3D Design in the Art and Illustration Industry: Everything you need to know

 |  Arthur Evans

3D design in the art and illustration industry: Everything you need to know

In today's digital era, 3D art skills such as design and illustration quickly become almost essential, as more and more business sectors rely on computer design technologies. But it's not all bad as it sounds. With such development, there are new opportunities for freelancers and self-thought to make prosperous careers without formal degrees. Many companies are hiring based on real-life results rather than formalities.

Graphic designers are in demand worldwide. In just the United States, a 3D designer averages around $60,000. There's no doubt that digitalization helped propel the visual arts industry worldwide, as companies are increasingly deploying visual techniques to attract customers and sell their services and products.

The digital arts sector is expanding with relatively low market saturation. The possibilities are endless, and that’s why there’s such a great need for graphic talent. The digital art trades promise a ton for the upcoming years, whether it’s animation, visual effects, video games, or 3D printing


3D Modeling objects 

One of the most important parts of the 3D design is designing models with specific geometry, or, to be more precise, it's the possibility to represent an item in three dimensions. By using coordinates on the three spatial axes, users can “connect the dots” and assemble an object, and then they can create the background for their design.

A decade ago, 3D modeling objects weren't as readily available as they are these days. Back then, there weren’t that many choices in terms of the software in the first place, and those that were were rather costly, and their learning curve was steep. Now, there are dozens of available 3D modeling software that you can get started much easier, and you don’t need to take months or years to get started.

High accessibility to programs means that anyone could learn the basics. For instance, SelfCAD is a popular 3D design software that works from your web browser. It's an excellent choice for beginners as it allows you to model, render, and even animate professional designs. On top of that, there’s no need to install the program since it runs in the browser.

Why use SelfCAD

art and design

SelfCAD is a professional but easy-to-use 3D design software, which will find use in almost every industry, including art and illustration. It has combined modeling, rendering, sculpting, and 3D printing features, all under a single program. Additionally, as mentioned before, SelfCAD is browser-based software, so you can do all of that without downloading anything.

On top of that, SelfCAD comes with features that allow you to convert images into 3D models, as well as emboss text on objects.

Having looked at what 3D designing is all about, let us have a look at art and illustration.


Art and Illustration: Simply Explained

Art is the outcome when someone paints a picture on canvas, wood, or paper using any painting tool. It is a way of expression by an artist. It is a product of his/her own imagination.

Illustration, on the other hand, is more of a drawing. For example, one can draw logos, comic books, book covers, and so on. The outcome of such a drawing is what we call an illustration.

Illustrations are usually less direct, and they are used to create graphical illustrations based on someone else's work. The best example of an illustration would be a depiction of how a certain product can be used by a consumer or even an illustration of Huck Finn.

In summary, art is an idea brought to life, while an illustration is the explanation of that idea. Artists create something to express themselves, and they might or might not benefit from it. An illustrator, on the other hand, creates drawings for his client, and he is paid only after his work is done.


What is the Difference Between Photography and 3D Modeling?

The difference between photography and 3D modeling is that the user can create the content from scratch in a virtual environment in 3D modeling. A 3D designer can manipulate every feature of a composition, down to the last nanometer.

Different programs use different measuring systems, including angstrom and parsec. The first unit measures fractions of nanometers, while the second is equivalent to 3.26 light-years. On top of formidable precision, modern designing apps have interfaces optimized for speed and productivity. There’s nothing faster and more efficient than virtual drawing – and the tech’s only evolving.


Combining Photography, art, and Illustration with 3D design

Photography can help improve your 3D design skills. An artist with a vivid imagination who wants to depict things like airplanes, rockets, vehicles, and so on, and even mount them in artistic environments, will not be satisfied with just photography. Hence combining photography and 3D design will help you come up with outstanding results.

3D modeling gives you the possibility to create crazy scenes that regular photography just can’t achieve. A good example is this hedge that has a shape of an Eiffel Tower in a garden.

3d design in art and illustration

Those interested in digital or visual arts should work on their skills with a camera. That is, they should focus not only on taking photographs but also on creating visual worlds based on them. That's where 3D artists have an advantage, as they can edit already designed pieces of art. They can change the colors, lighting, shading, and so on, which is not possible in photography, where everything is static.

Having photography skills can be helpful in becoming a good 3D designer. You will already be familiar with lighting and how to use it to your advantage to bring the best out of the scene. So while photography teaches you how to work with the lighting, the 3D design will teach you its technical command.

Art and illustration help one also to get inspiration.


3d in art and illustration

Getting started

Willem Stapel is a renowned hyper-realistic 3D designer. When asked what’s the best way to get initiated as a designer, Williem answered through practice. Like many other artists, Willem considers that the most efficient way to start your career is through a hands-on approach.

Sure, formal courses and diplomas will give you that extra edge, but to succeed, you’ll need practical skills. In 3D designing, theory comes second. The most important thing is getting familiar with basic concepts and procedures — what better way than jumping right into a readily-available app on the internet? More so, one that even works from your browser.

Stapel learned 3D design from YouTube tutorials such as greyscalegorilla or ENTAGMA. Willem played around with various rendering apps until he found his way into the business. The only thing he’s advising young prospects is to never give up, especially in the beginning. Learning 3D design has somewhat a steep learning curve. But once surpassed, a world of opportunities opens right before your eyes. In his words, it’s all about passion. Loving arts and design should be enough for anyone trying to launch his career.


Achieving success 

Once you become autonomous and have a firm grip on the basics, you’ll have to secure clients. It’s vital to score customers that will provide steady work. Willem Stapel gives a word of advice and highlights the importance of having a decent portfolio. Having a captivating résumé isn’t a bad idea either.

After learning the basics and closing a few gigs here and there, it’s time to go to school. According to Willem, a design institution helps you find your identity and chisel out your skills. Design schools help artists become competitive both artistically and commercially. School also helps you find the best techniques for your particular style.

“I believe figuring out what technique works best for is essential, without being a slave to an exact procedure. That’s true in many artistic spheres: creating art with flawless technique doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a great artist.” – Willem Stapel

Getting out of your comfort zone

Many artists, such as Stapel, worked their first gigs for free. They’ve done it for a chance to acquire experience and improve. The subject of doing unpaid work is a controversial topic in many sectors. However, for Stapel, it paid off. After getting some experience through unpaid gigs, he turned to the commercial sector. Although he wasn’t a big fan of commercial projects, the opportunity gave him knowledge and insight that boosted his career in the long run.

Follow your passion 

Let’s not forget that 3D designing is art at its finest. Creating artwork is hard if there’s no love for the trade. For example, many gamers turned to 3D designing through their devotion to video games. Popular game engines like Unity gave way to numerous people to follow their passion and design video content. The same goes for painting, photography, sculpture, and many other art forms. 

The world of 3D designing is enormous and full of opportunities. It’s vital to have the passion and will to learn, especially in the beginning. There are various free and accessible apps you can use to get familiar with the basics. School’s helpful in cementing notions and opening new horizons. A true artist is prepared to endure the trials and tribulations of learning a new trade. Fortunately, the starting hardships will make you a better artist and give way to future success.

Enjoy powerful modeling, rendering, and 3D printing tools without the steep learning curve.

Try SelfCAD

Need to learn 3D Modeling? Get started with interactive tutorials.


Arthur Evans is an award-winning writer from the UK. He’s the main website coordinator and manages over twenty expert ghostwriters. Arthur communicates with clients and ensures a smooth paper delivery process. Providing impeccable AssignmentMasters is an absolute priority for Arthur and his colleagues. That’s why they’re always involved in university life and keeping tabs on changes within the school curriculum. In his free time, Arthur likes to run and exercise outside. Other days, he plays video games online with his friends. 

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