Digital sculpting, or 3D sculpting, is a process to design an object using a computer program. The process is similar to forming objects with clay, but everything is digital. Digital sculpting can seem intimidating at first, but you can get comfortable with the process fairly quickly.
In this article, we’ll give you a quick intro to digital sculpting, and some of the real-world applications it has today.
Like the physical sculpting process, digital sculpting is done in multiple layers. You can start with a base model or shape in the 3D modeling software, and sculpt it into a new object. Designers can also start with simple shapes like a cube or sphere and then mold the 3D clay into whatever they want.
Digital sculpting tools allow 3D designers to push, pull, and reshape the geometrical features of the 3D art sculpture with simple controls. You can also add or remove digital material. The design begins to take shape with blocking, or the initial layer where a sculpted object’s foundational shapes and curves are defined. Once the initial shape has been formed, the designer works to add further details.
Texture and material can be changed for a more realistic design. If you were to make a video game character, minor imperfections such as scars or bruises can be added to the character’s skin. And then even smaller textural details like pores can be added on the final layers. Clay sculptors use tools like leaves and cotton to add textures. Similarly, digital brushes and textures are used by digital sculptors to add detail and lifelike feel to the final 3D model.
3D sculpting software allows you to work on projects that weren’t feasible with other 3D modeling programs.
Digital sculpting is used in a variety of industries. Digital sculptures are often used for 3D video game characters and world design, and in movies to create visual effects and life-like 3D animations.
Today, most animated shows and movies use visual effects that are full of 3D sculptures. It’s much easier for designers to use 3D sculpting tools than a 3D modeling program to create their characters, accessories, and their movements from scratch. You can also use digital sculpting to create original artwork, and product design. You can quickly sculpt anything from a 3D tree to a new surfboard fin. Then you can choose to sell your artwork as an NFT, or work with a 3D printer to bring your digital design into the physical world. Scientists use digital sculpting to create realistic visualizations that show details you can’t capture with a camera. That could be designing a model of a prehistoric dinosaur, or creating the pieces of a single cell.
Digital sculpting is also being used to create advertisements, design concept vehicles, and design jewelry. The abilities are only limited to your imagination.
3D modeling and sculpting are similar, but not exactly the same. And most 3D design platforms will include both modeling and sculpting features. To avoid wasting time on your project, you’ll want to determine which one of these 3D techniques you need: digital sculpting or 3D modeling. These are quite similar, but they’re used for different projects. The nature of your design project and end goal will help you determine which one to use.
3D modeling is more useful for working on technical projects, which need a precise toolset, and less intuitive features. For example, you probably wouldn’t use a digital sculpting software to work on a mechanical engineering project, or to design an office building. You can imagine trying to create a building using clay, and it wouldn’t turn out great.
3D models are designed using geometric shapes, vector points, and lines. You can input numbers and measurements into the program to design your project. Objects with sharper angles, like a building design, or a car engine, can be sculpted but it’s usually easier to create them with 3D modeling tools instead.
The process of 3D sculpting has a more natural, organic feel to it. Designers use a brush tool to shape the model’s mesh material. These shaping tools can be adjusted to lighter or heavier pressure points, and to different sizes so you can add subtle details. 3D sculpting should be used for designing organic elements like game characters, plants and trees, or clothing items. With sculpting, the 3D artist can incorporate a significant amount of detailing in the subject’s textural map.
There is definitely an artistic feeling with sculpting software, as they allow you to create free form designs from scratch, work on textures, but also add some digital painting. Organic modeling is more intuitive than traditional 3D modeling software.
The easiest way to get started with digital sculpting is to practice. It’ll take some time to get accustomed to the tools and controls, but we’ve designed Womp to make the learning process fun. Our goal is to make 3D design available to everyone, everywhere.