When you're building complex 3D scenes, the last thing you're going to want to do is sculpt and texture every object in it by hand. Luckily there are lots of sites out there where you can grab all the 3D assets you need, and if you're canny about it you should be able to find plenty of free textures and ready-made models.
However, as with all free stuff, not all of these free models are of especially good quality; that's why we've gone out hunting through the free online offerings and found the best examples for you. Enjoy.
01. Planet Earth
We might as well start big. Built using maps supplied by NASA, this detailed model of the Earth features daylight diffuse, night light illumination and bump (and alternate normal) maps, as well as a separate cloud layer. Both the terrain and clouds can be animated independently, and the opacities on the maps can be adjusted for better day or night light mapping, depending on your view.
Get a load of this good boy. This fully rigged wolf model comes with all the textures and materials you're going to need, and it's already animated, making it perfect to drop into any gaming project. Best of all, it's good to go with loads of 3D packages and game engines, so whether you're working in Blender or Unity, you'll find a download to suit you.
03. Male anatomy
If you're working with human figures, then a good anatomy reference is an essential thing to have nearby, and this free model could be just the thing you need. Stripped of pesky skin and hair to reveal the muscles beneath, this real-world scale model human comes as a full scene with cameras, lights and render settings, and it's ready to play with in Cinema 4D R19 and ZBrush 4R7.
This painstaking reproduction of everyone's favourite junkyard robot is the work of Corey Drake,and he's done an impressive job. It's fully rigged and ready for animation, it comes in Maya and mental ray formats, and it's UV mapped with all textures and materials included, so it's basically good to go as soon as you've downloaded it. Like all these models, make sure you check the usage licence.
One for the arachnophiles, here. This detailed spider model isn't based on any actual species of spider, but it looks good enough to give anyone a fright. The Cinema 4D version comes with two light and environment setups that you can switch between in the Layer menu, while the converted OBJ file has two versions – with or without hairs.
06. Bugatti Chiron
The chances of you ever actually owning a Bugatti Chiron – or even a second-hand Veyron – may be pretty slim, but if you feel the need to validate your existence by being seen near one, here's your best bet.
Download this excellent recreation, built in Blender by Kimz Auto, render it up and paste yourself in next to it, and Bob's your midlife crisis-afflicted uncle.
To give it its full title, this is the Toilet-Lavatory-Loo, which covers most of the taxonomic bases. Created by Ieve Lickiene from Lithuania, this is a 12-part model toilet that's guaranteed to enhance your bathroom interior renders. It comes in 3ds Max and V-Ray flavours, and it's free for non-commercial use only. Thankfully, Lickiene hasn't left the seat up on all models.
It's easy enough to find any number of ropey electric guitar models online, but if your tastes don't run to Flying Vs and knock-off Strats, this glorious acoustic model, based on a Ramirez classical guitar, ought to do nicely. It comes in OBJ, 3ds and blend format, and even has its own stand.
Sharp-eyed Doctor Who fans will have instantly noted that this high-poly model for 3ds Max and V-Ray is a 2005 Dalek rather than one of the classic models. It's a good vintage, we reckon; much better than 2010's brightly-coloured New Paradigm models, and plenty threatening.
Bring your underwater scenes to life with this free goldfish model from Turbosquid user Heidycurbelo. Available in .max and .3ds formats, this asset includes all textures and materials and should be used in accordance with Turbosquid's royalty free license.
Everyone's favourite droid from Star Wars: The Force Awakens has been recreated and made available for free from Free3D. This BB-8 model by Steve Lalonde is rigged two different ways for animation purposes and comes complete with high quality textures, and it's available on .obj, .max and .fbx formats.
12. Wine glasses
Creating realistic looking glass in 3D is both tricky and time-consuming. Here, 3D artist Mihai Panait has done the hard work for you, creating a set of various-shaped wine glasses. Available in .max, .obj and .3ds formats, the models are offered for use under a standard royalty free license.
Next page: more great free 3D models...