How To Make Your Portfolio Stand Out

Make your portfolio stand out Searching for a job in any creative field, you must know that your portfolio is a crucial tool for showcasing your work and sparking a prospective employer’s interest—and the animation industry is no exception. Because a portfolio is so important, I’m frequently asked about portfolio tips and best practices. Cassidy, a senior animation student, asks, “With hundreds of other people with a passion for story art competing for the same job, how do I stand out?” That is the eternal question for all creative artists of how we can make ourselves stand out from the others. You are not alone, and that, in essence, is the problem… for all of us.

Those that stand out do so for many different reasons. You can’t pin it down – and that’s what makes them stand out. They bring something unique to their work. Could be drawing style. Could be a unique way of telling a story. Could be their sense of humor coming through. Could be so many different things!

So here is what I suggest. Give yourself a good grounding in gesture drawing (see Walt Stanchfield’s Drawn to Life, Vol. 1 & Vol. 2, and David Pimentel’s Evoke) – really feeling the attitudes and emotion in the movement and poses of those drawings. Put those in your portfolio along with life drawing sketches. Include storyboards that tell a short story or an entertaining partial storyboard of a longer film. Show them what you can do, and do it well. But most importantly, show them who you are through those drawings and boards. Give your work a good dose of YOU! What do you love to draw? How do you love to draw? What kind of story do you love? Show them! Put yourself into your work. That is what will make you stand out.

When I applied to Disney from CalArts, it was the uniqueness of my student film that caught their eye. I didn’t try to make my film like anybody else’s. And nothing surprised me more when they hired me because of that. It taught me the lesson of staying true to myself – to my intuition – to my gut. Learn – don’t discount better ideas – don’t discount what someone can teach you – just give it your own unique stamp.

Now go get ‘em!

Image by martinhoward via Creative Commons

  • Christy

    Really great info!!! I graduated last year and well it hasn’t been great finding a job. But I try to keep working on my portfolio hoping luck will find me!!

    • brendachapman

      Luck and tenacity make good partners! 🙂 Hang in there and best of luck to you!

  • Claudia.

    Awesome! I loved the tips here! I must confess that it’s been more than a year since I am still trying to make my portfolio for college, but I didn’t really have a clear idea of how to do it. I even had some doubts like … “Which of my works are going to go here?” or “What kind of impact my drawings are going to have?” My friends, who are studying art and animation, always advised me to put the pictures that I like more. But I really didn’t have any idea.
    I want to cause a great impact, because that’s what I always look for my works. I know that it’s just a portfolio for college, but hey! It’s the first step and the most important for me. (:
    Now, with this information I have a better idea of what to put there and the stuffs I need to focus on (: This is like REALLY helpful, thank you for the information Brenda! And I am sorry for my awful grammar… btw.

    • brendachapman

      I’m so glad if I helped! Good luck to you! I hope you find something.

  • Such an inspiring article. Thank you Mrs. Chapman. Stay true to yourself is a great message to live by.

    • brendachapman

      I think so. 🙂 Thanks for checking in.

  • Jbourne269

    Mrs. Chapman, thank you so much for your advice and teachings. It helps a great deal. I am an aspiring story board artist for animattion and am currently reading the Walt Stanchfield lectures. Any other books you recommend on visual narrative?

    • Brenda Chapman

      Any of Michael Mattesi’s books. The Illusion of Life… just a couple off the top of my head.
      Good luck with your aspirations!!

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  • Ashwin

    Is it possible to view your graduation film anywhere online?

    • brendachapman

      Unfortunately, I don’t have the rights to the music I used… but as soon as I can figure out how to manage that, I’ll put it on. Thanks for your interest!

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