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Blog entry by Joseph Gitau

How To Become a 3D Modeling Artist

How To Become a 3D Modeling Artist

What are 3D modeling artists?

Modeling artists use specialist software to bring to life objects and surfaces through 3D digital representations. Movies, games, and even some of the most popular furniture catalogs like IKEA use 3D models to illustrate, engineer and advertise. From Dreamwork Studios’ 3D animated characters to Avatar, 3D modeling has been part of our lives more than we know. Modeling artists also make 3D emojis—pictorial representations used in day-to-day social media communication. McDonald’s and other fast-food industry giants have also embraced 3D, and the days of hairspray on burgers are gone.

The question is, how do you become a 3D modeling artist? Digital artists do not require a specific background and you will find that many 3D artists are self-taught, university educated, or have transitioned through both routes
Many skills need to come together to create a good model. Modeling only provides you with the basic shape. We also need to paint and texture, and show off the model.

Table 1: Ideal Skills & Attributes in 3D Modeling Artists

Skills & AttributesDescription
Artistic3D modeling artists benefit from a natural knack for being artistic. Drawing by hand before teaching yourself how to draw or sculpt in digital space, can help you pick up 3D modeling quicker on the computer as well. 
CreativeBeing creative helps with finding different pre-existing pieces of art or inspirational pictures or places to act as references for what you will create.
Technological aptitude Digital technology has provided 3D modeling artists with the ideal space to practice in. There is a great variety of free, subscription-based, and other purchasable software that 3D modelers can use. With the right support, your technological aptitude can grow. 
Attention to detailAn easy way to recognize a good 3D modeling artist is from their attention to detail. If you’re one of those people who notice the wood grain on wooden planks, then you already have a good head start. All in all, being intentional in your observations and doing a lot of real-life location scouting helps. 
Networking skillsBeing able to make connections with others online or in person can help 3D modeling artists increase their reach. Networking is also important from a branding perspective. It’s important to know where, how, and when to promote yourself to grow on your own or as part of an artistic community.

The tools of the digital artist

Digital artists, like all of us, appreciate being given some recognition for the efforts they put into their art. Artstation and Behance are excellent spaces to post and showcase your art projects. Lighting is very important for your 3D designs.

As a 3D modeling artist, you will swim in a software ocean so deep that you will feel unable to conquer it. There is specialist software for retopologizing like Topogun, or cloth simulation, like Marvelous Designer. For 3D modeling artists who choose to import their models to a game engine and make them functional, you get to choose between the two main contenders; Unity 3D and Unreal Engine. You will find even more choices in 3D modeling, sculpting and painting software with Blender3D SMaxMayaMudboxZBrushSubstance PainterSubstance DesignerQuixel

Maya by Autodesk has been the industry standard software for 3D modeling and animation for years. Maya is the go-to software for films and video games and was unparalleled by any other until recently. 

As a 3D modeling artist, your professional workflow is your own, and you must make your own informed choice about what software to use. Still, it is important to choose software that feels instinctual to you, from keyboard shortcuts to menus, where things should make sense. You can choose to stick with a single piece of software that can help you complete almost all aspects of your work, from modeling to texturing, to animating, to post-production, and sometimes sculpting. Your goal as a 3D modeling artist should be to feel comfortable.

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