A 3D modeler is a professional who creates three-dimensional models and assets for use in various industries, such as video games, movies, architecture, engineering, and more. Simply put, a 3D modeler designs and builds the 3D environments, characters, props and objects that populate digital worlds.

The work of a 3D modeler involves using specialized 3D modeling software to sculpt, texture and render 3D models and assets. Their models provide the visual framework that helps bring games, animated films, visual effects, architectural plans, medical applications, VR experiences and more to life.

3D modeling is an integral part of industries like gaming, film, and architecture that depend heavily on computer graphics and 3D visualization. As these industries continue to advance, there is a growing demand for skilled 3D modelers who can create increasingly complex and realistic 3D assets.

What is 3D Modeling?

3D modeling is the process of developing a mathematical representation of any three-dimensional surface or object via specialized software. The product is called a 3D model.

A 3D model allows the creation, manipulation and visualization of imaginary objects and environments. Through a process called 3D rendering, 3D models can be displayed as two-dimensional images, which are used in video games, films, architecture blueprints, engineering designs and medical illustrations.

3D models made by design companies like Kevuru Games or individuals are built from geometric data like points, lines, curves, shapes and surfaces. Modelers start with simple shapes like cubes, spheres and cones that define an object’s volume. Details are then added to enhance realism.

Types of 3D Models

There are a few common types of 3D models:

  • Polygon Modeling: Uses polygons like triangles, quadrilaterals and other meshes to form 3D objects. It enables high detail and is common for 3D games and assets.
  • NURBS Modeling: NURBS (Non-uniform rational basis spline) modeling uses curves and surfaces instead of polygons. It offers smooth and organic 3D shapes, making it ideal for characters and intricate designs.
  • Sculpting Modeling: Digital sculpting works like manipulating clay and allows modelers to “sculpt” highly detailed organic models like creatures and characters.
  • Terrain Modeling: As the name suggests, this focuses on natural landforms and terrains, like mountains, overhangs, caves and cliffs.
  • CAD Modeling: CAD (computer-aided design) software is used to create precise technical drawings and architectural 3D models.

How to Make a 3D Model

The market for 3D mapping and modeling is projected to be worth USD 7.48 billion in 2024 and will increase at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 14.67% to reach USD 14.82 billion by 2029. Like game development, this is still a promising area.

Creating a 3D model is a multi-step process that sometimes requires the skills of 3D modelling companies, both technical and artistic. The major phases include gathering reference materials, modeling the base object, sculpting and refining details, UV mapping and texture creation, developing materials and shaders, rigging and animation if needed, setting up lighting, rendering the model, and post-production.

  • Gathering Reference Images & Concept Art

The first step for modelers is usually gathering reference images related to the object they need to model. This helps them understand the exact proportions, silhouettes, colors, and minute details that give an object its definitive look. If modeling something fictional, modelers work from concept art and written descriptions provided by game designers or film art departments. When modeling something real, like an animal or building, modelers will compile images from multiple angles, under different lighting, and close-ups of texture details.

  • Modeling the Base Geometry

With references gathered, modelers begin constructing the basic 3D geometry that will form the foundation of their model. Simple polygons like cubes, cones, cylinders, etc. are arranged to compose the underlying shape. At this stage, modelers focus on nailing down the accurate overall proportions and silhouette before moving to finer details. The primitive base model resembles an artist sketching guide shapes before painting.

  • Sculpting & Refining Model Details

What does a 3D modeler do next? So, after the rough base shape is complete, modelers shift focus to sculpting and refining surface details overtop the geometry. Digital sculpting tools in programs like ZBrush allow modelers to manipulate virtual clay and chisel fine wrinkles, pores, scales, bolts, or whatever organic or hard surface features are needed. References are followed closely at this stage. Technical modelers instead use CAD programs to precisely model mechanical parts, piping, nuts/bolts, gears and other human-made features.

  • Retopologizing & UV Unwrapping

Before texturing, modelers must redo and optimize the model topology and UV map it. Retopologizing streamlines complex organic sculpts into cleaner polygon flows optimally for animation and games. UV unwrapping involves “peeling” a 3D model to lay it flat so textures can be painted correctly across the model’s surface, like wallpaper over a wall. UVs must be cleaned up and spaced efficiently.

  • Developing Textures & Materials

With clean UVs, modelers develop textures in programs like Substance Painter, Quixel Mixer or Mari. Here, textures are hand-painted or generated procedurally to define properties like color, roughness, metalness, normals, displacement, etc. Multiple texture maps are combined into complex shaders and materials that will interact realistically with lighting.

  • Rigging & Animation

For models that will animate, like characters, modelers must rig the model by building an underlying bone structure mimicking an anatomical skeleton. The mesh is bound to these “bones,” so animators can easily pose and deform the model naturally. Facial rigs define emotive expressions. For hard surface models like architecture or vehicles, various moving pieces may be rigged separately depending on what is a 3D modeler wants to show.

  • Setting Up Lighting Conditions

Proper lighting can make or break how a model looks and feels in rendered images/animation. Modelers place various virtual lights to showcase their model, matching lighting from reference photos. Key lights illuminate main features while fills reduce shadows. Rim lights outline edges from behind. Background, bounce and ambient lights build the atmosphere.

  • Rendering the 3D Model

When ready to render, modelers enter a software-specific render engine like Arnold, Octane, Cycles or V-Ray. Here, lighting physics, material interactions, and camera settings come together to generate 2D images and video. Render engines use complex calculations to simulate light behavior as it would bounce around the scene naturally. Modelers tweak settings for optimal quality and speed.

  • Post-Production Polishing

Post-production involves importing rendered images into Photoshop for final polish. Some effects, like smoke or lens flares, are added here. The art director may request color correction adjustments or crops to better focus a shot. Elements from other renders may be composited together for a final scene.

The whole process involves a lot of iterating and tweaking a model for refinement. Attention to detail is paramount across every step to breathe life into the final 3D assets. Game engines and real-time rendering provide faster previewing as models progress.

What is 3D Modeling Used For?

3D modeling is a versatile skillset that allows modelers to build assets for a wide range of industries. From video games and movies to medical applications and engineering, 3D models help visualize products, characters, environments and complex systems.

  • Game Design

3D modeling is absolutely integral to modern game creation. Everything that players see – characters, creatures, weapons, architecture and environments – must be 3D modeled. Game artists work closely with designers to bring immersive worlds to life, matching concept art style and technical performance budgets.

Characters and creatures require highly detailed organic models and facial rigging for animation. Weapons, vehicles and props involve product modeling techniques. Expanses of 3D terrain get sculpted and textured as massive open worlds. Architectural spaces like buildings, stadiums and castles provide backdrops. Modelers also build environmental assets like plants, rocks, furniture, and clutter to enrich details.

All assets must optimize polygons for real-time game engines while retaining complexity. Textures add further detail through normal/displacement mapping without high geometry costs. Lighting enhances mood, and guides player focus.

  • Film & Visual Effects

3D modeling is crucial for visual effects in movies, television, and advertising. VFX (Visual Effects) artists leverage modeling to create vivid worlds, characters, creatures, destruction, simulations and other digital magic. Models provide the foundational assets that FX artists then animate, simulate, texture, light, rig, render and composite into scenes.

Characters often begin with digital scans of actors. Modelers augment scans with hand sculpting and anatomical precision to create vivid digital duplicates for stunts, aging, creature transformations and more. The design of fantastical characters and creatures starts with concept art before modelers build, texture and rig complex figures. Modelers also create realistic vehicles, weapons, architecture and environments to match live-action plates or exist purely digitally. Simulation effects like fire, smoke, water and destruction rely on modeled emitters and obstacles.

The film focuses on absolute realism over-optimization. Texture, displacement and normal detail are dialed up. Subsurface scattering, micro-geometry skin pores, fine hair, muscle flexing, natural materials and other nuances make models indistinguishable from reality on screen. Production timelines are longer to allow model refinement.

  • Architecture & Construction

What does a 3D modeler do in this field? It’s simple – architectural renderings and structural engineering designs leverage 3D modeling to allow interactive walkthroughs and design evaluation.

  • Medical Visualization

Medicine leverages 3D modeling for surgical planning, medical device design, anatomical education, and disease progression research. Clean topology allows smooth animation to study organic motion. Realistic texture and lighting aid understanding.

Surgeons use CT/MRI scan data to construct detailed models of patient anatomy. This allows them to plan complex operations by simulating approaches in 3D space. Medical device engineers prototype and test instruments against anatomical models virtually. Students study bodies and systems more comprehensively with vivid 3D visualizations. Scientists model molecular interactions and biological processes to research cures.

  • Engineering & Product Design

Engineers use CAD modeling for designing vehicles, consumer products, industrial equipment and manufacturing systems.

  • Marketing & Advertising

3D modeling helps create visually compelling product images and animated commercials to showcase offerings.

What Software & Tools Do 3D Modelers Use?

There is a range of 3D modeling programs, each with strengths in different applications:

  • Blender – Popular free, open-source 3D creation suite for modeling, animation, rendering and more
  • Maya – Industry-standard 3D animation and effects software used in film, TV and game design
  • 3ds Max – Leading modeling and rendering solution for game assets, film VFX and architectural visualization
  • ZBrush – Used for highly detailed organic sculptures and models through digital sculpting
  • Cinema 4D – Favored for motion graphics, visualizations, VR and commercial 3D artwork
  • Modo – Powerful polygon and subdivision surface modeler combined with 3D texturing tools
  • Rhino – Specialized NURBS modeler for designers focused on smooth curves and organic shapes
  • Fusion 360 – Feature-rich CAD modeling and machining software from Autodesk
  • SketchUp – User-friendly 3D modeling tool for architects, engineers and designers

Most 3D modelers are proficient in multiple programs and use different tools for specific aspects of asset creation based on their strengths. Beyond software that defines what is a 3d modeler do, they rely on graphics tablets, 3D scanners, VR headsets, and other hardware.


3D modelers play a vital role in creating immersive digital worlds and assets used in video games, movies, marketing materials, medical applications, architecture, engineering, and more. They employ specialized 3D modeling programs to sculpt, texture, rig and render everything from tiny bolts to intricate character faces to massive multiplayer environments.

The work of 3D modelers blends technical and artistic skills to build highly detailed assets that breathe life into real-time rendered digital content. As technology advances, there is growing career potential at game studios, architectural visualization firms, VFX houses, engineering companies and other organizations that leverage 3D graphics and emerging extended realities.

Sudeep Bhatnagar
Co-founder & Director of Business
Sudeep Bhatnagar

Talk to our experts who have been running successful Digital Product Development (Apps, Web Apps), Offshore Team Operations, and Hardcore Software Development Campaigns. During the discovery session, we'll explore the opportunities and Scope of the work and provide you an expert consulting on the right options to achieve the outcomes.

Be it a new App Development project, or creation of an offshore developers team, or digitalization of your existing market offerings - You'll get the best advise and service and pricing. We are excited to speak to you!

Book a Call

Let’s Create Big Stories Together!

Mobile is in our nerves. We don’t just build apps, we create brands.

Choosing us will be your best decision.

Relevant Blog Posts