If you want to create detailed 3D models, you can’t ignore the 3D sculpting technique. It is the best technique for creating 3D models for 3D printing purposes.

More artists and industry professionals are using digital sculpting as it gives them the freedom to create custom models. However, you must be highly skilled to create models with this technique.

Stick around if you want to learn about the basics of 3D sculpting and know if it is right for you.

Let’s get started, shall we?

What is 3D sculpting?

3D sculpting is a digital model-making process that uses software tools to push, pull, smooth, grab, pinch, and perform other actions. The process is similar to how a sculptor manipulates and molds a block of clay into a statue or object.

The only difference is that the 3D sculptor uses software and computer hardware to achieve similar results.

The 3D sculpting software uses complex calculations to create polygon meshes that mimic real-life clay. The actions used to sculpt digital models make creating detailed textures and objects easy.

What is the digital sculpting process?

Before we look at the 3D sculpting process, you should know that 3D artists don’t always start from scratch in the sculpting software. They often use 3D modeling, scans, or photos to create the base model first. Finer details are added to the digital sculpting software.

In the sculpting software, the sculptor uses various brushes to manipulate the formless digital mesh and create the model. Some examples of commonly used 3D sculpting brushes are:

  • Curve – creates curves and indentations in the formless mesh.
  • Clip – cuts away unnecessary materials from the digital mesh.
  • Smooth – smoothens rough and textured surfaces.
  • Move – modifies facial features to indicate emotions or achieve an asymmetrical face.
  • Inflate – expands or contract the mesh along the normal directions to create a balloon-like effect. It helps sculpt rounded or puffy shapes.
  • Groom – modifies fiber objects like hair.

Now that you have understood the brushes, let’s move on to the sculpting process from scratch.

Step #1: Making the basic shape

At first, there is a shapeless mesh in the digital space. The digital sculptor uses various brushes to pull and push the mesh to form the basic shape of the object they want to create.

Step #2: Subdividing the basic shape

Once the sculptor is happy with the basic shape of the model, they will subdivide the geometry for further detailing.

Remember, digital sculpting requires significant processing power and computer resources. So, if you have too many subdivisions, the process will slow down, and the processing needs will increase.

That is why the blocking process of working is vital to sculpting projects. Here, the artist works layer-by-layer, starting with low-resolution shapes as the base layer and using additional layers to add more details and features. The additional layers could be clothes, accessories, etc.

Step #3: Adding details

With each new subdivision layer, the artist uses different brushes to add more details to the shape. They can add details like pimples, scars, rashes, scratches, etc.

Typically, the last subdivision layer has the most detail. The artist will add finer texture details like skin pores with customizable texture brushes to this layer. It is similar to how regular sculptors add textures to clay models using leaves, bristles, etc.

Such textures are used to create detailed surfaces.

After adding the final touches, the model is ready to be colored and polished in the 3D texturing process.

What are the applications of sculpting?


Sculpting’s use in the gaming industry is evident to most people as it is the perfect place for sculpted 3D assets. It helps create various gaming assets like characters, creatures, props, environments, etc.

Additionally, games are rendered in real-time, so they need low-poly models. This is because the rendering of low-poly models requires less processing power. With 3D sculpting, you can reduce the polygon count without affecting the quality of the model.


Digital models are often used in movies and television, especially animated and sci-fi settings. 3D modeling is sufficient for more simplistic designs, but sculpting is used when characters and objects must have more detail.

If these sculptures must be animated, they are rigged to add motion.


Digital sculpting offers the high detail and precision required for manufacturing products. It helps in product development by pathfinding or establishing the external and general design. In the prototyping process, it helps design simple products.

This digital model-making technique is unsuitable for designing machinery and products with functional parts.

Marketing and Advertising

The advertising and marketing industry often relies on stunning visual treats to capture the audience’s attention. What better way to impress them than with highly detailed digital sculptures?

These sculpted models are used in online and offline ads and eCommerce platforms. 3D models are especially beneficial in eCommerce as they give consumers a unique way to interact with the product without touching it.

3D printing

Sculpted models are highly detailed, making them perfect for 3D printing objects, parts, and structures. Sculpting is the best technique to 3D print toys and even human organs.

Pros and cons of digital sculpting

Like every technique, there are pros and cons to using this technique to make digital models. Let’s start with the positives of this technique.

Pros of 3D sculpting

  • It is perfect for creating digital models of organic objects like people, animals, mythical creatures, trees, foliage, etc.
  • It makes it easy to add fine details.
  • You can make corrections quickly.
  • It is often faster than 3D modeling.

Cons of 3D sculpting

  • It is not the best technique for creating large digital models.
  • It requires a rare set of artistic skills.
  • It is not easy to learn the brushwork.

Popular 3D sculpting software

Digital sculpting requires specialized software to deliver the best results. Here is a list of some of the most popular software for digital sculpts:

  • ZBrush – a favorite among digital artists for its intuitive toolset and seamless integration with various 3D software.
  • Autodesk Mudbox – primarily a digital modeling software that also offers sculpting capabilities. It is popular with 3D sculpting beginners for ease of use and learning. It also works well with other Autodesk software like Maya and 3DsMax. The downside is that it doesn’t have the same brushes or toolset as ZBrush.
  • Blender – a free software offering a modeling, animation, rending, sculpting and other techniques. It is also ideal for beginners, even though its sculpting software is advanced.
  • 3D Coat – a great sculpting tool for creating free-form organic and hard-surfaced 3D models.

Wrapping up!

3D sculpting is perfect for modeling characters, hard surfaces, props, and products. That is because it allows you to create incredible levels of detail that aren’t possible with 3D modeling alone.

Modelers make the basic model structure using regular modeling techniques, and a digital sculptor adds the finer details and textures. We hope you’ve found this article informative. Keep following this page for more on 3D update techniques.