What is 3D Digital Sculpting ?

3D sculpting is the process of designing 3D objects by expert artists on the canvas offered by advanced software.

The digitized sculpture is developed over a base model or right from start with a palette of textures and shapes that resemble real life clay and rocky compositions. The basic art sculpture 3D model is polished and refined with brushes and various software tools that allow tweaking and shaping the shape in desired manner.

Real clay’s appearance is pulled off using intricate polygon meshes which are created using complex mathematical calculations in the background. Like a conventional sculptor, the designer embarks with rough assemblage of meshes and gradually fine tunes the shape with more detailing through increase in the count of polygons.

A successful computer sculpting project can be completed with a matter of minutes or may consume significant time based on the complexity levels and artist’s skill repertoire.

The Process of Digital Sculpting

Let us understand it this way! The Digital Sculpting process is also carved with different layers. The first two steps involve the carving of a 3D sculpture. It starts with the cube and it can be customized based on the needs.

There are many sculpting tools that are available depending on the geometry shapes that you need. The shaping process includes push, pull and deformation concepts. You can also make use of the additional geometry for additional details.

Related article : How Is 3D Modeling Different From 3D Sculpting?

What is Digital Sculpting Used for?

Nowadays, most television shows and movies use mesmerizing visual effects that are full of 3D sculptures in static or animated modes. In various creative pursuits, digital sculpting is needed.

Concept designs are reworked into 3D sculptured forms during the conception stage. Through this, the direct makes out how the character would behave and finalizes the final appearance and looks. After concept finalization, the digital artist gets down to add more details to the sculpting model. Through realistic incorporation of details, captivating characters and ambiences resembling the real world are depicted. After the model is done with, texture is applied to the sculpture and rendering is done.

The digitally sculpted creatures that don’t appear artificial are incorporate in engaging games often. However, before rendering of the characters for the games, the polygon count is reduced to ensure that the characters load optimally fast while the game is in progression. It also reduces the overall size of the game package.

Texture map is highly useful from the perspective of game designers. Through this, the designer can reduce the polygon numbers in the sculpted character without compromising on the level of detailing.

Best 3D Sculpting Software

  • Meshmixer


    User-friendly and more challenging 3d model sculpting software developed by Autodesk. Meshmixer has numerous 3D sculpting tools combined with dynamic remeshing infrastructure. This digital sculpting software helps create highly detailed surfaces with lower polycounts. Recommended for beginners in 3D modeling, designers, 3D hobbyists, and anyone starting their design career.

  • ZBrush


    ZBrush is one of the most popular and influential 3D sculpting applications suitable for creating 3D models developed by Pixologic, an American Company. It combines 3D modeling, painting, and texturing. This software uses 3D pixel technology, which is similar to sculpture, and each pixel is called "pixels". It contains in-depth information related to orientation, color value, and material. ZBrush is the most user-friendly software for texturing and modeling. For everyone from art enthusiasts to film and games studios it offers the world's most advanced tools. This 3D sculpting software has many complex features and tools with utmost customization capabilities for everything from sculpting to rendering. ZBrush is the professional and most recommended 3D model Sculpting software.

  • Blender


    Blender of the free and open-source 3D modeling software developed by Blender Foundation. As the name suggests, Blender software is suitable for providing 3D modeling, animation, compositing, motion tracking, simulation, and game creation. This sculpting software is advanced and yet is ideal for beginners. Users enjoy creation and sculpting without thinking about the underlying mesh due to the continuous upgrades of the software.

  • Mudbox


    Mudbox is software for 3D sculpting acquired by Autodesk. Popularly known for providing high-resolution digital sculpting, displacement, and texture painting. Starting as a polygon mesh, models created with Mudbox can be manipulated with various tools. This software uses a more traditional approach and uses layers to store detailed passes, to add and blend the masks on the layers. Users can sculpt and mold their 3D models without making permanent changes.

  • Sculptris


    Sculptris is another 3D model sculpting software developed by Pixologic. Easy and user-friendly tools for the beginner. Sculptris and ZBrush are connected. The skills which you learn using Sculptris can be further upgraded with ZBrush. Sculptris gives us the advantage of easy importing.

  • 3D-coat


    Pilgway has brought an excellent 3D digital Sculpting tool 3D-Coat, which is designed to help create hard-surfaced, free-form organic models from scratch. The central feature included in this software is that it uses 3D pixels, also called voxels, helping in efficiently sculpting the design digitally. The 3D-coat provides easy and varied tools for texturing and retopology. It can create user-friendly and fast UV maps.

  • Maya


    Another 3D sculpting software comes from Autodesk. Maya software can produce modeling, animation, simulation, and rendering to help artists work faster with enhancements to workflows. Due to the latest updates, users can sculpt virtual 3D surfaces like sculpt natural 3D objects from clay. Polygons are used to construct the virtual 3D surfaces. It's recommended to use a graphics tablet and take advantage of Maya's sculpting features. Maya is one of the leading industry 3D animation packages and has won several awards with a huge user base.

  • SelfCad


    Selfcad is a 3D modeling software launched recently that offers diverse designing tools suitable for activities like slicing, 3D drawing and sculpting. It is a CAD software package that includes all the tools required for a designer's toolbox. The sculpting of SelfCad empowers creativity using gestures and helps your ideas to get desired shapes. This software is easily accessible, and you can use it online without downloading.

    Bonus Read: Top 3D Modeling Programs You Must Know in 2022 (Free & Paid)

These were a few popular 3D model sculpting software programs to help users focus more on precision and bring different organic shapes to life. Get going with this powerful software and determine the best for your design requirements.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

3D modeling focuses mainly on the vertices, edges, and polygon mesh. It is a process of building hard surfaces by subsequently adding polygons, which are tiny geometrical pieces.

Whereas 3D sculpting is the process of manipulating the polygon mesh of an item likes an actual sculptor. For a 3D sculpting artist, the polygon mesh is a digitized version of real-life clay.


The two techniques for creating highly organic and realistic 3D sculptures are:

Mesh-based geometry - This is created by an interconnected surface mesh made of polygons. These polygons are easy to push, pull, grab, or pinch. This technique makes editing at different levels of detail possible. A digital sculptor can add smaller polygons to fine details and larger polygons to other details.

Voxel-based geometry - This technique has no polygons; volume is the primary element in a voxel-based 3D sculpting technique. In this technique, materials can be added or removed, allowing complete freedom to the 3D sculptor.

3D sculpting, also known as “digital sculpting”, is the process by which a 3D sculpting artist sculpts a 3D object with material or polygon mesh, similar to digitized clay. The 3D sculpting process is a multi-layer process that happens over specialized sculpting software.

It involves the artist to pinch and pull the digital clay to give realistic shapes to the model, just like a real-life sculptor does with actual clay.

3D sculpting involves many layers in its process, similar to traditional clay sculpting. The initial starting point for a first-time 3D sculptor would be a simple 3D model or a basic shape, for example, a sphere or a cube. Gradually more details need to be added, increasing the poly counts as required.

Considering popular opinion, it can be said that ZBrush is the leading and most powerful digital sculpting program that professional 3D sculptors use. Owing to the huge array of advanced tools it has and the creative freedom it offers, ZBrush is undoubtedly perfect for experts and intermediates alike.

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Sushmita Roy   linkedin   instagram   twitter

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.