The job of an artist is never done. Regardless of whether you’re designing models for a brand new triple-A videogame release, painting a portrait, or creating the world around you by 3D architecture modeling – there will always be that little detail that could have been better.
Ages ago, we used to design the world around us by drawing intricate plans and drawings pen-on-paper. While this produced the well-known paper bin crawling with crumpled-up art pieces, it was still a laborious, time-intensive, and frankly, complicated way to design buildings and shape the world around you.
These days, 3D artists create architectural projects from plans to render without ever touching a graphite pencil – as it’s all done through the magic of modern computing.
Computing, better yet, CAD software, has changed architecture for the better, forever. These days, all you need to do to become an architect is master one of the many programs that architects and 3D artists use daily.
In this article, we’ll talk about where 3D artists fit into the architecture world, their job, what skills they need to stand a chance, and what it looks like to work as a 3D artist in Architecture.
The description of a 3D artist in the world of architecture mostly applies to people tasked with helping clients and prospects visualize projects and buildings before they’re created. It’s insanely useful in several parts of the design process, from presenting the product to prospects to marketing it to future homeowners.
3D artists are tasked with a wide range of things in regards to beautifying the work of the architect, which may include:
There is a distinct difference between architects and 3D artists. While architects design the product from the ground up, 3D artists are tasked with polishing it up, adding the necessary details, and making it as attractive as possible for marketing, promotion, and prospecting.
Unlike architects who need to take many technicalities, floor plans, and practical limitations into account, 3D artists don’t. Since 3D artists don’t design the project from the ground up, their job is not to change any of the fundamentals of the building – it’s to highlight the subtle differences and make the details come to light, breathing life into an otherwise bland and technical render.
As long as people build things, there will be a need for 3D artists in the architecture world. With that being said, it’s important to note that 3D art, regardless of specialization, is an insanely competitive world. Most 3D artists don’t rely on their diploma to get them places, but their existing backdrop and portfolio.
While 3D artists make fantastic money, getting good gigs might prove problematic if you’re just starting out. Don’t expect a six-figure salary immediately, as you’ll likely have to start small and build your portfolio up from there.
Don’t worry, though – architecture companies talk, and if the word starts spreading that you’re a good and reliable 3D artist that can hold their ground in CAD software, chances are you’ll be in demand.
However, it’s not all doom and gloom – unlike architects, 3D artists in architecture require no qualifications, training, or academia before they can get in on the work. While their salary usually doesn’t match that of the architect, it’s not too far off either.
3D artists in architecture are sought after as they are an integral part of every project. Every project needs to sell, meaning that it has to be polished up in the post, which is the domain of the 3D artist.
Now, 3D artists have a wide range of software they need to master before they can get into the big leagues when it comes to technicalities. Software is the lifeblood and the credentials of the average 3D artist residing in the world of architecture. The more software a 3D artist can use and the better they can use the software – the more qualified they are for the position.
Since 3D artists are tasked with producing all kinds of content across a wide range of disciplines, most of them will require to master different software that allows them to produce different kinds of art. No program covers all the requirements that 3D artists need to fulfill, but there are program packages that do.
Sadly, most companies that hire 3D artists will want them to work in particular programs for their content, which means that it’s always best to go with the most prominent options.
What are the many software solutions that 3D artists in architecture use every day? Well, to make it easier, we’ll split it up into disciplines and outline the most prominent software for each discipline.
While architects themselves create the initial models, 3D artists reshape and polish them up for presentations and marketing.
SketchUp and TinkerCAD come as two of the most popular software solutions for 3D modeling. These two software solutions are elaborate, adaptive, and can get pretty difficult. While mastering them might be a challenging task, once you do, adapting to any other software will be far easier. Plus, since these are the most common, your clients will likely prefer you use them above other software.
If you’d like to learn how to model, you might want to go with a simpler option such as Blender, a free and easy-to-use 3D modeling software.
Most artists start their journey by drawing, as it’s the most widespread artistic discipline. Now, while it can’t quite match the charm of a fresh set of pens and pencils, CorelDRAW and Photoshop CC do come close.
These two tools are the most widespread when it comes to drawing in general, not just architecture. Just like other leading tools in the 3D art world, both CorelDRAW and Photoshop CC are difficult to master, so you might want to start slow in something such as GIMP or Krita.
Most of us have grown up watching animated movies, and while back in the day, everything was drawn frame-by-frame by hand. These days, different software options make it all the easier – or do they? Animation is known as perhaps the most laborious art form – and software solutions do speed things up, but they add new levels of complexity to the practice.
Things such as ray tracing, pixel-perfect graphics, and CGI were all but unimaginable a couple of decades ago – yet are pretty much the norm today. The premier software solutions for animation in architecture are Unity, Adobe Animate, and 3DS Max Design.
Animation is going to be a complicated and laborious process, no matter which software you go with. With that being said, some of the best beginner options are Autodesk Maya, Blender, and Cinema 4D.
Rendering is one of the most common tasks that 3D artists in architecture face, and it’s one of the most demanding. Not only does it require an insane amount of attention to detail, rendering demands a lot of computing power.
The best software for 3D rendering in architecture is Maxwell. Unlike other options, mastering Maxwell isn’t a nightmarish ordeal, as it’s pretty streamlined. Maxwell is also very expensive, making it inaccessible for most artists who are just starting out. If you’re a beginner, you might want to opt for Cinema 4D or Lumion 3D for rendering.
Much more goes into being a top-shelf 3D artist than just mastery over a piece of software. Sure, the overall quality of your work will depend heavily on your skillfulness and the software you use, but things such as communication, teamwork, and creativity also play a huge part here.
A fantastic 3D artist will have to be a team player, even if they usually work alone. You’ll have to ensure that the final product satisfies the prospect, the architect, and the marketing team – you have to come up with solutions that appease everyone, and that can be quite challenging.
Communication is key when it comes to keeping everyone as happy as possible. Make sure to interview your clients, all of your teammates and think about what the prospect wants – assemble and analyze all of the data and devise the be-all-end-all end product.
To create such a product, you’ll need to use your imagination. Every artist is a dreamer, and that’s where your creativity will come in handy. When creating 3D art in architecture, you’ll have to understand someone else’s vision and add a layer of polish on top of it.
Remember, a good 3D artist must be detail-orientated.
As a 3D artist, you have a few solid career paths in front of you. A 3D artist is always in demand, no matter the specialization, and that is best expressed in the world of freelancing. Since artists are always looking for more work, self-employment through freelancing is gaining more and more traction every year.
The ability to set your hours, work on your terms, and, most importantly, work from the comfort of your own home is an unbeatable offer for many 3D artists.
That being said, working as a freelancer isn’t all fun and games. Your paycheck is only as big as you make it, finding gigs can be difficult, and the competition in the 3D art freelance world is fierce.
Working for a company, on the other hand, is far less stressful. It doesn’t require you to look for projects, compete with artists around the globe, who will likely do the job much cheaper, and usually comes with a better dental plan.
What it doesn’t come with is nearly as much freedom as freelancing. When you’re working for a company, you’re usually working on company terms, which means a fixed paycheck, fixed hours, and going to the office every day.
Sure, the coronavirus pandemic might have moved all of us out of the office, but that doesn’t mean that we still don’t have to abide by company rules and company time. However, what you sacrifice in terms of freedom, you gain in job security. A company job as a 3D artist in architecture pays well, is stable, and gives you all the vacation and sick days that come courtesy of having a regular job.
3D art is never going to go away. As long as products and projects exist, so will the massive demand for 3D artists. As the industries that use 3D graphics continue to grow in size and number, the demand will scale up as well.
More people are into 3D art these days than they were a couple of years ago, and the competition is at an all-time high. That’s why you’ll either have to become a well-known artist or develop some great skills to stay relevant in today’s 3D art economy.
The question is:
“What does the future hold for 3D artists?”
Based on all the data we have now, it’s safe to say that 3D artists will continue surging as a career option. Software that enables 3D art, especially in architecture, will grow more sophisticated, producing better art and more skilled artists.
3D artists serve an integral role in the buzzing world of architecture. As architecture continues to reshape the world around us, it’s the 3D artists that breathe real life into a computerized image – allowing people to place it in a realistic scenario.
With the advancement of 3D art software, AR, and AI technology, the future seems very bright for this buzzing business.