Build your animation portfolio

Learn how to make a portfolio to show off your skills and get work in the animation industry.

If you are interested in any roles in the animation industry, then there are some fundamental tips that you can follow and that apply to everyone. 

When sending any correspondence to potential employers or tutors, please check your spelling and grammar; take particular care to spell the names of the person and the studio you are writing to correctly. It is also important to be polite and professional in your tone (do not use text abbreviations), show your enthusiasm and passion for animation and mention any work that you admire. Remember to comment on work the studio that you are writing to has done, as this shows that you have done your research.

Production, coordination and administrative roles may not require a visual portfolio, but you can still include examples of the animation you have worked on, with explanations of your involvement. A production assistant is still required to understand the animation process.

If you want to get a creative role in the animation industry, you need to be able to show admissions tutors and employers a portfolio, which is a collection and showcase of your best work. Animation company Titmouse Recruiter has a very good video of portfolio tips and tricks.

Animation portfolios can be in the form of a website or video showreel that shows a selection of your work, which can be still or moving images, or a combination of both, depending on the type of role you are going for.

You should also include a CV and covering letter in any application you make, and include a link to your portfolio in the CV. Please remember to include your up-to-date contact details on your CV and in your portfolio in case the employer or tutor wants to get hold of you.

Your portfolio will show off what you can do and make you stand out from other applicants, so it’s important to allow plenty of time to get it right.

What should an animation portfolio have in it?

A showreel.

A showreel is a short video full of various clips of your best work. Most showreels are between one and three minutes long. Here are some examples of good showreels:

As well as completed work, it is important to show any shot breakdowns or processes you used, such as rigging, composites or design work.

  • Only include your best work. Put the very best first. Every employer or admissions tutor is familiar with portfolios and reviewing work, so you need to grab their attention within the first 30 seconds of the showreel. Don’t leave the best to last, as the person looking at it may move on before they get to the end
  • Imagine how it will look to someone else watching it, we call this curation and making sure it starts and ends well and is engaging for the people watching it. Show it to some trusted peers to get their opinion on if they understood what was shown
  • Research the art style and genres of the studio or production you’re applying for. Match this to the work you show. It’s better to have a shorter portfolio of relevant work than a larger one that doesn’t reflect what they’re looking for. For example, don’t put violent anime style shots in a showreel if you are applying to a pre-school production
  • Match the work on your portfolio to the role. If the role is for a rigging artist, put that work upfront
  • If you’re showing group work, be clear about your contribution. This can be as simple as a line of text on the graphic, video or screenshot so that the reviewer knows what bit to look at
  • It’s highly likely that the person looking at your portfolio may be looking at it without you, so use text to explain what tools or software you used
  • Don’t be tempted to put in work that isn’t yours as you will get found out
  • Don’t use inappropriate or distracting music. Employers are likely to turn the sound off and if you use copyrighted music, your showreel may be removed from sites like YouTube and Vimeo anyway
  • Include your up-to-date contact details, your phone number, email and town
  • Ensure your portfolio works on a variety of screen sizes, devices and browsers. If you’ve made it on a desktop, check it still looks good on other devices and operating systems too
  • Keep it up to date. Refresh it with new work and adapt it for each different job
  • Some people keep different showreels that show off different aspects of their talents; this is perfectly acceptable and wise

In addition to a showreel you may also want to customise your portfolio with additional artwork and examples.

Animation software used in the industry

There is some free animation software available, but these tools are not used by industry. Most of the software below is available for a free trial and subsidised rates for students, emerging talent and beginners.

Adobe Creative Cloud
The suite of tools produced by Adobe include Photoshop, Illustrator, Animate, (still referred to as Flash by some) After Effects and Premiere, all widely used by studios and freelancers.

ToonBoom
Are the creators of Storyboard Pro for storyboards and animatics, and Harmony for 2D animation in all styles in series, commercials and feature films.

Celaction
Is used on cut out animation series and commercials.

TV Paint
Hand-drawn animation tool.

DragonFrame
Stop-motion animation software.

Nuke
Industry-standard software with dynamic 3D compositing, 3D particle effects and tracking.

Maya
3D animation, modelling, simulations and rendering software.

Free animation software

Autodesk software
Operating system: All
Educational institutions can access a range of software for 3D modelling, animation and rendering. Free trials are available.

Synfig
Operating system: All
Vector based 2D animation suite, use the tools to move to different drawings.

Three.Js
Operating system: Web-based
Create animated 3D computer graphics on a web browser using HTML.

Blender
Operating system: All
Easy to use software to create 3D models, environments and animated films. Can be used for VFX and games.

DaVinci Resolve
Operating system: All
Advance node-based software for 2D and 3D compositing, rotoscoping, colour grading. Can be used for animation.

Stop Motion Studio
Operating system: Windows, macOS, Android and iOS, 
Stop-motion animation app with in-app purchases.

iMovie
Operating system: macOS and iOS
Easy-to-use editing software that supports 4K video resolution.

Storyboarder
Operating system: All
Storyboarding software that allows you to plot and create the animatics of a story.

Where should I host my animation portfolio?

You can build your portfolio website using the following free platforms:

Adobe Portfolio
Showcase your work in a full portfolio website or create a single-page website as part of an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription plan.

ArtStation
Host your portfolio and showreel on the site, which also has a jobs listings board including from major games companies. Free to use.

WordPress
There’s a free version with up to 3GB of storage space. Other paid plans are available.

Cargo
A creative web hosting service. All Cargo sites are free to try or build. To make a site public there are a range of payment options.

Behance
Is a social media platform owned by Adobe which aims “to showcase and discover creative work”.

You can host your showreel on the following sites:

Vimeo
A video hosting site and video player. Offers a free package called “Vimeo Basic”.

YouTube
Free video sharing platform. (Less of a professional sheen or reputation than Vimeo, but widely used).

How should I share my portfolio?

Link to your portfolio or showreel from your CV and covering letters to employers or admissions tutors. You can also share it from your professional social media sites.

Also include a link to your online portfolio in the bio of any social media accounts that you use strictly for professional purposes. Social media sites that you may use for professional purposes include LinkedInTwitter and Instagram, to name a few.

Please make sure all your links work, the videos play, your spelling and grammar is checked and checked again and is grammatically correct and free of typos, the contact details are correct, and avoid using unprofessional sounding email addresses and URLs. A portfolio is about making a good impression right from the outset.

You may also want to include the name of a professional who can provide a reference for you but check with that person beforehand.

If you are interested in getting your first job in the animation industry, read this guide about some things you can do to increase your chances of getting a foot in the door.