As video games continue to dominate the media landscape, the demand for talented Concept Artists and Illustrators has never been higher.
Those who wish to pursue a career in this field need to put their best foot forward when looking to land a gig in the video game industry as a Concept Artist. And one of the best ways to make your mark and get noticed by game studios or potential clients is to have a fantastic portfolio.
A portfolio serves as a way for you to showcase your skills, experience, and style. It’s essentially your own personal marketing tool that allows you to sell yourself as the best candidate for the job.
Your portfolio should be a reflection of your unique talents and what makes you stand out from other artists. It should also be constantly evolving, showcasing your latest and greatest work.
Creating a great portfolio isn’t just about throwing together a bunch of your best pieces and calling it a day – there’s a bit more strategy involved. In this blog, we’ll provide you with some top tips from industry professionals, helping you put together the perfect portfolio to increase your chances of landing that dream job or client.
Tips to Create an Unstoppable Concept Artist Portfolio
Your portfolio is often the first moment of contact between you and a potential employer or client. As such, it’s important to make sure that it’s up to par and represents your best work. Here are a few tips to help you create an unstoppable portfolio:
Choose Your Platform
Portfolios for Concept Artists can come in a variety of digital online formats. Artstation, Behance, personal websites, Instagram and blogs are the most commonly used platforms. Sites such as Artstation and Behance make it super easy to create a professional online portfolio that is straightforward to update and change. Unless you are presenting a company, or you offer any other services other than your art skills, Artstation is generally your best option.
Look back at your portfolio and imagine it’s the window of a shop. What grabs your attention?
Mooncolony's Portfolio on ArtStation
Social Media platforms and mobile devices have had a huge impact on the way we consume content. We see vast amounts of visuals every day and our attention spans are shorter than ever, including the recruiters and Art Directors looking at your portfolio. It only takes a few seconds for people to make a judgement and quickly move on to the next portfolio if the presentation isn’t up to scratch. You need to design your “shop window” carefully and create the best first impression you can. This also means that you should avoid burying multiple final images behind one single landing image or thumbnail as some of your best work could easily be missed!
Once you’ve grabbed their attention, it’s then down to those individual pieces of work to convince them to get in touch.
Focus: Identify and Target Your Audience
Just like a CV, portfolios should be created with a target audience in mind.
Consider the role you are applying for or the client you want to attract, and curate your portfolio accordingly. What will they be looking for? For example, if you’re applying for a position as an environment artist, make sure to include a variety of environment pieces that show off your skills.
You can also focus on a specific art style or game. This is the perfect opportunity to create some fan art! You should have at least 3 pieces of work in the style of the game you want to work on and you’ll most likely get some important eyes on your portfolio.
If you have work that doesn’t quite fit your overall focus, it’s totally fine to include them, too! Just make sure that you keep that target audience in mind so the majority of your portfolio is primarily dedicated to helping you achieve your ultimate goal.
Portfolios are a balancing act. You don’t want it to be so focused that your prospects become limited, as we’ll discuss in the next tip.
Variety is the Spice of… Your Portfolio
While having an overall focus is important, you should still try to cover a variety of topics, themes or genres in your portfolio.
Let's say you want to become a Character Concept Artist. If you only present a few steampunk characters and nothing else, you will give an impression that you are limited to this genre and will therefore limit yourself to only a handful of clients or employers. You should be able to cover most mainstream genres from sci-fi, to horror, to fantasy. This will show that you have a versatile skill set and make you more hireable.
Variety can also include providing supporting elements to your work. For example, a Character Concept Artist might want to show some props, turn arounds, weapons, mounts or environments related to the character design work.
Having said all that, you don’t have to be a swiss knife! Focus on mastering one skill and support it with a couple of others.
Consistency is Key
Once you’ve hit that sweet spot between focus and versatility, you need to make sure your portfolio is consistent. Consistency doesn’t mean that every piece of work needs to look the same! You want to make sure that your work is consistent in quality and style.
Building a quality portfolio takes some time. Early on it can be tempting to display lots of your work, but this can lead to a very diverse set of pieces in quality, style and focus. If you are a student or new in the business, you will grow your skill level much faster than a senior artist. Therefore, you should refresh your portfolio with your latest work as often as you can.
Just make sure you demonstrate that you are capable of applying the same level of quality from piece to piece, and that your best piece of work wasn’t just a one-off! Clients and recruiters value reliability and this is the perfect way to demonstrate that.
To be able to sell yourself as an artist, your portfolio should be appealing and well presented. When people see your thumbnails, they should want to click on them.
If you are presenting a concept design sheet, make sure to spend some time on the presentation. Graphic design skills are a very powerful weapon to have in your armoury and you should use that to your advantage. Look at how other professional artists present their concept sheets and try to emulate them.
Showing your work-in-progress (WIP) can give recruiters or potential clients a better understanding of what you would be like to work with. It will give them insight into your creative process and how you approach a project. You could also add short descriptions to your work, explaining the thought process behind it and what you were hoping to achieve to provide some additional context.
This might be a no-brainer, but to get the best gigs possible, you’ll need to be a world-class artist with a top-shelf skill set.
But don’t worry! There are jobs out there for those at most levels. You will need to start with smaller commissions and climb your way up to the top. As your portfolio evolves, you’ll start to attract bigger clients. Ultimately, you shouldn’t have to look for work, it should come to you!
However, whatever your skill level, it is crucial to demonstrate your knowledge and understanding of the fundamentals. Depending on your specialism, this could include anatomy, perspective, lighting, composition, values, and use of colour. Creativity is great, but these are the foundations of any professional artist and should not be ignored!
You can follow all of these tips and have the most amazing portfolio, but if there’s no easy way for a recruiter or client to find it, all of that effort will be for nothing!
If you don’t provide your artwork with relevant tags and detailed descriptions, your profile and ultimately your work will be buried among hundreds of thousands of other profiles. So don't forget to tag your portfolio appropriately with relevant keywords and clear descriptions to ensure your portfolio appears in searches.
Even though it’s not their primary function, sites like Artstation can also be used as a networking tool. Artists often like or follow other artists that create a similar work to themselves, and recruiters use this to their advantage. The more people you follow and interact with, the more likely they are to follow you back. Not only are you growing your audience, but you are increasing the chance of your portfolio being seen by a recruiter or client.
A final, and crucial, point is to ensure that you have easy access to your up-to-date contact information. You don’t want to fall at the final hurdle! Try to use your actual name on your profile rather than a pseudonym. The more professional, presentable and readable your profile is, the greater the chance you have of being hired.
Ideally, you’ll also have a LinkedIn page connected to your portfolio. This is especially the case if you are looking to be hired by a studio. Recruiters are always interested to know more about you as an individual, including: which other studios you have worked with, where you studied, if you’re a recent graduate and your interpersonal qualities.
Perfect Your Portfolio with Mooncolony
Creating the perfect portfolio can seem like a daunting task. However, by following these tips, you’ll be on your way to crafting a portfolio that will help you land your dream job in no time. It will take time to develop, and will probably never stop evolving, so don’t get disheartened early on. All of the great artists started where you are now.
Just remember that the goal is to give the employer a good idea of your capabilities and how you would be an asset to them.
Lastly, do what you love the most! You shouldn’t build a portfolio based on what’s trending or what you think people might find interesting or cool. You’ll only end up getting jobs that you won’t enjoy.
At Mooncolony, we are proud to offer an online community for Concept Artists and Digital Illustrators on Discord. Our members have a wealth of experience and knowledge to share, so don’t hesitate to reach out if you need help perfecting your art portfolio. Join the Mooncolony Discord server today!