When it comes to games and digital media production, creating 3D models and other 3D content makes up a huge amount of the total time spent on the project, certainly comparable to most coding tasks. Obviously, hiring modelers is crucial for fulfilling this need, but studios often find themselves in a situation where they don’t have enough 3D modelers or the ones they have lack some specialized knowledge.

With this article, we hope to assist you in your efforts to hire 3D modelers or order such services in general. It will include the average 3D modeling rates and what to look for when you select a specialist or partner.

Average 3D modeling cost per hour

3D modeling is a skill that requires expert knowledge, and this factor, coupled with a high level of demand makes the overall cost of modeling quite high. For example, Glassdoor puts the average yearly salary of a 3D modeler in the U.S. at $62K and £30K in the UK. But these figures don’t tell you much about how much a smaller unit of work costs, do they?

It is much easier to make estimations when you look at hourly rates. Thus, let’s examine some of the median rates of modelers offering their services through Upwork:

Country

Rates/hour

USA

$39/hour

UK

$31/hour

Germany

$33/hour

Ukraine

$21/hour

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Why location is important

As you might have noticed from the graph above, there is a substantial disparity in rates from one country to another. This is mostly connected to the cost of labor, so wealthier countries have higher average salaries and fewer experts willing to work at low rates. On the other hand, regions like Eastern Europe and Asia tend to have a lower cost of labor, so it is much easier to find someone from these places that will let you cut costs.

At the same time, location can also say a thing or two about the quality of the specialists – how well they know their work. For example, western companies tend to have a very high level of education for digital arts like modeling than Asian countries. Interestingly, a select few countries like Ukraine have both relatively low rates and a thriving field of IT education, so most specialists come with good knowledge to boot.

How to hire modelers cost-effectively

Thanks to globalization, it has become easier than ever today to find and hire specialists. Thus, companies have multiple choices available for hiring 3D modelers, each suited to particular situations and circumstances.

Local hires

Local hires are helpful when you know that a constant stream of 3D modeling work will be necessary and when you need someone to be in the office, closely cooperating with your art and development teams. Most of the time, modelers hired locally are given a full-time and permanent position, but it is also not unheard of for studios to hire contractors that will stick around for a set period (usually at least a few months).

Freelancers

The great thing about freelancers is that you can hire them quickly and get them working within days. Modern freelance platforms have made it very convenient to find specialists with a tailored set of skills and filter those that are currently open to work. However, working with freelancers also has downsides, since “contracts” are often poorly defined and the repercussions for freelancers that fail to deliver results can be very difficult to enforce.

Development partners

Development partners are companies and studios that provide a nice middle ground between the stability and long-term coverage of local hires and the flexibility & low rates of freelancers. Essentially, you contact such a company and they provide all the resources you need, often giving you freedom in cooperation models.

For example, you may prefer traditional outsourcing when a whole modeling project is done externally and presented to you on a silver platter. Or you might choose a dedicated team that will be under your constant management and guidance. Some partners let you expand your existing team with their specialists, so you have people working side-by-side, albeit in different locations.

How are modeling costs calculated?

There are three common approaches to calculating 3D modeling costs. If you are preparing for a project with such tasks or discussing terms with modelers/partners, you don’t necessarily need to choose one of the three, and can mix and match them.

  • Based on project scope

    In this case, an estimate considers the total volume of work needed and assigns a fair price that should cover all individual and macro needs. This approach is most helpful when you know that the project/task is small and you can easily put a price tag based on past experience/industry norms.

  • Based on work hours

    This is the most agile approach, allowing you to adapt to changing project needs and extend the work schedule when needed. It’s also easy to calculate, simply multiplying the hourly rate by the number of hours. Of course, it will be vital to make sure that the time spent is being put to good use.

  • Based on artist experience

    In the world of coding, there is a strong distinction between junior, middle, and senior specialists. Though modeling rarely invokes such a classification system, you can still modulate the rates paid to artists (based on hours or a set period of time) depending on their experience and how much they can contribute through different types of modeling.

Which types of work can 3D modelers do?

People tend to have very different notions of 3D modeling work, specifically when it relates to the types of tasks their specialists should carry out. For example, we see some companies that believe a modeler should be a jack-of-all-trades, while others look for a 3D artist (a pretty versatile position), yet limit them to one type of task.

In the end, it will all come down to the specialists you find, what they are capable of, and what work you need done. Naturally, the terms and tasks should be negotiated and formalized before any work begins.

3D modeling

3D modeling

This is obviously the core qualification of a modeler. They should be able to work with 3D design programs (3Ds Max, Maya, Blender, to name a few), and be able to deliver both high-poly and low-poly assets. Depending on your project type, they may also need to be able to create large environments as well as unique model types (like characters in game modeling).

Texturing

Texturing

In some companies, texturing is considered an extension of modeling and is done by the same 3D artists. However, it can also happen that 2D artists are assigned this task. So the modelers create the 3D geometry while the other guys figure out how to color them and add new details.

Rigging & animation

Rigging & animation

Most animators also know modeling, but many modelers only graduate to this form of content production after substantial time with general design. For character rigging, animators have to assign joints and bones to the digital assets and determine how they move with physics and various forces involved.

Renders & software integration

Renders & software integration

While it’s nice to get a bundle of completed 3D assets, there is more that can be done. For example, renders can be created within the same 3D design programs we mentioned, and used for promotional/testing materials. It’s also nice when developers or artists know how to integrate the 3D creations into the software and media, assign behaviors, and set up lighting for scenes.

How to choose a reliable partner for 3D modeling

If you find that working with a partner is the most effective choice for your company, you shouldn’t rush into the process without thought. We recommend looking at these requisites before beginning any sort of formal discussion:

  • Good reputation (objective reviews and awards available)

  • Substantial 3D portfolio (matching the type of 3D content you need)

  • Broad range of services (in case you need more help than just modeling)

  • Strong tech stack (artists are capable of working with your preferred software, methods, and platforms).

3D-Ace is a reliable provider ready to help companies in any industry with a wide range of 3D/2D content production. Thus, 3D modeling is right up our alley, and we have a large team of 3D artists ready to create all the content you need for your project. We also have a sterling reputation and all the creds to back up our claims about delivering high-quality results.

We encourage you to check out more about our company and services, and send us a message when you are ready to discuss your project.