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3D Modeling Career: Jobs, Salary & More

by | Last updated Mar 29, 2024

Want to learn how to build a 3D modeling career?

3D modeling careers are fulfilling and, importantly, filled with a lot of opportunities to be involved in exciting projects.

Today, you’ll learn everything you need to know about 3D modeling careers, including the top jobs and salaries.

Ready to learn? Let’s dive in.


What is a 3D modeling career? 

Animators in 3D modeling bring stories to life by creating and animating characters, props, and backgrounds.

3D modeling careers aren’t just limited to the entertainment industry – modelers can also work in gaming, virtual reality, architecture, product design, advertising, and more.

Many people assume that 3D modeling careers require a formal education.

While it’s true that some animation jobs require a Bachelor’s degree, it’s not always a must.

You can learn in other ways, like online courses, which are a great option. Not only do they save you time and money, but they also often allow you to learn directly from professional animators.

Keep reading to learn about some of the best options for 3D modeling careers!

Top 10 career options in 3D modeling

3D modeling careers offer countless job opportunities – the path you take depends on your interest.

Here are some of the best 3D modeling careers.

3D modeler

Average salary: $75,946

3D modelers use polygons, lines, and edges to build 3D models.

Some responsibilities of a 3D modeler include:

  • Designing and building 3D assets and models according to reference materials
  • Creating UV and texture maps 
  • Adding color, patterns, and materials to models 
  • Submitting models for review and approval, modifying as needed

They work with software like 3ds Max, Maya, Blender, Rhino, SketchUp, and ZBrush. 

3D modelers are artistic, good with technology, able to work with other teams, and have strong time management skills.

Character artist 

Average salary: $72,126 

Also called character designers, character artists use briefs to develop original characters.

They’re responsible for:

  • Developing a character’s personality, look, and style
  • Sketching various character concepts
  • Choosing character colors and textures 
  • Ensuring visual consistency
  • Presenting and revising work as needed

They use Adobe Illustrator, Blender, 3D Studio Max, Maya, Mudbox, Substance Designer, and more.

Character artists need drawing skills and a knowledge of anatomy, dimension, scale, and composition. They’re also strong communicators with good time management skills. 

Environment artist

Average salary: $76,815

Environment artists create a story’s digital landscapes and backgrounds, including organic and hard surface materials.

Their responsibilities include:

  • Creating an environment’s aesthetic and functionality based on a brief
  • Applying textures and materials
  • Using lighting to create atmosphere
  • Optimizing assets and frame rates 

Environment artists work with 3dsMax, Blender, Maya, Substance Painter, Unreal Engine, World Machine, and ZBrush.

To become an environment artist, you should be familiar with the VFX pipeline and understand geography, physics, and components of physical space.

Texture artist

Average salary: $87,154 

Texture artists apply textures such as skin, wood, metal, and fabric to 3D models to make them appear more realistic.

Responsibilities of a texture artist include:

  • Studying real-world materials 
  • Using textures to convey the object’s overall story 
  • Working closely with designers, modelers, lighting artists, and art directors
  • Developing textures, refining as necessary 
  • Maintaining photorealism

Texture artists use graphics software like Adobe After Effects, Illustrator, and Photoshop. They also use 3D modeling software, including 3ds Max, Blender, and Maya.

Texture artists have biological knowledge, experience with textiles, and artistic ability. They also need an eye for detail and strong communication skills.

Look dev artist

Average salary: $81,873 

Also called look development artists, look dev artists are responsible for creating and defining the look of scene elements, including characters, environments, and props.

Their responsibilities include:

  • Creating materials that will be used as references by designers and animators
  • Establishing guidelines and procedures for format and design 
  • Providing variations of designs
  • Creating textures and lighting to enhance the aesthetic

Look dev artists work with software like 3D Studio Max, Cinema 4D, Clarisse, Houdini, Maya, and Keyshot.

They have a background in texture mapping and visual effects, as well as a knowledge of texture, color, dimension, and perspective. 

3D visualization artist

Average salary: $81,113

3D visualization artists turn briefs and references into 3D images. They’re also sometimes responsible for rendering, texturing, and wrapping.

Tasks include:

  • Making planning decisions and ensuring the product reflects the brief
  • Creating static images and animations
  • Rendering final images and fine-tuning appearance in post-production
  • Presenting and explaining their work, adjusting as needed

They work with software like 3D StudioMax, Photoshop, Corona, Revit, and Enscape.

3D visualization artists have creative and technical skills and have time management skills.

3D product designer

Average salary: $65,066

3D product designers create digital prototypes ahead of a product’s real-world creation. 

They’re responsible for:

  • Collaborating with designers to understand the product and audience
  • Building the 3D model and adjusting it based on feedback
  • Texturizing, lighting, and rendering the model
  • Optimizing the model for efficient manufacturing

Software varies by project, but most work with Maya, 3ds Max, Blender, and Rhino.

3D product designers need an understanding of design principles, manufacturing processes, and 3D modeling. They should also be creative thinkers with strong communication and collaboration skills.

Game artist

Average salary: $86,932 

Game artists create 3D art for video games, including characters, environments, and props.

They’re responsible for:

  • Working with designers and developers to create early sketches
  • Building and animating 3D models of each asset
  • Texturizing, lighting, and shading
  • Curating the asset library
  • Ensuring element consistency

Game artists work with several types of software, including Unreal Engine, Maya, Blender, 3D Studio Max, and Houdini.

To be a game artist, you need a working knowledge of gaming art, animation principles, and gaming trends. The job also requires an understanding of anatomy, strong communication skills, and the ability to work under pressure.

Layout artist

Average salary: $66,888 

Layout artists act as directors of photography in a 3D space and determine the scene’s depth and perspective.

Their responsibilities include:

  • Determining each scene’s camera angles, framing, and composition
  • Deciding on character, prop, and scenery placement
  • Working with lighting artists to set the scene tone
  • Collaborating with directors and animators to ensure the scene works in the production 
  • Optimizing camera movement and composition for rendering

Layout artists work with software like Photoshop, Maya, After Effects, and 3ds Max.

You’ll need computer, drawing, and photography skills to be a layout artist. A keen eye for detail, strong communication skills, and the ability to work with other teams are also important.

3D animator

Average salary: $73,596 

A 3D animator career is about adding dynamic and realistic movement to static images in a digital environment.

They’re responsible for:

  • Animating characters, objects, and environments
  • Rigging 3D models 
  • Using motion capture
  • Working with editors, directors, and animators to ensure consistency
  • Discussing animation concepts and best approaches

The most common software for 3D animators includes  Maya, Blender, KeyShot, Houdini, and Adobe After Effects.

3D animators should have past 3D modeling experience and an understanding of anatomy, physics, and visual language. They also need strong communication skills and the ability to meet deadlines. 

Now that we’ve covered the best 3D modeling careers, it’s time to discuss salary, so keep reading!

Is 3D modeling a high-paying job?

Overall, 3D modeling is a high-paying career path.

On average, 3D modeling careers pay $75,946 – but salaries range from $50,000 to $114,000 depending on experience, background, and location. 

Typically, those in Northeastern and Western states and cities have the highest salaries. 

For example, modelers in Nevada, Rhode Island, and Connecticut earn the highest salaries, with an average of $118,359.

Next steps 

There you have it! Everything you need to know about 3D modeling careers. 

If you’re ready to break into the industry, we’ll show you exactly how to do it in our How to Get a Job Intensive.

We’ll also teach you how to build a standout demo reel, which you can download for free here: 


Read more:

Career in Animation: The Ultimate Guide

The Best Online 3D Animation Schools

Types of 3D Animation and 3D Animation Techniques

Jasmine Katatikarn Headshot

About Jasmine Katatikarn

Jasmine Katatikarn is the founder of Academy of Animated Art. She has 20+ years of experience in Feature Animation and VFX. Jasmine’s lighting credits include movies like Ice Age, Ferdinand, Peanuts, and Rio. Read more here.

Jasmine Katatikarn Headshot

About Jasmine Katatikarn

Jasmine Katatikarn is the founder of Academy of Animated Art. She has 20+ years of experience in Feature Animation and VFX. Jasmine’s lighting credits include movies like Ice Age, Ferdinand, Peanuts, and Rio. Read more here.

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