Nowadays, with the evolution of computer graphics and the media supporting it, 3D art is undergoing significant changes. The advancements occurring in the industry of three-dimensional graphics require more attention to detail as artists work with models. Given the current state of affairs in the evolution of CPU and GPU, 3D is getting complex.
Notably, according to NMSC, the international 3D rendering software and visualization market were estimated at $1.63bn in 2019. As researchers admit, the same market is expected to be worth $9.61bn by 2030. It all marks a global interest in 3D art and respective specialists.
Young and inexperienced 3D artists often question whether they need 2D art skills in order to become good at producing three-dimensional assets. Well, this article is going to provide all the answers related to what it takes to become a professional 3D artist.
Do you need to start by learning 2D theory? Master hand drawing? Or is it enough to dive directly into 3D art, studying modeling, sculpting, retopology, rigging, skinning, and texturing? Read on to gain insight into these and other aspects of 3D art!
Whether you want to work as a freelancer or at a professional studio, the skills you need to master may differ dramatically. Another variable worthy of consideration implies answering the question of what industry you would like to enter with your 3D ambitions. Is it game development, modeling for a business purpose, 3D cartoons, cinematography, or something else?
If examined from a general perspective, a 3D artist is responsible for providing a complete three-dimensional model, whether a humanoid character, animal, weapon, fruit, or piece of the environment. The only difference is that you need to keep in mind the purpose of creating an asset — is it going to be a static object somewhere in the corner of a scene, or will it be the main character participating in a cinematic?
Primarily, what a 3D artist does involves modeling or sculpting an asset either from a pack of internet references or 2D concept art. In turn, the next step in their technical pipeline implies UV unwrapping inside 3D editing software like Blender, 3ds Max, or Autodesk Maya. Once the retopology is done, a 3D artist adds textures and shaders to the mesh in software like Substance Painter. Then go rigging, skinning, and animating if the model is meant for further manipulations inside a scene. Still, sometimes the final stage is done by animators.
In a nutshell, no, you do not necessarily require such skills to get employed or even work as a 3D artist freelancer. The experience of professional hand painting or drawing may unquestionably come in handy if you intend to gain more insight into the theory of perspective, color, shading, etc. However, it will serve as a bonus rather than a must-have skill. Instead, what you certainly want to learn includes lighting, rendering, and compositing.
Furthermore, if your ambition is to work at a 3D art studio, chances are you will have to get involved in a broad spectrum of services your agency offers. For instance, your employer can ask you to do a 3D scan cleanup once or twice, meaning you will also need to master this area at least for the good of providing a quality and polished 3D model. If it is a new-fledged studio, another niche where you may be asked to improve yourself is animation.
Without a doubt, your knowledge of the theory of perspective, color, and shading will serve as a reasonable basis on top of which you can pile new layers of 3D modeling expertise. In any event, all professionals work with references, the main difference between 2D and 3D art being a need to turn on the spatial thinking to go the extra mile adding another dimension to your artwork. Some experts view 3D modeling more as technical work rather than creative.
Just like in other professional fields, long-term practice serves as the only way toward expertise. Practicing your 3D sculpting and modeling, UV mapping, texturing, or even animating is the best approach that will help you reach the peak of your talent. For example, if you are fond of making 3D characters for video games, you can polish your skills as a 3D generalist, which will allow you to learn all the pipelines, being aware of each step.
It does not mean you will be employed as a 3D generalist who covers all the steps of an asset creation from zero to finish. But practicing each skill, from 2D concept art to a final polished 3D asset having any polygon count is an excellent approach to becoming a pro in every aspect of your occupation.
In addition, what you can also do is get employed in a professional 3D art agency. As a junior artist, you will learn to work as a team member, covering other employees’ backs, which will likely make you a more versatile expert in the long run. Visiting the websites of such studios is a good starting point. Say, the 3D-Ace studio is one of such. On similar websites, you will find portfolios. By studying them, you significantly train your eye for the future.
Ultimately, quickly detecting and fixing issues or bugs is another crucial hard skill that will simplify your path to your dream work. Of course, aside from hard skills, you also need to master soft ones, including teamwork, communication, flexibility, adaptability, and the rest. These will reduce the odds of quick burnout and ensure the top-notch quality of your work.
As soon as you master all the skills and learn the theory of 3D art, you are good to go with your own indie projects, contribute to game development, as well as make three-dimensional models for pretty much every industry out there. Be it cinematography, game development, cartoons, commercials, metaverse, and beyond — 3D art is versatile.