. “Rough doesn’t mean bad.” In his line of storyboarding, employers might ask for something extremely fast instead of a polished final piece. “People will hire me because people will see [my roughs] and they need something fast. It works for what they’re trying to do.”

Student Art by Hector Mexia in Environment Sketching.

Just remember, rough doesn’t mean bad. But roughs can still be bad. You should still aim for quality.

7. Highlight Your Workflow

Avoid adding pieces that you’ve created while following tutorials. While it’s important to have good-looking art, it’s equally (some argue more) important to demonstrate your understanding of workflows.

Explore Luc Steadman‘s course Themed Environment Design!

Experience Designer Luc Steadman has his own design studio, meaning he knows what it’s like to hire an artist. And when it comes to portfolios, Luc is a fan of process. “Of course, I like to see beautiful things, but I want to see what it’s like to work with you. If you don’t show any process in your portfolio, it’s going to be difficult for me to know [your capabilities].”

8. Take a Breath, Practice Patience

When it comes to your portfolio, starting is the hardest part. You might only have pieces from your education or personal projects, which can be difficult to fit an employer’s specifications. But nobody is expecting you to start out with 30 perfect pieces. Maybe you’ll get there someday, but in the meantime, take a breath. Choose your best work. And try to match the job requirements. Once you get rolling, you’ll be unstoppable.

Student Art by Emily Mclaughlin in Digital Painting.

CGMA knows how important a portfolio is, so we offer complimentary portfolio reviews for prospective and current students. The review provides guidance to help you enroll in courses that are appropriate for your skill level. Every student should leave with a portfolio-ready piece that is tailored to their goals and aspirations. Check it out here.

LEARN MORE

CGMA provides comprehensive instruction for Art, Games, and VFX industries in a variety of courses for a range of students, from 2D and 3D artists looking to supplement their college studies to industry professionals looking to stay up to date on emerging trends and techniques in the field.

RELATED LINKS

Enroll in Getting Started in the Game Industry: Interviews, Portfolios, and More for a job-hunt jumpstart.

Check out Lanny Markasky’s two CGMA courses: Analytical Figure Drawing and Storyboarding for Live Action & Commercials.

Be sure to enroll in Matte Painting and Concept Art for Production taught by Igor Staritsin.

Explore Luc Steadman‘s course Themed Environment Design!