The world of 3D modelling is as mesmerizing as it gets, it allows designers and artists to convert their ideas into 3D lifelike digital models. However, it has always been hard for beginner designers to wrap their heads around something so vast and challenging. To provide you with our share of help, we’ll be discussing the different types of 3D modelling for designers in this article.
So, if you want to make a career out of 3D modelling, but can’t seem to get the essence of 3D modelling and its types, this article can turn out to be helpful for you.
Box modelling is the art of shaping pre-existing shapes such as cube, sphere, cylinder, hemisphere, etc. Using classical modelling tools. Box modeling uses the classic approach and is best suited for hard-surfaced objects such as buildings and other constructions. This technique allows you to have total control over individual faces, edges, and vertices of the object since you begin with low poly shapes to create your object or model.
Box modelling is also often used with the subdivision surface technique using extruding, beveling, and creating loop cuts. For starters, subdivision surface is a powerful technique used to add additional geometry to the manipulated edges, faces, and vertices. Using this technique enables even better control over the geometry of the object and thus its shape.
However, it’s worth noting that the object becomes more curved or rounded upon using this technique because of the Catmull-Clark algorithm. Furthermore, accessing and manipulating the original polygon mesh of a subdivided low poly object becomes limited due to this extra layer on top of the original geometry of the object.
The overall fundamentals of polygonal modelling are somewhere similar to that of box modelling. However, the difference is that polygonal modelling is done by working with the X, Y, and Z coordinates of an object. This technique allows creating different surfaces only to later combine them into the final 3D model.
Just start with a simple depthless shape, using different vertices and coordinates and build your model piece by piece. This is the approach that polygonal modelling follows to create 3D objects. You can later define these objects down to their minute details using classical modelling tools.
Polygonal modelling, however, is very demanding. To get started with designing your 3D models using polygonal modelling, you first have to create a wire mesh of the object. Creating wire meshes requires deep knowledge of the polygonal mesh theory which makes this technique unsuitable for absolute beginners in 3D modelling.
Overall, the tools used in the box modelling technique and polygonal modelling technique are essentially the same, it’s just that the approach is different. The latter enables working on minute details of the object, unlike box modelling.
Sculpting, in general, is being used for ages now. It’s just that it’s gone digital now, thanks to capable hardware and computing technology. Like polygon and box modelling, sculpting also involves working with pre-made structures and objects. However, sculpting is a different type of modelling that mostly involves the detailing of the object.
Sculpting involves using the brush to a great extent instead of manipulating different sections of the object. The brush is so far the most effective tool when it comes to creating details in the object. There are different brush settings such as brush type and other settings that allow reshaping the geometry more organically. In any case, sculpting is more suitable to create complex objects like animals, characters, and other creature designs. Such objects involve extreme details and thus cannot be created using traditional box modelling and polygonal modelling techniques.
The sculpting technique is vast and involves multiple branches, discussing them is crucial to grasp the true essence of this modern and most-used 3D modelling technique.
The first technique in 3D sculpting involves sculpting directly at the mesh which enables total control over the edges, vertices, and faces of the object according to the brush. However, you can’t rely solely on this technique when it comes to big projects as the limit that your geometry can hold will soon be reached.
- Multi-resolution Technique
The next technique allows storing the sculpt between multiple layers of resolutions and is thus called the multi-resolution technique. The fundamentals of the multi-resolution technique are fairly consistent with that of the subdivision surface technique we discussed earlier. Except for the fact that the subdivision technique doesn’t allow storing sculpts between multiple resolutions.
Multi-resolution comes in handy, especially when the level of geometry is reached as you can simply increase the levels to get more geometry on your sculpture, enabling you to work on multiple detail levels.
The Blender community calls the next sculpting technique as dynamic topology. And why not? The name fairly justifies its function. In a nutshell, dynamic topology divides the mesh into triangles as you zoom into the geometry to work on more details.
This allows you to work on even the most minute details of your sculpture as the geometry will simply adapt as you zoom in. However, using this technique messes up the final mesh of your 3D model. That means using different mesh algorithms to add a new mesh on top of your sculpted object is an absolute necessity to optimize its performance. This technique is called retopology.
Rational B-spline modelling is probably the easiest type of 3D modelling that any beginner can get a hold of without much hassle. The smooth learning curve also makes this technique one of the most commonly used 3D modelling techniques. Like most other 3D modelling techniques, rational b-spline modelling also follows the same approach of combining and adjusting geometric forms to create a new or the desired design.
Define the dimensions of the small polygons you create and adjust them accordingly to get the desired output. You can easily curve and twist these polygons using classical 3D modelling tools to get the output of your choice. That’s just it, you’re done with your design in a few steps.
Such a straightforward approach to 3D modelling catches the attention of flocks of beginners and professionals alike, every single year. Beginners find it very amusing to showcase their creativity using an easier 3D modelling technique. What’s more? This technique even allows people from various backgrounds to get familiar with the 3D modelling world, thanks to the extreme simplicity of this 3D modelling technique.
Boolean modelling, as the name suggests, uses old-school mathematics to create complex 3d models. You start with an initial shape or design and then add or remove from that design to mould it into the desired shape. For starters, boolean modelling uses the 3 boolean operations that you might’ve already studied in schools, difference, union, and intersection.
The difference operation is used to subtract or cut the shape from the design at hand, the union operation adds a shape to your design, and the intersect operation will save the common area of the two intersecting designs. Overall, it’s the same old-school mathematics, but in a much more interesting way.
Working with Boolean operations to create shapes is one of the most effective ways of performing 3D modelling. For instance, this technique allows you to create complex shapes quickly and conveniently, shapes that could’ve taken hours to create with other methods. As you might’ve already guessed by now, the technique is quite popular amongst beginners and professional 3D designers alike.
However, with all its charm, boolean modelling still isn’t ideal for creating shapes of extreme complexity and detailing. That being said, this technique is quite fun to play around with but not very practical when it comes to undertaking huge client projects involving significant detailing. Nevertheless, Boolean modelling is one of the best 3D modelling techniques for beginners nevertheless, thanks to the straightforward approach it follows.
Photogrammetry is a unique and high-tech technique of generating life-like 3d models. The best of all is that you let the machine do the hard part. To pull off Photogrammetry you just have to take a few shots from different angles and with as even lighting as possible.
This technique makes all the harsh learning curves and sitting time to create a 3D model out of the question. What’s more? Not only does Photogrammetry allow creating 3D models in the easiest way possible, you get to enjoy absolute realism in the renders this technique provides you with. This is because the system is creating 3D models from the real images themselves.
So, getting photorealism and extreme quality is imminent in 3D models generated through Photogrammetry 3D modelling technique. The textures and UV maps also get generated in the process, saving even greater amounts of time and making this technique much more interesting. However, idealism is an illusion and it’s the same when it comes to Photogrammetry. The technique has its flaws that can’t be ignored.
First up, whether the technique generates the UV map in the process makes no sense if the mesh is going to be reworked again by retopology, the approach is pretty much the same you follow in 3D sculpting. Remeshing the design will require you to create a UV map again, which is a noteworthy con of this 3D modelling technique. The photographs also demand to be separated from the background or the surroundings, expect to spend quite a bit of time on photo editing applications like Photoshop.
The biggest yet most obvious con of Photogrammetry is that you have to have the physical object with you in order to photograph it. This limits the use of this technique significantly. Also, the camera can’t capture one side of the object (the base) which makes holes in the final mesh of the rendered object.
In any case, no one can deny the technological boom humanity is experiencing, drones are being used to capture images nowadays, which improves the overall efficacy of Photogrammetry by tremendous levels.
Sonar technology has also started to gain traction in the 3D modelling world, just scan the area using a scanner and feed the images into the system to generate a 3D map. It’s easier than ever, all thanks to Photogrammetry.
Simulation is one great and one of the smartest ways to create 3D models, though it’s highly technical and mostly a professional thing since beginners find it hard to capture the complexities that this technique involves.
For starters, simulation can be of multiple types including physics, cloth, soft body, fluid, fire and smoke, ocean, and particles. The instances of these simulations can create wonderful and almost photorealistic 3D models.
Simulation typically involves creating a setup with defined parameters and objects that frequently interact with each other. When they do interact, the computer analyzes the type of interaction and produces results accordingly. Take an example of a car crash, for instance, the damaged car will be easy to model in 3D but the debris, smoke, and dust needs special attention.
Such minute details can be hard and time-consuming to produce with conventional 3D modelling techniques. Thanks to simulation, complex life-like 3D models can be created much more conveniently. The computer will check all the parameters such as the velocity of the car, the collision angle, surrounding conditions, etc., to present you with the most realistic output possible.
This was a perfect example of creating a 3D model using physics simulation. Designers can similarly make use of cloth simulation to produce a 3D model involving cloth texture (e.g. pillow). You can either create a 3D model of a pillow using conventional 3D sculpting or you can utilize cloth simulation to capture multiple instances of a pillow.
The cloth simulation technique will any day produce more realistic results as the model will also include wrinkles and other imperfections.
Non-Uniform Rational Basis Spline Modelling and Curve (NURBS and Curve Modelling)
The Non-uniform Rational Basis Spline or NURBS for short is one of the most effective techniques to create photorealistic 3D models. The foundation of NURBS is an efficient and versatile mathematical model that works wonders in multiple scenarios.
NURBS modelling is known to create the best surfaces and curves due to multiple powerful algorithms in place.
Thanks to the advanced mathematics involved, you can work on even the most minute details of your model as no matter how much you zoom in, the curves will never get pixelated and no triangles will get visible, as if you’re working with vector art. This is contrary to what you get in polygonal modelling which makes NURBS modelling highly effective for large architecture-based projects.
The tools utilized when using NURBS modelling are also different since you no longer have to work with edges, faces, and vertices. Instead, you use the power of curves to get things done with ease, i.e., you can create curved surfaces using a few control points. These control points also enable total control over your 3D model. The best part of all is that with NURBS, there’s very little manual work required since your computer can take care of a huge chunk of the process. For what it’s worth, the NURBS and curve modelling technique is limited to be used in CAD-like software only. The technique severely lacks functionality when it comes to ultra-realistic and artistic 3D modelling (e.g. VFX).
So, this was our take on the different types of 3D modelling for designers. Note that the list doesn’t end here and never expect it to. Considering the technological advancement with so many new software and gadgets being introduced in the market to make 3D modelling tasks even easier. In any case, no matter what methods designers use, 3D modelling is revolutionizing industries, technical and non-technical alike.
That being said, the world of 3D modelling is enormous and is waiting for new designers with countless life-changing opportunities. As for choosing the right technique, we recommend you adapt to multiple 3D modelling techniques to pull off even the most complex of 3D modelling tasks. Every technique has its advantages and flaws, it’s only the situation and task-governed adaptation that can make you successful in the world of 3D modelling.
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