How to Make a Successful Portfolio or Demoreel

Recently I advertised two new job positions here at Blender Guru, and over the course of 3 weeks received over 200 applications! I loved seeing all the work that the blender community was producing and was flattered that so many people applied.

But I couldn’t help but notice several repeated mistakes that many artists made. I’m sure that most of you will probably go on to apply to other studios, and it would be wrong of me not to help you out as best I can. So I’m writing this list to do just that.

Please don’t take anything you read here personally. I’ve made most of these mistakes myself!

Here goes… How to Make Successful Portfolio or Demoreel:

Portfolios

  1. Put Your Best Stuff First - If the first 3 images on your site are “duds” your employer isn’t likely to look any further. Always sort by order of quality.
  2. Remove the Fluff - Don’t include old works that are obviously worse than your newer stuff. It’s poison that will taint your good works and make your employer think twice about hiring you.
  3. Make your Portfolio One Page – If you have 20 images in your portfolio, and your reviewer has to click 20 times, waiting each time for the image to load, he may just give up. Put it all on one page and he’ll love you for it. (here’s my portfolio to show you what I mean)
  4. Don’t use a Flash Website – …ever! Flash websites are the most infuriating platform to host anything. Not only is it annoying to use, but it sends a message to your employer that you aren’t keeping up with current industry trends.
  5. Link Directly to your Portfolio - About 50% of applicants sent me a link to their website homepage. Not only is it annoying to hunt for the appropriate page, but I may find the wrong page and judge your work off the “WIPs” category.
Examples of Great Portfolios
  • Andree Wallin – The portfolio to end all others. This is a portfolio that does everything right. I can’t imagine he ever has trouble finding work.
  • Aeiko – Incredible graphic design portfolio.
  • ShinyBinary – World renowned typography artist.
  • Проснись - More of a blog than a reel, but it’s still works and it’s one of the best.
Created by Andree Wallin

From the portfolio of Andree Wallin

Demo Reels

  1. Make it shorter – Anything longer than 2 minutes and the reviewer will probably just skip through to the end. Most people can cut out a LOT of fluff. I’ve heard some people recommend “Cut it in half, then cut it in half again.”
  2. Music Doesn’t Matter – I didn’t believe it when I first heard it, but it’s true. 9 times out of 10 your employer will mute your reel. Include music if you want, but don’t waste time trying to find the “perfect” track.
  3. Credit what you did - In the corner of each shot, list exactly what you did for that shot (compositing, lighting etc.). Even if you did everything, say “Everything”, as it will answer the internal question in every viewer’s head: “What did he do in this shot?”
  4. Include Breakdowns – They demonstrate that you have an understanding of the different elements that make up a shot, plus you it makes you look like a pro. Every bit counts! Great example here at 0:26.
  5. Include commercial works - Not everyone has commercial works, but if you do, flaunt it! It’s basically a testimony from the last studio that hired you. Your reputation will shoot up immensely.

If you want some more blunt advice, here’s GreyscaleGorilla’s tips.

Examples of Great Demo Reels
  • David Vercher 2012 - Direct and to the point. Clearly labelling all shots with what he did. A dream demoreel.
  • Janak Thakker - A large amount of commercial shots shows that he can be trusted.
  • Richard Spriggs – The sheer quality of works combined with the fast paced nature of the reel makes it great to watch.
  • Alvise Avati – A reel by a world class creature animator. This reel of 100% hollywood movies shows he has a lot of experience and has what it takes to join a professional environment.
Created by Andree Wallin

From the portfolio of Andree Wallin

But the Most Important Thing of All!

…is the work itself. If your work is average you won’t get hired. Period.

Following my advice above won’t guarantee you’ll get a job, but if applied correctly it can make you appear more attractive to a prospective employer.

At the end of the day, the most important thing about your application to any studio is your actual work.

So here’s a tip: Post your portfolio or demoreel on forums and ask for critiques. You’ll get them. They won’t always be what you want to hear, but it’s the fastest way to grow and actually stand the chance of being hired.

I’d go out on a limb and say that out of the few artists that actually have a portfolio or reel, only about 5% of them actually ask people to critique them. Be one of the few that does, and you’ll set yourself heads and shoulders above the competition.

Helpful Links

For further discussion on creating portfolios, I recommend watching these videos:

Got any tips for finding work? Share them in the comments below.

About Andrew Price

User of Blender for 9+ years. I've written tutorials for 3d World Magazine and spoken at three Blender conferences. My goal is to help artists get employed in the industry by making training accessible and easy to understand. I'm an Aussie and I live in South Korea ;)
  • Josh Kanuck

    Would love some feedback:

    https://vimeo.com/43545754

  • redwaller

    Maybe also add : upload to vimeo? All of the ones you referred are on vimeo.

  • Pingback: Demo Reels Draw Viewers to Online Art Portfolios - Gnomon School Blog - Showcasing Your Artwork Through Video

  • TimothyJ

    Solid tips Andrew! The ‘Helpful Links’ just made my day. Incredible learning resources! Not just for digital painting but for 3d imagery and composition also.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/Abhi.CA Abhinav Yadav

    You are a lifesaver ! Be it tuts or advice, you the man m/

  • http://twitter.com/jandres87 andres jojoa

    hola. cuando van hacer otro concurso este año

  • ronzs

    hey thanks for the advise… i am new @BLENDER…and this all advise help me out a lot

    • Titu

      thanks advise

  • Freakygeez

    Some fresh industry advice here:

    - One of the Animators show reels at Liquid animation (major Brisbane company) was only 12 seconds

    - Ask what they are looking for before you submit, they WILL tell you

    - DO NOT send in a CD EVER! It will get binned just email them your youtube link.

    - Use youtube over your own website, it saves employers having to navigate to multiple websites.

    - Titles at front for 2 seconds and never anywhere else, if they like you they will just scroll back to the begining.

    - break downs are NOT important! – I was shocked by this they like them but don’t spend ages on it and don’t break down each model. ‘Yes you can model properly, big deal’.
    The Blender siggraph 2012 reel only has 1 breakdown in it.

    - Ask yourself; would someone really pay you for what you are about to show them? Only your very best stuff on the reel – the less there the better as long as it is high quality.

    - Don’t accept rejection, ask why or what they didn’t like.

    hope it helps.

  • http://michelcavro.com Michel Cavro

    Hi and thank you for this great advice.
    I have re-modeled my portfolio accordingly (I think):

    http://www.michelcavro.com/portfolio-2/

    Everyone is invited to check it out and criticize the layout.

    Cheers

    Michel

  • http://eklq.net Omar_Ramirez

    Grat article as always, I think I’ll work on my portfolio a little more.

  • reidh

    Your advise that “if your work is average forget it”. is probably the best advise that can be given. I mean why make a demo reel if your work is average?

    also, I hope shouting out during movies doesn’t include “adult films”.

  • http://nokeyuitza.wordpress.com/ Noke

    Aloha Andrew! Mercy for the helpful tips! ;)

  • Pingback: Tips on portfolio building « Truong's blog

  • Kirill

    What do you think… Is it important to show really good commercial works of 3d visualizations in the first rows of the portfolio in the case my potential employers wants me as 2d graph/animation artist (on the constant job)?
    I’m asking because I moved ‘em to the “Others/3d” folder before sending the portfolio.

  • Kirill

    Thanks for these great advices and a brilliant collection, Andrew!
    I’m following some of the advices already but some of them brings the things into the light!

  • http://bizla.weebly.com Bizla Cooper

    Thank you for these great tips Mr.Price, I have adjusted my portfolio from a slideshow to a more organized style now.

    Would anybody mind checking it out for me?
    http://bizla.weebly.com/portfolio.html

    • Kirill

      Good works I think.
      Make a good skin shader (or find one) for Jessy.
      Remove lens flares from 1st BMW shot (it looks really bad… or make ‘em really slightly visible.. I dunno) and make good backs.
      Add space on shots. I found it’s non-comfortable for eyes to see these cars “packed” in frames of pictures.

  • Tung

    Hi Andrew,
    Thanks for the awesome tips :) They will help out
    maybe I missed it, did you hire a couple of people to help you out?
    If so… Congrats to the lucky ones you hired
    Cheers,
    ~Tung

  • http://jeremydeighan.wordpress.com Jeremy Deighan

    Geezuz I’m 30 and just getting back into this. How can I EVER compete with those REELS?! LOL

    Jeremy

    • http://jeremydeighan.wordpress.com Jeremy Deighan

      I was hoping he’d just like my avatar and pick me. :D

      • http://www.blenderguru.com Andrew Price

        “Sir this man can do a handstand”

        “Get him on the phone”

  • tan

    thanks Andrew

  • rajubuddha

    thank you Andrew,good tips :)

  • belendelu

    My advice for a Demoreel would be not to use finished tutorial scenes. I saw a few reels full of nice scenes that were all full of Blenderguru scenes that aren’t really hard to create (with your great tutorials Andrew!)
    It might look good to a few people and even employers that do not have a real overview of the blender community, but it just isnt fair to use something that is not really your own work.

    • Abdu

      I agree, with that, whenever I see a blender users portfolio and its full of finished work completed off a tutorial, in my eyes it just downgrades his portfolio even if there’s other great stuff, you start wondering if the other stuff is also made off a tutorial (I am no professional or anything, just in my opinion).

  • Yeobe1

    I think some of your nature academy stuff should be higher in your portfolio. I’m wondering if everyone would rate your works the same, if we assume the top is the best and progressively down? Just a thought

    And the tutorial about doing shot break downs would be great, and not just final, clay and wire. But one that shows of the compositing. This may be a little overkill

    http://www.pigeonimpossible.com/podcast/003.html

    but I think it shows what I mean. I know it’s not done in blender, but if you haven’t checked out pigeon impossible you definitely should.

  • http://www.davidvercher.es david vercher

    thanks for your mention!!

  • MxD

    The Demo Reel of Janak Thakker has no sound, you say? Strange, … I hear a lot of sound ! … Something wrong with my ears maybe ??? :-)

    • http://www.blenderguru.com Andrew Price

      Lol. That is so weird! I remember watching the video and being confused why there was no sound. I turned up my speakers, checked no headphones etc. Nothing. I assumed he eliminated the sound simply because he didn’t think it was necessary.

      I play it today and of course there’s sound :P

      I’ll edit the post. Cheers!

  • Pete R.

    I think that Andrew really makes a great point. While there’s been a few people commenting on the use of Flash, my question would be more of the target audience. What percentage of people come to the site from desktops or flash enabled devices versus hand held devices? With the introduction of jQuery, jQuery-UI, Parallax and other jQuery plugins in conjunction with HTML5 and CSS3 you would be able to expand your target audience.

    For those who review portfolios… have you ever found yourself using a tablet (iOS, Android, etc.) for reviews?

  • Atlantisbase

    Nice, but I feel I must correct you on the point about Flash, Flash may be old, but it’s far from dead. And likewise HTML 5 may be on the rise, but it’s far from universal. The thing about Flash is that it’s easy and quick to get something which looks good and behaves as users expect. You can of course do the same straight HTML, JavaScript, and CSS but it’s not easy. You might be able to get a leg up if you work with a template or framework, but for someone who’s never built a webpage before, those can be daunting barriers because of their enormity. Trust me, I’m a seasoned programmer and looking at foreign APIs is still overwhelming sometimes.

    Now, that said, I do not necessarily advocate the use of Flash in this context, but I won’t knock someone for it unless it’s truly horrible.

    • be2inas

      I totaly agree. Andy, you are good as a salesman, but sometimes your strict judgement on certain things shows your incompetence. You dont need flash to send stupid photos to employer to make their life simplier . But to say that certain technology is far more superior to other when its TOTALY NOT TRUE… well … I am sorry for your clients who pay to listen to such nonsence. We here are getting free stuff. Who we are to complain…

      P.S. Sorry for my english

      • http://www.blenderguru.com Andrew Price

        Sorry for my quick judgement. You’re right. Flash does have it’s place in other parts of the web, but indeed, using it to send photos of your work is unnecessary. That’s largely what I was talking about.

        To explain further, of all the portfolios that I saw using flash, I can’t seem to remember any that were done well. Most hindered their work rather than helped it. I’m talking about long loading times, background music, transitions between images, flashy hover-over effects and of course the completely unnecessary splash page. It immediately makes your site look dated.

        So if you must use flash, do it well and don’t try to be clever. Sorry if that’s rough, but I’m pretty firm on this subject. Unless you’re applying for a web design job, your prospective employer is probably going to be annoyed by all this flashy stuff.

        • be2inas

          Agreed on use for the right purpose part. There are lots of debates about Flash vs HTML5. For me its just fashion thing, at least for now.
          Flash IS the king of portfolios. But not for emploees, but rather for clients. They are as you say ‘flashy’. Its the little things that attract people to certain sites. HTML5 is gaining on it. But for now its too young. Theres no stable support across various browsers and there is not much tools to create such content. But lets face it: flash will be gone…

  • http://www.wordsandpeople.com Andrew

    All Andrew’s points are spot on. I often have to review portfolios when we’re choosing outsourcers. I might have 20 to look through in a short time. The ones that make me click around or don’t load easily – I just close and move on.

  • http://www.miekeroth.eu Mieke Roth

    Great advice, even for people that aren’t looking for a job in “the industry”. I am a scientific illustrator and for me the content will be a bit different, especially because I am hired by scientists and scientific institutes, it but the basis will be the same: keep it simple, clean and put the best work forward. Thanks, Andrew!

  • http://www.antoons.org anton

    Thanks for the very usefull tips

  • http://stringhamd.wordpress.com DramaKing

    Thanks for the great tips, Andrew.

  • http://dx3studios.com Daren

    FYI: Feng Zhu did a great tutorial/discussion on demoreel/portfolio:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=naV1QseJC4k

  • El_Member

    Thanks for the tips Andrew, much appreciated :)

    • RandomModeler

      I love your avatar.
      :D
      Take a potato chip…and EAT IT!!
      Anyways, I love the tips. Thanks Andrew.

  • http://www.fb.com/shawon625 DH Shawon

    Really great! Thank you :)

  • http://www.ljfhutch.com LJFHutch

    I’m curious as to how you would go about constructing a breakdown? That would be an awesome tutorial. Anyhow, great stuff as always :)

    • http://benamendcg.blogspot.com Ben Amend

      I agree. That would make a great tutorial! It would definitely come in handy.

      • Calzaath

        what they said.

    • http://www.anuga.se/ Anuga

      I’m sure there are tutorials out there for that already, but this is how I do it :

      1. Render a Final Render
      2. Render a Solid Render
      3. Render a Wire Render
      4. Import and Blend them in a Video Editing Software.

      I usually, as many others, do one full length render of the scene and then some short ones from other camera angles.

      Here’s a good example : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RJKYD5aM68A