Computer-aided design (CAD) takes your business to the next level, allowing you to design 3D art. Perhaps you have someone in-house who can create art for you, or maybe you’re just a 3D art enthusiast. Learning to develop artwork on a three-dimensional scale gives your work an added edge it otherwise wouldn’t have.

Using CAD reduces design costs and helps you develop a prototype for a fraction of the expense. With the right printer, you can even make 3D art models for free. You might not be sure where to start, however. How do you make 3D art? Is it hard to learn the ins and outs? What kind of software do you need? This post can answer those questions.

How Do You Make 3D Art?

Three-dimensional art has a depth and technique that 2D art doesn’t require. With screen resolutions getting better and 3D printers becoming more affordable, there are many reasons why you might wish to enhance your skills in this area.

You use lines and angles to create depth within your work with illustrations. Many software programs can take 2D creations and transform them into 3D. For 3D printers, you create a prototype with a drawing and add in details for the printer. The equipment then creates a scale model based on your input.

Why Do Artists Need to Learn 3D Art?

Why would a 2D artist need 3D art? For one thing, you open up additional opportunities to showcase your abilities. You’ll expand your offerings for clients and attract higher-end customers and higher pay. Figuring out how to make the leap from 2D to 3D may seem a bit overwhelming, though.

The typical 3D modeling software on the market isn’t easy to learn. For those already used to Photoshop or other popular design software, the thought of learning yet another program may deter them. However, mastering new skills helps you create more realistic backgrounds and figures for various uses. Think of 3D art as sculpting. You may or may not use materials to bring another dimension to your art, but the finished work should look hand-sculpted.

Companies such as Adobe point to the added speed with which artists create when using 3D tools such as ZBrush and Blender.

Start With the Basics

If you want to learn more about 3D art, go back to the basics of three-dimensional drawing. You likely learned some of these concepts in design school, but a refresher never hurts.

Once you’ve refreshed your memory on some 3D basics, look at software that will help you achieve your goals as an artist. Take one of your logo designs and make it three-dimensional, for example.

Software for 3D Art

There are several software solutions for creating 3D art. We’ve looked at the most popular choices and come up with four to get you started:

1. ZBrush

Known as the digital sculpting solution, ZBrush helps you with depth perception and the juxtaposition of light and shadow. You can also adjust drawings for 3D printing and export to your printer with this program. You’ll work with digital clay to sculpt the image into what you want, all at an advanced speed.

How much is ZBrush? A single user monthly subscription is $39.95 per month. Some schools license the software for students, so if you’re still taking classes, check with your university.

An artist uploaded this image of a white shark. He indicates he used sculpting, painting and retopology to create it.

2. Blender

Blender is open-source software that’s free to users. This open-source platform is a fabulous program to learn 3D digital art because it won’t cost you a fortune while you’re picking up skills. You can use Blender to model, rig, animate and render. You can even do motion tracking and video editing. The software offers simulation tools through libraries such as MantaFlow and Bullet.

Blender offers you the ability to work on a 2D concept design and blend artistic elements with a grease pencil effect. The image above is an example of the possibilities you can create with the program.

3. Rocket 3F

This open-source polygonal modeler helps designers develop new concepts. The software creates a faster workflow. The environment is What You See Is What You Get (WYSIWYG), making the software easier to pick up than some others. It also comes with a crease tool, so you can change the shape of an object with a few clicks. The website has dozens of video tutorials to help you learn the intricacies of the program.

Look at this image uploaded in the community forum by one of Rocket 3F’s users. They were creating an old western animated film and came up with an impressive concept.

4. Autodesk Maya

While this software is pretty complex and requires study and practice to learn, it offers unparalleled features. If you want to create animated films, it has all the tools needed. You can gain feature sets with hair, body physics, cloth, simulations of fluid movements and character animation. If you’re just getting started or only dabbling in 3D modeling, Maya is pretty pricey. Subscriptions start at $1,620 per year.

This image offers one of the many examples that Maya highlights as a possibility with their software. Note the realistic patterns and textures and the way the character pops. The image belongs to artist Valentin Erbuke.

Tips for Creating 3D Art

One of the best ways to learn the ins and outs of 3D design is by practicing. Keep these other factors in mind:

  • Study real life: Pay attention to the world around you. You have no better example of 3D art than real life.
  • Practice: Practice every day, even if only for 15 minutes.
  • Ask others: Ask questions in forums made for the software you use.
  • Seek mentors: Ask an experienced artist to mentor you.
  • Take inspiration: Study what other 3D artists create. Figure out how to repeat specific techniques on your own.
  • Keep it simple: Use the fewest tools possible to create the look you want. Simplicity helps your designs come to life.
  • Make it realistic: Pay attention to poses. People have a natural range of motion, so try to stick to this for your modeling.
  • Seek feedback: Ask for honest feedback. The more tips you get for improving your art, the better you’ll be.

Creating 3D art is a labor of love. With time, you’ll find shortcuts to make your work faster and easier. You have to put in the time and effort now to learn the intricacies of 3D design in the future.

 

Get Started on 3D Art

The best way to learn 3D art is to jump into the program of your choice. Learn one program inside and out before adding additional ones. With a lot of hard work, your 3D creations will stack up against any other artists’ work. Adding another tool to your design portfolio helps you land more jobs and expand your earning potential.

 

About the author

Lexie Lu

Hello! My name is Lexie and I have a fervor for design, writing, and coffee. I graduated with a dual major in Creative Writing and Commercial Design, and through those grueling study hours (facilitated by coffee, of course) I always found time to write for myself.

My posts feature design trends throughout all industries and show how the field is always changing. There’s never a dull moment in the design world!

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