Sep 24, 2020

MY TOP 5 PORTFOLIO TIPS – PROPS ART

Do you want to know more about how to improve your portfolio for specific job areas within game development? In our Portfolio Tips series, we let our experts share their top 5 tips on how to do just that! Here’s 5 portfolio tips from Shray Khanna, Lead Props Artist at Massive Entertainment.

1. Trim Your Portfolio

I know it might sound harsh at first, but that’s one of the key tips I advocate for every artist. “Trim your Portfolio” simply means to only keep the artworks in your portfolio which seem fit to the job you’re applying to.

We as artists have a couple of tendencies. One is to keep pretty much every artwork we’ve ever made in our portfolios. We put in a lot of effort, and everything we create is generally very close to our hearts. But, over time, those artworks age like everything else. Just imagine if you play Beyond Good and Evil today: you might enjoy the gameplay, or you might like the nostalgia, but as the new Beyond Good and Evil 2 is highly anticipated, everyone will be naturally drawn to that because of the next gen realistic graphics we’re used to today.

The same rule applies to our portfolios. Since everyone is so used to seeing current gen-looking art assets, any sub-par looking artwork may go unnoticed. It’s always good to keep trimming your portfolio once every two years at least, or when you feel you’ve levelled up. When you can see a lot of room for improvements in your older artwork, it’s time to bite the bullet and do some trimming.

Another tendency artists generally have is posting work in progress art while learning. Practically, they don’t add any value to your portfolio. While it can show your skill at modelling, it’s better to show off that skill with a completed asset. A separate blog, on the other hand, can be a good place for in-progress art.

2. Pick Your Forte

At some point during your studies or career you have to pick between becoming a specialist or a generalist, which will allow you to focus on a specific forte. As a rule of thumb, big studios – like Massive for example – tend to look for specialists, while smaller or outsourcing studios prefer generalists.

Generally, bigger studios have a stable and set pipeline, and will need a specialist to create the best possible content for the game. Smaller studios tend to define their pipelines on the go, and without larger teams they prefer artists who can tackle several different things at once. Outsourcing studios usually work on a variety of projects at the same time and need people who can quickly jump between different forms of asset creation.

When it comes to asset creation for games, we have specializations like Hard Surface Props, Organic Props, Vegetation, Vehicles, Weapons and Materials. So, your decision simply depends on where you’d like to go, and pick either a specialization or generalization. Then, start investing your time in learning skills and tools required to achieve your goal, as it will add immense value to your future work.

3. Display Art Styles

If you’re into playing games as much as you’re into making them, you might already know that there are a few different art styles in games:

Hyper-Realism
Example: Unreal 5 Demo Project, mostly based on Photogrammetry and scanned assets.

Realistic
Example: The Division 2, manually made content but based on real-world references and physically accurate shading.

Semi-Stylized
Example: Prince of Persia 2008, realistic looking content but with a touch of hand-painted art to it.

Stylized
Example: Rayman Raving Rabbids, very much toon style art, all hand painted.

Utilizing these different art styles goes hand in hand with your decision of becoming a specialist or generalist. Being a specialist, you might like to pick one or (max!) two different art styles and push the boundaries for those. But for a generalist, it might work best to show your skills in most or even all the different art styles to show your versatility in your portfolio.

4. Set Personal Benchmarks

One thing I find quite helpful while planning a good-looking portfolio or working on an individual artwork is to set up a minimum requirement of quality benchmark for myself to achieve. The best way to do this is by collecting some best-looking assets by artists you admire.

Doing this practice before starting an asset can help you with a couple of things:

1. You have a clear, realistic and achievable goal set for yourself.
2. You have a certain quality standard set that is admired by a lot of people.
3. It’s a strong motivation for yourself to achieve a similar or even better result.

Although finding real-world references and trying to achieve the same quality is – in my opinion – the best way to approach any asset, following some good artworks can help you understand the quality expectations, as an artwork is generally easy to break down in terms of model’s tris, textures used and various maps. And at times, the wonderful artists of our community share their workflows and breakdowns which teaches you a lot. So, in my opinion: always have a few current-gen artworks as a benchmark.

5. Ask for Feedback

Feedback can single-handedly be the perfect resource to learn more and develop your skillset towards becoming a better artist.

Feedback always helps you to improve artwork that you have been working on for a long time. By bringing some fresh eyes that might see something hidden or know things that will add more value to your artwork, you can not only improve your artwork’s quality, but also learn new and crucial things to achieve your goals.

Key contributors for feedback could be your peers, friends, and online art communities like Polycount, CG society, Discord, or Facebook. The art community has always been a very close-knit community where most people like to help each other grow, and there has always been a great online presence of different communities and individuals who are always eager to support you becoming a better artist.

 

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