A lot of us know the feeling of putting our hearts and souls in the detail and presentation of our 3D models. But the truth is not all 3D models will sell. It’s a hard pill to swallow, especially after hours of sacrificed production time. It’s important that we focus on which 3D models will sell and which won’t.

In short, we found that the 3D model categories that sell best are animals, cars, space, science and medical. These include 3D models like dogs, cats, wildlife and insects – racing vehicles, big transport vehicles, emergency and specialty vehicles – scientific models like biological models which includes anatomy, chemistry and microbiological 3D models. These categories are unexplored, unsaturated and on demand.

There are a lot of factors that will influence how well your 3D model will sell. In this article we’re going to give you the tools to recognise these factors within certain markets. By evaluating competition, sales volume and presentation techniques, you will be able to decide for yourself what the best category to pursue is.

The More Volume, The More Competition

It’s common sense to know that the more of something there is, the more competition there will be. If your 3D model reseller of choice is flooded with interior furniture (which it probably is), the more competition there will be in that category. 

I’m not saying avoid high competition categories altogether, I’m saying be prepared for it.  High competition also alludes to high demand. It is still highly possible that you could enter into a high competition category and still win most of the views and downloads. But to do this, you will need to know your client and what they are looking for within that category.

Optimize Your Audience

In general, you will want to make sure that your 3D model is of the best quality in terms of level of detail and of size. That rule will apply to most categories. But a rule that might only apply to the interior furniture category might be the axis it aligns to. Not all 3D programs have the same axis orientation – and if the most popular program for interior furniture visualization is 3Ds Max, then you will want to make sure that you cater for your client. This is only one example of a niche rule. All niches will have their own preferences – and this will be your key to winning is a competitive category.

According to our evaluation, the highest competition 3D categories will be interior and exterior furniture as well as exterior accessories like street or hard surface exterior accessories. This includes chairs, tables, sofas, lighting fixtures as well as street lights, benches, park furniture or industrial accessories. 

Our guess is that most people going to 3D reseller websites are looking for easy 3D assets to include in their game or architectural visualization environments, and this is why these categories are the most competitive. In this category, your clients are architects and game designers who do not want to waste time modeling assets for their games or presentations. Game designers want game ready, light, game ready .FBX models that they can drag and drop into their game engines. Architects might want a medium detailed model with an editable material that they can render in 3Ds max or SketchUp.

It will be important for you to investigate and get in touch with real people who could be your potential clients and to understand their workflow in high competition categories. This will be the only way that you can stand out and win the views and downloads.

According to our evaluation, the categories that we consider low competition would be animals, science, medical, space and watercraft. These categories are low competition because it is somewhat difficult for ordinary 3D modelers to find real word references. This results in most modelers referring to online imagery or consultants to find out how to detail something – and this is particularly true of the medical category. 

These low competition categories are also slightly more time consuming because they require an amount of research in order for accuracy and can take up slightly more time to model because they are more detailed items. But probably the biggest reason why you will not find a lot of 3D modelers delving into these categories is because the market for them isn’t that obvious.

Know Your Client

If you’re up for the challenge and you want to try and understand these low competitive markets, you will need to do some research into these particular clients. You could begin by asking yourself, ‘what type of client might need a model of an animal’, ‘what type of client might need a model of scientific equipment’ or ‘what type of client might want a model of a pirate ship’.

The type of client that might need animals modeled might be game developers who need animals in their environments, animators that are making entertainment films or people working in education that may want to make explainer animations using 3D models.

The type of client who might need scientific equipment modeled might be someone making an educational explainer video that demonstrates how certain procedures take place. Some interesting models have been sold recently that are being used to illustrate how the Covid-19 virus enters and affects the body. Other medical departments can also be explored with 3D model equipment or demonstrations that illustrate how certain operations are done using a 3D platform.

This is the type of thinking that needs to be developed when trying to decipher what 3D models will sell within a certain category. 

The Most Expensive 3D Model Categories

There are essentially two types of 3D artists. The first is the type of artist who will spend days perfecting one, complex and beautifully optimized model. This artist is also known as the quality focused artist. The second artist lives on the thrill of the catalogue, is eager to compile a collection of models – and is known as the quantity focused artist.

This section is going to deal with the most expensive (quality) categories and the cheapest bulk (quantity) categories. There is money in both, and the only mistake that can be made is to confuse the two.

After our investigation, we found that the most expensive 3D modeling categories were characters, science, medical and cars. These models require A LOT of attention, detail and time, which is why they are naturally more expensive than other categories. If you want to delve into any of these categories, you will not do typically well if you produce quick, undetailed and unoptimized models.

Characters in particular require a lot of design work before modeling even takes place. The nature of modeling a character is more precise than that of other types of models, particularly if you are planning to animate (rig) the model – which is the case most of the time. If you enjoy designing and modeling characters you could make a good earning by including mesh optimization and rigging in your models.

The science and medical categories are also great for quality artists. These categories are naturally more expensive because of the research and understanding that needs to be done beforehand. 

Cars have been so successfully rendered in 3D that most car companies and sponsors have made use of computer graphics in their advertisements. Cars can be particularly tricky to perfect, but are very worth it in the end. The cool thing about the car industry is that new designs are always coming out in the market, and people are willing to pay for a good model to include in their games, environments and advertisements.

Indiviual Models vs. Sets

If you are looking at building a helpful bulk catalogue of 3D models, then you probably don’t want to spend all your time making highly detailed models. You will want to build a catalogue that has a bulk and variety of a certain cheap category. The cheapest 3D modeling categories that are good for this type of implementation are furniture, food and household items.

These models are relatively cheap because they are developed in a very saturated market. Most 3D artists know how to model a chair or a table, because these are beginner assets that do not take up a lot of time to model. There is an advantage, though – because like cars, new designs are constantly coming out. 3D artists who want to dedicate themselves to the furniture category will find themselves on a content treadmill, where their old models will become outdated and no longer sell. I can’t really say the same about the cars category, though, because old classics are still used and appreciated today.

It came to a bit of a shock when we found that food was a low cost 3D asset. It’s not a particularly saturated category and it can take a lot of detailing and deformers to make a good looking food model. We have come to the conclusion that food is a cheap category because there just simply isn’t a demand for it. Food photography and post editing is probably more successful than 3D modeling and rendering at this point. And where it is being used in 3D is purely for decorative purposes. But, this isn’t to say that there is no demand for food items at all. Imagine you are an interior designer who is looking to add a sense of realism to their environment, you are not personally going to model your own food and drink items to your environment. Instead, you’re going to look for light and easy 3D food models that are quick and easy to download.

In this type of decorative situation, it is also not likely that you will just download a croissant. Chances are that you will want to add variation with other food types like grapes, cheeses or other garnishing elements. It is for this reason that we recommend selling food packages instead of single food 3D models. Packages give an indication to your client that there will be variety and that the models themselves will be light and clone-able.

Other household items include kitchen and electronic accessories. These are quick, low detailed assets like spatulas, plates, bowls, remotes, books and wall art. Again – these are considered to be decorative elements and will sell best in package formats. Electronic accessories are usually hard surface models, which makes them quick and easy to create. Quick and easy to create models will naturally have a higher competition value, but you can stand out from the rest if you bake in your normals and UVs.

Which 3D Models Sell Most Often

In this section we’re going to look at which 3D categories sell most often. This will give an indication of the demand of certain categories and will also give us an idea of who makes up the majority of the 3D selling market.

According to our evaluation, the 3D categories that sell most often are cars, characters and exterior elements. Right off the bat, we can see that the majority of the clientele are interested in creating city-scapes and the minority are concerned with decorating interior environments. Both need 3D characters to populate their environments.

Cars do extremely well in the 3D model market. The level of detail will obviously depend on where and how the car is being used in the environment – which means that if you are a 3D modeler it might benefit you to include both low detail and high detailed versions of your work.

Character modeling is very specialised and takes a while to perfect. But this category is definitely worthwhile when it comes to volume of sales. Characters are used to populate urban environments and they are also used as subjects in games. If you are interested in modeling characters, you will also need to know the basics of skeletal animation and what it means to rig a character. If you plan on rigging a character 3D model, you will need to optimize your mesh for the rigging process. If you aren’t rigging your models, it is likely that they wont be considered by the potential clientele. Unless of course you create a variety package of 3D character models that can be used for still renders.

Exterior facades and building packs have become really popular recently. There are some really popular 3D asset building packages out there that help game designers make quick, beautiful and easy cityscapes for their games. If you’re an aspiring facade artist, we recommend you develop your own style beforehand that might stand out from the rest. 

The 3D model categories we found that sell the least are food, furniture sets, household and interior details. Food, as we have discussed before, has a very low demand. Furniture sets have a slightly higher demand but are completely overshadowed by the saturated market. Other household items and interior details make up the minority of the clientele buying 3D models.

Unless you are able to niche down further and really stand out in these categories, you should probably avoid them altogether. An example of ‘niching down’ in a furniture set category would be to create a ‘post-apocalyptic’ furniture set, or a furniture set that represents a particular brand or style. Generic furniture sets will most likely get overlooked and ignored.

Best Value For Effort

In conclusion of the above, we want to outline the best and the worst over-all categories that we have researched.

The best value for effort categories to embrace would be animals, cars, space, science and medical. These categories and unexplored, unsaturated and on demand.

The worst categories overall and the categories we recommend you stay away from would be interior details, furniture and household items. Unless, of course, you are able to identify an on-demand niche market within these categories and create the best possible work out there amongst other 3D designers.

Techniques For All Categories

Now, whether you’re taking any of our above recommendations or not – this section will help you sell your 3D models no matter what category.

If you’re uploading the very same 3D model as someone else, there are techniques that you can use to out-rank them in sales. These include:

  • Uploading 20 or more rendered, wireframe and white model renders of the 3D model.
  • Uploading various 3D formats like .FBX, .DAE, .3ds, .blend, ect.
  • Giving your models fun and intricate descriptions of about 1000 characters in length.
Leah van der Walt

Leah van der Walt

Leah is a 3D Artist & VR / AR Developer with 8 years of experience. Based in South Africa, she is a passionate teacher and loves to listen to drum and bass in her spare time.

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