3D Modeling Jobs Tips – Based on 10+ Years in the Industry

Have you ever been impressed by the grandiosity and realism of 3D models while playing a video game or watching a movie and felt inspired to create? Yet becoming a 3D modeler seemed too difficult and you quickly abandoned your aspirations?

A 3D artist career is believed to be a risky one because success is not guaranteed, and it is not easy to compete for the jobs in 3D modeling. You must pour all your time and passion into your craft to succeed. In this article, we would like to renew your enthusiasm and go through all of the steps that may be taken to become a professional 3D modeler, as well as tell you a little bit about 3D modeling careers.

How to Find 3d Modeling Jobs Game Rendering

What Jobs Can You Get With 3D Modeling Skills?

A person that seeks to become a 3D modeler may attain a variety of jobs in CAD-oriented areas, including 3D architectural modeling, 3D printing, visualization (rendering), as well as jobs in cinema (FX), advertising (motion graphics) and games (often Generalists).

Any 3D job usually requires knowledge in all the main aspects of 3D modeling, sculpting, UV unwrapping, texturing, CG animation, rendering and post-effects or assembly. Companies that specialize in 3D graphics offer a broad range of jobs for 3d modelers of different levels of skill and experience. You can find Junior, Senior, Lead, and Generalist positions for various careers in 3D modeling. One may also seek video game development-related 3D jobs described below.

3D Character Modeler

3D character modelers build and sculpt multidimensional characters either from scratch or using the concept art provided by an illustrator. The task of a 3D character modeler is to create a character model that has depth, texture, and other characteristics that make it fit the 3D environment of the game. They take character development up till the rigging and skinning stage which is done by animators.

3D Animation Artist

3D animation artists rig and skin the models created by 3D modelers and breathe life into characters and props by making them move through and interact with the 3D environment of the game. Animation artists create movement and pathways for the characters and objects, which are then converted into mathematical equations, fed into specific software, and rendered. This occupation requires having strong technical knowledge, as well as creative attunement to make new worlds come to life.

Texture Artist

Texture artists make characters and objects look realistic by adding textures to their surfaces. They may develop realistic or fantastic textures, but they also sometimes work with textures from libraries and stocks. The textures are put onto plain gray shapes created by model artists until the shapes look photorealistic. Smaller companies, however, usually have just one person for both modeling and texturing.

Environment Artist

Environment artists create computer-generated (CG) locations in which the action of the game happens. They are either with a 2D art created by a concept artist, or they work directly with references: various drafts and photos they can scan into 3D software to later alter them there. They first create a ‘mesh’ of the environment that looks like a lot of overlapping lines modeling the environment they want to build. Then they use sculpting to finetune the look of the environment. After that, the environments are textured and lit either by the same person, or by a texturing and lighting artist.

How to Choose the Best 3D Modeling Software

3D modeling software allows you to create models of characters and objects from scratch and take them to the level of being photorealistic.

Starting with 3D software may seem intimidating, and that is not far from the truth. Powerful 3D software is notorious for having a discouraging learning curve. It takes suitable software and a fair bit of practice for a user to start feeling in their element. There is a great variety of modeling software and each one is a better fit for some modeling jobs than others. Some of the 3D design applications also have a higher return of investment than others due to higher industry relevancy and transferable skills you receive while learning it.

Choosing the right software for the task is essential for saving time and achieving the best results. Below you will find a brief overview of the applications you might consider learning for your career in 3D modeling. We included one free option and three paid (high-cost, in fact) ones. It is always a good idea to get a free trial and test several expensive applications before investing in one.

Blender — The Best Free 3D Software Tool on the Market

To put it nicely and simply, Blender is the best open-source 3D design platform on the market. It provides you with a myriad of tools for the full cycle of 3D modeling and animation. And the most incredible thing is that it is free, which makes it the best app for someone who is just learning 3D in any case. It also enjoys an active and helpful community of users that works continuously to make the app better by sharing their feedback and pushing for usability and feature set improvements.

You might have heard about the unfriendly and tedious interface of Blender but these times are long gone thanks to the continuous development of the app, and now has a convenient and straightforward UX/UI.

✅ Pros❌ Cons
Completely free, including for commercial useNot regarded as an industry-standard
Can do just about any 3D-related taskNot a specialized application
Plenty of learning resourcesMight be challenging to learn but easier than Maya
Procedural modeling workflowNode Editing is difficult to get a hang of
Great sculpting toolkitLimited performance on weak hardware
Continuous upgrading and supportSometimes can be buggy
Huge online communityNot the best animation performance
Runs on Linux, Windows, and macOS

 

Maya — One of the Most Useful and Flexible 3D Modeling Software

If Blender is perfect for indie studios and individuals, Maya is a choice of big animation companies with a bit more old-school set-up. The main advantage over Blender is that it is the industry standard, meaning that there are plenty of Maya 3d modeling jobs in big organizations, and if you are intending to work for big companies, including AAA game development studios, this is the software you will need. It provides a complete toolkit for the full cycle development in visual effects, animation, and game dev. It is complex and takes time to master.

The subscription plan is mind-blowingly expensive which probably makes it not a good fit if you are just starting learning 3D modeling or even setting up a studio. It is also notorious for being slow at adopting advances made by its competitors, and slow in development in general.

✅ Pros❌ Cons
Industry-standardHigh cost: $1,785/annual subscription (a 30-day free trial available)
Can do just about any 3D-related taskChallenging to learn, especially for beginners
Superb at animationSlow on improvements, few updates
Top-notch sculptingSometimes can be buggy and crash
Easy to create scripts and pluginsNode Editing is difficult to get a hang of
Runs on Linux, Windows, and macOS

3ds Max — the Best 3D Modeling Software for Windows

3ds Max is one of the best software for 3D game artists along with Blender and Maya. Like the previous two, it is an all-rounder and enables you to create characters and objects using 3D design, modeling, animation, and rendering. It is excellent in modeling just as Maya is excellent at animation, and has a huge number of plugins and libraries. It has, however, an even steeper learning curve than Maya and comes with a hefty price tag.

✅ Pros❌ Cons
Can do just about any 3D-related task
High cost: $1,785 annual subscription (a 30-day free trial available; free for students for the first 3 years)
Superb at modeling
Rather difficult to learn
Easy to create simple scripts
Poor collection of educational materials
Huge library of different modifiers
Poor inbuilt rendering
A large number of plugins and libraries
Small online community
Fast and lightweight
Runs on Windows only and does not work on older PCs

 

Cinema 4D — Excellent for VFX and Simulation, Easy to Learn and Use

Cinema 4D is a professional 3D software developed by MAXON Computer. Just like the other three applications on our list, it has a wide span of functionality and enables you to do pretty much anything 3D-related: procedural and polygonal modeling, rigging, animation, lighting, texturing, and rendering. The main point of attraction here is that Cinema 4D has a shallow learning curve which means that contrary to many other 3D applications, you will start making nice stuff pretty early on in your training. And after that — it is famously intuitive to use. It is also integrated with After Effects, the industry-standard Adobe animation suite. And finally, Cinema 4D is known for its stability, so crashing is… rare.

✅ Pros❌ Cons
Can do just about any 3D-related task
High cost: $999 per year (a 14-day free trial available; a free education version for students and teachers)
Easy to use and get nice results quickly
Poor UV editing and weight-mapping
Superb at special effects and simulation
A well-organized UI
A great community and plenty of educational materials, including the training site Cineversity with free membership
Integration with After Effects. Compatible with many plugins and render engines.

Professional 3D modelers do not limit themselves to a single software package and frequently use supplementary software to improve the quality of their works. Besides, jobs with 3D modeling usually require the candidates to have the knowledge of a few 3D applications so that the specialists could take on various projects and use the suitable tools. Software programs like Zbrush, Modo, Marmoset, Substance Designer, and Substance Painter are used to perform tasks like sculpting, texturing, and baking. Game engines like Unity and Unreal Engine also offer advanced 3D modeling options, the ultimate objective of which is to create a 3D asset and test it within the game engine.

It is also recommended to learn about 3D rendering software solutions because professional 3D modelers utilize these packages for rendering purposes. Vray, Corona Renderer, Arnold, and Redshift are some of the most popular rendering engines. Our team prefers Corona Rendered because the software package offers outstanding rendering quality, speed, and interactivity.

How to Improve 3D Modeling Skills

If you are wondering how to get a job in 3D modeling, the first thing you need to be concerned with is improving your skills. Once you have great skills and a solid 3D modeler portfolio, it is quite straightforward to land a job. Define your direction: where would you like to grow? For example, do you need the skills of a 3D character modeler or the ones of an environment artist?

Practice your artistic skills: experiment with different styles, textures, and forms, and create art that tells a story about a fantasy world, a character or an object. Master a 3D software of your choice with the help of online or in-person courses, free tutorials, and the support of an online community. Play with animation, camera, and light to realize your projects. Make sure you are up to date with the latest technologies.

Use a 3D programming engine if applicable. Go freelance or offer your collaboration to other artists to work with other people towards specific goals. Learn more branches of game design, such as gameplay mechanics and level design.

What Skills Do You Need to Be a 3D Modeler?

For a successful 3D modeler career you first of all need a general aptitude for computer art and digital creativity. Many 3D artists also have some background in traditional art and design which is arguably necessary to make a career in 3D modeling.

You also need to have an understanding of the underlying material visual properties for a particular area of 3D art you are interested in the most (human anatomy, machinery, clouds, etc.) You must have an in-depth knowledge of the software of your choice and an understanding of the general principles of 3D modeling and computer graphics. Finally, you need to be adaptable, have attention to detail and time management skills.

Although not necessary, programming skills can be a great plus, especially if you want to work with 3D engine frameworks like Unity or Unreal. Computer mathematics skills will allow you to work with realistic models and their physics.

Courses and Tutorials for 3D Modeling Skills

If you seek to learn 3D modeling or improve the skills you already have, your options are essentially threefold:

Enroll in University Courses for a 3D Modeling Profession

Major and minor courses in 3D modeling are available at the Academy of Art University, Rochester Institute of Technology, University of Massachusetts-Lowell, etc. Gnomon School of Visual Effects is a college located in Hollywood that specializes in entertainment design and digital production. Students may attain a BFA Degree in Digital Production or receive a certificate in Digital Production. Graduates also benefit from job placement opportunities. However, this option is far from affordable.

Sign up for Online 3D Modeling Courses

Companies like Udemy, Animation Mentor, Skillshare, and Coursera offer courses that vary in their quality. Nonetheless, online courses could be useful for aspiring 3D modelers interested in the basics.

Become a 3D Modeler with Online Tutorials

Online tutorials should help to learn the fundamentals of the field and the basics of visual presentation. It is a good idea to follow your favorite 3D modelers on platforms like YouTube and Gumroad to study their portfolios and keep track of published tutorials. Information about 3D modeling is in abundance compared to 10-20 years ago. People that wanted to learn 3D back in the day were forced to read text tutorials and learn everything step-by-step. By contrast, the availability of video tutorials makes it easier than ever to start with 3D modeling.

Build Your Portfolio on Art Social Networks

How to become a 3d modeler for games? Portfolio. Developing a 3D modeling portfolio should be the highest priority for junior 3D modelers because it allows potential employers to evaluate 3D modeler’s skills and potential for improvement. A well-developed portfolio posted on Art Station or Behance, Deviantart, Dribbble, should also demonstrate the best works and professional growth and may help to jumpstart a career.

Take a look at studio portfolios: RetroStyle Games, N-iX Game and VR Studio, Winking Corporation

Junior 3D Artist Portfolio Tips

If you are wondering how to make a portfolio for 3D modeling as a beginner, we have some advice and examples to share. Junior 3d modelers can benefit greatly from being proficient in social media communication because social networking is necessary to generate a following or establish a client base.

A viral post with high-quality 3D art may be noticed by a recruiter interested in up-and-coming 3D artists. Publishing 3D modeling demo reels that illustrate modeling skills and workflow is also a good idea for Junior 3d modelers.

Sell Your 3D Models Online

One of the options that may be considered by beginners in the field is to sell 3D models online. Online platforms like TurboSquid and CGTrader specialize in stock 3D models and act as marketplaces where 3D artists can sell their works. It is a great idea to upload your 3D models to these websites during the process of training because earned income may be reinvested in education or skill acquisition. It is also a nice stimulus to continuously work on your 3D models portfolio. Once you become proficient, you can sell 3D models for games. It pays well and is good for your portfolio.

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3D Companies vs Freelance

A 3D specialist may work locally or remotely with companies located in different regions of the world. It is advised to select companies you want to work with based on their portfolios and attempt to create 3D models that would suit their style. 3D modeling specialists should expect competitive salaries, and specialists in this area are currently in demand all over the globe.

Both the freelance career and the working for organizations paths have their benefits and difficulties. The choice really depends on which difficulties seem less daunting to face, and which benefits are more attractive to get.

✅ Pros❌ Cons
You are the boss and only accountable to yourself
You are the boss: all financial risks are yours too
The choice of artistic techniques is yours
AAA projects might be unavailable for you unless you are a well-known 3D artist
Great flexibility and an opportunity to work remotely
You are responsible for all the communication with clients
How to position your independent brand is up to you
Marketing in on you too
Greater flexibility in your work schedule
Some projects deadlines might be unrealistic
No social package

 

A Freelance Concept Artist Fausto De Martini is a story of success in the area of 3D modeling. His dream of working for Blizzard motivated him to learn 3D modeling when he was 35, and his dreams came true once Blizzard representatives noticed the quality of the artist’s 3D models.

Similarly, Rodrigo Avila was inspired by Rafael Grassetti’s 3D models and started learning the discipline in 2014 via online courses. Avila’s devotion and hard work paid off and he managed to become a freelance 3D character designer. Currently, he creates art for game companies and movie studios.

You should not feel discouraged if you are a beginner and lack experience in this area. Work on your portfolio and play high-quality games to seek inspiration. Fausto De Martini’s, Rafael Grassetti’s, and Viacheslav Gedich’s stories exemplify the fact that it is never too late to focus on your dreams and goals.

Takeaways

The path to becoming a 3D modeling artist is not an easy one. It takes diligence and patience just as much as it provides you with fun and creative freedom. The steps you need to take are complex: developing your creative skills in traditional art, mastering specialized software, building a portfolio, networking with people in the industry, building a social media presence, and working on projects independently and collaboratively.

But mastering all that opens up a way for a fulfilling career in one of the most fascinating creative fields: game development, and receiving a decent compensation. We wish you great inspiration, amazing peers, and having fun along the way!