Hi there, my name is Ettienne Vorster and I’m an experienced 3D artist/generalist based in South Africa. Like most artists I’m completely self taught, and while I am now using Blender as my main 3D application, my 3D design career started almost 18 years ago on the original GMax. I jumped between several 3D Applications in the first few years, and eventually stumbled upon Blender 2.48 in a local car magazine’s virtual rides section, that featured Blender, showing off that it could make video games among other things.
I’ve always found 3D art/design quite fascinating, and while video games were one of the main inspirations for me to start working as a 3D artist, that passion has only grown; so has the inspiration and need for better tools and to make a broader variety of 3D art in general, that cover not just video games, but a multitude of mediums and areas.
Since then I’ve shifted my focus more towards high quality high polygon models that are meant for high-end rendering. However, with the recent appearance of real-time rendering, high quality/high poly models might become an even more accessible model type in the future.
About my work
Being a hard surface modeler and a sci-fi fanatic, most of my work revolves around some kind of futuristic concept mixed with the realism of reality and a dash of fantasy in between. Whether still renders or 360 degree models, I always try to find a balance between practicality, realism and fantasy while maintaining a high quality standard.
When a fantasy concept meets the real-world in such a way where they start to look like something that can actually be possible in the real-world, without going outside of its original design too much, that is when it becomes even more interesting to look at and even more rewarding to make as an artist. It is an ever flowing challenge, and challenge is always good.
In this particular instance, vehicles, weapons, environments and mechanical characters tend to be my main area for this. While I do a lot of modeling I also do several other types of work as well, such as level design, and game modding, both of which work in harmony with my art and skills as a 3D artist.
When and why I started selling models
Over the past decade I have done a lot of freelance work for a lot of clients all across the world, and as much as I loved doing it, selling 3D models is a wonderful way to get that bit of extra reliable income. Selling models is a concept that had crossed my mind several times in the past, and since I do make a lot of 3D models, it became rather clear that selling models would be the next step. However since there weren’t any websites that could allow one to view 3D models in full 3D glory without sharing the source files, I held off on the idea until Sketchfab arrived.
I decided to start selling 3D models for several reasons. While the freelance work was great, selling 3D models gives me a little bit more creative freedom to decide what I want to model next and is a constant source of income. Since I love doing modeling, making a bit of extra money from my passion is always a benefit.
The other reason for selling models is rather simple. Most of the freelance work I have done over the years was for clients overseas, and not much of my freelance work was done locally, mostly due to the lack of work locally for folks like me, so selling 3D models was the next step in my career. It allowed me to work with a much larger client base than what was available locally, and opened up the possibility of getting more work from all over the world.
I have been selling 3D models for the past decade, as the freelance work I’ve done revolved around modeling work for clients covering a wide variety of subjects. Now however, with the addition of having a store to sell my models from, I can decide what I want to sell next.
Balancing artistic / paid work
Finding a balance between artistic and paid work can sometimes be a bit tricky to do. Something I always try to keep in mind is that, while I love what I do, as artists, we tend to be very susceptible to burning out. In this case time management is equally as important. When I do a lot of paid work, it generally revolves around pre-concepts that are brought to me by the client to make, whereas the artistic work tends to be a lot more focused on making the concepts myself and then creating the final product, which can at times take a lot out of my creative drive to do.
So when I am doing paid work, I tend to lower the amount of artistic work I do, as a means to balance my well-being and to avoid burning out. It is something a lot of artists have experienced over the years; few artists know how to prevent burnout or overcome it when it happens, but being aware of how to balance your paid work with artistic work is crucial to keeping your creative flow healthy, and your own well-being healthy as an artist while still staying active in the industry.
Deciding which assets to make for the store
As great as it is to have a store of my own to sell my 3D models, there are several things I try to keep in mind when choosing the next type of model to sell. Generally speaking, for artist-run-stores (rather studio-run-stores), it is a good idea to vary your work, when starting out you have to test the waters before you can really jump into selling.
Selling 3D models is an ever changing tide, meaning that variety is the spice of life as everyday new projects arise, and consumers need models. Deciding what to model next becomes that much easier to do the longer I do it while keeping the following aspects in mind, but it still requires some thought and a bit of common sense.
- What have I done that is available on my store.
- What model subject have I made the week before, for my store. (To avoid repeating the same model subject/theme/type two weeks in a row)
- Where is there a potential need for assets on the market place, that may have a lack of specific assets.
Every week I try to touch a different subject, a different concept and product type. Vehicles, environment assets, weapons, characters, items, etc. Each of these categories also have several subtypes in them (e.g., cars, starships, motorcycles) that can be varied too.
Having variety does two things in turn: it provides potential buyers with several different options to choose from in terms of product ranges, and it allows me as the artist to be a lot more creative long term as I cycle ideas and content.
Where my work has been used
I only recently started selling 3D models from a fixed point store. The freelance work I have done has been used in several places, such as the local SA Quake clan, ZFG’s intro video, or the vehicle models I’ve made for a variety of clients, and the work I’ve done for film in the past.
There are several aspects I take into account when deciding on a model price. These aspects tend to be the main guidelines for settling on a price that can be justified by the product.
- Model Quality (high poly, low poly, and how clean the model is)
- Texture quality (High quality, realistic or simplistic)
- Animations (Are animations included, if so, how many, and how good do they look?)
- Additional Extras (These include, additional file formats, such as, .dae, .3ds, .fbx, .stl, customization files to aid the client in getting the model to fit their project’s needs and be as versatile as possible)
- Time it took to make said product (From start to finish)
- What is the market generally pricing similar models at?
The above guides help me to justify the price for a product as the price is directly based upon these aspects, and makes the price meaningful to clients and the store itself. While we don’t charge directly per hour for the process/time it took to make the product, it is still an important aspect to take into account. Generally your buyers would buy with those very concepts in mind, and pricing your models according to that will ensure that the product quality and the price tag is justified.
Promoting my work
Promoting work is a crucial step to being successful in any capacity, and this is especially true in the case of the store. I am currently connected on multiple platforms, social media and artist websites, and these provide great places to promote the newly released models.
When I’m in the final pre-publication stages of preparing the model on Sketchfab, I make a little promotional image of the model that I then use to share the model with a link to either the full store or the product itself, making use of a short and to the point description.
All of the available models on my store have their own promotional images that can be found on several websites, all of which are direct previews from Sketchfab; this is in keeping with the concept of “What you see, is what you get”. This also works in conjunction with the models’ annotations.
On social media I also share the pre-rendered versions of the products before they become available on the store. While these are pre-rendered, I try to match the preview with the actual models on Sketchfab so that potential buyers can also see what is coming for the following week. Knowing what will be available soon also helps in promoting the products by themselves prior to their official release on the store.
Setting up products on Sketchfab
Aside from the essential steps provided here by the wonderful folks of Sketchfab, there are several things I do prior to setting up the products here on Sketchfab. When selling models on the store, you sell yourself, present yourself, and the image or product you present is a direct image of you as the artist/company that is selling it and what standard you’d settle for, so to me it is crucial to present the models in the best way possible to reflect quality.
When preparing the products for Sketchfab I make use of Blender EEVEE, Blender’s real-time PBR render engine. This gives me a good idea of what it will look like on Sketchfab before I upload it. In this phase I can see what would make the product look good for presentation and what would keep the focus mainly on the product and quality while quickly and easily being able to alter the model until it is to a standard I’m satisfied with, before uploading it to Sketchfab.
Once on Sketchfab there are several things I do to make the products as presentable as possible.
1) Naming conventions
I’m one for order, and naming products accordingly is a crucial step to keeping things in order, and to keep track of what is going on at all times in my store. In addition this also makes it clear which products are part of the same store in case clients browse the Sketchfab marketplace. Simplistic names, but descriptive of the product.
Finding the best view of the model is crucial, but keeping your products consistent is just as important, especially when the products I sell can be bought individually or as part of a pack. Keeping the 3D views similar and the overall visual appearances of the models consistent with each other helps buyers know which models are part of a pack in case clients find the individual models first before they find the actual pack.
The Sketchfab annotations system can be used as a means to focus on the essential parts of the products, which also helps present the models to a potential buyer in a much more convenient manner. For example, my models use quality 4096 pixel textures, and I have annotations that specifically highlight this specific aspect. For each selling point I create an annotation, which changes the view to add more emphasis to that particular feature of the model.
Why choose Sketchfab
This is a question I get asked quite a bit since I’ve been on Sketchfab, and the answer is quite simple. Looking at every other store and website out there for selling models or, for that matter, sharing models, Sketchfab provides a unique and extremely helpful tool to both buyers and sellers/artists.
“Like YouTube, but for 3D Artists.”
It allows for a full interactive real-time inspection of a product before you purchase it. With images it is easy to make them look better than what the product actually is, and we see that all too often with products across multiple industries these days. Whereas with Sketchfab, nothing can be hidden from sight, everything is shown in its true form, and this is an essential part of selling products that are full 3D digital work, and separates quality products from others.
In addition, it is not overly complex, not a hassle to set up, and a breeze to use, both for buyers and sellers, and the company provides wonderful support. Since Sketchfab’s launch, the folks of Sketchfab have been super supportive and helpful, and as a seller, having reliable support is an extremely important part of making a business successful.
Good opportunities for new assets
Approaching the 3D seller market with an emphasis on realism and high quality with a dash of fantasy in between in every regard, there are plenty of opportunities everywhere for new assets. Being one that favors realism and practicality over stylized assets, there is a large need for high quality realistic assets, since realism is an aspect that millions of artists strive for with their projects on a daily basis.
I have plenty of planned products that will come to the store in time, that span several areas and subjects, keeping consistency and quality across all of them and paving the way for more opportunities to make assets in these areas. Clothing, vehicles, weapons, characters, environment assets, architecture, items, game ready models and so much more.