One of the easiest and most accessible ways to start earning money as a 3D modeler is to begin selling 3D stock models from an online marketplace.
If you’re looking to transition into freelance work, this can be a great way to start building a client base, and the nature of the work means you’ll learn a lot about how to build an online presence, market yourself, and leverage your connections to gain exposure.
Even if you’re more interested in building a portfolio you can use to apply for studio jobs, successfully selling 3D stock will show potential employers that you have the ability to create quality work with high efficiency.
Like anything worth doing, it takes a lot of time and effort to build up a steady income stream from selling stock models online, but the advantage is that once you’ve built a network, the income is relatively passive.
There are a lot of things that can help you succeed as a 3D stock seller, but before we delve into anything else, let’s take a look at the nine best places to sell your models online.
These are the marketplaces with the most traffic, the strongest reputations, and the best royalties:
Let’s address the elephant in the room right off the bat. Yes, Turbosquid is huge. Yes, they have an impressive list of high-profile clients. But is it really the best place to sell your models?
If you’re somehow able to set yourself apart there, then Turbosquid’s massive userbase offers huge upside, but don’t expect to upload your models and watch the dollars roll in. Success here will most likely require a significant amount of active marketing and, in all honesty, if you’re good enough to stand out at Turbosquid, you’re probably good enough to start looking for legitimate freelance contracts (that will pay you a heck of a lot better).
Royalty rate — Artist receives (a measly) 40 percent, although their guild program offers rates up to 80 percent in exchange for exclusivity.
If it weren’t for the emergence of on-demand 3D printing services like Shapeways, this list would actually be significantly shorter.
Shapeways (and similar sites) have opened up an entirely new market segment, offering the ability for modelers to upload their work and sell physical copies of their 3D models through a process known as 3D printing. The ability to print in numerous different material types makes 3D printing a versatile and attractive option for jewelry, decorative items, and small character statues.
The idea of physically printing a digital model might sound like science fiction if you’re just hearing about it for the first time, but the tech has arrived and could potentially revolutionize the way we think about manufacturing as printers continue to advance.
If you’d like to sell your models as 3D prints, keep in mind that there are additional steps/conversions that must be completed to make a model “print-ready.”
Royalty rate — Flexible. Shapeways sets a price based on the volume and material of your print, and you determine how much of a markup you’d like to charge.
CGTrader, based in Lithuania, was founded in 2011 and is backed by Intel Capital and Practica Capital. The community hosts more than 500,000 3D artists, design studios, and businesses from around the world. Buyers who don’t see what they are looking for can also hire someone to create it.
3D models include insanely detailed computer graphics, virtual and augmented reality gaming models, and printing models ranging from jewelry and miniatures to engineering parts. Designers can choose to sell, stream to a 3D printer, or have an item printed and shipped via Sculpteo.
Royalty rate — There are 13 different reputation levels; Beginners to Legends. Royalty rate varies from 70 to 90 percent depending on where you fall in the levels.
Daz 3D is a huge marketplace, but it’s also very self-contained.
There’s quite a bit of potential here, but we honestly can’t see it being an option for you unless you’re familiar with Daz Studio and Poser. They’ve also got a pretty specific list of requirements and a manual vetting process, so if you’re looking for a quick and easy upload, look elsewhere. The upside is that DAZ is a marketplace aimed at people who need to make CG but typically don’t know how to model, which makes them more likely to buy their assets.
Royalty rate — Artist receives 50 percent on non-exclusive sales, up to 65 percent with exclusivity.
Renderosity has been around forever. They’ve got high-quality standards and a gigantic user-base, but relatively low royalty rates mean that there are better options available for 3D artists using traditional modeling packages like Maya, Max, and Lightwave.
However, Renderosity has successfully positioned itself as a leading marketplace for Daz Studio and Poser models, so if that’s your thing, you’ll definitely want to set up shop here (in addition to Daz 3D). The two are pretty equivalent in traffic, so make sure you give them both some attention.
Royalty rate — Artist receives 50 percent on non-exclusive sales, up to 70 percent with exclusivity.
3Docean is part of the enormous Envato network, which comprises the entire Tuts+ empire and boasts more than 1.4 million registered members. Although the 3Docean userbase is most likely a fraction of that, there’s also a lot less competition here than somewhere like Turbosquid or The 3D Studio.
Envato products are pretty solid, so 3Docean is definitely worth looking into to supplement what you’re doing at one of the larger marketplaces, but definitely don’t rely on them as your primary storefront — the non-exclusive licensing rate they offer is downright offensive.
Royalty rate — Artist receives 33 percent on non-exclusive sales, 50-70 percent with exclusivity contract.
With over 130,000 members, there’s plenty of opportunity to go around, and 3DExport has one of the most user-friendly (and attractive) site designs in the industry. They were founded way back in 2004, but you can tell everything has been modernized and brought up to date. Their non-exclusive licensing rate is competitive with the industry leader, The 3D Studio.
Royalty rate — Artist receives 60 percent for non-exclusive sales, up to 70 percent with exclusivity contract.
Previously Highend3D, then renamed CreativeCrash, and then rechristened Highend3D once more, this site gets quite a bit of foot traffic, but their license fee is slightly higher than some of the competition.
Another potential issue is that Highend was always the place to go for free 3D models, so it might be a bit harder to make sales when the userbase is used to getting things for free.
Royalty rate — Artist receives 55 percent on non-exclusive sales.
Sculpteo is another 3D print vendor based out of France. Although they haven’t received as much press in the United States, Sculpteo has a similar business model to Shapeways, and despite a few disadvantages, it’s certainly worth a look.
Sculpteo offers fewer material and color choices, and, compared to Shapeways, the same model tends to be more expensive to print. Having said that, the marketplace is also less crowded, so you may have more success making sales. If you’re looking to sell your models as prints, our advice is to poke around both sites to see which one you prefer.
Royalty rate — Flexible. Sculpteo sets a price based on the volume and material of your print, and you determine how much of a markup you’d like to charge.