3D Freelance Artist Aivis Astics, a.k.a. HQ3DMOD, has told us how he started modeling 3D assets and selling them on Sketchfab, explained how to price and promote your models, and discussed finding sources of inspiration.
My name is Aivis Astics, I'm a 3D Freelance Artist from Latvia. My path in 3D graphics began, as I believe most modern artists do, with a childhood passion for drawing, animated movies, and anime comics.
I created my first 3D scene while working as a draftsman. The company I worked for at the time was producing custom furniture and design elements for carpentry companies. My main tool was AutoCAD.
One day my boss asked if I could make a cupboard in 3D, to which I responded: "I would try!" That's how my love for modeling began. That was back in 2008. Next came modeling for the first, second and third. Cramming, forums, questions, online courses, webinars, literature. No special education, just practice and basic theory. Also, some professional lectures and master classes by experts from well-known companies, mostly game developers.
My first rendering in AutoCAD looked something like this:
A few years later, having gained some experience, I decided to remaster my first scene in 3ds Max:
I started selling 3D assets at stock sites in 2012. At that time, there were very few of them. But creating such a source of passive income was a great idea. To begin with, I used as a commodity all the work I created in the process of training. I finished my meshes, corrected some things, textured them, made renderings, and posted them on popular 3D asset websites.
Income was minimal, but I was encouraged by this, and in 2014, I began to devote substantial time to creating models for sale. They were mostly objects for interior visualizations: furniture, appliances, lighting, plants, and decorative objects.
The path was not easy – I still had my main job. Gradually, the number of models, their quality, and variety grew, as did the income from sales. In 2017, I interrupted my work contract with a furniture company and devoted all my time to making and selling models. In addition, I am not a fan of getting up early five days a week, and being able to determine my own creative schedule is a very important degree of freedom for me.
What Exactly to Create and How?
A very important question for anyone working in this field. A lot of time in the process is taken up by the search for modeling sources. Today's 3D market is flooded with models of all kinds of quality. It is important to understand who your client is. Be it a mobile app developer, computer games developer, or a small advertising agency without a 3D modeler or magazine publisher. Often life itself points at the subject. For example, when I had a cold and went to a drugstore. And immediately realized that my collection does not have all these things: pills, medicine boxes, tubes of ointments, jars, bottles, plasters, and drops.
Sometimes you just have to look at your coffee table and see cookies, small chocolates, some fruits – here is the answer.
Understanding market conditions is an important element of the work. You have to get into the position of the consumer. So, creating the model itself, plus element naming, unwrapping, texturizing, rendering, preparing for uploading to the stock: archiving, naming, tag adding, description writing, and, finally, uploading and publishing.
In general, the technical part of the process takes just as much time, if not more, than pure creativity. And it is very important because it greatly affects the evaluation of the buyer. And often there is not much time left to implement new ideas.
As for the software, I use 3ds Max for modeling, RizomUV for unwrapping, and Substance 3D Painter and Marmoset Toolbag for texturizing and rendering.
Pricing and Promoting the Models
It is almost always wrong to evaluate an asset based on the time spent on it. For example, I spent a lot of effort on making this Pineapple:
Sure, I can't ask $100 for it, nobody will buy it, so it must cost less.
Sellers, of course, can check with general price trends for similar things, considering some quality factors, etc. Plus, personal experience and analysis of the number of sales and views. If something isn't selling, it might be worth lowering the price and seeing the result. I often observe that lowering the price doesn't increase sales.
I don't promote my work in any particular way. But recently, I got my own online store. It's not on social networks yet, but I think it's just a matter of time.
Of course, for me, and I think for customers as well, the most valuable feature of the Sketchfab platform is the ability to explore the model by looking at it from all sides. You don't need to create a lot of previews, wireframes, and control renders to publish models. The customer doesn't have to scroll through the images – just rotate, pan, and zoom in on the object, and they can see the model from all possible angles. The creator can't hide anything.
I use a neutral color HDRI and a solid background. In my latest published models, I use a custom background. When all models have the same background, the presentation looks much better. It becomes much easier to view multiple items in a portfolio. And those look really messy using different backgrounds, and it’s harder to surf through a portfolio.
An amazing thing that I discovered only recently is the Ground Shadows option turned in using baked AO. It gives a really nice smooth shadow under objects. I really love this feature. For example:
At the moment, I am continuing to work on my collection of mockups, trying to make them as high quality as possible. I'm also working on creating more technically complex objects, such as airplanes and vehicles. I don't stop adding some interior items, kitchen appliances, and musical instruments. I'm thinking about STL optimization of some of my models as well. And also some low poly models for game dev are in the process.