Why did you decide to become a 3D artist in the first place? Was it the thrill of animating ideas, the accomplishment of designing for emotion, or the possibility to combine textures, sounds and graphics at your imagination’s whim? Whatever inspired you to pursue this craft, it’s the same thing that keeps you going regardless of how much money it’s bringing in. However, even the most passionate creators must ensure that basic living expenses and needs are met every month.

A few years ago, a 3D artist’s income possibilities would probably be limited to a traditional job at an animation studio or some kind of face­to­face freelancing career. As of 2015, there are many exciting alternatives for 3D creators who want to make a living doing what they love. Throughout this article, we will share 5 ideas to help you explore new passive income streams.

1. Sell your 3D stock models

Chances are that, as your career has progressed, you’ve accumulated a large library of assets that might benefit other creators. Many sites allow you to open an online shop and sell those 3D models to thousands of creative professionals in virtually every field. Creative Market, for example, has recently launched a 3D category where you can open a shop and earn a 70% cut from every sale. This percentage is among the highest in the industry, and uploading your models there doesn’t mean that you can’t upload/sell them elsewhere. Check it out here.


2. Build a tool for your peers, and sell it.

If you’ve become familiar with a certain software package like Maya, creating special plugins for advanced functions might be a great way to generate some additional income. Miarmy, for example, is a Human Logic Engine based Maya plugin for crowd simulation, AI & behavioral animation, creature physical simulation and rendering. The team behind this plugin is responsible for the armies in Netflix’s hit series Marco Polo, and their keys sell for $2,650 USD a piece.


3. Launch (and monetize) a blog

You may think about a blog as a creative outlet: a way to express thoughts and emotions freely and share them with friends and colleagues. While that was their original spirit, blogs have evolved from the time they emerged in the 90s. What was once merely a personal online journal has become a powerful platform to build thought leadership and, why not, passive income. Essentially, once an author has accumulated a sizeable following, there are many strategies to convert those readers into buyers. Make sure you read Problogger’s “60+ Ways to Make Money With Your Blog”.

There are many successful 3D bloggers who have monetized their sites. The CG Animation Blog, for example, was created by Andy Whiteley and aims to represent his long standing interest in computer animation. As you can see, they’ve monetized their blog mainly through advertising.


4. Write a course or ebook

Creating a valuable, specialized package of knowledge and offering it to fellow 3D creators can also prove a very effective source of passive income.

AnimationMentor, for example, started when Bobby Beck, Shawn Kelly, and Carlos Baena were united by one simple question: “If we were to start over again, how would we want to learn?”. Today, they sell multiple online courses to talented animators that have ended up working at renowned studios like Pixar and DreamWorks.



5. Sell physical, 3D­printed products

As a 3D artist, you have the knowledge and tools required to create sophisticated models that other people can’t. Explore out­of­the­box design solutions for everyday problems and create products that can be 3D printed to alleviate certain users’ needs. Fusion Imaging, for example, is a studio of 3D modelers in Australia that decided to sell mounts for the iPad Mini and iPad Air. To do so, they uploaded their models to Shapeways and began marketing the products.



­­­ There are many opportunities to expand your revenue and innovate within your field. Creating a new passive income stream will help sustain the creative drive that first brought you to the fascinating space that is 3D. ­­Creative Market is a platform for handcrafted, mousemade design content from independent creatives around the world.

Laura (@laurabusche) earned a Master of Arts in Design Management from the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). She is the author of O’Reilly Media’s Lean Branding book. Laura is a Brand Content Strategist at Creative Market and regularly blogs about branding and business at laurabusche.com/blog.

Header image credit:  Victor Hanacek

  • slickfast

    Thanks for writing this. As an aerospace engineer turned 3D artist with a large dash of entrepreneurialism, I’ve started with Shapeways (and am working to get onto Amazon) but have been struggling with ideas for multiple revenue streams. This is a great kick in the pants to branch out!