How to sell your 3D assets online

Want to sell your 3D assets online? If you have the skills to make top-notch 3D models, you could make money through it. But you need to find out where to do sell your work and how to make your venture successful. One of the places is TurboSquid, which has been selling stock 3D models for use across industries from films to video games and architecture.

With stock models becoming an increasingly prevalent part of the industry, we have assembled the ultimate guide to successfully selling your models online on TurboSquid, though the tips will transfer to selling your models anywhere on the web. (If you need new tools, check out list of the best 3D modelling software)

In this post, Mark Dunn, (previously vice president of production at TurboSquid) offers his key advice. Plus, designers already selling online add their tips to help you succeed.

01. Seize the opportunity

Sell 3D assets online

EHang DHL Express Drone by Ashkan Ghaffari, Henry Lazaga (Image credit: shkan Ghaffari, Henry Lazaga)

At TurboSquid, we're seeing that customers are much more open about the idea of using stock content. 10 or 15 years ago, you'd run into a lot more people that wanted to do everything themselves. Now, artists are more likely to recognise that they don't need to rebuild that same red barrel again for the 25th time. We're also continuing to see free apps like Blender gain in popularity, as well as increased demand for newer formats like glTF and USDZ.

"Stock 3D models can solve an immediate problem in projects where 3D modelling isn't worth the time," says designer Ashkan Ghaffari. "To meet deadlines, often time has to be allocated to more important and critical aspects of the project and that's where stock 3D models can be a life saver. 

"They can be employed to quickly decorate a scene or they could be used as a base and starting point. There are countless use cases and with the growth of real-time applications and VR, demand for such content is growing every day."

02. Find a niche

There's a massive amount of variety in what sells. Certain categories like vehicles, characters, electronics, trees and architectural elements have always been huge sellers. The key is finding a niche where you can provide some unique value. That could be a version of a popular object in a format no one else has done, or maybe including rigged versions of your models.

03. Produce top-quality stock

Sell 3D assets online

Massimo Righi’s 4K tiger rendering was originally created for a print project before becoming a TurboSquid asset (Image credit: Massimo Righi)

Customers want high-quality content that just works. They don't want to have to struggle with poorly built content. They want something that is going to make their lives easier, which is one of the reasons we worked with industry leaders to create the CheckMate and StemCell standards. The US has also traditionally been our largest market, but we've seen significant growth in countries all over the world. Products and styles are different around the globe – electronics, cars, furniture, clothing, street signs etc – so looking for popular objects from different countries is a great way to target customers outside of the US.

"A seller should be able to produce CheckMate Pro-quality assets, since the competition is becoming really tough," adds Massimo Righi. "Model quality is rising and to be successful you need to continuously improve your skills. You need to have the ability to train and organise yourself. Do market research on your model. Once you've decided what to create, try to find your own way to show the model, so that it can stand out from the others."

04. Give thorough information

Put yourself in your customer's shoes. It's critical that you consider what it is like for someone to review your model before making a purchase. You need to include lots of detailed renders, shots of wireframes, turntables, maybe even real-time preview versions of your model. Include clearly written descriptions and accurate metadata info so that there is no confusion. Having a great model is only part of the solution – you have to present it in an effective way to make sales.

05. Create stock for VR

VR has certainly brought more customers into the market for stock, but it's also increased the needs for standardisation. The barriers to entry in creating a VR/AR game or application are so low now, with free versions of many amazing content creation tools available. With this, we've seen a rise in non-traditional customers whose 3D experience might be minimal at best. Stock artists who understand this and spend time making sure that their content works for as many customers as possible will have an edge.

06. Keep things simple

Sell 3D assets online

3D Earth simplified concept in low- poly style by Denys Almaral (Image credit: Massimo Righi)

"Produce clean and organised scenes. Focus on usability and an error-free product. TurboSquid's CheckMate program is a good guide to follow," advises Denys Almaral. "I believe it's better to offer a modest medium complexity 3D model that can be useful and is perfectly clean, easy to work with, and easy to convert to other formats, rather than uploading a very complex and visually stunning model that a buyer can't correctly and quickly work with because of missing plugins, unnecessary high polygon counts and a disorganised scene."

07. Future-proof your assets for potential customers

We encourage artists to create content using the StemCell specification. With StemCell content, artists create the content once – then TurboSquid automatically generates multiple format conversions and packages those assets for partners and new uses (real-time engines, AR/VR, etc), creating additional revenue for the artist. Another way to extend the lifespan of an asset is to revisit old models and update them to newer renderers.

08. Provide options

More detail and larger textures are usually the right way to go, as long as the model is still flexible. A customer can downsize the textures if they need to, but providing them the option of 4K textures is plus. If a model has good topology and edge loops, a customer can also simplify the mesh if they want to.

However, knowing when to be efficient is important. For example, a lot of small surface details can be handled by a Normal map instead of being modelled. 4K is the highest we would recommend right now.

This article was originally published in issue 254 of 3D World, the world's best-selling magazine for CG artists. Subscribe to 3D World.

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Brad Thorne

Brad Thorne was Creative Bloq's Ecommerce Writer, and now works for a PR company specialising in 3D and VFX, Liaison. He previously worked as Features Writer for 3D World and 3D Artist magazines, and has written about everything from 3D modelling to concept art, archviz to engineering, and VR to VFX. For Creative Bloq, his role involved being responsible for creating content around the most cutting-edge technology (think the metaverse and the world of VR) and keeping a keen eye on prices and stock of all the best creative kit.

With contributions from