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Preparing Your Portfolio

When looking for work in the animation industry, what do you put in a portfolio?

Your portfolio should include your best artwork. It should be made up of the following:1) Life drawings - About 15 - 25 drawings. - Gestural sketches 1 minute - 3 minute poses. - Sustained poses 5 minutes - 15 minutes. All drawings should show the hands and feet wherever possible. By leaving them off, it means you can't draw them and this will be a negative against you. 2) Object drawing - Around 15 - 20 sketches of everyday objects from around the house showing a strong sense of perspective and structure. 3) Animal drawing - Same as life drawings. 4) Some character drawings - Don't submit established characters that the studio has produced or any other characters like: Bugs Bunny or Mickey Mouse. Studios don't like this at all. Even if you can draw them just as good as the originals, avoid this like the plague. It will hurt you more than help you. Submit your own characters that you've developed. Show them doing different things and expressing different emotions. Be sure that if you're doing 4 or 5 drawings of the same character that they stay "on model", otherwise it'll look bad on you. 5) Artwork that focuses on the area that you want to work in: Conceptual design - rough and finished (color) conceptual drawings for characters, costumes, locations, props, etc.

Character development - a wide variety of concept sketches for characters showing a series of developmental drawings through to the final designs. Show both initial rough sketches and finished color renderings. Show a wide variety of design styles.

Character design - present model sheets and character poses for a wide range of character types and styles.

Storyboarding - show a sample of sequential story sketches for a short sequence, showing your understanding of shot and camera angle selection as well as your storytelling abilities.

Location design - environmental sketches. Early concept roughs, developmental sketches and final location drawings. Show both interior and exterior locations. Display a wide variety of architectural design styles, geographical, and time eras. Structure and perspective very important.

Prop design - similar to the object drawing outlined above, but show the objects from several different points of view as well as being used by a character. Structure and perspective very important.

Effects design - observational drawings of water splashing, dripping, pouring, snow, smoke, fire, light, bubbles, leaves falling, rippling water, glass breaking, etc., etc. Analytical observation and artistic recording of these effects on paper.

Layout - show examples of line, environmental drawings (rooms, exterior locations, both man made and natural), marker tonal renderings. Display a wide variety of architectural design styles, geographical, and time eras. Structure and perspective very important.

Animation posing - character drawings showing a wide range of actions, attitudes and emotions. An animation demo reel is a huge asset (if not absolutely mandatory with most studios). Must display an understanding of the principles of animation:

  • anticipation - action - reaction
  • timing
  • overlapping action and follow through
  • squash and stretch
  • exaggeration
  • strong line of action
  • structure
  • proportions
  • volumes
  • weight
  • balance

What skills are involved in working in the animation industry?

Senior Animator - has had experience animating for several years at a high level of quality. An animation demo reel is a must. Depending on the persons reputation within the animation field, a portfolio is optional (you probably wouldn't ask to see Glen Keane's portfolio for anything other than pure entertainment. This person must display an extremely high level of understanding and application of all the above mentioned principles of animation.

Assistant Animator - same as the animation posing position.

Inbetweener - same basic skills as the animation posing position but maybe at a slightly lower level.

Color Stylist - show examples of color work you have done in watercolors, gauche, markers, and airbrush if you have it. Must have a strong sense of color values and color theory as it applies to the emotional and psychological aspects of the human mind.

Background- show examples of color work you have done in watercolors, gauche, markers, and airbrush if you have it. Must have a strong sense of color values and color theory.

Be sure your portfolio is neat and clean. This is an investment in your future. Don't cut back on the quality of the copies you're sending; get laser copies if the drawing is black and white or a color copy would be even better. Nothing smaller than 8 1/2" x 11" in a plastic sleeve booklet or no larger than a 2' x 2 1/2' portfolio. Anything larger becomes cumbersome for the viewer.

Glue the drawings to the backing paper to avoid the dreaded "slipping art" syndrome where your drawings float around inside the plastic sleeve making your presentation look sloppy. A little dab of glue stick on the back of the drawing should be enough to fix it into place.

Don't get the binder type portfolios with the one billion rings in them. The plastic sleeves tend to shrink over time and cause the binding rings to shred the sleeves whenever you turn a page. It gets messy after a while, I know, I have two of them... BIG mistake! Get the ones with 5 or 6 rings, they're much nicer and neater.

Arrange your artwork in a pleasing way on the page so that there is a flow to your composition of drawings. Don't put too many drawings all on one page. It tends to clutter it up too much. Conversely, don't put just one drawing on the page unless it takes up the entire page and looks absolutely amazing. By putting this one drawing by itself you're saying, "Hey! Look at me, I'm all by myself so I must be something pretty hot... take a good long look."

You must understand that the assessor will probably spend no more than 5 seconds on a page (if that) and only longer if they see something that catches their eye, both good and bad. By having the single drawing on a page is only inviting closer scrutiny. So, if the drawing is good, do it. If it's not so good, don''t do it.

Arrange your drawings by department, meaning - keep all your life drawing together, all your object drawing together, etc., etc.

Only send copies of your work, never send an original! Only send the original if the studio specifically asks for it.

Try to have your portfolio start off strong and end it off very strong with your best pieces of work.


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