As a beginner or intermediate level 3D artist, you’ll want to learn all that you can and work to improve your skills. There are many different subcategories within the field of 3D work, but there is one that every artist should consider pursuing: hard surface modeling. Here is an overview of hard surface modeling for games, skills you’ll need to improve, and some of the best resources to learn in more detail. 


Hard Surface Modeling Overview

Hard surface modeling is a modeling technique used primarily in video games. This process allows for the design of “hard” surfaces such as armor, model cars, machines, and other types of non-living objects with smooth surfaces. The technique is commonly used in sci-fi and war-based video games, since they typically contain armor, machines, robots, and weapons. 

Determining what is a “hard surface” can be difficult when discussing with other artists. There is no definition available, so it is typically up to the discretion of the artist. Generally, it includes objects that have a smooth, geometric mesh with less details than organic elements. 

Organic elements or bodies are designed to move and have smooth mechanics, and hard surface models generally don’t deform. While this is often the case, there are exceptions. For example, a car is considered a hard surface model, even though the tires are rubber and are designed to deform. The car as a whole is considered a hard surface model because it is smooth when being modeled. 


Learning Hard Surface Modeling for Games

Hard surface modeling is an essential set of skills for any 3D artist to add to their arsenal. However, if you’re a beginner or intermediate in this field, then you’ll likely need some improvement in the following areas to achieve expert level modeling. This will be crucial when considering hard surface modeling for games

The Basics

Before you can truly level-up those skills, you’ll need to have a great understanding of the basics. This means learning to block in your character as well as having a thorough understanding of hard surface design principles. Especially when designing these surfaces for video games, you’ll need to be able to create primary shapes and silhouettes within your software. 

The Details 

After you have grasped the basics and are able to effectively block out your character, then you’ll need to work on the details. This includes polishing the block out, adding the proper details, and learning to manually sculpt smaller shapes and micro details. 

While learning to work with surfaces, you’ll also need to learn to achieve a smoothed effect and create seamless edges. Achieving a smooth surface and ideal rounding requires having a good understanding of the object’s topology structure. 


The Finishing Touches

Once you have mastered the art of the details, you’ll need to hone your skill of finishing touches. This includes creating a game-ready mesh, final stage prep, and texture and presentation work. Here, designing different lighting styles will also have an effect on your finished character.

 Software & Tools 

As with any art form, you’ll also need to become incredibly familiar with your software and tools. Becoming proficient in these areas will also take time and practice, but having a thorough understanding of how each software works is essential. Some of the most popular software available for hard surface modeling for beginners includes Maya, Adobe Substance 3D, Daz 3D, Unity, Autodesk 3DS Max, ZBrush, Blender, and Modo.  

Best FREE Resources

While this may seem like a long list of skills that you’ll need to learn or improve, it’s really a simple process once you understand the basic workflow. Doing all that you can to learn the basics now will pay off in the long run. While investing in your education may be the best option, most artists start learning the basics with free resources. 

Two of the most common resources where artists will share their knowledge for free include Vimeo and YouTube. Searching for hard surface modeling on these platforms will allow you to get basic introductions to software such as Maya, as well as help you gain a better understanding of the programs. If you’re interested in budget-friendly mini-trainings, then you can try platforms such as Gnomon or FXPHD.  

Please keep in mind that when learning from free resources, anyone with varying experience levels can submit information. Be sure to do your research and make sure you’re learning from a credible source. 


 Best Hard Surface Modeling Course

While free or budget-friendly resources can be a great start in the beginning, investing in your education will truly transform your skills in the most reasonable amount of time. Seeking out a well-developed hard surface modeling course from professionals in the industry is a great option for learning everything you need to know all in one place. A course is also often laid out in the most easy to understand format possible. 

One of the best hard surface modeling courses available is the Hard Surface Modeling Bootcamp. This course was designed to help you create game-ready armor from start to finish. By the end, you’ll have produced a portfolio-ready character, know the principles for sculpting and modeling hard surfaces, have mastered how to apply imperfections, and more. 

What to Expect

The Hard Surface Modeling Bootcamp is divided up into six modules. Module One teaches you how to block in your character, and you’ll also learn design principles for building basic hard surfaces. Modules Two and Three are a deep dive into creating the armor block out and polishing your hard surface. Module Four covers your hard surface detail work, and Modules Five and Six prepare and finish the model. 

The course is in a 100% online, pre-recorded format so that you can take the lessons at your own pace. Watch them anywhere at any time! Your instructor is a professional with years of experience in the industry, but you’ll also have access to teacher’s assistants to ask any questions you may have. 


Learn more about Hard Surface Modeling Bootcamp today!