3D Modeling & Rendering for Beginners

Posted on 04. Feb, 2010 by in Articles

Hi everyone, my name is Zoltán Mányi and I’m a freelancer in 3d modeling. Digital Art Secrets team asked me to write an article about 3d modeling and rendering for those who want to get into it.

I gladly took the opportunity so here it is.

What is 3d modeling?

As the years passed 3d evolved a lot. Nowadays you can do almost anything with it. 3d is widely used in movies, games, illustrations and even in commercials. Paintings or drawings show the subject from only one angle with the use of light and colors but in 3d modeling you have to make a model from all angles. That’s why 3d modeling is rather similar to sculpting. 3d is also close to photography because you set the lighting and camera a similar way.

Creating and adjusting objects in 3d

Every 3d program includes simple figures, like sphere or cube. Most models are based on them. As I mentioned 3d is like sculpting: you start with larger shapes first and then move to the smaller, more detailed ones.
The most frequently used modeling techniques:
Primitive modeling or box modeling: As the name suggests you start with a cube or any other simple figure then shape it by expanding it and taking from it to create the final model.
Polymodeling: A 3d model consists of vertices and polygons. Starting with one polygon and extruding the edges and moving the vertices we make more and more polygons until the model is ready.
Box modeling and polymodeling are the most frequently used modeling techniques.
Spline modeling: You draw a 2d shape from lines then convert it to polygons and extrude it to make a 3d shape.
Digital sculpting: This is a rather new technique which is used by more and more people nowadays. This method is very close to traditional sculpting. Programs like Zbrush and Mudbox imitate the work with real clay.


There are a lot of 3d softwares and all of them have their own advantages. It’s good to try some of them and decide which one is the most understandable and suits you best. You can download the trial version from each software’s website. I think it’s up to you which software you choose because you can get the same result with almost any of them, only the process is different.
The most frequently used 3d packages are:
3d studio max


Softimage (Xsi)

Cinema 4d

Blender is a free 3d package

All of these programs work in a similar way. If you learn one of them you can learn another one easier.

Rendering engines

When you’re ready with your 3d model or scene, you have to render it. The softwares for that purpose are called rendering engines. These programs calculate your image with a procedure called raytracing.
You have to set the material properties for the objects in your scene. For example how much that material reflects of the environment or how much light it absorbs, how much light passes through it. How does its surface look like? Is it wet or dry and so on. You have to set up the lighting too. You have to decide what kind of light sources you want in your scene. There are a lot of light sources from as complex as the sun to a simple light bulb. You should set up what kind of shadows you want from these lights, how hard or soft you want their shadows to be. If you want to create a realistic image you have to study your environment, the lights and materials so you can reproduce them in 3d. These days we have a simpler work because we can let the render engine calculate indirect lights.
The speed and complexity of the render engines differ but they work on a similar principle. The most difficult part of rendering is that you have to render the image every time if you make a change to see those changes take effect. This can be time consuming. That is why real-time rendering engines are being developed now. These engines do not use the processor but the graphics card to calculate the image so you can see your changes real time.

There are a lot of rendering engines, these are the most common ones:

Mental Ray (This one is integrated in newer 3dsmax and Maya versions)


Renderman (This one is developed by Pixar and used in a lot of movies)

Maxwell render


Personal experiences

I use 3d studio max and Zbrush for modeling and Vray for rendering. These are the most easy to use for me and I learned to use them efficiently. I think in 3d modeling it’s important to plan your work, that is to know what you want to do before you begin modeling. In Zbrush you can model without planning and it’s great but if you want to make a more complicated piece I think it’s better to think ahead.
When I have an idea first I draw it then I collect references from the web  searching for anything that might help me with new ideas and to make my ideas more specific. After that, I build my models with 3dsmax and Zbrush. Then I set up the lighting, materials and render the image in Vray. I usually create still images not animations. After the render is ready I work a lot on my image in Photoshop to make the best out of it. Photoshop can really make a big difference.

At first, creating a 3d image can look complicated but it helps a lot if you study your environment even if your goal is not realism. Look at your favorite movies from a different point of view. Where does the light come from and how were the cameras set up. If you’re creating characters study anatomy, and if you want really realistic images study photography.
3d programs are complicated, there is a lot to learn about them. It can be overwhelming at first but there are several tutorials on the internet or tutorial DVDs that can help you get you started. I hope this article helped you.
If you have any questions, please leave a comment.

For more information, please visit:

DeviantArt Site: http://k0c0s.deviantart.com/


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2 comments on “3D Modeling & Rendering for Beginners

  1. thanks
    your works quite badass and have their own personal magnetism! you helped a lot for me
    thank you again and KEEP DOIN’!!!

  2. 3D Animation on said:

    A drawing is like a dance between you and your tools you use to draw. I think it’s alot like music obviously. lol Been drawing since I was young, giving my first drawing to a elementary crush. :-) To this day I get that bug to draw and I’m always looking for new inventive ways to express art.

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