The 3d artist glossary: an overview of key terms in 3D artistry
A 3d artist visualization of a chick reading corner with vibrant coloursThe 3d artist glossary: an overview of key terms in 3D artistry

3D Modeling: The process of creating a three-dimensional representation of an object or environment using specialized software.

Polygon: A basic unit of 3D geometry composed of straight edges connected to form a closed shape. Polygons are used to construct 3D models.

Texture Mapping: Applying a 2D image (texture) onto a 3D model's surface to enhance its visual appearance and realism.

Shading: The process of assigning colors, materials, and surface properties to a 3D model, determining how light interacts with its surfaces.

Lighting: Placing and configuring virtual light sources within a 3D scene to illuminate objects, creating realistic lighting conditions and shadows.

Rendering: The process of generating a 2D image or animation from a 3D scene, simulating lighting, shading, and other visual effects.

Animation: Creating the illusion of movement in a 3D scene by sequentially displaying a series of rendered frames.

Rigging: The process of creating a skeletal structure for a 3D model, enabling animators to manipulate and pose the model realistically.

Sculpting: Using digital sculpting tools to shape and manipulate virtual 3D models with organic and natural forms.

Digital Painting: Applying digital brushstrokes and textures to 3D models or 2D surfaces to add details and artistic elements.

UV Mapping: Unfolding the 3D model's surface onto a 2D plane, creating a UV map that serves as a guide for texture placement.

Rendering Engine: Software component responsible for simulating lighting, shading, and other visual effects during the rendering process.

Material: A digital representation of a surface's physical properties, defining how light interacts with the object, including color, reflectivity, and transparency.

Wireframe: A visual representation of a 3D model using only its underlying wireframe structure, showing the edges and vertices.

Ray Tracing: A rendering technique that simulates the path of light rays in a 3D scene, accurately calculating reflections, refractions, and shadows.

Ambient Occlusion: A shading technique that simulates the softening of shadows in areas where objects are close to each other or occlude light.

Normal Map: A texture that encodes surface normal information, allowing low-polygon models to appear more detailed and realistic.

Procedural Generation: Using algorithms and mathematical functions to generate textures, models, or entire environments automatically.

Photorealism: The goal of creating 3D images that closely resemble real-world objects or scenes, aiming for high levels of detail and accuracy.

GPU Rendering: Utilizing the processing power of a graphics processing unit (GPU) to accelerate the rendering process, providing real-time or near-real-time feedback.

Virtual Reality (VR): A technology that immerses users in a computer-generated 3D environment, typically experienced through specialized headsets.

Augmented Reality (AR): Overlaying virtual objects onto the real world, enhancing the user's perception of their environment through a camera-based display.

Particle System: A simulation of small individual objects (particles) within a 3D scene, used to create effects like fire, smoke, or water.

Keyframe: A frame in an animation where a significant change occurs, serving as a reference point from which intermediate frames are generated.

Matte Painting: A technique where 2D images or paintings are integrated into 3D scenes to create the illusion of expansive or detailed environments.

Render Farm: A cluster of high-performance computers used to distribute rendering tasks, significantly reducing the time required for complex renders.

Motion Capture (MoCap): The process of recording and translating real-world movements into digital animations, often using sensors or markers on actors.

Non-Photorealistic Rendering (NPR): A style of rendering that intentionally departs from photorealism, emphasizing artistic or stylized visuals.

Global Illumination: A rendering technique that simulates the indirect bounce of light within a scene, improving the accuracy of lighting and shadows.

Matte Shadow: A type of shadow cast by a transparent or semitransparent object, producing softer, diffused edges.