Complete Guide on How to Outsource 3D Modeling Services

Hiring outsourced 3D modeling and rendering services can create a positive impact and save you time and money on your next project. Get expert advice, helpful videos, and useful tools for evaluating 3D Modeling Services.

Included in this article:

What Are 3D Modeling Services?

3D modeling is the development of mathematical representations of the surfaces of inanimate or living objects in three dimensions using dedicated software. 3D modeling services manage the process of creating 3D content for clients and delivering a final product.

Shawn Rothery

Shawn Rothery, Director of 3D Content for 3D Cloud


Outsourcing deliverables can usually be viewed as 2D renderings or images, or they can be explored as full 3D simulations. 3D modeling is an essential component of space planning, architecture, product design, animation, and more.

“Companies may lack the internal expertise to create 3D content. Or they may find that outsourcing 3D modeling is more cost-effective than building an internal team,” says Shawn Rothery, Director of 3D Content for 3D Cloud.

“Software packages and file types supply varied requirements for realism, resolution, speed, and interactivity,” says Rothery. “Creating 3D content can be challenging to master since requirements can range from the creation of a technical CAD model to 3D game content.”



How 3D Modeling Works to Showcase Furniture

“3D Cloud specializes in real-time, highly configurable, and customizable 3D content to engage customers and showcase merchandise,” Rothery states. “It would be difficult for an in-house team to generate complex projects like room and space planners, configurators, spin renders, and photo replacement without custom software and experienced 3D artists.”

The Process of Working with a 3D Modeling Service

When working with a 3D modeling service, you can expect a process that usually encompasses the following:

  1. Definition, to set project parameters
  2. Design, for content generation
  3. Test, for quality assurance
  4. Delivery, when the product launches

One of the signs of a reputable firm is a transparent methodology that ensures quality and timeliness, including sharing information about progress over the life of the project.

Phases of an Outsourced Project

Sample 3D Modeling Service Outsourcing Process

Definition Phase

Define ScopeWorking with the client, the service provider defines what the project entails, deliverables, budget, and final delivery date.
Define PlanThe plan is put into a project plan, PERT chart, Gantt chart, or other formal plan documents.
Define TimeframesGenerate and share a workback schedule.
Define All Deliverable(s)Presentation of the plan for client approval.
Design Phase
Concept PreparationDevelop, brainstorm, and sketch Initial visuals.
Create Digital Mock-UpPresent a mock-up to the client.
Feedback Fix ListNote input and generate a punch list of items to edit, change, or delete.
Refined Draft DeliverableFinalize changes made per client feedback and present for approval.
Test Phase
Review ModelsDesigners and project managers test and review the 3D models, as well as correct bugs and any issues around motion or renderings.
Interference DetectionInterference occurs when two 3D entities overlap in 3D space. Run an interference check on existing models to prevent conflicts in the entire model.
Validation and Quality ChecksValidation and quality testing ensure the project meets design, development, business, and client requirements
Delivery Phase
Clashing FixComponents of a 3D project build often conflict spatially and interfere with each other at a juncture or point. Resolve every clash before finalization to ensure clean imaging.
FinalizationUpon detection of inaccuracies in the production prototype of the 3D model and 3D scans, fix the bugs and improve model quality before the final release.
Conversion to Desired FormatsA 3D file format stores information about 3D models. The most popular formats are STL, OBJ, FBX and COLLADA. Industries favor specific 3D file formats for historical and practical reasons.

Any prospective 3D modeling vendor should be able to walk you through their process and answer questions before you begin the bidding process.

The Difference Between 3D Modeling and Rendering Services  

“A 3D modeling service defines the underlying architecture of a 3D object: the math involved in creating its shape and composition,” explains Rothery. “3D rendering services add details like lighting, texture, and animation.”

Rothery says that 3D modeling is content generation. “3D modeling includes the use of automated sculpting tools and a suite of curated studios to offload bulk work. After the creation of the 3D model, the content is stored in a CMS [content management system]. Then 3D rendering occurs on the consumption side when an application uses that stored content. The 3D content is served from the CMS to the compatible application, with the CMS rendering is based on the use case.

“The rendering takes the basic object and makes it as realistic as possible by adding lighting and shading, while also accounting for speed and performance,” Rothery notes. “Also, a model renders differently based on the applications: Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), or spins.”

Benefits of Outsourcing 3D Modeling

Rothery points out that 3D outsourcing has three primary benefits: “After due diligence to assure quality and reliability of the 3D modeling service provider, outsourcing is typically faster, cost savings are substantial, and operational costs are lower.”

“It’s expensive to build an in-house department from scratch,” Rothery observes. “On top of the modeling team, quality control is necessary—which means you need a QA team on top of the modeling team. Depending on requirements, it’s often challenging to create a high-performing in-house 3D team. Also, you need to have a constant flow of content, so their capacity is not wasted.”

The benefits (in alphabetical order) of 3D modeling outsourcing include:

  • Control: Adherence to guidelines and standards are part of the engagement. Most professional firms provide excellent customer service, sometimes 24/7. Skilled project management is an integral part of the process, along with ongoing QA to detect defects early.
  • Cost Savings: Save time and money with rapid turnarounds, even on high-volume projects. Ask service providers about competitive pricing and bidding.
  • Ease: Using external resources allows optimization of internal resources, while the right vendor provides superior capabilities based on experience.
  • Quality: Qualified vendors provide top 3D artists and QA on an ongoing basis to deliver a project that meets your quality standards and requirements.
  • Speed: Services enable you to minimize the concept-to-production time. Faster turnaround times result from engaging experienced providers who employ streamlined processes.
  • State-of-the-Art: Take advantage of the latest technologies and file formats in 3D rendering/modeling without investing in them yourself. They will also be deployed by trained and experienced professionals.

 “Outsourcing 3D modeling provides elasticity. Because the capacity of the service is shared, companies receive a high level of talent without having to employ full-time 3D modelers,” confirms Rothery. “Companies that outsource pay for what they need when they need it. When you don’t need 3D modeling services, you don’t pay for them.”

Who Uses 3D Modeling Services?

Outsourcing 3D modeling is now commonplace. “Industries that outsource include everything from entertainment, furniture retail, home goods, DIY, real estate, decking, kitchen/bath renovations, aerospace, to automotive sales,” says Rothery.

Using 3D to sell products is good for business. “Just about every retailer wants to convert from 2D product photography and juice their e-commerce portals,” emphasizes Rothery. “It’s rare for companies that use product spins, product configurations, AR, or VR to create that type of complex content in-house.”

Example of AR & VR Retail Apps

“AR and VR are content consumption avenues, and the models are the same,” Rothery explains. “Let’s say you start with a 3D model of a couch, and you want to view it in VR and via an AR app. You start with a single piece of 3D content representing the couch, around which the client has set parameters for speed and realism. Every 3D model is a compromise between visual quality and speed (often referred to as performance). There’s a sliding scale with realism at one end and performance at the other. The more real a client wants a model to look, the slower it loads.”

In such a new area of technology, standards are still at an early stage. “In concert with the Khronos Group and the VRARA [industry consortiums that set standards], we’re developing 3D model specifications. We take those specs, generate a single model based on the guidelines, then render it into the best format for delivery to the intended platform: for example, .”

3D Modeling Outsourcing in Different Industries and Businesses

Almost every industry in which it’s useful to visualize objects in three dimensions outsources 3D modeling. Once modeled, objects can be displayed as a 2D image or created physically through 3D printing.

Here are some of the many industries that use 3D modeling:

Industries That Use 3D Modeling Software and Software Services
IndustryUse Example
Advertising and MarketingVirtual Rendering: Prototypes, products, and packaging can be tested—without the high cost of creating new, real products.  If projects aren’t accepted, they can be altered virtually. Once the concept is corrected, that rendering can proceed to manufacturing.
Aerospace and AeronauticsVisualization and Prototyping: 3D modeling is becoming an essential tool for the aeronautics and aerospace industries to visualize or order 3D printing for prototyping and production. The software for this industry includes specific features to help deliver mechanical designs that adhere to standards for aircraft safety and reliability.
ArchitectsRealistic Interiors and Exteriors: Realistic interior and exterior renderings of residential and commercial properties, virtual walkthroughs, fly throughs, and 360-degree panoramic views display features for maximum communication with clients and engineers.
AutomotiveCar Design: Programs support 3D design and prototyping of automotive parts, engine redesign, mechanical systems, electronic add-ons, and interior components. Simulations aid in measuring fuel efficiency and drag testing.
Building ContractorBuilding Information Model (BIM): BIM is a digital representation of a building or infrastructure made up of objects that can contain dimensions and product information. Objects act in correspondence to one another. For example, when a window placement on a wall moves, the door and location of light switches move relative to each other.
Consumer GoodsProduct Design: Design products with product engineering, design, and visualization tools that reduce new product development time and help lower costs.
DesignFashion Design: 3D virtual clothing, from basic shirts to elaborate suits, can be created with many options and realistic renderings. Pattern design, fit modeling, and cutting schemes are simplified.
Ecommerce/ RetailersRetail Goods: Buyers view products like apparel, appliances, or furniture from all angles, zoom in and out, or click or tap for more information while considering a purchase.
EducationTeaching Materials: Virtual 3D training, simulators, and other teaching materials offer consumers, employees, or students ways to train and learn effectively.
ElectronicsElectronic Components: As devices have become smaller, electrical components and the mechanical envelopes have had to shrink as well. 3D images allow for investigation of minute components of a printed circuit board and its integrated system.
EngineeringIndustrial Design: Designers use 3D software to conceptualize, communicate, and test design intent and aesthetics before building a prototype. Many products, from tablets to headphones to scooters, are designed using 3D software.
EntertainmentMovies: Most popular films use 3D modeling. Even in shows that aren’t special effects-heavy, it’s  3D images are frequently added to shots to improve the texture and design of the scene.
GamingVideo Games: Thanks to strides in modeling software and artist techniques, today’s games look less like cartoons and more like live-action movies.
Healthcare/MedicalImaging: From arch supports to prosthetics, 3D scanning, modeling, and printing are making life better for patients. Medical imaging also enables better solutions to patients’ health issues based on the examination of body structures and systems.
Geology and ScienceEarth Modeling: Simulations of earthquakes and landforms allow geologists and scientists to see stress effects and develop prediction models.
Interior DesignPlacement, Color, and Texture: Interior designers use 3D renderings and animations to inform their clients and check for design harmony before making purchases.
MarineWeak Point Identification: Evaluation of ship design reveals potential weak points in construction to avoid costly mistakes.
Mechanical EngineeringValidation: Mechanical engineers use 3D models to communicate and validate ideas before production of power-producing or power-using machines.
Packaged FoodPackaging: Real-time visualization and validation throughout the design process, from concept to production, enables the accurate and fast production of food shrink-wraps, cartons, cans, or glass containers.
PipingOperational Safety and Efficiency: Operational safety and efficiency rely on accuracy and design that factor conditions like wind, current, seismic loads, and heat. 3D modeling supports the creation of complex offshore structural systems that are compliant with industry codes and standards.
Product ManufacturerEfficiency: Multimedia 3D printing technologies can create an entire floor of 3D printers in place of a traditional manufacturing and assembly line.
PublishingImagery: The publishing world uses 3D modeling to boost its photographic imagery in illustrated publications such as textbooks. This technology is beneficial for realistically displaying images of flora, fauna, and terrain that is difficult to access.
TelecomTroubleshooting: Engineers can find a broken fiber optic link within a group of cables by holding up a smartphone and opening a specific application. 3D-supported troubleshooting decreases the time to find and fix issues.

Most industries have multiple uses for 3D models and rendering, and outsourced services cover a wide range of offerings.

Types of 3D Modeling and Rendering Services That Can Be Outsourced

Services that can be outsourced cover a wide span, not just for 3D modeling and rendering but also for auxiliary services, including 2D rendering, conversations, animation, 3D printing, and more.

Here are some of the service categories that companies outsource:

  • Modeling: 2D modeling is a flat drawing, which is useful for documentation. 5D modeling isolates different objects and displays them at different depths. The individual elements are 2D, but the effect is akin to 3D. 3D modeling conveys a sense of realism and dimensionality to objects.

Augmented Reality (AR) models combine real and virtual (computer-generated) worlds. A real subject, captured on video or camera, is amended with extra layers of digital information.

3D Cloud’s Retail App Demo

Virtual Reality (VR) models imply a complete immersion experience that shuts out the physical world.

3D Cloud’s VR Shopping App Demo

  • 3D Printing: 3D printing uses a digital file to generate three-dimensional solid objects by stacking layers of material in a successive fashion. 3D printing enables rapid prototyping: quickly fabricating a scale model of a physical part or assembly.
  • Animation: Digital objects rotate and move like real objects in an artificial three-dimensional space. 3D animation drives games and VR, and it’s used in presentation graphics to add visual flair.
  • Assemblies: With assembly modeling, you bring together individual parts to form complex models. Motion elements can also be applied for detailed motion analysis to evaluate the mechanical performance of the design.
  • Conversions: Images can be converted from 2D to 3D. Software formats can also be converted from previously generated models, you can convert raster to vector, and legacy conversions can remodel, resize, and scale legacy drawings.
  • Desktop Publishing: Reports, advertising matter, and company magazines can be inexpensively produced with a layout and print quality like typeset books, for xerographic or other reproduction.
  • Drafting, Drawing, and Mechanical Layouts: Many service providers will provide drawing services for clients based on specifications. Drawings can include patent drawings for patent applications, which must show every feature of the inventionas specified in the claims.
  • Editing: Photo, video, and TV commercial editing is a service that can be essential to the creation of some 3D projects, particularly for advertising and marketing.
  • Engineering Fit: Kinematics, often found in engineering, are quantities used to describe motion that can be checked and verified. Interference, or the overlapping of models, can be checked to ensure quality images. Assemblies can also be checked to ensure adequate clearance in mechanical assemblies.
  • Graphic Design: Packaging, advertising, or other communications may be designed as an additional service to complete a product offering.
  • Software and Apps: 3D services may include the development of proprietary software, mobile, and web apps as platforms for 3D modeling projects.
  • Validation: Test software and the final 3D modeling product to ensure it meets business and client needs.

Outsourcing services can provide one or many of these services in combination, depending on client needs.

Types of 3D Models and Corresponding Software

3D modeling software types—wireframe, surface, solid, or mesh—have benefits and drawbacks, depending on the type of design being produced. In the 3D modeling process, designers often use a combination of technologies or convert between them.

3D modeling software types have their own creation and editing techniques:

  • Mesh Model: Enables free-form sculpting, creasing, and smoothing capabilities. A 3D mesh uses polygons as the structural build of a 3D model. To define shapes with height, width, and depth, 3D meshes use reference points on the X, Y, and Z axes. To make a 3D mesh emulate reality, mass amounts of polygons need to be assembled. Since the shapes are simple, processing time is faster than with other modeling techniques that already generate smoother curves.

Examples of mesh modeling software include MeshLab, MeshMagic, and Meshmixer.

  • Solid Model: Basic 3D shapes—cones, cylinders, boxes, donuts, spheres, and wedges—are employed in model making. More complex solids are created by joining or subtracting the shapes or connecting overlapping volume. Solids are also created by directing a 2D object or revolving it on an axis. Solid models depict an object thoroughly enough to support digital prototyping.

Examples of solid modeling software include Blender, Cinema 4D, Modo, Rhinoceros, and Substance Designer.

  • Surface Model: More sophisticated than wireframe modeling, surface models define the surfaces and edges of a 3D object. The surface modeler defines faceted surfaces using a polygonal mesh. Because mesh faces are planar, the mesh only approximates curved surfaces. Surface modeling enables the analysis and precise manipulation of objects.

Examples of surface model software include Autodesk 3D Studio Max, Autodesk Maya, Blender, Modo, and ZBrush.

  • Wireframe Model: A skeletal representation of a 3D object, a wireframe describes no surfaces. Wireframes are composed of points, lines, and curves to define the object’s edges. Wireframe models can be created by positioning planar or 2D objects in a 3D space. Useful in initial product design stages, wireframes also work for design modification and subsequent modeling.

Examples of wireframe model software include Adobe XD, Canva, InVision Freehand, Marvel, and Sketch.

A 3D artist needs to have skill and experience to understand how and when to use the different modeling techniques and software—another reason to rely on qualified services rather than try to bring that capability in-house.

Outsourcing to Established Companies vs. Freelancers

Whether you go with an established company or use a freelancer for your 3D modeling needs, ask about their skills, experience, ISO or software certifications, references, and portfolio. Established companies likely have a proven process and specific benefits since they have a track record: portfolio, references, seasoned professionals.

“It can take years for a 3D team to find its footing and deliver high-quality assets. The best companies in the field have already created millions of models and analyzed every aspect of the 3D content creation process to find cost efficiencies. If you have an extended timeframe and a big budget, building an in-house 3D team can make sense. For everyone else, there’s hiring an outside provider,” explains Rothery.

At the other end of the spectrum, freelancers present challenges due to their lack of experience, portfolio, references, or proven process. Freelancers may be budget-friendly but may not be the best long-term choice. Freelancers may lack experience, including understanding the need for confidentiality to protect client assets. A freelancer may offer less editing convenience because of limited bandwidth and no internal support. Using freelancers from abroad may pose issues because of differences in time zones, work hours, and public holidays.

3D Modeling and Rendering Buyers’ Checklist

Selecting a 3D modeling or rendering vendor is important to your business brand and profitability. Before you decide, clarify your project requirements, your workstyle, and your needs in a vendor.

Use this checklist (and add your own criteria), so you can make the right selection or build an apples-to-apples comparison between potential service providers:

3D Modeling Services Checklist
Check PortfolioReview previous work to ensure quality and alignment with your needs.
Total CapabilitiesUnderstand everything available on the vendor’s service menu.
Location and Hours of AvailabilityIf personal interaction is essential, check availability and see if you are in compatible time zones.
Years in BusinessLongevity is a marker of experience and customer satisfaction.
Staff BiosUnderstand who will be working on your project and their level of expertise.
Delivery TimeframesThey should provide a clear schedule of when steps in the project will be complete.
PricingAsk for a written, signed estimate, and understand the costs related to extra-contractual change orders.
ISO CertificationsLook for organizations that use the 9001 ISO standard to demonstrate the ability to consistently provide products and services that meet customer and regulatory requirements related to the international standards for a quality management system (QMS).
ReferencesTalk to previous clients and ask not only about results but about the process.
ProcessEnsure that a process is in place.
Customer ServiceClarify how you will interact with your service provider, hours of availability, and who the individual or individuals may be.
Performance GuaranteesMake sure that part of the service contract includes guarantees for quality, delivery, and service.
SecurityReputable companies will protect intellectual property with extra safety measures and software/NDAs and other measures.

Case Study: Macy’s Adopts a Single Platform for All Applications

An immersive 3D experience is a key decision driver for today’s furniture shopper. That’s why leading retailers like La-Z-Boy®, Bob’s Discount Furniture®, and Macy’s power their content strategy with 3D Cloud Platform, which allows unfettered innovation at scale. 3D Cloud helps customers create 3D Room Planners, VR Shopping Apps, AR, and VR Furniture Apps, 3D Web AR Advertising, and 3D Modeling Services with one content model, rather than having to acquire a separate model for each use case.

Macy’s VR Reality Furniture Experience

Using this single model approach, Macy’s now offers an expanding array of compelling virtual customer experiences in-store, at home, or via mobile apps. “VR is a practical application proven to drive sales and a terrific example of combining technology and the human touch,” said Hal Lawton, president of Macy’s.

For example, the typical pain points of fit and aesthetics disappear with the “See Your Space IRL (in real life)” VR solution that allows the virtual placement of Macy’s furniture products in personal living spaces. 3D Cloud’s platform also supports Macy’s programs like the “Customize It” sofa line that provides customers with near-infinite possibilities to preview covers, colors, and textures before placing an order.

Macy’s enterprise-wide, omnichannel 3D strategy is impacting the brand’s bottom line positively. Pilot stores using the Virtual Reality Furniture experience saw a rise in sales by more than 60 percent compared to non-VR furniture sales and decreased returns below two percent. Additionally, Macy’s has been able to dramatically lower the physical footprint needed to display inventory while allowing customers to see a full selection of furniture items resulting in greater efficiency and profitability.

3D Cloud’s 3D Modeling Services Can Improve Your Business

Companies that want to thrive in the competitive retail landscape know they need to provide a high-quality 3D experience to their customers. They also know acquiring that expertise in-house isn’t always easy. That’s when outsourcing 3D modeling can make all the difference.

3D Cloud provides compelling 3D models (including AR and VR) that drive sales and keep customers. Top furniture retailers use 3D Cloud product visualization apps to supercharge sales and reduce returns.

Learn more about 3D Cloud product visualization apps.

Industry group participation

Home Furnishings Association
National Kitchen and Bath Association
City of Hope

Recognized by experts in tech growth and security

Google Cloud Partner
Gartner Cool Vendor
Rocket Companies
VR/AR Association