3D Modeling: An Overview of Various Techniques

Updated on: June 08, 2023

3D Design

7 minute read

Top 3D modeling tips and techniques
Common 3D modeling techniques

3D modeling widely used in several industries including video game development, movies, publishing, architecture, medical science, geology, etc. Various types of 3D modeling techniques have found widespread applications in diverse industries, thereby unlocking numerous design possibilities. In this article, we have discussed different types of 3D modeling techniques that are used to create different types of 3D models for diverse purposes. Before we discuss the techniques, let us first try to understand what 3D modeling is and how it is used in various industries.

What is 3D Modeling?

3D modeling is the process of creating three-dimensional images or graphics for representing real objects and surfaces. The representation is usually done mathematically by manipulating the points in a virtual space. These points, technically known to be vertices, are used to form a mesh, which gives the shape of an object.

Common Techniques Used in 3D Modeling

  • Box modeling

    Box modeling
    3D Box Modeling

    This box modeling technique is a type of polygonal modeling, in which the artist uses a geometric shape, like a cube, cylinder or sphere, and shapes it until the intended appearance is achieved. The modelers carry out the process in different stages. They start with a low-resolution mesh and then refine the shape. Then they divide the mesh further, ensuring that the hard edges are smoothed out and the necessary details are added. They repeat the process of refining and subdividing till enough polygonal detail is present in the mesh, which can convey the desired concept. Box modeling is one of the most common polygonal 3D techniques and is used in combination with the edge modeling ones.

    View this PPT to learn about the different types of 3D modeling techniques used to create high-quality 3D models with accurate details.

  • Contour/Edge modeling

    Contour/Edge modeling
    Edge Modeling

    Edge modeling is another type of polygonal technique, although it is different from box technique. In this process, the modelers develop the model piece by piece, instead of refining a primitive shape.

    This is done by placing the loops of polygons along the outlines and filling the gaps that lie between them. This process is applied as it is difficult to complete certain meshes through the box modeling technique. For instance, the human face cannot be completed only through this method. In that case, you can collaborate with one of the reputed 3D rendering companies to get these models designed. Experts can help you leverage the potential of 3D modeling technology with dexterity and develop the desired models.

  • Spline/NURBS modeling

    Spline/NURBS modeling
    Nurbs Modeling

    This nurbs modeling technique is extensively used in the industrial and automotive industries. A NURBS mesh does not have any edge, face or vertices. These models come with surfaces that can be interpreted smoothly. The modelers can develop the concept by lofting a mesh between the splines. NURBS curves are developed using a tool, similar to the pen tool used in Adobe Photoshop or MS Paint. The modelers draw the curve in the 3D space and edit them by moving the control vertices, which is a series of handles. The curves are to be placed along prominent contours and the space between them is automatically interpolated by the 3D modeling programs. Alternatively, you can also create a NURBS curve using a profile curve, revolving it around a central axis. This is one of the most extensively used 3D model design techniques used to develop objects such as vases, wine glasses and plates.

  • Subdivision modeling

    Subdivision modeling
    Subdivision Modeling

    Subdivision modeling is created by mixing polygonal and NURBS modeling techniques. In this hybrid process, a polygon model helps in creating 3D models, which are then converted into sub-division models. The artist enjoys control over the refinement of the 3D model in certain areas. Besides, you can use diverse software to work on these models. The polygon needs to be subdivided and refined until the details are clear. With greater subdivision, the surface becomes smoother.

  • Digital sculpting

    Digital sculpting
    Digital sculpting

    The tech industry has adopted various 3D modeling processes that they refer to as disruptive technologies. The experts use advanced 3D modeling software to develop these models. The automobile industry has also evolved with these technologies finding their applications in product development and marketing. Digital sculpting is a type of disruptive technology and it has leveraged the 3D modeling process to a great extent. The modelers now need not carry out the painstaking constraints of edge flow and topography. This enables them to design different types of 3D models in a way similar to the process of sculpting digital clay.

    Here, the meshes are organically created. A tablet device is used to shape the model, just like a sculptor uses a brush on chunks of clay. With digital sculpting, creature and character sculpting has reached new levels. The modelers can carry out the process much faster and with greater efficiency. The artists can work with high-resolution meshes containing millions of polygons.

  • Modular modeling

    Modular modeling
    3D Modular Modeling

    Keeping modularity in mind is a good idea while creating a 3D asset. While modeling multiple buildings that look similar, we should think about modularity. This is the best practice which can even go far to model different sections of the building and helps in rearranging different ways to create variation.

  • Kitbashing

    Model Bashing Technique

    Kitbashing is used to detail an object made with different types of modeling.

    It is a type of modeling which starts with the objects kit combined into more detailed objects. This technique is commonly used while creating objects with a hard surface and helps explore how different pieces could fit together even before the construction starts. This technique is an excellent way to detail a scene. Three things to be kept in mind while using this technique are the ratio of high, mid, and low-frequency detail.

  • Photogrammetry


    Photogrammetry is completely a different way of creating 3D models using a camera. Photographing an object multiple times from different angles in a perfect lighting condition and then feeding those images into a program interpreting them and generating a 3D object representation. We get real-world data, meaning whatever we create is close to realism. This technique is a relatively new invention that gained a lot of traction. Using drones, we can photograph the whole area and recreate larger structures.

  • Procedural modeling

    Procedural modeling

    Procedural modeling refers to the 3D design process of generating models algorithmically. Unlike other processes, these are not created manually by the artist. In this process, the objects and scenes are developed on the basis of user-defined parameters or rules. In various environment modeling packages, the modelers can create entire landscapes by modifying the parameters like elevation range and foliage density. They can also choose from landscapes such as coastal areas, desert or alpine. These 3D modeling methods are also implemented for creating 3D models for games.

    The procedural modeling technique is extensively used in organic objects such as foliage and trees, where the complexity and variations are more infinite. These models are extremely difficult to draw by hand. These objects can further be tweaked through various editable settings. For instance, you can change the density of branches, height of tree trunks, and curls and angles, as per your needs.

  • Image-based modeling

    Image-based modeling
    Image-based Modeling

    In image-based modeling, 3D objects are derived algorithmically from a set of 2D images that are static in nature. This type of technique is used in cases where the modeler faces budgetary or time restrictions and are not able to develop fully realized 3D images. This is one of the most commonly used techniques in the film industry. Over the years, image-based modeling is increasingly being used in the entertainment industry.

  • Surface modeling

    Surface modeling

    Surface modeling helps in creating a 3D spline. The process involves the incorporation of a 2D spline, and it is different from NURBS. This method is primarily used to generate organic 3D models in films. It offers a good amount of flexibility to the modelers. They can easily create a 3D representation with various requirements, using curves or surfaces.

  • Boolean modeling

    Boolean modeling
    3D Boolean Modeling

    In this 3D modeling technique, the shape of an object is created with the help of two objects. The geometry is either created by combining two objects or cutting out one from the other. It can also be created with negative intersection space. Boolean modeling helps in creating 3D shapes that take time to create with other techniques. For example, bent and circular shapes can be combined with hard-surfaced or square ones to create a new shape. The technique is however not so popular in the entertainment industry.

  • Laser scanning

    Laser scanning
    3D Laser Scanning

    Laser scanning was introduced as a 3D modeling method due to the pronounced advancements of this technology. Here, a laser is used to scan a real life object and measure its geometry for creating a 3D model representation. The process is easy and quick, and it does not require physical touching of the objects to take the exact measurements. Once the measurements are taken, you can develop a digital model with the help of the 3D imaging software. However, you do need to clean up the geometry before you start using it.

  • Related Article : Top Fields to Specialize as a 3D Artist

Evidently, advanced 3D modeling techniques are being used in various industries, and companies are collaborating with reputed service providers for dedicated support. In case you need 3D modeling services, reach out to us with your requirements.

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Sushmita Roy

A seasoned 3D professional with a creative focused, and a knack for diverse 3D designs, software and the technology. She's associated with ThePro3DStudio for long enough to prove her mettle and make every 3D projects successful. When she’s not busy working for a new project, she shares valuable insights from her own experience.