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Build a game art portfolio in 15 minutes (with personalized URL)

Home page of a finished art portfolio site

Start basic and personalize until it’s uniquely you

If you’re an aspiring video game artist, you absolutely need to have a gorgeous online portfolio.

Why? Because when art directors open your job application to see whether they should hire you, the first thing they look at is your portfolio. If they aren’t immediately impressed, their next move is to hit DELETE — and your job application is in the trash.

Fortunately, it’s easy to build a custom portfolio website with your own personalized URL. It’s so easy, in fact, that you’ll be able to get it up and running in under 15 minutes. (If you consider yourself “technology challenged,” give yourself 30 minutes.)

Custom vs. Canned

You might already know about many of the websites that offer free drag-and-drop “website builders.” Those sites aren’t bad, but they do have some major drawbacks.

First of all, they’re not very customizable, so you won’t have full control over the design, layout, or look and feel. You also won’t be able to use your own custom website address (also called a URL). Wouldn’t you rather have a professional-looking custom URL like www.JohnDoeArt.com, rather than www.artportfoliosite.com/users/johndoe?

Second, website companies tend to come and go. Several different website builders have become popular over the years, only to later go out of business, taking thousands of art portfolios down with them.

Advantages of setting up your own custom site:

  • It’s easy to set up
  • You get your own custom URL domain name (example: ArtOfJohnDoe.com), and unlimited custom email addresses (example: me@ArtOfJohnDoe.com)
  • Stand out from the crowd, because you have full control of the look and feel (don’t worry, you don’t have to know programming)
  • Easily add a blog, social sharing icons, and more — practically any feature you can dream up is available as a free plug-in
  • Since it’s a paid service, you’ll get full phone/email/chat customer support if need it
  • You never have to worry about your site going out of business, because it’s your site

Setting up a custom portfolio site takes a little longer than a “canned” portfolio site-builder, but it’s well worth the effort to have full control over the look and feel, and a portfolio that will never go out of business.

Overview

I’m not kidding when I say you can do this in under 15 minutes. Follow these step-by-step instructions and you’ll end up with your own custom portfolio site with a personalized URL.

  1. Sign up for hosting and domain name
  2. Configure your new website
  3. Activate a new theme
  4. Upload your portfolio content
  5. Customize your resume and contact information
  6. (Optional) Continue customizing your portfolio site

Sign up for hosting and domain name

Start by signing up for a hosting account with Bluehost. Bluehost has been around for years, and they power thousands of websites of all kinds. In fact, I use them to run the website that you’re reading right now.

  1. Click here to sign up on Bluehost (opens in a new tab)
  2. From the menu, choose hosting > WordPress hosting, then click the Choose Plan button
    02-wordpress-hosting
  3. Choose the “WP Standard” account (it’s the cheapest, and has everything you need)

    04-plan-table

  4. In the “new domain” box, type the domain name (also called the URL) that you want to use for your portfolio. I recommend using your name as part of the URL, for example if your name is John Doe, you could use “ArtOfJohnDoe.com”

    05-new-domain

  5. Type your contact and payment information to create a new Bluehost account. You’ll also be asked to create a password, so be sure to write it down somewhere safe where you won’t lose it.

    06-account-info

  6. And just like that, you’re the proud owner of a brand new website account with your own personalized URL! It will take a few minutes for the WordPress software to install on your new website, and then you can move on to the next section: Configuring your new website.
    You’ll use WordPress to build your portfolio. It’s powerful, flexible, and (best of all) easy to use.

    10-setting-up-wordpress

Configure your new website

  1. From the page on the previous step, click WordPress Tools to see a list of your websites. The website you just made will be the only one in the list.
    My examples are using “artportfolioexamples.com”, but you’ll see whatever domain name you created in the previous section.
    11-my-sites
  2. Mouse over the icon for your new site, and click Log in to WordPress to open the WordPress dashboard.
    13-my-sites-login
  3. Choose the Personal button, since you’re making a personal portfolio site.
    14-setup-what-kind
  4. If you’re asked to install any other software, such as Jetpack, skip it by answering Not now
  5. Type a Site Title (for example, “Portfolio of John Doe”) and Site Description (for example, “Video game concept art and 3D models by John Doe”).
    You can easily change this later if you change your mind.
  6. Next, you’re asked whether you want to add a blog. I recommend answering Yes.
    17-blog-yes-no
  7. Lastly, you’ll be asked what you want people to see on your homepage, and whether to include a “Contact Us” page. Choose Most recent news or updates for the homepage (see image below), and answer Yes when asked to build a starter “contact us” page (you can enter your contact info later on).
    18-static-yes-no
  8. Then click the Customize your site button to start the next section: Make it look more like an art portfolio, by activating a new theme.
    20-launch-customize

Activate a new theme

What’s a theme? It’s easier to explain as a metaphor: imagine that your portfolio website is a house. Bluehost is the foundation; WordPress is the walls and roof; and your theme is the carpet, paint, window treatments, and other visual add-ons that you can customize.

WordPress comes with thousands (really, thousands) of different themes you can choose from. You can spend as much time as you’d like to explore various themes, but for this example I’ll show you how to choose a theme called “Hamilton” because it’s great for portfolio sites, and it’s free.
You can always change to a different theme later on, if you want to.

  1. When you finish the previous section, you’ll see the Site Customizer screen. However, you’ll need to exit the Site Customizer in order to choose a new theme. Exit the customizer by clicking the “X” in the upper left corner, above the “You are customizing” message.
    21-site-customize
  2. Now you’re at the main WordPress dashboard. Choose the Appearance menu item from the sidebar, and then choose the Themes item to open the Themes page. Click the WordPress.org Themes button at the top of the page.
    24-appearance-themes
  3. To narrow our options to locate the “Hamilton” theme, click the Feature Filter button. On the filters page, put a checkmark in the Portfolio box, then click Apply Filters.
    25-theme-feature-filter
  4. Scroll down the list of themes until you find “Hamilton”. When you find it, click the Install button to install your new theme. And that’s it, you’re ready for the next section: Uploading your portfolio content.
    28-install-hamilton

Upload your portfolio content

Before we get started uploading all of your beautiful portfolio images, you’ll need to understand some WordPress basics.

  • Post: In WordPress, a post is a single piece of content, like a single blog post. For an online art portfolio, you can use each post as a page to hold a related set of images. For example, you could make one post for your environments, another one for your character sketches, another for your photography, and so on.
  • Gallery: In WordPress, a gallery is a collection of related images. For an online portfolio using the Hamilton theme, it’s convenient to make a separate gallery for each post. In the above example, you could make one gallery containing all your environment art, and then put that gallery into your environment art post.
  • Page: In WordPress, sites use one or more pages to store information that doesn’t change very often. For example, you might have an “About Me” page, a “Resume” page, and a “Contact” page.

Great, now that you’re up to speed on the different types of content in WordPress, you’re ready to start uploading your art.

  1. Start by making a new post. Choose Posts from the sidebar, and then click Add New to create a new post.
    29-add-new-post
  2. Now you’ll see the post editing page. Type a title that describes the kind of art you’re going to place into this post, for example “Characters” or “Environments”.
    30-new-post
  3. Next, create a new gallery to put into the post. Click the Add Media button to access the media popup, and then choose Create Gallery from the sidebar. Click the Upload Files tab to show the file upload area.
    31-create-gallery
  4. Upload your art files from your computer, using either the Select Files button, or by dropping the files from your computer’s Finder (Mac) or Windows Explorer (Windows). Once the images are uploaded, click the Create a new gallery button.
    32-upload-images
  5. Next, you have an opportunity to choose how you want your gallery to look inside the post. Try starting with the settings shown below.
    You can change the gallery’s settings at any time, by clicking on it while editing the post.
    33-gallery-settings
  6. Click the + Add New Category link to make a new Category for your post. Categories are optional, but they help you organize your site as you create more content.
    Like most things in WordPress, you can change your post’s category any time you want, even after you publish it.
    34-category-publish
  7. Next, scroll down to find the Set featured image link. Click it to choose which image you want to represent the blog post on your home page. You can choose one of the images you already uploaded, or you can upload a new one.
    35-set-featured-image
  8. The last step is an easy one: just click the big, blue Publish button to make your new post go live on your portfolio site.

Congratulations, you’ve just published the first gallery on your personalized portfolio website! Repeat this section’s instructions as many times as you need to upload all of the art you want to show off — just remember to make a different post/gallery for each portfolio section, such as photography, concept art, 3D models, environments, or whatever you need.

At this point, your new site is actually live on the Internet (surprise!). You can visit it by typing your personalized URL into a web browser, or by clicking the Visit Site menu under the house icon in the upper left corner.
42-visit-site

Customize your resume and contact information

You can use WordPress pages to display your personal information such as contact info or your resume. The Hamilton theme comes with a few pages already created for you, which you can edit to be whatever you like — for example, you can make a new page titled “Resume” and use it to display your online resume to site visitors.

  1. Visitors can use your site’s main menu to access any pages you create. Just create or edit a page from the Pages menu, and it will appear on your site’s menu automatically.
    pages
  2. To edit a page, click the page name in the list to enter edit mode. From there, you can type a new title and add anything you want to the page contents, as if you were using a word processor. Feel free to type, format, add images, and more.
    38-update-sample-page
  3. When you’re done, click the Publish button to save your work. Feel free to edit and re-edit anytime you want.
    menu
  4. Ideas for pages you might want to consider for your site include: About Me, Contact Me, and Resume.

Continue customizing your site

Now that you’ve uploaded some art into your portfolio, you may want to spend some time customizing your theme and layout. Here are the top customizations I recommend you experiment with.
Remember, you can open the Customizer window by choosing Appearance > Customize from the sidebar.

  1. Change your front page to display your latest posts. The Static Front Page settings let you put all your portfolio posts on the homepage so they’re the first thing visitors see.
    43-customize-front-page-3
  2. Customize your theme layout. The Theme Options settings let you put a menu on your front page (recommended), choose a three-column layout, and type a title to show on the front page.
    44-customize-theme-options-3
  3. Add logos and a site icon. The Site Identity settings let you upload a custom logo and site icon. It’s also where you can change your site’s title and tagline if you don’t like the ones you set previously.
    45-customize-logos-3

Be sure to click the Save & Publish to save your changes.

Those are the basics, but I encourage you to continue exploring the settings, because there are tons of optional tweaks you can make to personalize your new portfolio site. Don’t feel like you have to do it all now — remember to take a moment to enjoy your accomplishment!

Resources

Here are some resources to lean on as you learn more about WordPress and how to make your online portfolio even more personalized and amazing.

Game concept art: Caleb Parrish. Stock photography: Unbounce.

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My Game Careers Talk at AIE Seattle

A few weeks ago, I spoke with a group of students at the Academy of Interactive Entertainment, a game and film school here in Seattle. They were kind enough to make a video and share it with the world, I thought you might like it.

It was super fun, because I did an open Q&A with the students. They’re graduating soon, so they asked about everything: interviewing, resumes, portfolios, and whether good digital hygiene means you should “scrub” your social media before employers find those pics of that thing you kinda wish you hadn’t done last summer. Here’s the video. Read more ›

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Posted in Applying, Interviewing

How can I tell if a video game jobs website is a scam?

In this episode of Game Industry Career Guide Podcast, I answer a question from Bryan, who asks “Where can I find reviews for this business site and is this a legit website that I will not be scammed by?”

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • Why there are so many scammer websites for video game testing jobs
  • 5 simple techniques you can use to identify, and avoid, scammers
  • Use those techniques to see which Google search results are actually scams!

Read more ›

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What are some demo ideas for my video game programming portfolio?

In this episode of Game Industry Career Guide Podcast, I answer a question from Max, who asks “Hello, I don’t miss an episode of your podcast ever since the first one. I have a question: What are some specific examples of demos you could prepare for different game programming positions? Could you provide some specific examples that a hiring manager would like to see for positions such as Gameplay Programmer, Graphics Programmer, or Tools Programmer, to name a few? Thanks a lot and keep up the excellent work.”

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • Some actionable ideas for demos to put in your programming portfolio
  • Where to find inspiration for even more ideas to code
  • The most impactful and rewarding portfolio project you can do over a summer

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Posted in Applying, Podcast, Resume

Will my job application be rejected by resume bots if I submitted a PDF file?

In this episode of Game Industry Career Guide Podcast, I answer a question from Travis, who asks “I am a recent computer science graduate. I applied for a tester job at Ubisoft and, following your advice, I submitted everything as a PDF file. But I recently listened to another podcast that said big companies, like Ubisoft, don’t actually read resumes, computers do, and that we should use a plain resume with specific fonts and save it as a Microsoft word or a TXT file so the computer can parse the information. Is this true? Is my application going to be overlooked because I submitted PDF files?”

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • Why big game companies use machine learning software to filter resumes
  • Whether certain file formats and fonts might cause problems for your application
  • A clever trick you can use to find out what’s allowed by any company’s resume-reading software

Read more ›

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Do video game studios ever consider hiring entry-level job applicants?

In this episode of Game Industry Career Guide Podcast, I answer a question from Taylor, who asks “I am incredibly committed to my craft and improving at it, yet I am under the impression that when I apply for jobs, along with my application there may be 30+ talented artists who have been in the industry before. Do hiring managers occasionally consider candidates that have potential, despite not having the experience? Or do they only seriously consider ones that have industry experience?”

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • How your entry-level salary fits into the game team’s hiring strategy
  • Why your passion and enthusiasm could be worth years of experience
  • The top 4 ways that a newbie can be even more valuable than a seasoned veteran

Read more ›

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If I land a game dev job in a new city, can I get help with moving costs?

In this episode of Game Industry Career Guide Podcast, I answer a question from Kit, who asks “I live in a state where there is no real game development work around, which puts me in a pickle because when I graduate I will have a degree but nowhere to use it. I already know that my best bet is to move to another state like Washington, but how does someone like me who will be new to the industry land that first job when migration cost has to be a factor? I’ve heard that some companies will help with this if they really want you to work with them, but I will not have a reputation at this point so I don’t see that happening. Do you have any suggestions?”

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • Why you shouldn’t move until you’ve signed an offer
  • Why game studios might pay you big bucks to relocate, even without experience
  • The 2 most effective ways to ask – and get – free money to pay for relocation

Read more ›

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Do you need an art degree if you already have a strong portfolio?

In this episode of Game Industry Career Guide Podcast, I answer a question from Mihai, who asks “I have a question regarding game art colleges. I’ve watched Marc Brunet and other artist’s videos and they strongly advised us not to attend any colleges as long as our portfolio is as strong as the Industry demands. Would you recommend attending a game art college if I already have a game studio quality portfolio?”

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • Whether you can get a job as a game artist without a degree
  • Why an art degree doesn’t guarantee you’ll get a job… or that you’ll be a good artist
  • How to get real, candid feedback on your art skills

Read more ›

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Video Game Industry Internships FAQ

How can a game internship solve the dreaded "chicken and egg" problem for students?

How can a game internship solve the dreaded “chicken and egg” problem for students?

At this very moment, many students are knee-deep in their search for their first job at a video game studio. But if you’re one of those job-seekers, you’ve likely smashed head-first into a very tricky problem: How can you get a job that requires “prior experience,” and how can you get experience if nobody will hire you? Read more ›

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10 Proven Ways to Break Into the Video Game Industry

Break into a video game career

How can you get your foot in the door, if the door won’t open?


Does the video game industry seem like a black box, with no way to break inside? All you need is a foot in the door, but how do you get it to open in the first place?

It can be done. All you need is a solid strategy.

But it’s time to stop searching for “the right way,” because there’s no one “right way.” Instead, there are many ways to get your first job at a game studio. To discover the best strategies, it takes an understanding of how the current batch of professional game developers started out.

Here are 10 strategies you can use to break into your first job at a video game studio, along with examples of pro developers that have done it. It worked for them, and it can work for you. Read more ›

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