In a game, the way characters function, interact, and look is one factor that grabs users’ attention. The characters are what connect the users with the story of the game. How the characters look and function has a huge impact on the users.
Characters make the users emotionally connect with the game. Character identification is strongest with the main protagonists, while the users may feel sympathy or antipathy towards others. The game is a sure hit if the characters can secure an emotional connection with the users.
According to a report by Global Market Insights, the 3D Rendering Market size exceeded USD 2 billion in 2019 and is estimated to grow at over 20% CAGR between 2020 and 2026. One of the strongest contributors to this is the Gaming Industry.
The growing demand for efficient 3D rendering solutions is driven by advances in 3D modeling and new technologies such as virtual and augmented reality. In addition, as industry competition has increased, companies forced to adopt 3D models for a better gaming experience, consequently gaining a competitive edge.
Therefore, creating 3D characters requires great care and attention to detail!
In this article, we will explain what 3D Character Modelling is, the 3D character modeling pipeline, the best software to create them, and how to hire 3D character designers.
Let’s get started!
What is 3D Character Modeling?
3D stands for “Three Dimensional“.
3D Character Modeling refers to the process of creating 3D characters. 3D character stands for a character that is based on creating movements in three-dimensional space, i.e., Length, width, and depth. The character is created using computer processes and software. Therefore, attention to various aspects, such as modeling, rigging, rendering, etc., is required for 3D character design.
Unlike sketching and creating 2D characters, 3D characters go through a series of processes to be created. First, you have to envision and draw the character. Then you have to create a 3D model of the same. Then the model is textured and, after that, rigged.
The character is ready to be animated when all these processes are completed.
In mathematical terms, 3D characters are movements of the 3D animation that has three-axis, the X, the Y, and the Z-axis.
Popular examples of 3D characters are Jake from Subway Surfer, Kratos from God of War, Guy Dangerous in Temple Run, etc.
How Does 3D Character Modeling Work?
3D modeling can be defined in ways:
1. Organic Modeling
Organic 3D modeling contains all living things like humans, characters, animals, creatures, etc.
2. Inorganic Modeling
Inorganic 3D modeling contains non-living things and flat surfaces, for instance, tables, chairs, weapons, the interior environment of buildings, walls, doors, etc.
Its specialized professionals and artists can do both types of 3D modeling.
To do the 3D modeling, there are two different modeling styles followed by the artists.
- Box Modeling
- Polygon Modeling
Box modeling style is majorly suitable for inorganic surfaces, whereas polygon modeling style gives finer details. So it is preferable to work with organic surfaces.
This thread is particularly about 3D character modeling. First, let’s discuss the work methodology for it.
3D Character Modeling Pipeline
To model a 3D character, the artist must have a clear thought process about the concept of the character to the finalization, which is about implementing that created 3D model into the Game Engine in an optimized way. The artist must pass through these phases following the two ends of this process.
Phase 1: Concept Art
It is the phase where all the character’s ideas or characteristics go on paper so everyone can understand how it will portray in-game and how it will work functionally.
In this phase, character artists will brainstorm about the character’s relevant accessories, weapons, and power-ups, making the character’s existence more prominent, and end-user/gamers will be more interested in it.
Phase 2: Blue Print
A blueprint is an image that contains different orthographic views of the character, like front view, side/profile view, back view, and top view.
Before it comes into this phase, it is required that the character must be in capital T-pose or A-pose.
Phase 3: Base Model
In this phase, artists start with the base model of the character in CAD software. 3D mesh is basic in this phase, covering up all the silhouette details of the character.
Phase 4: Sculpting
In this phase artist inputs that base model into 3D sculpting software like Z brush, Mudbox, etc. The artist creates fine details like hair, skin, wrinkles on the body, etc.
Phase 5: Cloth simulation
In this phase, the artist creates clothes for the character per the given concept. Clothes simulation software like Marvelous designer gives high-fidelity details like wrinkles and simulation as per the real-life tailoring experience.
Phase 6: UVW Unwrapping
Well, this is the initial phase of the texturing process. So before working in this phase, all the 3D modeling parts must be ready to go in both high-poly and low-poly.
UVW unwrapping is about flattening all curved details of the polygon on a planar, and it works in the Z*n plan or resolution.
- 1024 x 1024
- 2048 x 2048 (2k)
- 4096 x 4096 (4k)
- 8192 x 8192 (8k)
For better optimization, the artist must follow the planar resolution per the game’s targeted platform. Particularly the screen’s resolution in which the character has to be shown.
For example, Mobile screens hardly take 2048 pixels vertically. In comparison, PC and consoles can take up to 4K or 8K resolution.
This helps save unwanted iterations while texturing a character and saves extra effort and time.
Phase 7: Baking
This is all about optimization.
The baking process is about breaking all the details of high-poly sculpted mesh on an optimized mid or low-poly mesh. Then, it will generate various texture maps for the character. Using those maps shows all the finer details of an optimized model. After the baking process, the following maps will generate.
- Ambient Occlusion (AO)
Phase 8: Texturing
Using the generated maps from the baking process, the artist has to give all details per the respective materials of various parts of the character. Of course, many other things can be done in this space, like colors, reflection, roughness, arranged details, specularity of each material, etc.
Phase 9: Character Rigging
As per the modeling and texturing, in this phase, the rigging artist will place the bone structure inside the character by taking care of how the character will be animated and which part will move out rooted in the animation.
Phase 10: Skinning Process
After successfully placing all the bones, the rigging artist will give the particular weight values on respective vertices per the connected bones.
Phase 11: Stretch Test
A Stretch test will confirm if all the weight value is appropriate on the particular bones.
The rigging artist will apply a stretch test animation to the bone structure. All the bones will rotate in their local rotations, and the artist can check the weight amounts on the vertices. Weight values must have smooth fall-off between bone joints.
Phase12: Animation and export
Animators will animate the character in different footage like idle, walk, run, jump, etc.
After the animation is done, animators will export animation clips or files which can importe into the game engine.
Benefits of 3D Character Modeling
3D Character Modeling allows the developers to create realistic, appealing, and more detailed characters. The more real the character looks, the more the users can relate to the character and enjoy the game. 3D Character Modeling offers several benefits.
1. Visually Attractive
Models of three-dimensional characters look much more colorful, solid, and lively than two-dimensional drawings, plus 3D characters provide a 360-degree view.
3D Character Modeling allows the developers to take care of even the smallest details and texture and makes it possible to create photographic characters.
Thanks to the advanced capabilities of the 3D Software, the final model can be easily adjusted, or additions can create. If necessary, updates can develop easily.
4. Ease in Animation
3D Characters are modeled in 3D; they can easily control and animate. As a result, the designers do not have to redraw the model in different poses and scenes.
Top 10 3D Character Modeling Software
3D Modeling offers endless opportunities. The artist must have a great talent and creative vision to design the most suitable character. They should also have detailed knowledge of texture, expressions, character presentation, etc. The best 3D Models are the ones that resemble the living person in the best possible way. Everything should be captured perfectly, from expressions to clothing and texture to movement.
Several 3D Character Designing software can help you design the best 3D Characters. All this software comes with many benefits and drawbacks. We will have a look at the Top 10 3D Character Modeling Software that professionals from all around the world use.
1. 3ds Max
Using 3ds Max, the designers can create almost anything related to character design and 3D rendering. The tool is developed by Autodesk and is designed for experts. The person must have a certain skill set after taking a proper course to use the tool. Many plug-ins and ready-made models are included which you can use immediately.
Maya is another tool by Autodesk. It does not focus on designing the character but helps the character’s animation to integrate with the game. On this platform, the artists can focus on details like the character’s movement and small details like hair, clothes, texture, etc. This tool helps make the character look more real and thus attracts the maximum number of users.
Developed by Pixologic, ZBrush offers an amazing list of advanced tools professionals can use to design and create attractive and realistic 3D Characters. In addition, ZBrush offers a brush that can be used to add details and depth to the character. The tool’s highlights are:
- A modeler to add colors while sculpting.
- An automatic shadow and highlight adder.
- Real-time rendering.
A famous choice for “Beginners” is the Blender tool. It is a free and open-source tool with free online courses. The tool can use for Rendering, Modeling, Sculpting, Animation, Rigging, VFX, Simulation, Video Editing, etc. Blender also offers industry-leading libraries that can use to ease the design process.
SideFX’s Houdini is an industry-leading 3D Designing tool that offers incredible VFX Simulation. It offers a node-based procedural approach that offers designers with amazing flexibility and control. Vellum shelf tools for cloth, inflated objects, hair, grains, and a faster simulation alternative are also available in Houdini.
6. Daz Studio
Daz Studio is another free-to-use 3D Character Designing Tool. The tool supports the Nvidia Iray engine and can use to create high-quality 3D Characters. It has a large database of relevant additions, including different textures, various 3D objects, and a working plug-in and extension system.
7. Cinema 4D
Cinema 4D is a professional 3D modeling, animation, simulation, and rendering software solution. It packs fast and powerful toolsets that are efficient for designing and rendering the 3D character. In addition, it offers different types of modeling styles that can use to create the perfect and realistic 3D character.
Modo is excellent modeling, rendering, and texturing software. From being a basic subdivision surface modeler, Modo has transformed into a full-fledged digital content creator software. Modo offers flexible procedural modeling, MeshFusion Boolean toolset, and built-in sculpting tools and stands as one of the fastest modeling tools.
9. Lightwave 3D
Lightwave 3D renowned itself with the 2020 update, allowing users to create complex and photo-realistic 3D characters. It operates as two software, Modeler – for building assets – and Layout for texturing, lighting, animation, and rendering. In addition, the tool offers a fast, interactive PBR renderer and several tools to make the designing process easy.
10. Rocket 3F
Rocket 3F is a windows only polygon modeler that is fast and user-friendly. It offers a professional-looking interface that is fully customizable. There are tons of tools that designers can add to their custom interface. In addition, the tool is equipped with sculpting, retopology tools, and non-linear subdivision edge creasing.
Marketplaces to find and buy 3D Characters
The perfect character for a game is the one that is made specifically for the game. The character will follow the look and feel of the game and will fit right in.
Although, creating a character from scratch is costly. But at the same time, various marketplaces offer characters at pocket-friendly rates. They offer free characters too. So buying a ready-made character is the best option if you are looking for a pocket-friendly solution or working on a tight budget.
Here are top 11 marketplaces to buy 3D Characters:
- 3D Warehouse
- Adobe Stock
- Autodesk Online Gallery
- Archive 3D
How to hire a 3D Character Designer?
1. Freelance Portals
You should consider hiring a Freelancer 3D designer for your project if it is not complex or does not require hiring an in-house 3D character development team.
Where to find:
LinkedIn, Upwork, and Freelancer are some of the best platforms to search for and hire 3D Character Designers. The intermediary services provided by Upwork and Freelancer protect both parties from possible fraud by handling the payment process.
2. Hire In-house/Remote Employees
Consider hiring an in-house or remote employee if your 3D character design project is complex. In-house/remote employees will work on the 3D character design as team members. In addition, the in-house/remote employee can work on the character’s maintenance and updates once the game launched, or you can have them work on new characters.
Where to find:
If your 3D character project is complex and you do not want to hire a team to design it, you can hire a 3D Character Designing Company and outsource your project. Then, with their skills and experience, the 3D character designing team will create the most suitable and amazing character for your game.
Where to find:
You can refer to websites like GoodFirms or Clutch to find the list of ranking 3D character designing companies.
You can also Google “3D character design company“, and from the list of the companies, you can choose the right one after browsing through their site and portfolio.
How much does it cost to design a 3D character?
The cost of designing a 3D character varies for every project. The price of designing a 3D character is dependant on below factors:
- Complexity of the project
- Attention to details
- Time taken to design the character
- Differnet versions of the character
- Expressions added, etc.
The average cost of 3D Character Designing will be around $3,000-5,000. The cost may increase or decrease based on the scope of the character.
Note: Time plays the most significant role for the cost of development, so if you want your character in a short notice, the cost can increase drastically.
You can also get a free estimation based on your project’s scope. Contact Capermint’s expert 3D Character Designers, and get a free estimation with various details.
How much time does it take to design a 3D Character?
The time to design a character once again varies based on eveyr project. Here, we have taken a simple 3D character designing process into consideration and have stated the time for each state. The time will differ from project to project, however, it will likely be around our estimate given below.
Make your game stand out with expert 3D character artists
The characters of your game will represent the whole story and concept, so they should be treated carefully. They will connect the users emotionally to your game. An artist needs a wide range of skills, expertise, and years of experience in the same field to create 3D game characters. Therefore, you should hire a professional organization to create attractive, unique, and well-designed 3D characters.
Capermint Technologies is among the leading 3D Character Design Companies. With years of experience in this field, Capermint’s 3D Character designers can design and deliver appealing characters based on your requirements. Capermint’s Designers can give life to your imagination. To know more, visit our 3D Character Design Page.