Portfolios for Storyboard Artists

October 18, 2012  

Looking for work as a storyboard artist

It can be tiring, frustrating, and downright intimidating to seek out paid gigs as a storyboard artist, but it's what we're all ultimately here to do, right?

We aim to help make the experience a little less harrowing.

Read through these pointers and then have a look at the material you've been handing off to people with hiring power. Does it tick off all the boxes? It could be there's some more work to be done before you're game-ready. And hey, that's OK! You'll get 'em next time!

Meanwhile, consider:

Do you have the skills?

You need to master basic storyboarding principles in order to successfully market yourself as a capable production artist. Be confident in your tools and your craft, so that you can walk into any job and understand what is required of you. Remember, the only way to achieve these goals is to practice, practice, practice!

Know what you want

Are you looking for a job in video games? Or is your dream to work in feature films? Do you want to be a director someday and storyboarding is just a stepping stone along that path? Figure it out. Don't waste another second of your life without a plan to get what you want. Before you know it, you'll have wasted decades on meaningless jobs and assignments that get you nowhere. First, you need to find out what jobs are available and what companies are looking for.

Do your research

Not every storyboard job is the same. Each assignment will have different requirements and may even require a different portfolio. With the internet, it's easier than ever to find out which companies are hiring and what exactly they are looking for. Most major studios will publish their portfolio requirements and job openings on their websites. Other animation and job boards also offer good resources to finding out what companies are looking for.

Portfolio Design

When dealing with portfolio design, presentation is crucial. As previously stated, every storyboard type may require a different portfolio. What we will describe here is a standard storyboard portfolio you can use for many different jobs and storyboard types.

Most companies and studios still want to see a printed hard copy book. This can be an inexpensive art portfolio with plastic sleeves, where you slip printouts of your artwork in and out. For most companies, an 8.5” x 11” size book should be fine. Make sure your printouts are in full color or are otherwise high-quality prints. 

Keep in mind that you will physically mail these portfolios to companies as samples, so do not expect them to be returned. NEVER SEND ORIGINALS. Any company or studio asking for original artwork should be passed on, as losing originals is too risky and a high-quality print is just as good.

A typical art portfolio can be purchased at an art store or online through art retailers. Keep 5 to 10 copies of your portfolio on hand, as you never know when a job will come up and you need to mail them ASAP. Along with a printed portfolio, you will also need to create a PDF version to send via e-mail.

The majority of your portfolio should relate to the job focus, which in this case would be storyboarding. Don't put examples of your graphic design, fashion illustration, sculpture, or anything else not to storyboarding. Character designs and sequential art can be included, but this should be placed toward the back as a supplemental material. 

You will of course want to show LOTS of storyboards! Here's what you can include:

  • A up-to-date resumé or CV
  • Around 10-15 total pages of your absolute best work
  • 8-10 pages of storyboards with a variety of samples, including:
    • An action scene
    • A dramatic scene
    • A comedic scene
    • "Cartoony" boards
    • TV/ feature boards
    • Realistic boards
  • 3-5 pages of relevant supplemental materials that could include:
    • Thumbnail pages
    • Single-panel images
    • Character designs
    • Illustrations
    • Comic book work
    • Layouts

Your portfolio should play to your strengths. If you are better at comedic scenes, show more comedy storyboards. If your specialty is action and strong dramatic compositions, show that off instead. The main point is that whoever opens your book should understand exactly how your work can apply to the job they need. The first few pages should be your strongest work. You can open with a winning storyboard sequence, or even strong compositions that tell a story about the character or the situation. When showing your storyboards, limit the number of panels on the page to 4 to 6. Any more panels on a single page will be too small and hard to read. Include any necessary description or dialogue, but do not go overboard with text. It's the images the company wants to see, not your written dialogue.

What to Avoid

Do not fall into the pitfalls of bad portfolio design. Here are a couple things to avoid in a portfolio:

  • Sloppy presentation
  • Mediocre work. Only your absolute best, even if that makes for less pages.
  • Figure drawings are for students. Show storyboards, not figure drawings. If you have to, make them relevant character designs that show story and good posing.
  • Unrelated art such as graphic design, portraits, etc. Again, it's a storyboard portfolio, right?
  • Animation samples. Relevant stuff only. You can, however, make use of animatics showcasing your storyboards.

Sample Portfolio Pages

Its a good idea not to put too many panels on one page, so the images are large and easy to view.

Example of video game storyboards by Eduard Marinov.

Example of continuity boards on a portfolio page.

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