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How to sell 3D models using Blender

During recent years, the number of marketplaces for 3D assets has increased and so has the number of artists that try to sell their 3D models online. Either through their own store or through one of these marketplaces.

To get started selling your 3D models you need to have an account on at least one marketplace or on a platform that allow you to sell through your own shop, such as Gumroad. You also need a workflow to create 3D models with a consistent style and quality.

In this article I want to explore both some available marketplaces but also a workflow that I think is worth taking lessons from if you want to try your wings as a 3D art asset seller together with Blender-addons that can save you many hours along the journey.

A lot of this guide is going to be useful for any 3D artists that want to sell 3D models online. But we are going to focus on some concepts and add-ons that can help you if you are using Blender specifically.

Where to sell 3D models?

Let's start by exploring some potential marketplaces. The internet has recently exploded with marketplaces to sell your 3D art. Everything from 3D models, to textures, rigs lighting setups and add-ons just to name a few.

Here is a list of the marketplaces we are going to look at.

  • CGTrader
  • Sketchfab
  • Turbosquid
  • Blendermarket
  • Unity markletplace
  • Unreal Engine marketplace
  • Gumroad

There are other marketplaces that can be of interest. For instance, Etsy or Teespring. Etsy is a well-known marketplace in the DIY space. If you are into 3D printing and you want to sell your prints, this can be a good place to set up a shop as you start out.

Teespring allow you to sell your designs on merc products. They have a collection of different mercs that they can print your design on. For instance, if you would rather sell your renders as t-shirt prints or on an iPhone case.

Also, on Artstation you can set up shop to sell your 3D artworks as prints.

Let's just briefly look at each of the listed marketplaces.

CGTrader

Website: CGTrader.com

This is a marketplace in Europe. Together with Turbosquid, I think this is the largest marketplace on the internet. This is the marketplace I have had the most success within my brief career selling 3D models.

Anyway, once you uploaded enough models with a high enough presentation quality on CGTrader, they give you access to their analytics. Their analytics makes this a very good marketplace to start with because if the analytics from CGTrader can show you that a specific category of 3D assets has high demand, it is likely the case for the 3D model market.

This makes CGTrader a good place to start.

Sketchfab

Website: Sketchfab.com

We mostly know Sketchfab for its web presentation software for 3D models, but a few years ago they started a marketplace that has quickly become one of the most lucrative marketplaces for 3D models.

There is even a Sketchfab add-on for Blender that can be used for direct upload. If you are not specifically targeting game developers with your assets, Sketchfab is the second market I would start working on after CGTrader.

Turbosquid

Website: Turbosquid.com

TurboSquid is probably the most well-known marketplace for 3D assets, and historically it has been the largest one. Right now, though, I am not sure if TurboSquid is still the largest since many 3D artists don't like this marketplace because of how low the royalty rates are.

Either way, many 3D artists simultaneously swear by TurboSquid and think that it is the best thing since sliced bread.

TurboSquid was also acquired by Shutterstock, and that could mean that things are changing in this marketplace.

Blendermarket

Website: BlenderMarket.com

Blendermarket is primarily geared towards selling add-ons. You can sell 3D models and other assets here as well, but it is not nearly as good for that as it is for Blender specific add-ons.

Blendermarket is a great marketplace, but it is just not focusing on 3D model sales. Even if it sounds like the place to sell 3D models at first, I would not spend my time with it if I didn't have a feature-rich add-on to sell bundled with my asset library as a single package.

For selling Blender add-ons though, Blendermarket and Gumroad are the only options I would consider.

Unity & Unreal engine marketplace

Website: Unity.com

Website: Unrealengine.com

For game assets, I would target both Unity and the Unreal engine marketplace directly. The reason for this is that both marketplaces are very lucrative for game assets.

However, selling single 3D models is not likely a good idea here. The people who buy on these marketplaces are looking for the best possible value.

So here we need to create larger bundles of 3D models that can work together to create, for instance, a complete level. It can also be collections within a specific theme, like golf assets for golf games. Something that is a bit niche.

What I would not do is create a bundle of fantasy gear or sci-fi corridor assets. The market is already too saturated with assets in these huge game niches.

Instead, we must niche down and find a crack in the marketplace that enough people are looking for but that none of few other artists has covered.

Gumroad

Website: Gumroad.com

Gumroad is useful if you already have an audience and want to target them. You then direct the audience to your shop through your content. This, of course, is an entirely different field and instead of using a pre-existing marketplace, you are now the marketplace and you have to provide the audience.

If you don't have one, use one of the other options. It can take years to build an audience online, and it requires a whole other set of skills.

What 3D models to sell?

The 3D models you should focus on selling depend on your skill, what you enjoy doing and what the market needs. If you can find a sweet spot where these three things meet, I think you have come a long way.

It can tempt to just try to figure out what the market needs and go for that alone. But if you don't enjoy it, you won't continue for long. It also helps a lot if you have the experience with this category of objects so that you don't need to start from nothing. Speed will be important in the long run and that is where your skill come in.

We already know what skills we have and what we enjoy making, so now we need to find out what the market wants.

Some marketplaces mentioned above, like CGTrader, offer analytics. I think your first goal should be to get access to these analytics so that you can match your skills and what you enjoy making to the market.

With CGTrader, you get access to more analytics as you upload more models with a high enough presentation score.

I would suggest that as a first goal, try to reach tire 4 or 5 in their analytics system. You do this by uploading enough models that have a diverse set of formats and good presentation.

For presentation, you need a certain number of images and a long enough text description. To reach tire 4, you need to upload 40 products and keep your score at 7.0 or above.

For these first 40 3D models, make sure that you spread them out across multiple categories. Find a few categories that you think you would enjoy making assets for long term and create 40 assets divided among those categories.

Once you have 40 models up for sale on the market, you have two advantages. Both the analytics that CGTrader provide and hopefully you have made your first sales and you can start to see what assets are working.

If you can niche towards an underserved market like sports gear, anatomy, characters, or biological type of models that is a good place to start.

Categories to avoid when starting out are furniture, decorations, and houses. These markets are over-saturated and more or less flooded with models. It will be hard to make sales in these categories.

However, you can find cracks in saturated parts of the market as well. For instance, look for specific themes within a certain type of model. For instance, baroque furniture or 17th century houses.

How about game ready steampunk assets or sports arena interiors?

To find a niche you can look at a market that uses 3D models for their work, but there are not 3D modelers themselves. The most obvious area is within different fields of science.

For instance, biology where different things need to be visualized all the time. Or how about historical models?

Should I sell through a marketplace or start my own shop?

If you don't have an audience built up, the marketplaces are there to lend you theirs. The value that the marketplace brings is the amount of people coming there and their audience's intention.

Here are some Pros of marketplaces.

  • You don't need to have an audience
  • The marketplace can provide you with valuable data
  • People that come to the marketplace has buyer intend to a much larger degree

And here are some cons:

  • There is going to be tough competition
  • Online marketplaces often lead to becoming a race to the bottom.
  • A few critical reviews can really tank your account, making you unable to sell. Low mistakes barrier.
  • The marketplace takes a fairly sizeable chunk from the profit.

In most cases, the Pros outweigh the cons if you are just starting out. But if you have an audience already, it can be worth testing your own wings.

What Blender add-ons are the most useful when selling 3D models?

The value of an add-on is going to be determined by the time it can save you for each model you create. Let's say that model creation can be cut in half by using the correct add-ons. Congratulations, you just doubled your potential earnings.

When considering this, I have not found a single expensive add-on for Blender.

Any add-on that is going to help us speed up our creation process is going to be a tremendous help. Let the computer do the repetitive tasks that it is good at and focus on the things the computer can't handle on its own.

These are my core recommendations.

How can each of these add-ons be useful when creating 3D models for sale? Let's go through them one by one.

UV Packmaster Pro 2

This add-on will help you create a high texel density non-overlapping UV Map at the click of the button. Yes, it is that good.

It takes your existing UV Map and runs it through an algorithm that looks for the best workable arrangement of the UV islands so that the artist doesn't have to play the mini game of fitting all the UV islands manually.

This add-on alone can save you many hours. You can read my review here:

Related content: UV Packmaster 2 Pro review

Multi Exporter

It is likely that many of the customers you are selling assets to are not Blender users. Therefore, we will need to provide a large array of file formats so that as many customers as possible can open the asset as fast as possible.

It is a benefit to have the .blend format as the native format since anyone can download and use Blender. But it saves time for the end user if the correct format is available.

Multi Exporter allow you to export multiple file formats at once. For instance .obj, .fbx and .dae. Along with the .blend file, I would consider these to be the minimum to provide.

Using this add-on instead of having to export every format separately saves you a lot of time that would otherwise be spent on this rather boring and repetitive task.

External content: Multi Exporter

Baketools

Since Blenders shader system is only available inside Blender, provide baked textures using a PBR workflow to make the material as compatible as possible.

Baketools allow us to set up a baking configuration so that we can bake a full PBR set with a click of a button. Blenders bake system is very flexible, but it is prone to overwriting previous bakes and can be hard and frustrating to work with.

When you aim to sell assets, a stable baking solution that is easy to use is essential. Baketools has been around for a long time and has enjoyed years of updates and is likely to be maintained long into the future. It is also pairs well with UV Packmaster Pro that can quickly provide the UV map to bake to.

Related content: Bake tools review

Camera manager

When creating 3D models for sale, we will need to render multiple angles and possibly different versions of our 3D model so that the buyer can get a good look at it and determine if it is the model they actually need.

For this, camera manager is a very good add-on to have. This way we can set up cameras from each angle we need and render them all at once.

We can then use freestyle to overlay each of these renders to show what the wireframe looks like from each angle as well. You can read more about using freestyle in Blender in this article:

Related content: A guide to Blender freestyle rendering with Eevee and Cycles

With the compositor, you can then setup a file output node to output different versions of each render. This way we can save both a wireframe renders and a beauty renders from each angle, together with any other versions we may want to add.

Camera manager is a free add-on, so there is no reason not to get it.

External content: Blenderartists.org Camera manager.

Keep in mind that after you installed camera manager, it is called "My Big Button" in the add-on list where you enable it.

Related content: 30 Blender addons (install, manage, free and paid)

Extreme PBR Evo

This add-on is a material manager we can use to quickly bring materials into Blender. The materials provided by this add-on are all under the cc0 license and can be used without getting into legal issues when selling 3D models.

This is good for both you and the buyer since they don't have to worry about a third party coming along and claiming that they use their textures without permission.

The materials are high quality and the library features over 1100 materials.

The materials are also quick and easy to bake with Baketools.

External content: Blender market Extreme PBR Evo

If you are interested in finding more materials for Blender, you can read this article.

Related content: Top 10 material libraries for Blender artists

Pro lighting: Studio

Pro lighting studio is an add-on that lives in the shadow behind Pro lighting skies. A very well-known HDRI collection in the blender artist community.

Pro lighting studio is a selection of different light setups together with reflection maps, backgrounds, etc. This is extremely helpful to quickly setup pleasing and beautiful lighting and backgrounds that put our 3D models in focus. It is also easy and quick to try different lighting setups.

The lighting is very important since it is the renders we upload to the marketplace that will show what our models look like and be the primary guide for a potential buyer.

Pro lighting studio can help us speed up the lighting process a lot, but don't fall into the trap of testing different setups for too long. At some point we need to get done and continue with the next step.

Once you have a lighting setup you like though, I suggest you stick to a similar light and background setup for most of your assets. Both because it builds brand and makes the assets easily recognizable in the long term.

It is also easier for a potential buyer to see the difference between your models when they are lit similarly. But you can for instance setup a studio light setup, a daylight setup and a night light setup to give greater variety to the presentation of your 3D models.

Together with the camera manager add-on we can quickly render different light setups from different angles.

External content: Blendermarket: Pro lighting: Studio

What workflow to use for selling 3D assets?

In this section, I want to cover a few key things to keep in mind as we go through our workflow. We learn what to make by going through analytics and doing searches on various 3D model marketplaces available to us. This can be any of the ones mentioned earlier or some other marketplace.

I assume that if you are considering selling 3D models, you have a good understanding of the digital 3D art process. From 3D modeling to texturing, shading, lighting, and rendering. You know how to create proper edge flow and have a good sense of the quality you can produce overall.

You also think that the quality you produce is good enough for a customer wanting to buy.

Before you create models you intend to sell, make sure that you read up on the marketplace guidelines so that if they expect you to include certain information or file formats, for example, you already know what you need to do.

The marketplace guidelines are also likely good to follow because they know what models sell and what data the customer is looking for. They are interested in providing the best information they can for you so that they can make a profit from your sales as well.

With that out of the way, except for the traditional workflows that, by all means, can vary a great deal. There are additional steps you need to take. Here are the ones we will cover in this workflow part of the article.

  • Create UV Map for baking
  • Bake the textures, possibly in a few different sizes, 1k, 2k, 4k for instance
  • Save and name the textures correctly
  • Create camera setup and angles
  • Light the model
  • Render the model with and without wireframe
  • Export the model to all desired file formats
  • Save the model in a blank blend file as the native file format
  • Store everything nicely in a folder that we can zip and upload according to the marketplace specifications
  • Upload renders
  • Write title and description for our model
  • If you are using third party textures, first you need to know that you can resell the textures in this way, you also need to check if a license needs to come with the model.
  • Set a price
  • Publish

We want to speed up getting an asset ready for sale as much as possible. But we don’t want to speed up at the cost of quality of the final 3D model. There are various areas where we can save considerable amounts of time without affecting the quality. We have already gone through and explored some add-ons that will help us along the way. Here we will take a bird's-eye view from the workflow perspective and see why those add-ons can be such time savers.

UV Mapping and baking for selling 3D models

The first step in our list is to create a UV map for our object that we can bake to. If you remember from earlier, we spoke of how important it is to make our 3D models as available as possible for different environments. Making sure that we have a UV Map with a baked texture specifically for our object is a good middle road.

Related content: The definitive tutorial to UV mapping in Blender

An alternative approach is if you are creating larger assets like some kind of building or structure, you may need to look at how to work with trimsheets.

I have even had a question about how to bring in a 3D model into Microsoft Paint 3D from a customer after they bought a model from me. A model that can easily be adjusted to any environment will eliminate a lot of support tickets for you later.

When we have a UV map, we can bake textures in different sizes. Some customers may think that this is a great asset to have in the background, and so having a lower resolution texture available will help them. The next customer may want the 3D model much closer to the camera and need a much higher resolution texture for the detail to come through.

Related content: How to bake textures in Blender

As you bake, name your textures correctly so that it is easy to find what you are looking for. It should be obvious both for you and for someone else what every file is and what it does.

If you can, also keep the original material and UV setup. Someone may buy the asset to just have a look at how it was made. If you keep all the modifiers on a version of the model and the messy node setup together with the overlapping UV Maps that is fine and can benefit the customer.

Rendering preview, wireframe, and thumbnail images for selling 3D models

The next step would be to render images of your object. It is rare to see too many angles and different views of an asset on a marketplace. Odds are that you will not go overboard. I think that the minimum you should have is a front, back and side view and a third quarter view. For these angles you should have both a beauty render and a wireframe render.

Related content: How to render in Blender

If you are selling an entire bundle, you can render an overview shot with all assets laid out in a grid. Then select a few noticeable assets and create more detailed renders for those.

Related content: 5 cool camera tricks in Blender

Camera manager can help you quickly setup and render the shots you need and together with Pro Lighting studio you can vary the lighting and test different lighting setups quickly.

Freestyle can then help us create the wireframe renders. Depending on your light setup I would advise to render either black or white wireframes. The quickest way to do this is to mark every edge with freestyle.

In edit mode, press Ctrl+E and choose “mark freestyle edge”. Then turn on freestyle in your render settings and lower the line thickness. Try something like 0.5.

Related content: A guide to Blender freestyle rendering with Eevee and Cycles

In the view layer properties find the freestyle section and check “as render pass” then expand the freestyle line set and deselect all selection types except “edge types” then make sure “inclusive is selected and check only “edge mark” as the edge type to include.

In the next section called freestyle line style, you can go to color and change the line color if you need.

This should give you a render pass with the freestyle lines on a transparent background, and you can use an alpha over node in the compositor to lay this on top of your original render.

You can combine this with a file output node to automatically save each render to a pre-defined path and file format.

At last, you will need some kind of thumbnail. It can be a hero image of the model or if you are selling an entire bundle, you can try to make a YouTube style thumbnail with some text explaining what the bundle includes.

Thumbnails is a whole science, and it can be experimented with forever.

Exporting and offering different file formats

From here we can set up multi exporter together with any additional formats we want to export. At the very least, I suggest you export to obj, fbx, and Collada (dae). These are file formats that have been around for a long time and are likely to be supported for a long time. For newer file formats, usd is probably the format to add together with the native .blend file format.

Keep in mind that there are drawbacks to each file format you export. For instance, obj files only support one UV Map, so make sure that the correct UV Map gets exported. Fbx can have many problems since there are often small incompatibilities between different implementations of the exporter and importers that are used by different software.

If you want to be sure, you should test to import an fbx into the most important software, such as Max, Maya, Cinema4D and the game engines Unity and Unreal Engine.

Collada is most needed for Sketchup users. I have had issues with importing Collada into Sketchup sometimes where the UV Mapping won’t match.

Related content: How to import and export between Sketchup and Blender

A good idea is to try importing your assets into these common software packages as you start so that you know what settings you should use for exporting. Everything that you can make easier for the customer now will reward you later. It is details like this that separate a decent 3D model from a very good one.

I suggest that you setup a blend file for rendering since there are a lot of parameters that need to be set for an efficient workflow. Then once you are ready to save the asset, start a new blend file and append the model, save the blend file in your project folder.

While you have your model in a separate file, make a note of the basic stats. How many polygons, triangles and vertices does the object have? You can go to the viewport overlay in the top right corner of the 3D viewport, expand the dropdown, and check statistics to see the mesh stats for your object.

Save this data in a text file.

At this stage we should have a bunch of files ready.

  • Texture files of different sizes. Could be baked and original textures, or trimsheets.
  • 3D model exported to various file formats.
  • Rendered images and a thumbnail.
  • Text file with stats

Gathering and creating title description, documentation

What we are missing is a title, a description, and some documentation.

Once this is all gathered, we can zip everything into a neat package according to the marketplace specifications if there are any. If not, we will have to come up with our own organization or better, use one from another marketplace so that we don’t have to customize the organization of files for every new marketplace we opt in to.

The title is just like the thumbnail. Don’t create clickbait but describe the object or state the name. If you have a brand name, use it in the title. Check to see if there are any guidelines from the marketplace of your choice.

For the description it's hard to come up with something to write, so here are some things that you can include to give it some meat.

  • Write a brief description. Could be 1-3 sentences.
  • Write the stats of your model. Include vertex count for different subdivision levels, if applicable.
  • If the model has quad topology, include it.
  • Are there non-overlapping textures included? If so, say it.
  • Write the texture sizes and maps. For instance, diffuse, roughness and normal map in sizes of 1k, 2k, and 4k.
  • Give some background of the creation process.
  • Write what software you used.
  • If you tested to import the model to other software, you can write that.
  • Write a footnote about yourself or your brand.

Most of this is going to be similar for most of the assets you create. I suggest you create a template that you can use and fill in the custom text and stats each time.

If you used third party textures that are not cc0, you must read the license agreement and first make sure that you are allowed to resell textures as part of a 3D model. Most times this is fine as long as you or the buyer don’t redistribute the texture further but always check first.

Most times, you also must include a license file that states how the third-party textures can be used. This is a simple thing, but make sure that you comply to any agreements you have with third parties.

Also, I would advise against using any third-party 3D models like base meshes or kits for kit-bashing when creating 3D models for sale. In these cases, I would create original 3D assets to use. The conflict that arises if you use other peoples 3D models is that you are reselling someone else’s work. Avoid this at all costs.

Keep in mind that I am not a lawyer, and this is not legal advice. It is up to you to make sure that you comply to all laws, regulations, and agreements that you have. Even if, in my experience, that is not as scary as it first sounds. Just be smart about it and not lazy.

Upload and price your 3D model

Two more things. Upload your content and set a price. The uploading process is different, but often quite similar on all platforms. Just follow the guides provided by the marketplace.

If you plan on uploading hundreds of models, look into a form filler that can help you fill out the data that will be the same every time as you upload.

Some marketplaces also offer to help upload larger quantities of models or a bulk upload feature. But the data still has to be sorted and named correctly first.

For pricing, 3D models are way underpriced. The buyer often gets much more value than they spend, so you probably don’t have to worry that you set a price that is too high.

There is a market price that a buyer will pay, and this is likely not what an asset is worth. They will compare the assets you upload to other assets on the market, so you must take this into account.

It is not the lowest price that will get a sale though, but the most relevant 3D model that is likely to fulfill the buyer's need within the price range the buyer will pay. Undercutting is not a winning strategy in the long run. Instead, look at the market. What other competing assets are there? What do you bring to the table that is valuable?

If you have come this far, you have probably understood that it should be a high-quality 3D model that is likely going to work within the customer’s pipeline. Gaining trust and delivering on the promise is key, and customers will pay more for it. It is about minimizing risk.

What to expect from selling 3D models?

As you start your ventures into selling 3D models, either to your own audience or through a marketplace, the best tip I can give you is to be humble and patient.

The humble part comes down to that even if you are a great 3D artist you probably don't know the market yet. What the market is asking for and what 3D assets sell. This comes with experience and by adjusting to the data you gather through your journey.

We need patience because it may take a long time before you see sales. You also need an extensive library for the income to become significant.

It is better to start with low expectations and be surprised than ending up disappointed.

Final thoughts

We have covered a lot of topics, but mostly from a bird's-eye view. If you decide to try this journey, be ready for details that may trip you over. When this happens, take a step back, gather your thoughts and solve the problem one step at a time.

Thanks for reading.

Author

Erik Selin
3D artist, writer, and owner of artisticrender.com

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