Inside the World of a 3D Artist: Unveiling Creative Genius

With the advance in technology, the importance of a 3D artist is higher and higher. 3 Dimensional art, in general, has a huge array of specializations. It is very complex and incredibly difficult to master all aspects at a professional level. Creating character models, animating, and texturing are each a very deep subdivision that can actually take an entire studio to do. Let’s explore together the process it takes to create 3D art.

The Role of 3D Artists in the Film Industry.

3D artists play a significant role in modern-day cinematography. They create models, textures, and entire environments, to bring the required energy to the scene. These can be a blend of real footage enhanced with 3d elements or entirely 3d animated movies. The best effects are the ones that you don’t even notice are there. Movies with bad CGI, a.k.a. Computer-Generated Imagery, are easily spotted, while ones that have the best CGI are often overlooked since the viewer does not realize that what they were watching was not actually filmed for real.

The Process of 3D Creation

  • Creating the concept

Here the 3d artist creates fast sketches of the ideas that he wants to give shape to. At this stage, speed is the main focus, and overall look, the silhouettes, and the pose. Since sketches can be made fast, you can play with different ideas until the artist falls in love with one and decides to move forward.

  • Modeling

First, you have to choose the right software for you. There are many software available some are free, others are pretty expensive. However, more expensive might not mean better. When learning the basics, a free program like Blender can be a really good starting point. This program receives continuous updates and is getting better and better, rivaling the expensive 3D art Programs. 

Each program has its own interface and tools, but there is enough overlapping between them to make transitioning from one to another not that difficult. If you learn the basics on one, it will carry over.

Each program has its strengths and weaknesses; some are made to excel at one thing and should be used in conjunction with other programs. You can make the mesh in one program, then the texture in another one. Blender, however, is a jack of all trades; you can do pretty much everything inside Blender from start to finish.

When creating a model, you have several different approaches to it.

  1. Box modeling: Here, you create the models using simple geometric shapes such as cubes, spheres, or cylinders. Then you modify them until you get the desired form you want to model. This type of modeling is suiter for hard surface modeling, such as cars, buildings, etc.
  2. Sculpting: Here, the artist manipulates a 3D object in a virtual space, pretty much the same as in real sculpting. This can be achieved only by specialized software. This technique is perfect for organic objects and character design, with highly detailed features, monsters, etc.
  3. Spline modeling: This technique uses interconnected lines and curves to form the shape of the model. This technique is best used for furniture or cars.

Here the 3D artists create something called a 3D mesh. This mesh is what defines the shape of the 3D Object. Depending on the expertise of the 3D artist, the quality of the mesh can greatly vary; this is one point where experience between a newbie and a pro can really show.

wire mesh
  • Texturing

After the mesh is complete, texture can be applied. This adds color and details to the materials of the 3D object. Things such as skin tone, pimples, cracks, text, labels, patterns, and many more. Some of these can be done at the mesh phase, like adding cracks to an object or pimples to the skin, but these would make the mesh much more complex, and a complex mesh is very taxing to render, while doing these at texturing is much faster to render, and also more flexible.

There are other details too you can add; a big one is called subsurface scattering. This was not available in older render engines, that’s why everything looked like it was made out of plastic. Skin, for example, needs this subsurface scattering to be realistic. This means that the light is not just straight bouncing back from the surface it hits, but it penetrates the surface of the object and scatters. Hence the name subsurface scattering.

Here’s the step-by-step process

  1. Once you are finished with your Model, it’s time to bring it to life with some textures. For this, you need to understand texture maps and UV mapping.
  2. UV mapping is when you unwrap the 3d model so it can be textured. It is very important to understand this part if you want your textures to be applied to the correct part of the model seamlessly.
  3. The textures you apply here can be painted in any 2d drawing program, like Photoshop, but there are programs targeted for 3D art, like Substance Painter.
  4. You can add details like bumps, scratches, and cracks by using bump maps, specular maps, diffuse maps, and normal maps. These maps, like the textures above, can be painted by 2D programs, or you can just download from premade ones.
3-dimensional character
  • Lighting

Alright, we got the perfect concept brought to shape by modeling and texturing with the finest materials. What’s next? Lighting. Lighting is very important; it can be the difference in lighting that can take our creation from serene and friendly to intense and edgy. It is used to create mood and atmosphere.

Using the right lighting can make or break the scene, so just like with the others, it is really important to understand it well.

Here are a few lighting techniques:

  1. Ambient lighting
  2. Directional lighting
  3. Point lighting

Here you can use your virtual lighting sources, where the limit is your imagination, but you can also load up so-called HDRI, which are, in a nutshell, 360 photo that lights up your scene like the object was placed in the environment this photo was taken. This is always used when doing VFX to better match the lighting of the 3D objects to the scene.

Use a combination of these light sources to customize your scene; for example, warm colored light will make it feel cozier, while the usage of cooler colors will create a more calm, melancholic scene.

Here’s an example of how light interacts with an object with(left) and without(right) subsurface scattering.

subsurface scattering

How to make 3D avatar from picture?

Creating a lifelike 3D character is very exciting. This is what motivates many aspiring 3D artists to move forward to be able to bring their imagination to life. The steps to create a 3D avatar are the same as what I mentioned above. 

  1. First, you create a sketch, or if you have a photo, then you already have this part covered. 
  2. Then you create the mesh to match the photo as closely as you can. 
  3. After this, apply texture to this mesh, and give it detail to make it come to life. 

Currently, you can choose from many free 3d programs you can use for this, such as DAZ or Blender.

What tools do you need to create your own 3d avatar?

  1. For modeling, you can use Maya, 3ds Max or Blender.
  2. For painting texture, you can use software like Substance Painter or Mari
  3. Rendering can be done by V-ray, Arnold, Octane
    For sculpting, you can use a digital tablet from Wacom or other upcoming companies in the field, like XP Pen or Huion.

Converting 2D images into 3D: 

When converting 2D images to 3D objects, an increasingly popular technique is called photogrammetry. This method involves taking a series of photos of your subject from different angles, and the software will stitch these together and will create a rough 3D model.

This technique is used to create highly detailed realistic 3D models at a fast pace. The quality of these images will depend on the quality of the photos. And also, the more experience you have with this you’ll learn how to take pictures that are read more precisely by the software.

Personalizing 3D avatars, does my avatar have to look like me?

When creating a 3D avatar, you are only bound by your imagination. These don’t have to be realistic; they can be a representation of an idea. When it comes to personalizing an avatar, think about its purpose and the audience. For example, the avatar for a children’s game should be very different from one that is intended for, let’s say, a business website in a professional environment.

How do I make my profile picture 3D?

If you are not into learning how to create it yourself, which is understandable, you can hire someone (an experienced 3d artist) to do it for you. There are many websites available for this, 

Conclusion: 

All in all, creating a 3D character from scratch using a program like Blender, 3Ds Max, or Cinema 4D is not an easy task, and it can take years of learning to get to an acceptable level. But once you do learn, the limit is the sky. You can not only create digital art in the virtual space but maybe make your own custom 3D-printed stuff. If you want professional 3D art, in the shortest time possible, the easiest way is to hire a 3d artist.

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