3D modelling artist

Also known as: Character artist, Games artist, Vehicle artist, 3D artist

Entry level

3D modelling artist

What does a 3D modelling artist do?

3D modelling artists create the models for all 3D art assets within the game – characters, weapons, vehicles, furniture, trees, rocks and so on. They often start with a brief or 2D drawing from a concept artist and build their 3D models from that.

Sometimes 3D modelling artists will specialise in a given area, depending on the individual game studio or game project requirements. Then they are called environment artists, character artists or vehicle artists. In other studios 3D modelling artists are responsible for modelling several types of art asset or a whole level.

Watch and read

What’s a 3D modelling artist good at?

  • Using 3D software: create artwork using a range of programmes, know the latest technologies and techniques
  • Using game engines: implement art into game engines, understand their technical constraints and possibilities
  • Art: have strong artistic ability, good understanding of form, colour, texture, and light, know how these elements work together
  • Knowledge of gameplay: imagine how a character or vehicle will be experienced when a game is being played
  • Collaboration: work well with the other artists, designers and producers
  • Organisation: work within the production schedule, manage files and meet deadlines

Tools of the trade

These are some of the tools used by professionals, but you can develop your skills using free software. Go to Build your games portfolio for a list.

  • Image editing software (Adobe Photoshop)
  • 3D modelling, sculpting and painting software (Blender, 3D SMax, Maya, Mudbox, ZBrush, Substance Painter, Substance Designer, Quixel)
  • Games engines (Unity, Unreal)

Who does a 3D modelling artist work with?

3D modelling artists work with all the other members of the art department – the concept artists, environment artists, texturing artists and so on. They also work with the designers and programmers. 3D modelling artists usually report to the art director though their own project’s lead artist.

How do I become a 3D modelling artist?

At school or college:
Learning traditional drawing, painting and sculpting is useful as a way to demonstrate artistic flair outside software.

If you want to go to university, it would be useful to take A-levels or Highers in:

  • Art and design
  • Graphic design
  • Graphic communication

Or you might want to take any of the following vocational Level 3 qualifications:

  • BTEC Diploma/Extended Diploma in Art and Design
  • UAL Diploma/ Extended Diploma in Art and Design
  • BTEC Extended Diploma in Creative Digital Media Production
  • OCR Cambridge Technical Diploma in Art and Design (Graphic Design)
  • BTEC Diploma in Graphics

If you can add some physics or computer science into the mix, that will give you a rounded set of skills that are ideal for a career in games.

If you want to straight into a job or apprenticeship, these Level 3 qualifications will equip you with relevant skills:

  • Aim Awards Diploma/Extended Diploma in Games Animation and VFX
  • AQA Technical Level Entertainment Technology: Video Games Art & Design/Design Production
  • OCR Technical Diploma in Digital Media (Digital Content for Interactive Media)
  • AQA Technical Level IT: Programming
  • OCR Technical Diploma in IT (Digital Software Practitioner)
  • BTEC Diploma in Computing for Creative Industries

Build a portfolio:
Learn the software, experiment with games engines and start creating work that you can show to admissions tutors or employers. This is essential. Go to Build your games portfolio to learn how.

Start modding:
Create a level of a game using software provided by the publishers.

Look for an apprenticeship:
You’re unlikely to find an apprenticeship as a 3D modelling artist in the games industry but you might find a role as a junior 2D artist that could equip you with some of the skills that you need.  It might be worth taking up that role and moving into games 3D modelling at a later point. Check out What’s an apprenticeship?  to learn more about apprenticeships and Find an apprenticeship to learn how to find one in your region, or approach companies directly. Go to ScreenSkills information on games apprenticeships for the main apprenticeship schemes in games.

Get a degree:
Most people in the games industry have a degree. Get one in games art, graphic design or any 3D digital art. Have a look at ScreenSkills’ list of recommended courses in games. We recognise courses with our ScreenSkills Select award where they offer training in the relevant software, dedicated time to building a portfolio and have strong links with the games industry.

Get to know people in the games industry by attending events, including games conferences and expos. Meet professionals and ask them questions about their work, while demonstrating interest and knowledge in the industry. Offer to provide them with your professional contact details and try to stay in touch with them. Go to Network well to learn how to do this.

Search for jobs:
Use the UK Games Map to find out if there are games companies near you, then go to their websites directly and check out their open roles. You could also check out the ScreenSkills jobs board. Some employers will take on a junior 3D modelling artist if they have a strong portfolio, showing creativity, flair and software skills.

Look outside games:
It’s also worth considering computer artist roles in any other industry as using similar software will build up your skills. You can use this and any professional artwork you produce to continually improve your games art portfolio, putting you in a stronger position for an entry-level role in games.

You might also be interested in…

Being an environment artist or texturing artist in the games industry. You might also be interested in being a modelling artist, texture artist or an environment artist in visual effects (VFX), or a modeller in the animation industry.

Further resources