polygonal sphere in mayaCredit: http://www.cs.washington.eduCredit: http://www.cs.washington.edu
We see 3d objects and characters all of the time in just about every type of media we take in. In alot of instances they are totally seamless and gone unnoticed by the untrained eye. But, making these 3d objects open up a whole new world of fun. It can be intimidating, especially when you don't know where to start. If you happen to find a passion in creating objects in the third dimension, making 3d objects can be very profitable for you as well as enjoyable. Below are several steps on how to 3d model, especially if you're a beginner.

Step 1: Evaluate how you will make your 3d object

Of course, this step would have to be the most essential to your overall process. It is good practice to create some quick spec notes about the project you are about to start on. Here are a few examples of what you might include on your model spec sheet.

Am I making this 3d model for a cinematic animation, game, or just as a still image? 

There are some different rules that apply to making models for games rather than cinematics. It is important that you realize what you are making your model for early on. If the 3d object is not intended to be moving or be that manipulative, you have alot more freedom to work with. Just think like, "am I just making a 3d model of a house or an expressive cartoony character?" 

What style am I going for?

It's important to have a generally strong idea of what your end product will look like. This way, you are actually aiming at a target, instead of just winging it. Even for experienced 3d modeling artists, it is essential to get accurate reference pictures before you start 3d modeling your objects.  If you want your house to look completely realistic, search and find as many high detail photos of houses you like as you can.  If you want a stylized or hyperrealistic look, look for concept art in games. Also, it is good practice to draw some thumbnail concept art before you start 3d modeling to get a feel for what you're about to make in the third dimension.

Step 2: Step up your orthographic planes

This is a great practice for novice and expert 3d modelers alike. Usually before starting to 3d model, you will have properly aligned orthographics. Orthographics are a 2d representation of a 3D object. So, before you start modeling, have at least a complete side view image of your 3d object or character and a front view. Make sure to adjust both images in an image editing software like Photoshop so that the eyes (if you're making a character) and other points like knees and tip of fingers are aligned in the right spot on both your front view and side view images. This can be tricky, but there are several tutorials available that you can search for that will explain this process further.

Step 3: Start with simple geometric polygonal shapes

In your 3d modeling program, you will most likely have some primitive polygon objects. These are 3d objects that can be automatically made with a click of a button. Often times, you may also be prompted to click and drag to make a primitive object of your desired size and scale. Some default primitive objects are the cube, sphere, cone, cylinder, and ring. Use this opportunity to get used to navigating in the 3d program's interface. Learning to Move, scale, and rotate are essential to making 3d models. Make sure to learn the hotkeys on how to do so in order to model in 3d faster. The main ways of selecting specific pieces of your object to move are by its edges, vertexes, and faces. Edges are the lines on your 3d object, vertexes are where the edge lines intersect each other, and faces are the planar surfaces of your object. Since it varies from software to software how you go about selecting these, you may have to access the program's help file to properly tell you how to grab edges, vertexes, and faces. Once you have these basics down and burned into your head, then you can move on to learning how to extrude polygon faces or inserting edge loops.


As a beginner, always think about how you will 3D model before you jump in. Pre planning is a huge key to your 3d modeling success. Get proper orthographic images so you know how your character or 3d object will look from different angles. Having an extensive amount of reference pictures of concept art will help you know exactly what you want your end product to look like. And finally, the first things you should learn when you are learning how to 3d model is how to move, scale, and rotate and how to select edges, faces, and vertexes. Practice learning with a simple primitive polygonal object. Get these basics down and then start hunting down tutorials on modeling specific 3d objects. There are so many 3d modeling techniques to learn and it can be overwhelming, but just keep in mind that practice makes perfect. Don't be so quick to give up.

Happy 3D modeling!