Did you know that game dev companies pay as much as $80,000 for a single virtual avatar? Character modeling is regarded as a crucial aspect of games' success. 

What Is the Most Important When Making 3D Character

3D character modeling is a way to build a visual connection with customers in your niche. The character can be either a living being or a made-up creature. Anyway, an engaging character makes players enjoy your game more. 

How to Make 3D Characters – Step-By-Step Guide

The process of creating a 3D character is complex and comprises stages of preparing a concept art, modeling, texturing, rigging and skinning, and animating. They are detailed in the step-by-step guide below.

When making a 3D character, you should pay attention to the following steps:

Creating a Concept Art

Creating a Concept ArtHow to make 3d character models, and where to start? 

3D character modeling starts with crafting concept art — it’s a visual representation of the intended character design. They are simply sketches used to create the visual part further. Concept art may not be complemented by background elements but should convey a character's contours, colors, and shapes.

3D Character Modeling

3d character modeling Screenshot source: https://www.animationmentor.com/blog/new-workshop-introduction-to-3d-character-modeling/

3D modeling is also known as character prototyping. It is basically the process of making a three-dimensional model of an object. This approach aims to develop a visual image of the desired object. 

The 3D character modeling process is done in three steps:

  • Blocking. Creating a basic shape of a character, its skeleton, and muscle frame.
  • High poly modeling. Building a 3D model from a high number of polygons — geometric shapes. The high poly count is roughly 30,000 or more, depending on the complexity of a model. 
  • Retopology. Logically organizing and aligning polygons is regarded as basic construction components of 3D models. It is necessary to ensure the correct automated animation of characters further. 
  • Baking. Applying high poly elements to lower poly models to ensure consistency in a character’s appearance without compromising surface quality. 

After a three-dimensional character is prepared, it can be textured, given a digital skeleton, and animated. 

Character Texturing

Character TexturingScreenshot source: https://www.cgmasteracademy.com/courses/119-character-texturing-for-games-in-substance/

Production and application of a character’s texture to its 3D model ascertain its excellence, originality, and correctness. Texture is regarded as a bitmap applied to the surface of an unpainted model to give it the color, volume, or appearance of relief.

Texturing is classified into two types: relief mapping and MIP mapping. The first one is the use of a special graphics 3D tool that allows you to create an object's surface with displacements per texel regarded as a unit of measurement of a texture map. It is needed to show varying heights or depths of volumetric figures in a realistic manner.

In turn, MIP mapping is a special texture mapping method that employs several copies of the same texture picture with varying degrees of resolution. It is mostly helpful when some elements present in a character’s appearance need to be downscaled.  

Texturing is needed for the visualization of physical attributes and replication of the effects of light and reflection. It also contributes to the most realistic display of the tiniest elements such as eyelashes, scars, moles, birthmarks, and skin pores.

When the texturing is complete, the model is likewise complete. If the model is to be animated, all subsequent procedures take place.

Character Rigging and Skinning

Character Rigging and SkinningIn this stage, game characters are given a skeleton, with the assistance of which they are later given the ability to move. A rig, or a virtual skeleton, is a representation of the virtual bones and joints. They connect parts of the character's body. 

Skinning is attaching the character's geometric mesh to the newly generated rig. It helps to change the look of the characters depending on the action they perform. After this step, the model is prepared for being animated.

Character Animation

Character AnimationScreenshot source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TjJLIuFKA20

The animation is a short presentation of a sequence of static pictures, known as frames that differ in tiny aspects. The primary objective, at this point, is to produce the most realistic motion of 3D characters possible. 

For this purpose, a designer should provide the location of the 3D character in the first and last frames of the movement. The frames in-between are calculated by specific software. As a result, the design receives a single, realistic motion. 

This animation technique may seem straightforward, but animating becomes more challenging with the increase in complexity of 3D character movements.

Character AnimationScreenshot source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=duGHtPOL7VA&t=1619s

Porting 3D Assets Into Game Engine

After a 3D model is fully prepared, it can be ported into any of the game engines. Those are frameworks designed for the development of games. They have their internal middleware libraries to which you can port your newly created 3D assets. 

Examples of popular game engines are Unity, Gamemaker, Defold, Unreal Engine, and CryEngine. All of them have broad capabilities to integrate your 3D models into game environments.

Top 3D Character Modeling Software

3D character modeling softwareArtists that wonder how to make 3d video game characters may experience difficulty choosing suitable modeling software. There is a digital solution for everyone, from complete beginners to specialists looking for the most advanced modeling features. 

Here are the top character modeling software solutions for creating 3D realistic imitations:

Maya

Maya is a program designed to create 3D graphics. It has been a leader among other specialized utility tools for more than 20 years. Many modern cartoons, games, and films have been created using this software. 

Maya is the top software among Hollywood specialists. General users may not like that the program has high system requirements, which most everyday computers do not meet. 

Poser

Poser is one of the leading 3D animation and rendering software solutions. Its developers definitely know how to create 3d characters and animate them effectively. 

The program converts photos into lifelike images and videos. Such pieces are suitable for movies, games, and print. Poser is great for incorporating pre-configured, fully textured, and rendered 3D models into game development.

Zbrush

Zbrush is a great tool for creating and editing 3D graphics, intended mostly for experts. It exploits techniques of digital sculpting, texturing, and painting. 

The program is designed to work with some sort of "digital clay," from which you can physically construct items using various tools. 

Blender

Another open-source 3D software, Blender is regarded as one of the greatest 3D modeling programs available due to its vast functionality.

Blender can be used at any stage of 3D character creation: modeling, rigging, animating, rendering, and video editing. Novices usually start to learn how to make a 3d character model using Blender. 

Where to Get Ready-Made 3D Models

Ready-Made 3D ModelsThe websites listed below offer you a range of free-to-use models:

  • Free3D. Offers a large number of high-quality free models. The website was created by artists-freelancers and is regularly updated due to users’ donations of 3D assets.
  • Sketchfab. A 3D models marketplace that allows you to examine the model from various angles in a three-dimensional environment. It even provides the opportunity to show digital prototypes’ wireframes.
  • CGTrader. Includes a wide library of models with higher or lower polygon count. Some of them are fully rigged and are ready to use in animation making. 

How Much Does It Cost to Create a 3D Game Character?

Cost of 3D Game Character The price of creating a 3D game character depends on several main factors:

  • The complexity of a character's model;
  • The number of hours spent on the creation;
  • Level of the artist’s expertise;
  • The region where the artist lives.

Let's review the approximate regular 3D model development time. The concept creation is approximately 20 hours, while modeling may take up to 50 hours. Texturing and rigging are roughly 15 hours. And making one second of animation takes five hours of real-time on average.

In essence, three seconds of character modeling & animation takes about 100 hours. Assuming that the average hourly pay of a designer is $30, the approximate price is $3,000. When it comes to actual work, it is better to consult a game art studio so you can have more detailed information about exact estimates.

Best Types of Collaboration With 3D Character Game Artists

Hire Game Artists

Outsourcing character modeling is the most beneficial type of cooperation for both parties. This business practice means hiring an agency or an individual artist outside of your company. It enables you to choose the most suitable artist for you from a large talent pool and get the desired result within the agreed time frame and at a reasonable price.

Another type of collaboration you may consider is a direct employment. It implies offering a monthly payment to an artist in exchange for 40 working hours or a predefined amount of creative work done. It is beneficial when you have a huge workload.

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Wrapping Up

In essence, game character modeling is an integral part of making an entertaining game of any type.

A tremendous amount of work is required to create a vibrant and unforgettable character. But it’s worth all the effort as the more creativity poured into the characters, the more likely they are to become famous in game development history.

FAQ

  • How Do You Make a 3D Game Character?

The 3D game character development process consists of the following five stages:

  1. Concept art creating.
  2. 3D character modeling.
  3. Character texturing.
  4. Character rigging and skinning.
  5. Character animation. 
  • How Much Does It Cost to Create a 3D Game Character?

The approximate cost of one 3d game character is about $3,000-4,000. Prices for photorealistic models may fall somewhere between $5,000-6,000 — although it depends on the abstract model and the overall complexity.

  • What Is the Best 3D Character Modeling Software?

Zbrush, Blender, Poser, and Maya are usually great choices for most artists. 

  • What Is 3D Character Modeling?

3D character modeling is the creation of virtual models in three-dimensional space using specialized software.