What is the purpose of 3D modeling software?
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    What is the purpose of 3D modeling software?

    I've been looking at different digital art and I've noticed some are done with programs like Maya, Mudbox, Zbrush, 3ds Max, etc. Then some are just done with Photoshop.

    Is 3d modeling software just quicker and produces a more realistic image than Photoshop?
    or is the modeling for use in animation?

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    Well, it's the digital equivalent of sculpting vs. painting.

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    exactly. its the difference between lego and a drawing of lego

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    3DCG in general is used for many things: special fx, quick iterations, sculpting, games, simulation, animation, rendering.

    Suites like 3ds Max, Maya, Lightwave, Softimage, and Blender can do most anything. You can bang out some simple models, render them out to a image file and paint over it. This is a common technique among conceptartists. There are also images that are completely made in these programs and 2D imaging software is used for textures and composition. These are used to create the 3D models and animations for games too. Big movie studios use them for special effects or animation. Pixar has their own software for rendering but I think they might use Maya in conjunction with it.

    There are specialized pieces of software. Sketchup is for architectural visualization or engineering. Zbrush is for sculpting and creating highly detailed meshes for use in other programs.

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    Sculpting vs painting is a very good analogy, though some pieces of software (zbrush and mudbox) are literally for digital sculpting while other pieces of software (3DS Max, Maya) have a completely different workflow and the creation of a character or object might be better compared more to building something out of blocks than sculpting. The primary use of 3D software is in creating assets for video games and animation.

    Programs like 3DS Max and Maya are very complex (and sometimes cumbersome!) pieces of software which have a steep learning curve and are geared toward modelling, rigging and animation. They would not usually be used to produce 2D art except as a secondary consideration (for example, the 3D character models produced for use in a video game may also be lit and captured as images for use as promotional character art, but the software would not have been used only to create art of the characters due to the amount of time and effort required to create a detailed 3D model).

    Software like Zbrush and Mudbox are more accessible and "artistic" in their use and sometimes artists will create sculptures in them to capture as an artistic image. The difference is that you can move your object around in space and examine it from different angles. There are also ways to import your 3D model into Photoshop to paint it from specific angles, then export it back to the 3D software again. These can be a good option for a 2D artist looking to try 3D.

    Creating realistic work in a 3D package is no easier or less time consuming than doing it in Photoshop (in fact, if anything I'd say it's more time consuming, as you are usually working on something from multiple angles rather than a single angle). I did a degree in 3D modelling and animation and, as a 2D artist now, I somewhat regret all the time I spent learning those software packages - I don't find that I employ them very much at all, though I will sometimes fire up Zbrush to sculpt with it for fun. It might be worth having a play with a trial version of Zbrush or Mudbox to see if you like digital sculpting, but whether or not these programs would be of use to you probably depends on your career path or aspirations. Personally I would say that if you are a 2D artist without a particular need or desire to create 3D assets they are probably of minimal use to you unless you are really inspired by the kind of 2D art created in Zbrush/Mudbox. On the other hand, if you want to work in the games or animation industry it can definitely be a boost to your skillset to say that you are proficient in 3D software as well as 2D software.

    Last edited by Birkeley; October 7th, 2012 at 05:18 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Birkeley View Post
    I did a degree in 3D modelling and animation and, as a 2D artist now, I somewhat regret all the time I spent learning those software packages - I don't find that I employ them very much at all, though I will sometimes fire up Zbrush to sculpt with it for fun.

    hmm, interesting. i find i think about a job first, figure out a plan and then either fire up pen and paper, or 3dsmax. those for are the two ways in. i love 3d for its abillity to replicate complex objects in perfect perspective, and to be able to fly rond and realistically light my scene.

    i love photoshop for its maniuplation of colour, detail, composition, texture, stuff that takes ages in 3d.

    and mixing the two is my favourite way to work, although im learning 2d painting a bit more these days.

    everyone has their own toolbox i guess, but i would strongly recommend 3ds for some applications, like interiors, rotation-ally (thanks spell checker, rotation-ally ffs) symmetric things like cogs and turbines, and other hard surface stuff where you can buy royalty free 3d models and use them as underlays and props. oh an water, they do awesome water super fast.

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    Companies have been trying to get artists to uses 3d modelling software as part of the 2d support pipeline for years. As has been said it is too expensive and too steep a learning curve to be really useful in that capacity. Daz3d and Sketchup have made some inroads with the expense and ease of use but are limited in their usefulness. Except in extreme cases, most 2d artists can draw and paint something to the standard they need without the added expense. These tools work better in a studio environment where work is broken down to assembly line efficiency and you can have a single illustration worked on by a number of people with different skill sets. Its just not that practical for most contract artists who are one man shops.

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    there is also a free 3d app named Blender. many artists are using that app for 3d modeling.

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    thank you so much for the replies! they were extremely helpful

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    Knowing a 3D modelling package and 2D (digital and traditional) makes you incredibly hire-able if you are good.
    The more you can do, the more chances there are that someone will pay you to do art.

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