Do I Need to Know How to Draw to Be a 3D Modeler?

3D modeling is essentially drawing in a digital workspace. Your ability to draw is a huge asset when pursuing a career as a 3D modeler. If you were not blessed with the talent of drawing intrinsically, there is no need to despair. Like any skill, your ability to draw can be improved over time with consistent study and practice. The best part is you can brush up on your drawing skills in conjunction with learning the necessary information required to become a 3D modeler. With enough perseverance, even amateurs can develop excellence in both physical and digital 3D art.

What Does a 3D Modeler Do?

A 3D modeler can take on numerous responsibilities depending on the size of their animation studio and project scope. As digital art and animation projects often take years to produce, new tasks can be unexpectedly assigned. The ability to be flexible within a team environment is the most consistent job of a 3D modeler.

When it comes to core responsibilities, you will create assets for the project. Depending on your specialty, you may be assigned character models, background environments, building architecture, or landscape design. Each asset you create must match the overall style and tone of the animated world. Even the smallest background details must appear to the audience as though they were meant to be there.

3D modelers hired later in the production cycle are often tasked with fixing or completing subpar assets that were previously created. This can be as simple as updating the textures, or as complex as reworking entire designs from the ground up to be compatible with new software settings. Above all, 3D modelers are tasked with finding creative solutions to issues that arise when crafting game assets, all while making the final version look as appealing as possible.

Do I Need to Know How to Draw to Be a 3D Modeler?

There is some overlap between drawing on paper and sculpting 3D models in a digital space. It is less about the physical act of placing ink on the page, and more about understanding the fundamentals of art that drawing naturally conveys. The knowledge of how to make each artistic piece appealing to an audience carries over from drawing into 3D modeling.

Aesthetic design principles are learned by picking up a writing utensil. The process is even faster when directed by a focused curriculum provided by a digital arts college. Use the vast array of resources on traditional art and design methodologies to your advantage. The more you immerse yourself in study, the faster you will achieve presentable results.

What are the Ways to Learn How to Draw?

As mentioned above, extensive practice is the key to developing your drawing skills. With that said, here are a few tangible ways to gain experience in the world of hand drawn artistry.

Upgrade Your Ambition

The amount of detail in your drawings is related to the confidence in your abilities. We all know someone who draws stick figures. You may even be at that stage yourself. Stick figure aficionados should start attempting to draw characters with full bodies as soon as possible. If you already draw full bodies, make a conscious effort to include more detail in each subsequent sketch you create. The point is to leave old crutches behind and walk outside your comfort zone. You will naturally pick up new techniques as you progress through the learning process. Plus, you may even surprise yourself with how quickly your talent evolves when you push your mental boundaries.

Copy Works That Inspire You

When honing your skill, it is perfectly reasonable to copy another artist’s work. Plagiarism is never okay in published works, but your training period is fair game. Tracing each line of notable works will impart insight into how those masterworks were created. Apply the knowledge you acquire to your own projects without directly copying the design itself. Take the principles of famous artists while creating your own unique forms.

Explore New Styles and Study Materials

There are many ways to transfer your ideas onto a page. When one drawing style is giving you trouble, switch to another and see what you learn. A highly detailed style such as manga may seem too difficult, but everyone has their specialty. Some artists prefer a simple western drawing style that purposely omits certain details in facial features and other forms. However, your mind may be inspired by complex character designs with hundreds of lines. Keep exploring until you find your niche. Then, never stop studying ways to take your skills further.

Look for Drawing Prompts and Exercises Online

In addition to drawing whatever you desire in a free form style, challenge yourself with the exercises created by other artists. Working towards somebody else’s goal activates a whole new set of abilities. You will think in ways you never would have when left to your own devices, which is exactly how you grow. Combining what you learn from others with your own flavor of design will lead to impressive work.

What Types of Supplies Can You Use to Draw?

Having a proficient set of drawing tools will significantly improve your chances of getting better at drawing. Here are the best items to collect.


Pens can be valuable because of how prevalent they are. When inspiration strikes, you need to start drawing fast before the idea fades from memory. If you do not have a writing utensil handy, a pen will no doubt be nearby. Some sketches may also be enhanced by using multiple pen colors.

Pencil and Sturdy Erasers

Pencils are an even better choice as you can erase any mistakes you will make while sketching. You are free to test radical ideas in the middle of a drawing as you can simply undo changes without ruining the piece. This will save you an incalculable amount of time compared to constantly restarting pen drawings.

Charcoal Sticks

As you get serious with your drawing, investing in charcoal is a fantastic way to add extra detail to each piece. When combined with lighter pencil marks, charcoal can be used to create realistic shading and textures. As both shading and textures are huge components of 3D modeling, it is best to graduate to this level of understanding in the 2D space too.

Quality Work Surface

The surface you draw on will determine how efficiently you can work. A perfectly smooth, flat surface is a logical place to start. You will also want to consider how much room you will need to freely move your arm and comfortably set up your supplies while working.

Drawing Paper

Specialized drawing paper that features a grid pattern will assist you in taking your sketches to the next level. The measured grid makes it far easier to abide by mathematic principles such as symmetry and the golden ratio. You will learn how much math and geometry goes into drawing as you study the fundamentals of art. Drawing paper will become increasingly valuable as you do so.

Compass/Ruler Set

Even the best artists have trouble drawing perfectly straight lines and balanced circles. Using tools such as a compass and ruler is key to achieving the precision demanded by professional drawing standards. When these tools are combined with drawing paper, you can place each line exactly where you desire it to be. Since 3D modeling software provides similar tools in a digital environment, you will already have the prerequisite knowledge of how to take full advantage of those systems.

What Do Drawing and 3D Modeling Have in Common?

Drawing and 3D modeling are quite similar when it comes to core design philosophies and artistic principles. In both mediums, an artist creates a collection of lines that formulate an appealing image. The fundamental ideas of why images appeal to the human senses remains the same. This means perspective, shading, and other techniques carry over to the digital realm. In some cases, your hand on the mouse will follow the same patterns as when you are holding a pencil. Muscle memory will carry you far, hence the need to practice.

How Do You Become a 3D Modeler?

To become a professional 3D modeler that can secure contracts, you must prove your artistic merit. Artists do this with a portfolio of completed projects that show off their talent. These projects do not need to be large; they simply need to demonstrate your ability level and style preferences. The easiest way to compile a portfolio is by attending a creative arts college and enrolling in a degree program that emphasizes 3D modeling or design principles.

Not only do you learn the necessary skills while enrolled in a formal education program, but your school assignments can double as portfolio pieces. Your school projects emulate as many aspects of working at a professional studio as possible. This leads to tangible pieces that serve as impressive additions to your portfolio, when applying for jobs.

What Do You Learn During a 3D Modeling Class?

3D modeling classes start by establishing the fundamental principles that have guided artists throughout the ages. These principles are then applied to the digital space in interesting ways. As you learn how to transfer traditional art skills into modeling software, you work to create animation projects of your own. The “process of doing” is where the bulk of your learning transpires. Expert instructors guide you as you explore what you are capable of.

In addition to the multitude of technical skills you will pick up, your 3D modeling classes will focus on teamwork. 3D modelers work closely with everyone else at an animation studio or production house. Considering how professional projects can staff hundreds of artists simultaneously, learning to collaborate is just as important as raw artistic talent. Compromise, conflict resolution, and clear communication will all make it into the syllabus.

Ready to improve your drawing skills and take your digital art skills to next level as a 3D modeler? University of Silicon Valley’s 3D Modeling concentration has been designed to ensure Digital Arts & Animation degree program students get the most relevant training and access to modern industry tools taught by subject matter experts. You’ll learn professional workflows and create your own 3D models for films, video games and more.

University of Silicon Valley is uniquely poised to offer a meaningful and valuable education for 21st century students. We believe in an education that directly correlates with the work you’ll be doing after you graduate. Interested in learning more? Contact Us today.

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