How to Up Your Portfolio Game: Advice from the Experts- Part 2

How to Up Your Portfolio Game: Advice from the Experts- Part 2

Earlier this week we gave some tips from killer artists on how to up your portfolio game. Now, we're going to give you advice straight from one of the top studios out there; Creative Assembly

Jas is a Lead Character Artist at Creative Assembly, having originally joined the industry as a trainee in 2015. Over the last three years she has worked across the award-winning-studio’s Total War series including creating characters for Total War: WARHAMMER I and II. Her passion is in the study of fantasy art and experimenting with clay sculpting and sketching. Jas has a particular interest in reptile creatures.

I’m going to break this down into some general advice before looking at some specifics for 3D and concept artists.

Keep your portfolio simple. 

Avoid using your own website if it’s difficult to navigate through, or if it takes too long to load up a high resolution image. Recruiters are not interested in looking at really nice websites, we just want to be able to use it to easily find your work.

If you haven’t already, you can create a free account on an art platform. Consider those that allow you to upload Marmoset scenes for 3D art, embed video links for animation portfolios, and include your CV for any company to view. This way, you can provide one simple link in your applications rather than expecting recruiters to navigate through your website. 

It’s about quality, not quantity.

If there are any pieces you feel unsure of; questioning whether to show it off or not, don’t include it. 

You should aim to have at least solid 2-3 finished portfolio pieces, not including your sketches and studies.

Sketches and studios are good to show, and you can have these visible on the side so recruiters can see your ideas and thoughts. But you need to have those polished pieces as they show you can complete and to quality.

Think about how you will present your portfolio in an interview setting. 

Make sure to have it downloaded onto your device (ipad, laptop) in case the internet doesn’t work. I would recommend against using your phone as the screen size will be too small. Don’t put anything into Cloud drives (Google Drive, Dropbox etc) and send a link through an online application, as many companies have these sites blocked due to security. Also, it is best to not just link Instagram or Twitter as your main portfolio, as these are not professional platforms to view your work.

The key is making it as easy as possible for the recruiter to see your work in the best possible light. 

The reality is that there are often 100s of applications for an art role in the games industry, you not only want to make the quality of your work stand out, but you want to make sure it’s easily accessible.

3D Games Art

Now, let’s talk about specifics for your 3D games art portfolio. 

Show game ready assets. 

We do not want to just see high poly sculpt renders, as this is not game art. For a successful games art portfolio, you need to at least include 2-3 finished game ready pieces.

Show off the final render of your character, environment or prop with high resolution images. Ensure they have good lighting setup so you can really show your texture maps.

Include a breakdown of your work.

This is essential, so we can see you’re thinking. 

This includes:

  • UV map render: to show this to see how well you can make use of UV space.
  • Texture map renders: include screenshots of all your texture maps as we’d like to see how well you understand your workflow (for example the correct use of your specular and gloss values in a PBR workflow, or how well you can correctly bake down normal maps). This is also important for material artists.  
  • Wireframe render: is especially important for character art, as you need to show off your knowledge of muscle topology that would work for animation. Also include in the polygon count here.
  • High poly render: of your assets are important to show off how well you can sculpt using your chosen sculpting software.

 You don’t need to include in baking renders such as Ambient Occlusion or Cavity maps, as these are not as important as your main texture maps.

Consider utilizing Marmoset Viewer.

Although it is not essential, feel free to show off your work in an uploaded Marmoset Viewer scene so recruiters can spin around your assets in 3d space and get a really good closer look. 

This isn’t ideal by itself as Marmoset Viewer can only support lower resolution textures and minimal lighting information, but it can be shown alongside your high resolution render images, which are the most important.

Your 3d art should reflect you. 

We want to see interesting, well designed characters or environments that show you enjoyed making them. If you have any, include sketches/concept art of your finished pieces, as we’d love to see the thought process behind your creations.

Character Art

Avoid showing off just a rigid t-pose render of your characters. Try to give it life by posing your character in an interesting way or just ensure that your t-pose has some gesture. 

For example – a relaxed character would have more relaxed muscles and posture. A heroic character would have a straighter back broader shoulders, with a higher chin.

Environment Artist

If you’re an environment artist, you don’t need to just show off massive environment scenes. You could show one big scene as a big portfolio piece and small dioramas for the rest of your portfolio pieces. 

Also, include renders of the biggest or most favorable assets in your scene separately as it’s nice to see a breakdown of your full scene.

Concept Art for Characters

Avoid showing off just illustrations.

Including just illustrations (full rendered pieces with lighting) is generally not considered as concept art. Of course, it’s good to have this as additional assets for recruiters to view but keep in mind it may not be looked at for a concept art job role. 

Concept is mainly blueprints that show construction of a character/asset. As a discipline, students often confuse this with illustration. 

The recruiter will not only be looking at quality, but how your creations can be easily interpreted as part of the game development pipeline.

Always give your character a “story”. 

Really think about the design of their emotions or their accessories that may be important to them. Small detail like this gives your character life. This is important in the game development pipeline for when 3D artists take your concepts and convey them into 3D art.

Provide a front and back view.

A Front ¾ view and back ¾ view are desirable as it helps to understand how the character is fully constructed. This is where your knowledge of perspective comes in, it’s very important to practice this for concept art.

Include a breakdown of your assets. 

Show the construction of accessories and armor - anything that the 3D artist may need help constructing. 

In the end, concept art is like creating blue prints.

Keep your lines clean.

It’s important to show exactly how parts work in your art. Sketchy and messy lines are not very clear to understand.

This tip is an ultimate time saver:

You don’t need to paint and render any materials on your character (example cloth or metal), you can just keep your fill colors plain and just show images/photos on the side of any materials that you need to refer to. 

Keeping your fill colors plain is also a great way to see how well the contrast levels work on the character.

Need help constructing fantasy armor or any tricky mechanical parts? 

Look at images of cosplayers! In general, cosplayers like to take photos of their work and share with the community on how they constructed their costumes which can be really helpful.

Following Creative Assembly here: