If you like playing video games, then you're familiar with 3D graphics and 3D modeling. Three-dimensional (3D) modeling takes images, ideas and design and brings them to life using 3D modeling software. You can find 3D modeling and 3D graphic design in movies, gaming, architecture, design innovation, science, engineering, concept designs, concept art, exterior rendering and more. When you hire someone to help you with 3D graphic design services, the 3D artist can use specialized software to create 3D renderings of plans for buildings, rooms, landscapes and yet-to-be created products. These renderings are two-dimensional (2D) renderings of a 3D design so you can have a better understanding of the final product. Final high-quality 3D designs are photorealistic renderings that can be in the form of illustrations or videos.
These designs offer much more than simple 2D plans or drawings can show. If you need an actual prototype of the item in question that you can hold, showcase or test, you can hire a 3D artist to make you a 3D model of that item. Using special software, 3D designers build technical files using mathematical equations that can then be "printed" on a 3D printer. A 3D printer uses additive manufacturing to create three-dimensional items using digital files created by your graphic artist. You can request 3D models made of a range of materials, including food, metal, plastic, ceramics, paper and much more..
Contractors or real estate developers can use 3D modeling to show potential buyers or owners what a building project will look like when complete. Clients can visually "walk through" a future home or building to see how the architecture will look. If the real estate client doesn't like how something looks, you can tweak outcomes digitally to create the perfect design before ever breaking ground. You can even incorporate images of furniture, decor, landscaping and outdoor areas into your 3D design so the interior and exterior spaces look real. If you are building your dream home or finding investors for a real estate deal, 3D renderings that allow you and others to see the outcome can help you generate interest and sales.
In the design and innovation world, inventors use 3D design services to create sample 3D prototypes of their final product. This allows potential investors, target customers and your design team to see how the item moves and works in practice. Building a 3D model can save you a great deal of money by allowing you to test and experiment before beginning production on a new product.
The type of 3D modeling you need — architectural, product, mechanical or graphic animation — can affect the total cost of your project. If you want to print a 3D model of your design, the cost of 3D printing will increase your project cost. The most significant cost factor is how much time a 3D designer estimates that your project will take. The nationwide average hourly rate for 3D designers ranges between $25 and $55, although rates can be higher for more skilled and experienced designers. The complexity of your design will affect the cost, as will the designer's experience, training and education. Most 3D design projects take at least half a day. Flat project fees can start around $300 and go up to $2,000 or more, especially if you require multiple revisions. To be cost-efficient with the 3D modeling and design process, frame as clear an idea of what you want the outcome to be as you can before you hire the professional. Making multiple changes to incorporate new ideas as you go will result in a longer process and a higher total project cost. If you need your 3D designer to have any specialized industry knowledge, be it science, construction or otherwise, there may be a higher cost for their services.
If you're ready to bring your vision to 3D life, here are the factors that can affect the average cost of 3D modeling.
3D architectural design renderings can bring a 2D overhead floor plan or blueprint to life for an engineer or contractor. These designs often reveal issues that would not otherwise become apparent until after physical construction begins, such as challenges with coordinating fixtures and finishes, or ensuring that certain windows in your new or remodeled home don't look straight into those of your neighbors. 3D architectural design renderings are also incredibly helpful for home remodels. If you are remodeling your kitchen, for example, and intend to change the footprint, a 3D rendering will allow you to walk through the space and experience what it will look like before any of the workers even arrive on on-site. Many home remodels increase in price because of change orders that happen after construction has already begun. You can save thousands of dollars in materials and crew labor by using a 3D rendering as well as a 2D blueprint to visually experience what a new footprint will be like, rather than having the construction crew rip out and change work they've begun. If the contractor you're working with on a home remodel or new construction project doesn't offer 3D renderings, you can outsource the work to a 3D graphic artist yourself. 3D modeling of the blueprints of a one-room home remodel may range between $300 and $600, or more, depending on the 3D designer and if a detailed model or more simple renderings are required.
Schram Designs specializes in architectural design. Owner Jason Schram was a contractor for more than 25 years before he started his 3D modeling business. He typically bids projects at a flat fee starting at an average of $450, creating a scope of work that lists what his work will include as well as what he needs from clients. Schram can add fly-through or fly-over animations to provide the experience of moving through or over a 3D interior or landscape design, which gives the client a better spatial understanding of what the design will look and feel like once it has been built. There is an added cost for fly-through or fly-over animations, which can vary by firm. For Schram Designs, these add-on features start at $300. Schram's hourly rate averages about $45. Hourly rates can vary based on complexity and project scope. Schram explains that all projects differ in terms of detail and time required. Here are example cost averages from Schram Designs for 3D architectural and landscape design:
- Standard size kitchen: $450-$650
- Front or backyard landscape: $650 and up
Product and mechanical or industrial design
Inventors and companies that manufacture and sell mechanized products often need the help of 3D designers to create renderings of their inventions and products to demonstrate how they work or to market them to customers and investors. The 3D model designs can also serve as instructions for how to build the prototypes manually or with a 3D printer.
CAD Design Help owner Scott Tarcy primarily works with inventors and manufacturing clients. The services that CAD Design Help offers to individual or corporate clients include product design in 2D and 3D, 3D printing services, product manual images, photorealistic renderings, file format conversions, reverse engineering, technical drawings, shop drawings for construction, architectural drawings, patent drawings, solidworks services, and AutoCAD services. A client may hire CAD Design Help to model a manufacturing part, then have Tarcy print a 3D prototype. For design work on each project, Tarcy creates an estimate based on his hourly rate of $50. A full day of his time on a project runs $400-$500, not including 3D printing costs.
Graphic animation design
Graphic animation is a valuable resource for small business owners, inventors, fashion designers and more. Well-designed graphic animation can help gain you brand recognition and market your products or concepts on social media. 3D (and 2D) animations can be used for a variety of projects, such as how-to videos for consumer products, product overviews and promotional animations. Nonprofits can create a simple "what we do" graphic animation video to capture potential donors' attention and tell the organization's story. For a startup making sustainable yoga pants, a short graphic animation video can showcase where your materials are sourced and your company's chemical-free production process without having to film expensive footage. The uses for graphic animation design are limitless.
Pruitt Digital specializes in 2D and 3D illustration and animation but can handle almost any kind of project. Owner Joey Pruitt specializes in creating technical, informational, instructional, procedural and product illustrations for clients in entertainment, engineering, publishing and marketing. He generally doesn't take on projects for less than $1,000, but costs vary widely, depending on how much time is required to complete a job, how much information clients can provide upfront, and how quickly clients' ideas can be turned into finished illustrations or animations. CAD Design Help also does 3D animations.
3D designers may have a set hourly rate for their design services, regardless of project type. For example, 2d3d4d5d in San Francisco, California, charges a flat rate of $40 per hour, although for larger projects, clients can negotiate a lump sum. 2d3d4d5d offers a range of 2D and 3D CAD services. The company is also able to composite 3D renderings into photographs that clients can use to envision future home remodels, room makeovers, architectural projects and more. Typical clients of 2d3d4d5d include homeowners, architects, general contractors and interior designers.
Thinking through your project before contacting the 3D pro will save you time, and will definitely save you money. Even an artist who's a genius with 3D modeling software isn't a mind reader. You may think your verbal description is solid gold, but without precise directions that include materials, measurements and angles, you will likely have multiple rounds of back and forth with the designer until they produce what you need. For architectural projects, you should provide plans or blueprints. For landscape projects, you should share sample photos that show how you envision the design, with exact distances and measurements when possible. For 3D prototypes and product design, you need rough sketches, a clear written description of how the product functions, and details about size and materials. The more information you can provide, the better. Pruitt Digital requests an accurate description, all reference materials and any files you are able to provide.
How to hire a 3D designer
If you're ready to hire a 3D designer, look for a designer who is skilled at the type of 3D modeling you need. Look for a professional who has experience collaborating on 3D modeling within your industry — whether that be manufacturing, interior design, real estate, product innovation or biomedicine. For larger projects, it's common for 3D modeling pros to ask for a deposit upfront.
As a client, you should be sure to take steps to protect your groundbreaking new ideas. Consider asking your designer to sign a written contract that includes protection of intellectual property rights, as well as a non-disclosure agreement (NDAs) so that your brilliant idea doesn't get replicated. Experts also recommend that you ask for all the source files made during the creation of your 3D model, not just the final deliverable files. When interviewing a prospective designer, it can be more efficient to share visual examples that help the designer get a sense of what your final 3D design should look like than to just describe your project with words. 3D design services are not cheap, says Schram of Schram Designs, but they can help you save money on new construction and remodeling projects in the long run.
- Read client reviews and follow up with references to make sure you're choosing the right pro for your project. For more, check out our tips for smart hiring.