Continuing our series in the section where professionals from gaming companies talk about their careers. The new article in the series is about the work of a 3D artist. Alexey Konzelko, the lead 3D artist at 1C Game Studios, explained what the job entails.

Alexey Konzelko

What is a 3D Artist?

A person working with three-dimensional graphics for games, movies, and other industries. The result of their work can be individual 3D objects or whole 3D scenes, images, and videos made using 3D graphics.

The created content is the result of some creative labor, carries some degree of conditionality, artistic intent, and does not always reflect accuracy/realism 100%.

It is important not to confuse models made for industrial production in engineering design software with the content created by 3D artists for the entertainment industry. These are different professions.

What are the responsibilities of a 3D Artist?

The responsibilities may vary across different industries and studios. At 1C Game Studios, the responsibilities include:

  • creating high-polygon models;
  • simulating fabric and hair;
  • creating low-polygon models adapted for game engines;
  • creating UV maps, baking texture maps;
  • texturing.

When necessary, they can also:

  • assemble a scene;
  • configure rendering.

Sometimes you have to work without a concept, researching the topic yourself and gathering references.

Overall, there are no clear boundaries for the profession. It all depends on the individual, their sphere of interests, and work requirements.

Is there a difference in the work of a 3D Artist across different industries?

Yes, there is.

Models for movies, advertising, and games differ in their creation pipelines and require slightly different experience.

For games, the focus is on optimizing the model and creating PBR maps during texturing that convey the material properties in the game engine.

In cinema, on the contrary, you deal with more high-polygon models: visual accuracy is achieved by configuring rendering, and a more flexible toolkit is used. In cinema, there is a broader range of tools for conveying artistic intent.

One of the important differences is specialization. In game development, 3D artists are typically divided by the type of content they create. Character artists focus solely on characters, prop artists on props, weapon artists on weapons, and separate specialists work on machinery, etc.

In cinema, more versatile specialists are required because the tasks and types of objects you have to work on change frequently. One day you may be asked to create a character, the next day equipment, the third day assemble a scene and set up lighting - anything required for production. Additionally, timelines are tighter in cinema, making long-term planning more challenging. This results in frequently changing tasks that may not always align with your specialization.

What should a 3D Artist know to perform their duties well?

If we are talking about a 3D artist in the gaming industry, it largely depends on the specialization.

For example, a character artist needs to know and understand anatomy, have sculpting skills to create realistic faces, proportions, and body shapes, and understand how clothing is constructed.

A weapon artist, in some ways, needs to be a draftsman: artistic skills are not highly necessary, as the goal is to convey the object's construction with maximum precision. Attention to detail, proportions, and dimensions is a must.

The broader the skill set of a 3D artist, the easier it is for them to adjust to different studio pipelines and industries, making it easier to find a job.

The software toolkit used by the artist is secondary. The most important thing is a keen interest in the specialty, a desire for professional development, and enthusiasm. This is highly valuable.

Like any developer, a 3D artist should possess a set of soft skills: the ability to listen to others and explain their thoughts, take criticism, rectify mistakes, estimate production timelines, meet deadlines, and work in a team.

One should not forget about burnout: unrealistic deadlines accelerate it, which happens to everyone sooner or later. This must be taken into account when planning and discussing timelines. It's easy to overwork an employee, making them unproductive, and there is not an endless supply of good specialists waiting for their place on the team.

Long monotonous tasks, as well as their too frequent changes and endless new inputs, also lead to a loss of interest – this is a concern for HR and leads, as a regular employee doesn't manage plans and pipelines.

What might a typical workday for a 3D artist look like?

Very different. On some days, a person might spend hours browsing the internet for references. For example, if you need to create a specific model of a 1940s parachute, you have to understand the construction of the parachute, what parts it consists of, how it is packed, how the canopy deploys, and how the straps redistribute. You need to grasp the entire mechanics. You could spend the entire day searching for photos and information. Sometimes, there are items whose photos are very hard to find online.

Other times, you might spend several days simulating fabric or weeks sculpting a face, trying to capture the shape and similarity. If it’s about creating a model of an airplane, it can take months of work and endless hours of dealing with references.

For an artist, it's important to plan their work, sometimes timely switching between objects to maintain objective perception of the result.

Where do people typically come from to get into modeling, and how do they become 3D artists?

People get into modeling through hobbies. All the colleagues I've worked with came from different professions. People study 3D in their free time and get accustomed to it. Those who don’t lose interest usually succeed, spending hundreds of evenings exploring a new field for themselves.

The essential thing is an interest in the activity and persistence to convert that interest into skills.

What is necessary for growth in this field?

Personally, I believe that to grow in this field you need to change industries. Work in film, games, television. Because at any job, sooner or later, it becomes very monotonous: you quickly gain the essential skills needed and fall into a comfort zone.

When you work for film, you have a huge range of tasks; you are constantly studying something new, quickly gaining knowledge, skills, and abilities.

Additionally, for growth, it is important to have strong colleagues around from whom you can learn something and gain insights.

Where should someone start if they want to become a 3D artist?

First, I would check out ArtStation to see what people are doing, try to understand what you like, what interesting topics are there, and see which software they use.

If you’re interested in sculpture, I would recommend starting with ZBrush: you can watch tutorials on the official site or search for something on YouTube, though it can be tricky to navigate there because of all the clutter. You need to look for tutorials that visually resonate with you; it will be clearer, more useful, and faster that way.

If you like technical stuff — choose any 3D modeling program; they are all roughly the same. Check which ones are frequently mentioned in job postings at large studios and start learning.

You need to spend a lot of time on self-study: every evening, little by little, you need to immerse yourself, starting with the most basic tutorials. That's how I started with 3ds Max, but back then I studied from books, learning everything page by page, trying to model the objects that interested me, making all possible mistakes but gradually gaining experience. There was no one to ask.

I am skeptical of schools that promise to make you a professional. I conducted a mini-survey among my colleagues: none of them studied there. As someone with an educational background, I believe I can judge their effectiveness and competence.

If you are interested in sculpture, I would rather take courses from traditional sculptors; it's useful and interesting. It helps if you have a background in art school.

I don't believe in success if you start learning 3D with the mindset of "I'll learn and start making money".

The only effective approach is when a person starts with the mindset "I just like creating something in 3D, I find it interesting to explore", without thinking of it as a future job. If the interest in the specialty persists, the person can try to get employed by sending portfolios to various studios after gaining experience. If you get no response, don't get discouraged; keep studying, improving your skills, and sending out portfolios.

It’s important to agree to test tasks because during the process you learn a lot. They motivate you to master things you've previously overlooked. Even if the completed test doesn't lead to the desired result, it still provides experience in solving tasks, which will be useful next time.


1C Game Studios’ social networks: