There are a variety of different ways in which you could earn an income by using Blender 3D in some capacity. But the most common method that people try is to create 3D models in Blender and then sell those models on a third-party platform, so how does this work.
You can sell 3D models by exporting them from Blender as either an FBX or an OBJ file format, amongst other options, and then upload them to the marketplace of your choice, such as CgTrader, then filing in the metadata and assigning a price to your model or asset pack, before publishing your listing to the world.
3D models can be used for a variety of different purposes, such as assets for video games, characters for animations, designs for 3D prints, and plans for manufacturing objects.
The Full Process Of Going From Asset Design To Published Listing
You can use Blender exclusively to design and create your 3D models, after all that’s the main purpose of the software. There are certain considerations for what you are planning to create, as the 3D marketplace is extremely competitive with new models submitted every day. Once you have decided what to create then you can go about designing your model.
Let’s take a look at some of these factors before starting with the process of building our assets.
By the way, this is not the only method to make money using Blender, as there are alternatives. Check out our article on the best ways to generate an income using Blender here.
The Three Factors Of Deciding What You Should Create
Factor 1: Creating An Asset Or An Asset Pack
I have said it once and I will say it several more times in this article, selling 3D models is a tough business with a lot of competition. Why? because any business is built around the principle of supply and demand, and with 3D assets, there is more supply right now than there is demand.
As such, potential buyers will need to see value for money in what you are trying to sell. I often see many outstanding models on these marketplaces that don’t make any sales or downloads, because the value is not there.
If you are starting out, consider the potential value of creating an asset pack, which is a group of assets stored in a single file. This creates a much better impression of value for money, and asset packs typically do better than single assets.
Factor 2: What Is The Topic Area Of Your Asset?
You should consider if the assets that you are going to create are going to follow a certain topic, for example, are you going to focus on creating sci-fi spacecraft, or pets such as dogs and cats for your models.
This is important because you will want to identify an area that you can break into to sell your models. Yes, we are all artists who love the creativity that Blender provides, but we need to put our business hat on when we want to start earning from it.
You also want to create models on topics that interest you, because you don’t want to suffer from burnout and lose interest a couple of weeks in. Even though you are creating to sell, you should still be creating to enjoy, and design the assets that you enjoy making.
Factor 3: What Is Your Asset Going To Be Designed For?
If factor two is going to be considered the what you are going to make, then factor three represents the why. Why is a model being created in the 1st place? Is it a video game asset that a game developer will want for their next scene? Or is it a high poly model that can be used for pro-level animations? Or is it even to be used for 3D printing or another purpose.
The purpose of the model plays a key role in exactly how the model is going to be made. A video game asset has different requirements compared to a 3D printable asset. Each reason for creating your model has its own rules, as we need to remember that first and foremost, the model must be able to do what the buyer wants it to do without any issues.
The Design Process Of Your 3D Asset
You have determined what you want to create, why that asset is being created, and if you want variations of that asset (Asset Pack). Now you have to actually design your model in Blender, but before deleting the default cube, think about what the end result is going to look like.
The truth is that we as artists tend to make changes to our models’ design throughout the building process and the end result is often different from the original concept. That does not been we should ignore the benefits of creating concept art for our models, especially when designing characters.
If you have skills at 2D design, then you should 1st consider creating some concept images of your model, using an application such as Photoshop, or even the grease pencil, which is Blender’s own 2D tool kit. This can give you a clear idea as to what you’re trying to create but is not necessarily the final result.
If creating your own concept art is not a skill set that you possess, then try finding reference material on the internet to help guide you. For example, if you are designing a car with rocket wings and a jet engine at the back then you are going to want to search for reference material on both cars and rockets to paint a clear picture of your design goals.
Creating A Base Model
Make no mistake about it, you WILL be making changes to your design even in the final stages, but regardless of if you are creating a single asset or an entire asset pack, you should be looking to create several variations of a design.
A lot of the tools used for modeling are destructive, meaning that the changes made to that model are permanent unless you effectively reverse time on a model using the undo feature (Control + Z by the way a very useful tool!). Any asset that you create will have a general shape to it, such as a character model.
An ideal workflow is to design a base version of that model that follows the general shape of the design, then rename that model as something like ‘low poly base’ and create a duplicate of that model. Then you begin editing the duplicate while keeping the low poly base as is.
This allows you to create variations of your designs much more quickly as you can skip the 1st part of the process and not have to reverse the work done on another model.
What does this look like in practice?
Let’s take our human character model, the low poly base can be a stage one asset, which gives us a low detail base to work with if we want to create a different human character.
We create our second stage asset after we have added the main detail of the body, such as the fingers, toes and the general anatomy. We then create a second asset that we can label as a high poly base since it has more detail.
With this, we can now create variations of the characters key characteristics, for example adding a scar to one designs face or perhaps a change to his/her other facial features.
Then we can look at perhaps creating a third stage asset where all of the details of the character’s body are present, but now we can focus on the clothing of the model.
To summarise we can create base models of our asset at three stages, allowing us to restart at any stage if we want to try something new:
- Stage 1: Low Poly Shape
- Stage 2: High Poly Detail
- Stage 3: Final Characteristics
You will find that following this workflow will result in more objects being created, but as a result, it becomes a much more efficient way of developing your character designs compared to starting from scratch when you think you have messed up.
If you are interested in learning a bit more on the topic of character design, then you can check out our article here.
Choosing Your File Formats For The Export
An easy mistake to make is thinking that you only need to export your model once and then you can upload, but go onto any marketplace that sells 3D assets and you will find that each asset has several different file formats that can be used for the download.
The formats that you choose will depend largely on what your model was built for. If for example, you created a model for 3D printing, then you would look at exporting the model as an OBJ, and an STL file, so that the end-user has the choice of which file type is best suited for them.
Blender is capable of using many different file formats for both importing and exporting 3D objects and even entire scenes. Each format allows you to transfer different types of data, an OBJ file is used to transfer simple mesh data, and store material data in a separate MTL file. while the FBX format can transfer texture, mesh, and animation data all in one file.
If you want to learn more about the different file formats that Blender can use then you can check out our article on the topic here.
Below are the file types that we recommend exporting depending on the use case:
Model For 3D Printing
- Wavefront (.obj, .mtl)
- Stereolithography (.stl)
- PLY (.ply)
- 3MF (.3mf)
Model For Animation
- FBX (.fbx)
- COLLADA (.dae)
Model For Game Design
- FBX (.fbx)
- Wavefront (.obj, .mtl)
- COLLADA (.dae)
Testing The Model In The Target Application
Whenever you export a model from Blender you will be able to control the parameters of what you want to export, such as the general orientation and scale values. If you are designing assets for a video game then you should look to test your assets yourself before uploading them to the internet. As a friend of mine once said, test it until it breaks, then you know how to fix it!
So in the example of the video game asset, I would download a game engine like Unity if I don’t already have it installed, and then I would create a new test project. I would then import my asset pack into my project and test to see if everything was working correctly. If there are any issues, then it’s best that we find them first and not wait for someone who has purchased the asset to find them.
The same process of testing your assets applies to animation and 3D printing as well. You should ideally be able to test your asset in its main use case before you upload it to the marketplace.
Failure to do so can result in poor reviews from clients, which are visible for all to see on a marketplace like CgTrader.
Uploading Your Asset To The Marketplace
So your model is finally ready to be submitted on a reputable 3D marketplace, now you just need to upload it, and you’re done. But which marketplace do you choose? Because there are a lot of them to choose from you want to maximize your earnings.
You can in fact choose all of them, as marketplaces rarely prevent you from selling your artwork on other platforms. After all, it is your work and they are simply providing that platform for you to promote.
However, it’s not quite as simple as that in some cases. Take our example of a video game asset in Unity, will it work in Unreal Engine? The answer is yes but you may run into a few issues because different game engines may require different parameters from the export, although this is mostly limited to the orientation.
For all sites, you will be required to register as a seller on the site and upload your bank details or PayPal account so that you can begin earning.
To ensure high-quality content on their sites, some options like flipped normals also require you to apply for the right to sell on their platform by sending in a portfolio of your work.
Below we have compiled a shortlist of websites where you are able to sell and distribute your assets and whether they are general sites or for specific applications:
|Marketplace||General Or Specific||Free Assets||Paid Assets||Royalty Rate||Referral/Advert Rate|
|UE Marketplace (Unreal)||Specific||Y||Y||88%||N/A|
|BlenderMarket||Specific||N||Y||70%||Up To 95%|
Note that the royalty rate is how much you can typically expect to earn when selling an asset or asset pack, and the remaining percentage goes to the platform.
The referral/advert rate is the percentage of the profit you get when using a site’s referral system or bringing in the traffic yourself.
A few options will include exclusivity rates for models to only be sold on their platform but it is optional if you want to do this.
Should You Sell Your Assets
In this article, we have covered the process for creating an asset and then publishing that asset on the marketplace of your choice. But the overall question still remains, should you sell your assets on these marketplaces?
The short answer is yes, because there are practically no drawbacks to just producing contents that you can place on these marketplaces to generate a profit. However, it should be noted that that all of these marketplaces are extremely competitive. In 2023, and while this may be the most obvious means of creating income using a tool such as Blender, it may also prove to be the most difficult.
So long as you meet the requirements of any given marketplace, it can be very straightforward to upload your assets or asset packs. But selling those assets or asset packs is another story entirely. We recommend that you do not just rely on the marketplace to sell your products.
Instead considering opening marketing channels or doing research on how to market products, for example, you could create your own website, such as a blog that takes visitors to the pages of your 3D assets.
I recently started up a website on 3D printing models from applications like Blender. The website will take you through the entire process of 3D printing from start to finish. My 3D assets are a very handy addition to these articles and I can link the assets into these blog posts so that my visitors can go and purchase my 3D Principle models so that they could then print them in their own home.
Other marketing channels may be social media such as Facebook and Twitter or YouTube. Whichever channel you choose and you can select more than one of them, make sure that you do the appropriate research in how to market in these channels.
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