The profession of 3D artist: how to choose a direction and build a good portfolio.
posted on Monday,16, 2021
by Maria Kiseleva
level designer, development, mobile dev

Vlad, a level designer at PlaysDev, works on a mobile gaming application with sci-fi attributes based on cyberpunk, in 3D modeling for 3.5 years.

What is 3D Modeling

Modeling is the creation of three-dimensional computer images and graphics based on ready-made references or invented from the head. The modeling process aims to connect sets of points with lines and polygons to create wireframes.

The difference between sculpting and modeling

Sculpting is an imitation of the process of «sculpting» a 3d model, that is, deformation of its polygonal mesh with special tools — brushes.

Modeling and sculpting can be used separately and complement each other it all depends on the task. Sculpting software is capable of handling a large number of polygons, unlike modeling software. And a large number of polygons has a downside on the operation of the «engine», so after sculpting, you need to retopologize the model, namely reduce the number of polygons. Then the model is thrown into 3DMax ZBrush where a sweep is done, adds some elements, that help to do the work much faster.

level designer, development, mobile dev

How to create a simple 3D model

As a rule, the work of a 3D artist begins with receiving a ready-made reference of some object. Then each artist selects for himself how he will model: by lines or cut from a geometric figure. For example, one of my last jobs is boiler modeling. I first made the object base in 3D-Max, and then threw everything into the sculpting program, where I «twisted» the object.

Or here’s another example from my work — location modeling. Having received the reference location, I determined which models can make at once and which ones I need to divide into several parts. And after all the models were ready, I placed them in Unity, exposed the light, and got the finished location in 3D.

What knowledge base do you need for 3D

You can study the specifics of working in 3D programs on your own it is not necessary to have any technical or engineering base. But you need to understand that in this case you will have to look for all the information yourself, and besides, you will not be able to get any background.

For those who want to develop in 3D, I recommend starting with special courses where an introductory part will be given. By the way, even humanitarians can come to 3D. One of the main conditions is that a person must have abstract thinking and be able to represent objects in his mind.

level designer, development, mobile dev

Types of 3D Professionals

3D consists of architectural visualization and game modeling.

The interior design of apartments and houses uses architectural visualization. For example, you have to design an apartment. Some details for modeling are already there but for some, you will have to go to a hardware store. For example, to photograph a tile in the bathroom. Then this photo needs to be transferred into the program, and only then can you continue to work.

In game modeling, everything is simple. Here you make all the objects yourself or using ready-made references from 2D artists. If there are no objects or large financial costs are needed to create them, then novice 3D artists can find the necessary facilities on free services. I would recommend initially choosing one direction in 3D and developing only it to become a good specialist.

A set of required hard skills for 3D

The peculiarity of the work of a 3D artist is the knowledge of a large amount of software. In short, programs such as Maya and Blender are suitable for baking, modeling, and scanning. But you should not be limited to them. So, you can do the unwrapping in UVLayout v2 Pro, add-ons, and 3Ds Max. Baking in Substance Designer programs and also in 3Ds Max.

Texture mapping software: 3D-Coat, Substance Designer, ZBrush. For sculpting — ZBrush and Blender. A novice 3D artist needs a minimal video card and more RAM.

How to build a portfolio

The best service for collecting your portfolio is Artstation.com. It is the kind of Instagram for 3D artists. Many private companies find their employees precisely through this site.

level designer, development, mobile dev

Tips for aspiring 3D artists

The most important advice when creating a movable 3D model is to study the anatomy of the object: where and how the folds pass, how the position of the bones changes during movement.

Also, be sure to look behind the model’s mesh so that it does not stand crooked so that all the details are enough.

Sometimes in the process of modeling, it becomes clear that the object looks crooked, and in this part, the 3D artist needs to be creative, come up with something new, or change places. Naturally, all this is done with the consent of the customer.

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