So, you were advised to go for a degree in Structural Engineer and earn somewhere around USD 88,731/year. Or, maybe, you were told to choose between being a cardiologist or neurosurgeon and earn 10x more than an average American household.
But you, the ever-creative risk-taker — whose creative faculties take joy in designing and innovating in the face of challenges — stood your ground and chose to become a 3D modeler instead.
And why so? Because becoming a 3D modeler to make money and seeing your 3D models come to life — via the awesome feat of engineering that 3D printing is — was all you ever wanted as far back as you could imagine.
But, do dreams come true? Especially when you are trying to foray into a territory that’s as known for plagiarism, ‘historically’ low wages, stupendously high-priced workstations, and more bidders for even a petty gig than meshes in a high-end 3D model.
Cardiology looks a safer option now, doesn’t it? No! Still wish to go ahead and try your luck?
Take it easy then. Because it’s believers like you for whom we go down all the rabbit holes possible on the web, dig out debris, dirt, and dens, and come up with information that you can trust with eyes closed.
Though we advise you don’t do that, otherwise you will miss our well-designed CTAs offering awesome discounts for 3D modelers.
So, let’s have a look at some of the utterly important things that you should know, before and after, starting your career as a 3D modeler for making loads of money from this profession-cum-hobby of yours.
Not to sound too much detail-oriented or repetitive, but just to make sure that you — our beloved readers — don’t have any false expectations from 3D modeling, let’s cover what exactly is 3D modeling?
3D, or 3-D, modeling is the process of using software — such as Blender, AutoDesk’s Maya, Cinema 4D, etc. — to create computer-generated models of physical objects like tables, chairs, guns, or dragons (yes, fire-breathing, tower-guarding, knight-chasing ones).
But that’s kind of a formal definition, so let’s take a few steps back to take it from the top.
3D modeling isn’t, in particular, a new field. The groundwork for its evolution and popularization was laid way back in the ‘60s.
This was around the same time as AI, cloud computing, and similar advanced computing concepts that would go on to changes how commoners use computers in the 21st century made a breakthrough.
Ivan Edward Sutherland — known for his work in the fields of computer graphics and an Alma mater of prestigious Caltech, MIT, and Carnegie — created Sketchpad, a computer graphic design program, in 1963.
This program single-handedly revolutionized human-computer interaction and laid the foundation for 3D modeling in years to come.
Before its arrival, modeling was treated as a hard-core mathematical and computer discipline, used as a tool for statistical analysis.
The need for such a program was felt to test how original objects would look like – and behave — when their symmetry, dimensions, color palette, material, and links were altered.
Animation, once generated using hundreds of pictures for a shot of few seconds, was the one to benefit the most.
Mechanical, Electrical, and Civil engineering were to follow suit. But the most to benefit from would soon be 3D printing, as now the models were just generated, examined, and then given commands by computers to come out as physical objects.
Hope the little history lesson above wasn’t too boring. And if it was, then buckle up for a wild ride because the fun part starts now.
In this section, we’ll cover these basic questions: the earning potential of a 3D modeler, certifications and education required to become a 3D modeler, 3D modeling specific skills, earning of a beginner 3D modeler, etc.
That'll help you to have a more comprehensive view of whether 3D modeling is a good career choice or not.
There is a solid reason why this question needs to be answered.
When most people think of 3D modeling, they think of “creating dreamy designs using fancy software and then putting them up for sale”: from DotcomPal’s How to Sell 3D Models Online and Make Money.
On the contrary, 3D modeling is as professional as it's dreamy. It’s a sucker for precision + accuracy, and as much passionate for tinkering with the beaks and masks of your new manga-inspired character.
In short, your run as a professional 3D modeler would last long only if you’re careful with your choice for gigs, skills, and education.
Your job, as a professional, won’t be limited to designing BB gun models or animal characters for the next indie- or studio-based animation movie.
If you ever plan to switch from these two to a more serious field, like Structural or Mechanical Engineering, you might face a little resistance.
A degree, or at least a diploma, in the above disciplines, along with certification from an accredited institute that specializes in designing, then becomes necessary for working in such fields.
Even in the case of animation, unless you have a really promising portfolio of short animated movies, you might need certifications in designing and modeling from an animation or designing institute for your resume to make the cut.
Freelance, on the other hand, is a whole different game. You sign up with gig platforms like Freelancer.com, Fiverr, etc., upload your models, and then let clients choose you according to their requirements and bid.
Even for this case, showing that you have a certain educational background could help you leave some impression, which might be able to get you that gig.
Skills and certifications are not the same. You might scratch your head over why we are mentioning this, but believe us, many people have confused one for the other and signed up for jobs in 3D modeling with unparalleled expectation.
Certification from an accredited institute means that you underwent the required course of study and gained relevant expertise over tools and concepts.
Think of it as a validation of your ‘skills’ by an authority, and now you don’t have to undergo the same skill training again.
A certificate is often considered a pre-requisite before you are considered for a full-time position.
Skill, on the other hand, is a must-have, no matter whether it’s a full-time opportunity or a part-time one.
So, sketching is a skill. While a six-month course in, say, graphic design, that comes with a document that declares you fit for designing, is certification.
As for what skills you need to become a freelance or professional 3D modeler, here are a few:
Drawing and sketching (yes, they are not the same)
This is a tough one. And, it’s not one but two questions; the other one being how much 3D modelers that are just starting out make?
Like in any other industry, 3D modeling too is based on skill-based hierarchies. The more the skill and experience, the more you get for a job.
Factors like your location, industry, size and nature of the company, complication level of the project, etc., also determine how much greener your account would get overtime.
Google search on “how much 3D modelers make” would tell you that a 3D modeler in the top percentile earns around $92k. Those in the average group make around $50k, which is no small figure.
Those who are engaged in freelance projects may earn about $3000/month, most of which would be coming from low-poly models.
For those who are just starting out, making anywhere between a tenth to a quarter of the above monthly amount would be nothing less than beating one of the top 3d modeling challenges as well as a victory.
To learn more on how to make money selling 3D models online, you can check out our previous blog on the same topic.
3D Modeling is much like any other creative profession. You have to learn a lot on your own, acquire skills as you go, earn certification if the job demands, match pace with developments of present and the ones looming in the future, vary your quote based on the job, and fight tooth and nail for every client.
That said, the eagerness of creating something that didn't exist before, and seeing people use it for as many purposes as possible, comes with unmatched satisfaction.
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