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Need Advice for 3d Modeling Portfolio

DedwrekkaDedwrekka What Would Nyarlathotep Do?Registered User regular
I've been taking classes for some time for a 3D art and animation degree, and I'm trying to figure out what I should focus on for projects for my portfolio (I know that classwork isn't good for portfolio work).
What I want to do is organic modelling, but I'm also aware that there's very little chance of getting hired directly to do organic modelling without a good deal of professional experience, even beyond the usual "2-4 yrs experience" asked for on every job listing that's mostly there to satisfy HR. So, what I've been told to focus on in order to get an early position is a hard modelling positions. So, with that in mind, I want to swerve more into being a 3D environment artist, who just really wants to be an organic modelling artist. However, I don't know what specific parts of the job I should focus on more.

Should I focus more on creating whole environments, more on creating complete assets, more on creating ubiquitous textures, technical lighting, creating hard models for animation (machinery, ect.)? Some other thing?


  • NightDragonNightDragon 6th Grade Username Registered User regular
    edited February 2017
    As a disclaimer, I'm a 2D game artist with some 3D knowledge, but I've been working in the industry with 3D artists for about ~6 years, so I have some relevant info. That being said, I HIGHLY recommend that you visit the Polycount forums and ask this question there, and check out the threads they already have - those forums are for primarily 3D artists, many of whom are working professionally. Those forums are packed to the gills with delicious knowledge, and have a good mix of skill sets and experiences levels. They're good people.

    Here's a graphic for portfolio reviews at's not geared towards entry-level artists specifically (and is more for showing your work in person), so just try to keep that in mind. Good points, though.
    List of articles regarding portfolios for game artists:

    Try finding people who already work (or have worked) at studios that seem interesting to you (games that excite you, games that have art you enjoy, etc) via LinkedIn or a google search, and then see if you can find their online portfolios. That will give you a good idea regarding the quality level you should be aiming for, and potentially what types of work you should create for your portfolio to land a job at those specific studios.

    For entry-level 3D modeling, you'll likely be hired on as either an Assistant Environment Artist or a Prop Artist. I'm not sure what you mean exactly when you refer to "organic" modeling - are you talking about worldbuilding assets like trees and rocks, or are you referring more to things like characters? Or anything that isn't hard surface mechanical modeling?

    If you're aiming to complete a portfolio as an environment/prop artist, I'd start out by deciding the environment you want to model and fill with props. This helps sell you as somebody who understands a theme and can develop assets that form a coherent and believable "world", in a consistent style. Try to nail down your theme before you jump into creating the assets. Ask yourself questions like: Will it be stylized or realistic? Modern, ancient, or futuristic? Just creating a bunch of crates and barrels helps no-one, because it's been done before, ad nauseum. Try to create some level of storytelling and visual interest in your creation rather than defaulting to the most generic and standard of scenes. Rather than just show a desk with old books stacked on it, show scattered papers, an open book, a spilled inkwell, an off-kilter table runner. If the studios you're looking at have a certain theme or style they're using, try to mimic that to catch the attention of the AD or the 3D team.

    You'll want to show that you can UV and texture, as well. Though dedicated texture artists exist in some studios, most seem to keep UV and textures within the 3D artist's responsibilities. Understanding some level of sculpting with programs like ZBrush will be really helpful, especially if you understand how to take the high resolution 3D sculpt and bake it down onto the lower resolution game model.

    Technical lighting and creating models for animation are probably the least important things to have in your portfolio right now. The vast majority of environment assets in a game do not need to be rigged and animated, and the world lighting is generally handled by either the world artists or the lighting artists or tech artists. Dedicate yourself to creating whole environments (like an interior shot of a prop-filled room, and/or a exterior town square, etc). Provide wireframe breakdowns so employers can see that you understand how to develop assets that are game-ready without excessive polycounts, and provide texture breakdowns (diffuse/normal/spec/etc) so they can see that you understand efficient UV layouts and how to create an effective, attractive, and appropriately-sized texture set.

    If you can show off these environments looking nice and lit in a game engine (or something like Marmoset) that can help sell your portfolio. It's not absolutely necessary, but if you can quickly set up a scene that shows your work in a game engine, it's a nice plus.

    I hope some of that was helpful! Again though, seriously check out those other forums, they're dedicated to exactly the thing you're looking to get into. :) Best of luck!

    NightDragon on
  • DedwrekkaDedwrekka What Would Nyarlathotep Do? Registered User regular
    For entry-level 3D modeling, you'll likely be hired on as either an Assistant Environment Artist or a Prop Artist. I'm not sure what you mean exactly when you refer to "organic" modeling - are you talking about worldbuilding assets like trees and rocks, or are you referring more to things like characters? Or anything that isn't hard surface mechanical modeling?

    First, thank you very much for the information! I'll be checking out Polycount and I'm also attending area events to get some information from a number of different sources.

    The definition of what exactly is organic and what is hard surface modeling isn't totally nailed down. I've gotten different definitions from different people, even in the same professional field, but there's a lot of similarities between different ways people define it.

    "Organic Modeling", as it was taught to me, is modeling geometry that is going to be deformed or animated in such a way that it impacts the shape of the model, and "Hard Surface Modeling" is anything that's intended to be a static mesh that will not deform. Another defining feature is that organic modeling relies on building models out of quads (4-cornered polygons), while static modeling is less strict with tris and n-gons (basically any number of corners above 4). Quads are very versatile when being deformed and tris and n-gons can cause problems with the mesh when being asked to fold, bend, or when being smoothed.

    It has to do with what you want the model to do and how you build it. A tree could be organic if you want it to sway in the breeze or be bent by something hitting it, or it could be hard surface if you want it to remain still.

  • ArbitraryDescriptorArbitraryDescriptor Registered User regular
    edited February 2017
    Probably not in your industry, but 3D art is 3D art.

    Disclaimer made, here's my general 3D portfolio advice:

    I want to see what you can do with Substance, ZBrush, VRay, whatever is hot and makes shit pretty. Your best possible effort, essentially, and that which shows you keep up on tech.

    I also want to see what you can do with baseline 3DS/Maya, because maybe we don't use those fancy tools those kids on my lawn are all hot about.

    I want to see something created from an imperfect reference (ex: a single photograph) with inferred/deduced/invented details.

    I want to see something created from a perfect reference (ex: 3-view isometric drawings) with accurate details.

    You already mentioned static vs skinnable, and I want to see examples of the two, but when I think "Organic," I think no clean lines, amorphous, shaped by chance; as opposed to a manufactured object with hard lines, mechanical linkages, and very specific design.

    I find that some new artists prefer one
    and are therefore unpracticed (bad) at the other; so I like to see examples of both. Nothing worse than hiring someone who can render a Shoggoth in full, terrible, glory, only to find out they can't seem to visualize how a door hinge fits together.

    ArbitraryDescriptor on
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