3D rendering and visualization artists are constantly standing on the edge between creating their own modeling content and borrowing from others to fully populate their images and animations. It’s almost more valuable to know where to look to pull 3D models and other digital assets to fill the gaps in their own stocks and produce believable, photorealistic renderings that don’t suffer due to lack of time to build proper models.
Because we all know the greatest threat to good 3D rendering work is just that: time.
Here are 5 online 3D rendering catalogues that will help you build a small library of 3D assets you can pick and pull from on your way to populating renders with content you don’t have to spend half of your budget creating yourself.
CGTrader is an online 3D model marketplace where artists and modeling experts can upload their designs for sale to rendering artists, video game programmers, and anyone else who might be in the need for professional grade 3D models. The interface is easy to use and signing up is completely free. More than the marketplace, though, is the underlying community of members that are constantly supporting one another with assets, tips, and encouragement to elevate each artist to be the best they can be.
CGTrader currently has over 500,000 models available for purchase - a number that is constantly growing as more and more people are attracted to the service. Many artists use the marketplace to both buy and sell 3D assets, which can be a great resource for visualization freelancers to build a bit of diversification into their income streams.
If you’re looking for a robust online 3D model library that won’t set your bank account back into last century, look no further than GrabCAD. Most of the 3D models available are completely free to download and use in your next rendering scene. Much like the other online catalogues on this list, GrabCAD is supported by a community of artists, designers, and engineers that want little more than to showcase their work and help build the portfolios of their peers.
And while GrabCAD won’t make you much money, if you’re willing to upload and share your own 3D assets, you are rewarded with something of greater value: recognition. Freelancers are tasked with building a reputation and body of work that they can build their business on. The best way to do this is by sharing your work for free as you make a name for yourself in a highly competitive, heavily diluted industry. GrabCAD is a great way to get your name out there.
Google SketchUp is a program maligned by many 3D rendering artists for its innate simplicity and unrefined, cartoony interface. While much of that is true, for many it is the perfect tool to start roughing out a concept and even has capabilities to interface with renderers like VRAY and Maxwell to produce finished products that would surprise even the most jaded visualization purists.
3D Warehouse is SketchUp’s model catalogue that works seamlessly with the base program. It is completely free to use (just like SketchUp) and can be used to drag and drop assets into your scene, providing artists with a lightning-quick pipeline for streamlined workflow. And while many of the available models aren’t of the highest quality, there are plenty of refined options for those looking to build out their render with a bit more entourage.
If you’re looking for the absolute highest quality of 3D model resource catelogues you’ll find exactly that with TurboSquid. Despite its odd name and unusual branding, it hosts the largest gallery of professional grade 3D assets on the planet. It is primarily used by animators and video game developers to help move along development cycles and create prototypes that will eventually be equatable to the finished product.
With such high-level models available, you should be warned that they do come at a price. It’s not likely many freelancers would be able to afford using TurboSquid on a regular basis, but for larger design, animation, and video game studios with robust project budgets, there are few other places you should be looking to help populate your library of 3D assets. The price of admission is well worth the return. The thousands of models range anywhere from characters to architecture, ensuring every rendering sub-industry has something TurboSquid can help them achieve.
For the machinists, gear-heads, and industrial designers out there, 3D ContentCentral is your best bet to find 3D models of parts and pieces widely used by the manufacturing industry. The side features the widest range of such 3D models, and can help assist mechanical engineers, designers, and especially car makers with producing photo-realistic visuals that explain how a certain piece of heavy equipment comes together.
While 3D visualization for the manufacturing industry hasn’t come as far as architecture or animation, it’s a growing field that has enough standardized parts and assemblies to make this type of specialized catalogue such a valuable resource. Each part they have available is certified by the supplier, ensuring accuracy and true-to-life model proficiency that industrial designers demand.