3D created character in medieval clothes in woods

3D character creation & design software.

Whether 3D characters are made for games, movies, or art, artists need the right software to get the job done well. Some tools are built specifically to make humanoid models. Others, especially professional software, create anything you can imagine.

What is 3D character modeling?

3D character modeling is the practical process of sculpting a character. Depending on the tool you choose, this process can vary greatly. If you’re using a dedicated character creation tool, the software may simplify a lot of the process, however, you may find you are limited in the characters you can create. On the other hand, the most powerful 3D modeling and sculpting software likely won’t automate character creation. That said, you’ll have much more creative freedom.

grey 3D character model of medieval man

Image by Juan Pablo Torres.

What separates good 3D modeling software from great 3D modeling software?

Each artist will have to judge for themselves what they’re looking for in 3D modeling software, especially if they hope to make 3D characters with it. Several factors you might weigh include:


• Price


• User experience


• Customizability


• Content selection


• Compatibility with other software


3D art is a highly technical process, which can make it difficult for new artists to fully express their creative abilities at first. Understanding that all software will have a steep learning curve, choosing which software to invest your time in is an important question to answer.


Keep in mind that character creators are great for quicker results and generally shallower learning curves. Learning traditional modeling software will be far more difficult. However, the more mastery you gain in a software, the more creative freedom you’ll discover.

Types of 3D character modeling.

As technology has changed and advanced, 3D character creation has improved as well. In general, there are two main methods for modeling and sculpting you’ll encounter today.

Polygon modeling

By far, polygon modeling has become the most prominent form of 3D creation, being used in majority of the software available today. In this method, an artist constructs a 3D model by creating a mesh built out of 2D shapes called polygons. Each of these polygons can either be triangles or quads. A polygon is built from line segments. Segments are joined by vertices, and together create faces.


One of the most popular 3D tools available using this method is Blender, an open-source tool. To manage hardware restraints, artists need to be careful to limit the number of polygons being rendered in a scene. This means a lot of time can be spent tediously reworking polygons, or dealing with retopology, the process of simplifying a mesh to be more efficient.

Voxel sculpting

Voxel sculpting is a relatively new technique in 3D that bypasses the need for a mesh altogether. You can think of a voxel as the 3D counterpart of a pixel. Each voxel contains important data software uses to render an image in 3D.


Adobe Substance 3D Modeler uses voxel sculpting to allow artists to sculpt in real time with digital tools carefully designed to imitate real-world clay. Sculpting this way can feel more gestural and natural than working with polygons.

grey 3D model of old man’s face

Images by Juan Pablo Torres.

grey 3D rendering of man in cloak from front, side, and back

Images by Juan Pablo Torres.

How to create 3D characters.

Whether you want to create a stylized character or a photorealistic one, the basic steps are mostly the same. Here are our six tips for creating any character in 3D.

1. Conceptualize your characters.

3D is a technical process. Starting from nothing in a 3D space can be daunting. Use concept art and 2D references to keep you focused and guide your choices around character proportion and appearance.

2. Begin character modeling.

After you’ve conceptualized your character, it’s time to start modeling. Don’t rush yourself. Start with basic shapes to block out the figure, then add detail from there. Think in terms of big to small—save the smallest details for last.

3. Texture your character.

With your character modeled, you may be wondering what to do next. At best, a mesh on its own will never look like more than a clay sculpture. Texturing is how 3D artists give an object life by apply textures and materials to its surface.


Consider using a powerful app like Adobe Substance 3D Painter to help you texture your character perfectly. You can use smart materials and masks to paint every detail onto your model’s surface in real time.

4. Rig your character.

Like any person, models need bones, too. Well, sort of. Rigging is the process of assigning joints to an object, so the 3D software knows how to manipulate the mesh for posing and animation. This is a crucial step which requires the help of 3D software and careful adherence to best practices to accomplish.


When done right, you’ll be able to grab any bone or joint and position your model however you’d like. Some software allows you to “weight paint” parts of your mesh to help each bone of the rig apply control to the right part of the mesh. You’ll know something isn’t right when animating and posing if your mesh contorts in odd ways during movement.

5. Render your character.

Rendering is the final step in the process for creating images and video of your character. Think of it like pressing record on a camera or taking a snapshot. 3D renderers use lighting and effects to create style and realism, then capture images or video sequences of animations.

3D rendering of old man’s face

Image by Juan Pablo Torres.

Explore the possibilities of game character design software with Adobe Substance 3D.

There are numerous options available for artists to choose from, especially in gaming and VFX creation. Adobe Substance 3D offers industry-leading apps like Substance 3D Designer and Painter, as well as all the tools you need to accomplish most of a typical 3D pipeline, all in one easy to manage subscription.


With five powerful apps and a massive, ever-expanding library of content, Adobe Substance 3D plans are a great complement to any other character an artist might choose to leverage throughout the game design process.

Frequently Asked Questions

This totally depends on the skill of the artist, the complexity of the project, and the type of software being used. While some character creators might generate stock results in several minutes, a custom character can take weeks or even months to perfect.

Professionally designed 3D characters can cost as high as several thousand dollars or more depending on the complexity required and the experience of the character artist. For many creators, it is appealing to create characters themselves.