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Guide to Crafting the Ultimate 3D Animators Portfolio

ben marvazi 2020

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“Why fit in when you were born to stand out?”

Dr. Seuss: Author, Animator, Filmmaker

As a freelance creative and a freelance animator, one of the best ways to ensure a high chance of getting work is through your 3D animator's portfolio.

Your animation portfolio contains the essence of who you are as a 3D animator and is one of the best ways to show off to the world - specifically future clients - just how good at your job you really are.

In this blog post, we’re going to cover the whats, hows, and whys (in no particular order) of creating, displaying, and sharing the best digital 3D Animator’s Portfolio.

For the purposes of this post, we’re going to talk about online portfolios: the current and future trends of digital promotion for freelancers.

Your 3D Animator’s Portfolio Is Your Golden Ticket

having the best 3d animator portfolio is a golden ticket to success

Gif by Complex via Giphy

Since you’re a freelance creative, the way you’re going to get work is by showing others what you’ve done, and what you’re capable of. It stands to reason then that one of the first things you should do as a freelance animator is to create your very own online animator’s portfolio.

Before we dive into the specifics of portfolio building, let’s first talk about what it is, and why you need one.

What Is A 3D Animation Portfolio?

An animator’s portfolio is a show-and-tell of your work and skills without much of the tell. It’s essentially a visual representation of your past doings.

It’s all well and dandy to provide a CV of your education and past work experience (if applicable of course), but a visual portfolio provides the much-needed evidence of your abilities as a 3D animator.

It acts much like a social media landing page, showing off who you are, where you come from, your skills and abilities, and your willingness to advance further in your career.

Why Should You Make A 3D Animator’s Portfolio?

One of the best ways of securing work is to have real examples of what you have done and what you’re capable of. The best way to do that is to have a 3D animation portfolio.

Your portfolio should contain all the work that goes on behind the scenes of an animated work-in-progress, as well as some stills of the final product, in order to show off how you solve the problems that arise in bringing characters to life.

It’s a great way of proving your skills in art and character design, rigging, basic 3D animating, and more!

It’s also a fantastic way of keeping track of your achievements and accomplishments and helps you review your work at the end of each year; an incredibly important task as a freelance animator.

What Should You Have In Your 3D Animator’s Portfolio?

Now that you have an idea of what your 3D animator’s portfolio is, and why you should have one, let’s delve into what exactly you should be showing off within the portfolio itself.

It’s incredibly important to provide as much relevant evidence to your skills as possible, and include examples of your drawing and animating abilities.

For reference, and for your own edification, Mathias Takacs has a fantastic example of a simple and effective art and animation portfolio.

include a showreel of your best animations on your portfolio

Gif by Animative via Giphy

Your showreel, or demo reel, is a short compilation video of your best-animated work. It’s usually no longer than 2 minutes and contains only the best work you’ve done - of course, only the approved work! Remember to put the best work first.

It often shouldn’t include music that isn’t included in the animated pieces being shown, but some unobtrusive background noise doesn’t hurt all the time. To be safe, keep the volume down.

Make sure also that if you’re including team-based animations, you explain what it is you did in each shot.

Composites & Rigging
a mark of a good 3d animators portfolio would be to include your composites and animation rigs

Gif by Behance via Pinterest

Your composites and skeletal designs are a great way of showing off your knowledge of how your characters move, so including stills of your composite assets, and even a rigging showreel, is incredibly important for your 3D animator’s online portfolio.

Rigging of course refers to all of the connecting points and wireframes that allow your characters to move and be animated.

Rigging is an incredibly important stage of 3D animation, and you want your animation clients to know that you have what it takes to make your way through the animation process.

Storyboards & Character Design
some animators include their storyboards and character designs

Gif by Alex Boya via Giphy

As a freelance animator, you will find yourself having to work on storyboards over and over again, and it’s incredibly important that you solidify your abilities in creating and realizing either your own or your clients’ stories and ideas.

For your storyboards, you can of course include full animatics or single panels of each scene. Rough drawings are more than alright, as it’s the story that your audience is going to be looking for anyway.

A great way to include your character designs is to create a multi-stage infographic of the evolution of some of your characters. Make sure as well to include as vast an array of genres as possible to showcase your abilities.

Including some storyboard stills and still character designs can really help a prospective client understand how your characters and stories evolve.

Contact Details
those seeking to work with will needs your details on your 3d animation portfolio

Gif by ION via Giphy

It goes without saying that you want your future employers to be able to find you. Work very often doesn’t just fall out of the sky.

Make sure that somewhere on your online portfolio you include your up-to-date contact details that include:

  • Your phone number
  • Email address
    • This must either be your personal email you’re comfortable receiving work emails from or a dedicated work email address. We recommend the latter.
  • Social media profiles
    • We highly recommend creating business-specific social media pages, whether it be Facebook or Instagram pages, TikTok accounts, or YouTube channels. They should definitely be separate from your personal life.
    • Make sure though that if you don’t have business-specific pages, or if you just don’t want them, your personal pages that include your animation work are appropriate and suitable for business viewing.

Also, make sure you’re comfortable giving out all your details online. Another great way to get people to your website, your social media pages, and your portfolio, is to create an email signature.

Sites like Hubspot have a great tutorial and tool for creating an email signature, but you could also try to make one yourself.

Your website of course is a whole other animal.

References & Testimonials
references and testimonials on your portfolio will be proof of your great work as a 3d animator

Gif by Reddit via Giphy

Both your prospective employers, but most importantly your prospective clients, often want to see and get in contact with your previous employers to make sure they’re hiring the same person that you’re advertising.

Both references and testimonials are very often more suited for placement on your CV and resume, so consider first creating links to these documents on your web portfolio.

Regardless, good references are very often previous educators with whom you developed good relationships.

And the best testimonials often come from clients who have left the best reviews. While it’s honorable to provide honest reviews of your work, remember that you’re supposed to be showcasing the very best of your work and abilities.

How To Make Your 3D Animator’s Portfolio Stand Out

your 3d animators portfolio needs to make a statement

Gif by BBC via Giphy

Now that you’ve got a basic understanding of how to make your 3D animator’s portfolio, you need to learn how to make it stand out from the crowd. 

It’s all well and good having a testimonial of your work, but if it’s identical to 30 other animators’ portfolios, it might take a while before you’re noticed.

So let’s get creative!

Show Relevant Work

Focus on your skills, and what makes you stand out. Your characters, and the personality you inject them with, 

"Good character animation is the art of bringing characters to life – not moving them around"

Aaron Blaise

You obviously want to show off what you can do, and what makes you… well, you.

Take the simplest concept, such as a character blinking, and put your own life and energy into it. Show your clients what they’re getting from hiring you.

Show Your Most Recent, And Your Most Impressive Work First

To add to the idea of relevant work, make sure you’re not showcasing old or outdated work of yours. The last thing you want to be advertising is an artist and animator who hasn’t evolved or improved in years.

Remember to focus on the best you have to offer. Your portfolio needs to be an honest representation of who you are, and honestly, your best is the best thing you have to show.

Consistently Update Your Portfolio

To carry on the thought of the most recent and relevant work, make sure to consistently be updating your portfolio with work you’ve recently finished.

It bears hammering away because it’s important. If you have a new character you’re designing, either for your personal edification or for work, add it to your portfolio.

And make sure to delete your oldest work from your portfolio! Regardless of how good the work is, it’s old and outdated. Don’t include it.

Organize And Label Your Work Effectively

The manner in which you organize and label your work showcases your conscientiousness and organizational skills; skills well-looked for in freelancers.

Apart from that, it just helps with creating a better understanding of where you’ve come from in your animation journey. As well as what everything actually is.

Choose A Well-Researched And Reliable Webhost

There are a whole host (that’s a pun) of different websites on which to display and store your online animator’s portfolio, both free and paid-for.

If you’re into web design, or if you’re looking for a neat place to keep everything you have to display, consider using something like WordPress or Wix to help you on your journey.

Or, consider using more built-in to the industry such as Adobe Portfolio - which allows you to use your Adobe Creative Plan to create either full or single-page websites - or ArtStation, which has an incredible community backing.

You should also consider presenting your showreels on either YouTube or Vimeo.

Often animators prefer to use Vimeo, because of its amazing design and user-friendliness. It also allows you to save the same URL for your video and simply re-upload it, allowing you to more easily replace your older showreels with updated ones.

Make Sure The World Can Find You

Make sure everything you have that contains a link goes to the same place! All your business social media profiles should link to your portfolio website, your YouTube page, and back again.

The importance of backlinks cannot be overstated, and you need to make sure you’re promoting yourself and referencing yourself on as many platforms as you have available.

Make sure to keep checking your links to make sure they all work, and consider even using a tool like Linktree to consolidate and compile all your links in one place.

Some Extra Tips For Your 3D Animation Portfolio

extra tips to make the best 3d animators portfolio

Gif by BravoTV via Giphy

Connect With Your Animation Circles

The animation community is alive and well and will be for a very long time. So get comfortable sharing with your circles as much as you can.

Use the various online forums, chatrooms, subreddits, Discord servers, and more to get as much help and advice as you can. You’re not alone!

Be Unique

We’ve mentioned it time and time again, but your portfolio should be showcasing what makes you unique, and what makes you stand out from the rest of the freelance animator community.

Whether it be the way you organize and display your portfolio, what you choose to include, or even what fonts you use, you should be showing off your personality in everything you do.

Examples Of 3D Animators’ Portfolios

you can learn how to make the best 3d animators portfolio through the following examples

Gif by Soul Pancake via Giphy

There are hundreds, if not thousands of examples of 3D animators’ portfolios you can check out online, and we’re going to give you a few right here, right now.

3d generalist portfolio of mathias takacs

The first is of course, as mentioned before in this post, Mathias Takacs, an animator, character artist, and 3D Generalist.

His web portfolio is clean, well organized, and easy for prospective clients to navigate. It includes examples of his animated works, as well as both 2D and 3D artwork. He also includes his resume, and a store for any resources, artworks, and assets.

Takacs also has some words of wisdom for those struggling to get their portfolio just right:

“Always push yourself, and get critique and feedback from the most critical person you know.”

natalie young is a character designer and artist whose portfolio is applicable for 3d animators

Next is Natalie Young, who is a fantastic character designer and artist, as well as an accredited animator.

She has worked for Cartoon Network, FOX Animation, and more! She is well known for her character designs for the animated show Bojack Horseman.

Natalie’s portfolio is entirely personalized, including a self-portrait on her “About” page, as well as a personalized handmade logo.

bradley gake's portfolio is something 3d animators can look to to create a personal touch to their work

Our final example portfolio belongs to the well-known background designer Bradley Gake.

Bradley has worked on backgrounds from animated works like Animaniacs and Fairly Odd Parents, to Futurama and Rugrats. Be boasts an impressive catalog having worked for animation studios such as Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, and Warner Bros.

His web portfolio also has a collection of animated shorts for viewing.

His portfolio puts the focus on his work, which is of course exactly why we’re there in the first place. Both the character designs he’s worked on and the backgrounds take up almost all of the screen space, and it’s done simply and beautifully.

Make Your 3D Animators Portfolio - Get Hired

Your digital 3D animator’s portfolio is the key to ensuring your chances of getting hired in the future. Without a basic visual representation of what you’re capable of in terms of character design, storyboarding, rigging, and of course, animating, you’re going to find yourself struggling to find work.

There are a whole host of online tools you can use to create and host the best portfolio you can, so make sure you do as much research as you can to find the applications and software that works for you!

For more info about creating and sharing your very own 3D animators portfolio, as well as answers to any other questions you might have, be sure to follow our blogs, check out our free masterclass, download a copy of our free marketing handbook, and check out our blog on “How to Start an Animation Studio”!

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