Beginner's Guide to Becoming a 3D Modeler

A modeller is someone who creates CG assets for a film production. A CG asset can be anything; a character, an object, a vehicle or an environment. There are several ways movies and TV shows rely on Modellers; set extensions, full CG environments, CG characters and digi-doubles are the main tasks.

How to start learning 3D Modeling?

Starting your journey in Creative Media & Entertainment is super exciting, but it's going to take time and a lot of effort. The journey is 100% achievable and deep down, you know it's right for you. It's just a matter of starting. The goal of this article is to help with that. You might not be ready to get certified yet, and it might all seem like a distant dream right about now, but you've already taken the first step which is the hardest part.

Let's break down what you will find in this Beginner's Guide to help you on your journey:

  • What is a 3D Modeler?
  • Career Paths for 3D Modelers
  • How much money can you make
  • What to expect on the job
  • Software you should start learning
  • Top Schools and Colleges that can help you learn
  • Examples of incredible digital portfolios
  • Communities and Blogs you should join
  • Companies that could hire you
  • Essential books and resources
  • General Advice and Tips

What is a 3D Modeler?

A modeller is someone who creates CG assets for a film production. A CG asset can be a anything: a character, an object, a vehicle or an environment. There are several ways movies and TV shows rely on Modellers, set extensions, full CG environments, CG characters and digi-doubles are the main tasks.

An example of 3D modeling in Visual Effects is when a set extension is needed. This is where the practical set from a production is extended or expanded depending on what the production needs. A period drama filmed in London with actors standing in front of an important historical landmark might look a little ridiculous with modern cars and skyscrapers in the background, so a Modeller would design a period accurate city to add in behind the actors to replace this modern landscape.

Same thing happens on a studio set. An on-set art department might build an amazing sci-fi corridor for a 100m long ship, but in reality it would be quite impossible to build that ship in real life. Instead, they might only create a small segment on a stage, which then a Modeller extends digitally with a 3D model to give the illusion of 100m of depth.

Digital doubles, or digi-doubles, are CG replicas of characters or objects. Digi-doubles are extremely important in modern movie productions. Princess Leia from Rogue One, Rachel from Blade Runner 2049 and Junior from the Gemini Man are all advanced digi-doubles created from reference images of the actors from decades ago. But in most movie productions the digi-doubles don’t have to be this sophisticated and advanced. More commonly, digi-doubles are used for action sequences or stunts moving either too fast or far away to really nit-pick at the details of the digi-double.

The detail of these objects is determined by the needs of production. A digi-double being used in animated shots will need extreme levels of detail compared to a dumpster bin placed in the background. The general rule is if it is going to be interacted with close-up in a shot, there should be high-level detail.

Career Paths for 3D Modeler

Modeling Artists are needed by all types of industries. These are the most popular career paths right now with the most direct access paths. For this reason, they should be at the top of your list.


Visual Effects

The process by which imagery is created or manipulated outside the context of a live action shot in filmmaking and video production.

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3D Animation

3D animation includes content specifically created for feature animated films and short films, with all elements being 100% computer generated.

Learn More

Game Design & Development

The process of designing and developing a video game for PC, Console, Mobile and immersive media platforms.

Learn More

How much does a 3D Modeller make?

The national average salary for a 3D Modeler is $61,391 per year in Australia. Filter by location to see 3D Modeler salaries in your area. Salaries estimates are based on 8 salaries submitted anonymously to Glassdoor by 3D Modeler employees.

This salary estimate is based on 264 salaries submitted anonymously to Glassdoor by 3D Modelling employees.

What to expect on the job at a Studio?

As a Modeller, depending on the production you could be working on anything from small objects to entire planets. You will be assigned an asset depending on your skill level, juniors usually get the grunt work with background objects or small CG assets that don’t require too much detail.

Amazing Spitfire 3D Model created by Jonathan Bacheter

Depending on the type of sequence and production, you might need to concentrate on something in particular; an environment, a character or a prop. You need to design different iterations of the concept to provide back to the film studio to support the companies bid for the work. If the company successfully wins the sequence, you would further develop the design to a final stage to hand down to the rest of the pipeline for them to start building their work.

Software that 3D Modellers should learn

There are plenty of software packages out there competing for your attention. The most important thing when starting out is to find one that suits your budget, hardware setup, and that you enjoy. Here are some great packages to get you started

Top 10 Schools to learn 3D Modelling

The Rookies has been ranking creative media and entertainment schools since 2009 with a simple goal of helping aspiring artists find trusted schools to help them forge successful careers in games, visual effects, animation, arch viz and other creative fields.

With this simple goal, the Rookies World School Rankings® has become a trusted and industry respected system for showcasing the very best education facilities available to students today.

What sets The Rookies apart from other school and college rankings systems is that their rankings are based on the quality and performance of student work that is completed at school. To collect this data, each year students submit their best work to the Rookie Awards to be reviewed by a panel of industry professionals. They receive over 4,000 portfolios by students at over 500 schools and colleges around the world which is a whole lot of interesting data that is the basis for our annual education ranking system.

New3dge is born out of a passion for games and films, but also an understanding of the industry needs. Since our opening in 2010, we have mastered digital art education and taught proven techniques to many of our alumni who are now working in the video game and film industry across the world.
ISART Digital
ISART Digital is an international school of higher education in videogames and 3D-VFX animation. The school is based in Paris & Montrealand has a partnership with the Tokyo University of Technology.
The One Academy of Communication Design
In 1991, The One Academy of Communication Design was established as a private art college in Malaysia and soon proved its worth producing industry-standard graduates. Our academic strengths lie in the practice of our teaching philosophy “Masters Train Masters”, where we...
Syn Studio Concept Art School
Art instruction, Concept Art, Illustration, and Traditional Drawing and Painting
3dsense Media School
3dsense Media School is a pioneering digital arts school in Asia.
ECV Creative Schools & Community
Since 1984, the French school of reference in the areas of Design, Animation, Game and Digital.
Universal Arts School
Universal Art School, since 1994 is an Institution of 3D, Videogames, Cinema and Animation
CG Spectrum
Our mentors meet students from around the world online for small classes or 1-on-1 specialised industry diploma courses. Apply now and launch your career in games or film.
Bellecour Ecole
Bellecour Ecole is a specialized art school.
Flinders University / CDW Studios
In partnership Flinders University and CDW Studios have created a very unique study environment where you are being taught by an instructor who currently works as a professional in that industry.

3D Modeller Portfolios

Like all careers in Creative Media & Entertainment, you will need an impressive digital portfolio to showcase your skills. The following links are to portfolios that have been created by some of the best junior artists in the world.

Essential Communities for 3D Modelling

The number one community that we recommend is The Rookies, and it's for good reason. They have a simple mission, to help people go from novice to professional in 5 steps.

The team knows nothing feels better than working in creative industries for that first year, just like Rookies do in major league sports. That feeling of accomplishment after putting in so much hard work and perfecting your skills. This is what they can help you achieve with access to free training, live sessions, access to professional mentors, huge contests and challenges. The best part is the whole experience is gamified and you can earn industry recognised badges and certificates.

The Rookies has been helping artists launch creative careers since 2010.

Top Companies that employ 3D Modellers

3D Modellers are always in high demand. Films and not slowing down, Netflix is not going anywhere and advertising agencies are always trying to push the barriers of the advertising campaigns. There is also a growing need for visual effects artists in architecture firms, product design studios and tech startups. Here is just a small taste of some the bigs names that you could have on your resume.

Essential Reading for 3D Modellers

There are plenty of amazing books out there that will provide you with knowledge to help you improve as a visual effects artist. So take a step away from the computer, grab one of these books and be inspired.

Industrial Light & Magic: The Art of Innovation: Glintenkamp, Pamela: 9780810998025: Books
Industrial Light & Magic: The Art of Innovation [Glintenkamp, Pamela] on *FREE* shipping on qualifying offers. Industrial Light & Magic: The Art of Innovation

Some Words of Advice

If you have read this far it means you are motivated and excited about a career in Creative Media & Entertainment. These industries are relatively new, highly competitive, but are also incredibly rewarding on a personal level. Here are a few things to consider:

  • creative industries opens a lot of doors to travel the world
  • there are plenty of opportunities out there, and it's not slowing down.
  • your skills can be used in Television, Advertising, Architecture, Automotive Industry, Medical, Games, Visual Effects, and these are only set to grow over the years.
  • career progression into senior management roles is quite common. There are studio executives that started as runners and junior artists.
  • artists can win Oscars, help solve medical problems, visualise cities and even space. Imagination really is the only limit here these days.
  • focus on your fundamental art skills, whether it's film, drawing, music, writing, technology or gaming. It all helps.