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7 Essential Settings to Make Your Uploads Look Great

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If you’re just getting started on Sketchfab—or if you’ve been here awhile but haven’t had a chance to explore all the features of the 3D Editor—choosing the right settings when you upload a model can be overwhelming. That’s why we’ve picked out the basics to get you started.

Here they are:

Orientation & pivot

Positioning your model correctly in space will help people easily explore it in Sketchfab’s 3D viewer.

Your model’s orientation can be adjusted in the Scene tab of the 3D viewer. You may be able to just toggle the X, Y, and Z axis buttons to get the model oriented correctly, or you may need to refine your model’s orientation a bit more with advanced rotation. In most instances, you want the bottom of the model to rest on the ground plane (the square, flat grid that appears when you start adjusting the orientation) and the front of the model to be facing the viewer.

Your model’s pivot point can be set—or reset—with a double-click. Give the model below a spin. Notice how it is spinning around a central point and that central point is not at the center of the model volume? A pivot fix is in order! Just double-click on the background (or press the spacebar on desktop) to center the model (or its bounding box, to be exact). Now spin it around again and see how the model is easier to explore.

If you want to center and zoom into different parts of the model (e.g., the butterflies), double-click on them, and the pivot will be adjusted again.

This technique can be used both when you are setting up your model in the 3D Editor and when you are viewing models with misplaced pivots.

When you are happy with your model’s orientation and pivot, click “Save View” in the top left corner of the model pane. This will also save the thumbnail image of your model that appears in galleries and search results.

Lighting

Lighting sets the mood and can really make your model shine.

Lit mode is Sketchfab’s default rendering mode and is appropriate in most cases.

Shadeless mode should be selected for models that have lighting information baked into their textures. For example:

  • 3D scans that have not been processed beyond the base color map
  • Cartoon-style scenes
  • Hand-painted scenes
  • Scenes with baked textures

Background

The background that you choose should complement your model, not detract from it. In most cases, a solid color background will do the trick. You can select your preferred color from the Background dropdown in the Scene panel.

Several default image and HDRI backgrounds are available in the 3D Editor. Members with a Pro subscription and above are able to upload custom backgrounds and environments.

Ground shadow

Ground shadows look great on most models and they help to prevent models from having that “floating in space” look. There are two kinds of ground shadows, so let’s take a quick look at when they’re best used.

Baked Ambient Occlusion (AO) ground shadows work for static (non-animated) models. They’re great for giving the look of an object sitting on the ground or on a table surrounded by ambient light. Baked AO ground shadows can be used with Lit or Shadeless rendering.

Shadow catcher ground shadows work for both static and animated models. These shadows give the impression of being in a space with a directional light (e.g., the sun). The shadow catcher can only be used in Lit rendering mode when there are one or more shadow-enabled lights present.

Post-processing

How to summarize post-processing in 3 words? Less is more. As a starting point we recommend adding these settings to your model:

  • Sharpness: In some cases, you may want to dial sharpness down from the default setting. This setting works especially well for 3D scans.
  • SSAO: Screen Space Ambient Occlusion approximates ambient occlusion in real-time. It calculates how exposed each point of the model is to ambient lighting, and can be used to improve the look of details.
  • Tone Mapping: Adjusting the tone mapping settings will affect both the model and the background. We suggest playing around with the settings until you achieve your desired look.
To see what this model looks like without post-processing filters, press play and then press 1 on your keyboard or select “No Post-Processing” from the Model Inspector

Some settings are expensive in terms of performance. Using these settings will make your model adapt more slowly during navigation—but they do look great. These settings should be used judiciously for best real-time performance:

  • Screen space reflection (SSR)
  • Screen space ambient occlusion (SSAO)
  • Bloom
  • Depth of Field

Annotations

Annotations are an essential tool for drawing attention to important parts of your model or scene. Once you’ve selected the Annotations panel, position your model as you will want it to be seen at a particular annotation and double-click where you want the annotation to appear.

Pro tip: make sure that the camera pivot is correct for each annotation. Determine whether you want the camera to orbit around the scene’s central pivot or the location of the annotation.

You can include images and links in annotations, so you can do things like include a photo of the real-life object or link to another model or a Wikipedia page.

Sketchfab members on a free plan can add up to 5 annotations to a model, while annotation limits on Plus (max. 10), Pro (max. 20), and Premium (max. 50) plans are higher.

VR/AR scale

The VR/AR tools in the editor let you configure how your model will be experienced with a virtual reality device or in augmented reality.

Set the scale. Usually, you can adjust a model’s scale so that the model in the viewer is the same relative size as the object would be in real life. In some cases—very small objects or very big scenes—you may want to adjust the scale so that the model is more easily seen or explored in VR or AR.

Set the floor. Adjust the floor settings so that models can be easily seen or explored in VR or AR. Small objects should hover at eye level, while large objects should rest directly on the floor.

Set the initial viewing position. Double-click the floor grid to reposition the VR avatar and use the rotation widget to make it face the correct direction.

About the author

Abby Crawford

Helping share community stories on Sketchfab.



4 Comments

  • Not Cockatiel Slayer says:

    Hello! I need to know from past experience which is the best free place to 3D model for FBX files

  • Abby Crawford says:

    I’m not sure what you mean.

  • T.Koeniger says:

    Thank you very much for your very helpful article! Many greetings from Hannover (Germany)

  • Abby Crawford says:

    Thanks! And you’re welcome. 🙂

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