Chris originally published this article on Medium and is being shared with his permission. While the role in question was for a 3D World Artist, the insights shared here are helpful to all artists and candidates with portfolios.

I’ve reviewed more than 500 applications for a 3D World Artist role we’re hiring just this past week. I see a lot of the same issues in portfolios each time we hire for this type of role, so I wanted to write some thoughts down to hopefully help folks improve their portfolios.

Table of Contents:

  • What matters in a portfolio?
  • Portfolio pitfalls
  • Standout portfolios

What Matters in a Portfolio?

It’s good practice to [.c-highlight]put yourself in a hiring manager’s shoes when building your portfolio. Imagine your day is combing through 100s or 1000s of applications[.c-highlight] so you can narrow it down to 5–10 of the best ones.

So what are we looking for in the few seconds we give to each applicant?

Great Work!

It’s on the nose, but I‘ll say it anyway: You need work that’s good enough technically and artistically to be used in a commercial video game.

There’s no shortcut to this, but I can recommend some things:

  • Start simple and finish art projects that you start. Then make notes for yourself about what could be better.
  • Find a group of peers and improve together. Start art challenges together, hold each other accountable, give each other feedback, and focus on persistence and improvement.
  • Find mentors and listen to them. If there are artists you like online, ask them if they’d be willing to give feedback on your work. Try not to take it personally if they don’t respond and if they do give you feedback take it seriously and make those changes.

One other thing I can suggest is to note what hiring managers are looking for in portfolios. This will be different depending on the studio you’re applying for, but there’s commonality for sure.

  • Design sensibility — Do they have a good instinct for composition, form, color, values, visual weight, and other visual design principles.
  • Modeling, texturing, UV proficiency — Given a concept, do they know the technical processes required to make a game-ready model?
  • Generative material proficiency — Can they use a substance material graph to create materials and textures.
  • Hand painted texturing proficiency — Do they have the drawing skill and sensibility to make an appealing texture by hand.

Attention to Detail

In an ideal world every applicant would get equal attention and quality of the work would be the only thing that matters. The truth is we use a lot of shortcuts to cull applicants before even looking at their portfolio. Once past that culling it only takes a few seconds to evaluate most portfolios.

Here’s some of the early culling steps I took when reviewing applicants for this job (Please note this wasn’t an entry level role):

  • If someone is a current student, they won’t have enough availability for our work so we can skip that conversation.
  • If someone doesn’t name any games or game projects in their work experience, I take that as having no experience.
  • [.c-highlight]Any typos, filling out the form wrong, not listing their pronouns tells us applicants don’t have good attention to detail.[.c-highlight]

Even with a great portfolio, if you leave sections blank or send an email instead of filling out a google form, that lack of attention to detail is noted!

Being Memorable

I understand that applying for jobs is grueling and it’s easier to use the same cover letter, resume, portfolio, etc for every job you apply to. You should do that most of the time. [.c-highlight]When there’s a standout job you want badly or think you’d be an especially good fit for, that’s when you should go the extra mile to be memorable.[.c-highlight]

[.c-insight]💡 Editor's Note: I'd actually suggest that you always customize each application. Remember, just like with this role, chances are there are 100+ applications for any job opening in games. If you're not as excited about the role and you're using that as a reason not to "go the extra mile" as Chris suggests, there will be other candidates that are excited and will put in that extra work.

That's who you're competing with. Their extra effort is much more likely to be noticed than your cut and paste application. So, while submitting the same materials for every job may seem easier on the surface, that effort, as little as it is, is far more likely to be wasted.[.c-insight]

[.c-highlight]I’ve seen emails, resumes, demo reels that are customized to include our company’s logo, visual branding, or specific mention of our games. Yes it’s a bit corny, but it does make a difference[.c-highlight]. A common tactic I want to mention that’s a double-edged sword is to send an email in addition to your application. This can be good if you have specific questions or personalize your email, but if it’s just generic cover letter spam, it’s going to be more annoying than helpful.

Of course, make sure that your work is good and that you [.c-highlight]follow the instructions of the application[.c-highlight] before pulling stunts to be remembered.

Portfolio Pitfalls

Assuming you have great work, good attention to detail, and a plan to make your portfolio memorable… let’s go over the common portfolio pitfalls we’ve seen for this role:

  • Video reels — Showing your 3D modeling, texturing, materials work only through video is a bad sign. I can get all I need from a few images.
  • Dropbox / Google drive links — There’s some security concern about opening direct image, pdf, video links but it’s especially slow vs scrolling a website with hosted images. It’s worth it to use ArtStation, Cara, or some other portfolio oriented site. Even Wix is better.
  • Super generalists — If you’re sending me to your personal website, it better be really clear that your primary discipline is the role I’m hiring. While a mixed skillet can be a plus for design roles, art roles are too competitive and hiring managers want someone with a clear focus.
  • Hard to navigate custom websites — If you insist on building your own website, you need to go simple and functional. Any extra animation, scrolling, clicking needed to get to your art portfolio is bad.
  • Nurbs renders— Nurb views aren’t how assets will be rendered in any game-engine, so that’s a red flag you don’t have game experience. You can generalize this to non-game ready art or presentation.
  • Untextured models — Grayscale art in your portfolio is unfinished. Hiring pure modelers is rare these days, so you better show texturing whether that’s generative substance materials or hand-painted albedos.

Standout Portfolios

If you’re confident that your work is great and that your attention to detail is top notch, here’s some ideas about how to push your portfolio even more:

  • Process breakdowns — [.c-highlight]For at least one piece, break down your process from start to finish[.c-highlight] with sketches, gathered reference, written notes about your thought process and some work-in-progress shots.
  • Sketchfab embeds — I’m an art nerd, so I like to see all the details in texture and topology. This is only a little more work per piece, but you’d be surprised how often they get used.
  • Style match — Pick a game and then make some assets for that game- not copying existing assets but imagining some from a new biome. Really study the game and try to breakdown what defines their style, then make art in that style. Document your process. Make clear this is fan art and don’t try to imply it’s a real game asset.
  • Concept art — I think everyone should have exactly one example of matching a piece of concept art as closely as possible. It’s easier to get a good portfolio piece by working off a concept and that is a big part of the workflow for many studios. Be wary that doing many of these doesn’t show your personal style.


I don’t have much more to say, so I’ll wrap up quickly. I wrote this post to be helpful and encouraging. If you’re struggling to find work right now I know that sucks and I hope this write-up gives you some ideas about things you can work on today and in the short term.

Don’t give up on the game industry, don’t stop improving your art, find a community where you can grow and help others grow, and I promise you’ll find your place.