Speed Sculpting: Everything You Need To Know + Example Videos
Tips3DWritten by McKella SawyerDisclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. That means if you buy something we get a small commission at no extra cost to you(learn more)
Speed sculpting is the process of rapidly creating digital 3D sculpts in order to practice or just have fun with sculpting projects.
It’s a similar concept to speed painting and is very popular among 3D artists.
Speed sculpting videos are usually sped-up recordings of a longer sculpt which helps viewers see the entire process quickly and learn new techniques in a short amount of time.
Sophisticated software lets artists sculpt digitally by using a mouse, stylus, or even their fingers on a touch screen to shape and mold a digital clay-like material.
Some of these videos can be as short as 5 minutes, others total around 20-30 minutes. But typical speed sculpting projects have a “real time” length of many hours.
3D Sculpting vs 3D Modeling
You’ve probably heard the term 3D modeling and thought “is that the same thing as 3D sculpting”?
While they’re both great methods for creating 3D objects, the processes and their applications are actually very different.
Modeling is best suited for creating more angular forms made of basic shapes and that require straight lines.
To create a 3D model the designer must manipulate a polygon mesh to create a form. It’s a much more mathematical, calculated process than just shaping a form out of digital Play-Doh.
3D sculpting is a much more organic process, similar to sculpting with clay in real life. It’s also a much slower process, especially for smooth geometric objects.
Digital sculpting is better for creating organic subjects like people and creatures.
Many artists get great results by combining these two techniques, either by modeling some elements and sculpting others, or by first modeling an object and adding lifelike details with sculpting later.
How Does Speed Sculpting Work?
Most 3D sculpting programs are designed to provide an intuitive process, mimicking the experience of sculpting forms with physical materials in real life.
Every program is different but most allow the artist to select a form to begin with, such as a block or a sphere, which they can then sculpt and mold using a stylus or mouse.
Artists can pinch, pull, indent, and add to the form to transform it from a simple sphere to a head (or anything else) in record time. Some programs include additional starting forms, such as a human bust.
Most sculpting programs also allow for mirroring so any changes made to one side of the piece is instantly replicated on the other half. This is handy for making symmetrical objects and features common to the human body.
You can also duplicate elements that you want to repeat instead of sculpting each tooth or spinal vertebrae individually, which can save a lot of time!
And with sculpting artists can adjust all kinds of textures to make sculptures even more lifelike with very little extra time or effort.
Speed sculpting is basically all of this done extremely fast. Little foreplanning is involved so it’s mostly an artist working from skill alone.
This allows artists to quickly practice and refine all of these techniques while developing their personal style, almost like an improvisational creative project.
Speed Sculpting Software
Programs for speed sculpting range from high-end, one-time payment programs to monthly subscriptions and even some free programs.
Here’s a quick list of the top programs used for speed sculpting:
ZBrush – This is basically the #1 sculpting program on the market with very little in its way. ZBrush is a professional grade program and it’s great if you’re really serious about 3D sculpting because it’s got a lot of bells and whistles to work with. It’ll also set you back about $800.
Mudbox – Comparable to Zbrush, you can access Mudbox for $10/month or $80/year. This works inline with other programs like Maya which is nice too.
Meshmixer – If you’re just getting started, this beginner-friendly & free application is a great choice.
Sculptris – Here’s one more and free sculpting program that works incredibly well for newbies.
Awesome Speed Sculpts
One of the best ways to learn anything is to watch others at work.
And if you’re looking into speed sculpting then you probably want to some as artists in action. We’ve got you covered!
Check out these amazing speed sculpts and learn from accomplished artists working from many of the programs above.
Venom in ZBrush
Watch as this artist meticulously stretches and sculpts a 3D model of Venom in ZBrush, starting with the head and gradually adding the rest of the body and limbs.
This video demonstrates a few useful techniques like copying and arranging elements(useful for things like teeth).
The artist’s attention to detail is exquisite. Very impressive, considering the actual sculpt only took three hours in real time to complete.
Everyone loves dragons. They’re fierce creatures and super fun to watch in sculpting software.
This video starts with the basic “skeleton” that makes up the form, and then adds the wing membrane and dorsal sail later. This technique is almost the equivalent of applying paper to a wire sculpture in real space.
The details in this piece are stunning from the meticulously sculpted scales, spikes, and talons, down to the little mini wings on the elbows.
If you’re interested trying Sculptris then here’s a great demonstration of what the program is capable of.
This artist starts with a simple sphere and sculpts it into the skull of a fantasy creature.
At the very end the video also shows off Sculptris’ lighting capabilities to showcase the sculpture in its best light—literally.
Mudbox Head Sculpt
This is a real fun speed sculpt to watch, especially if you’re interested in Mudbox.
The artist starts with the form of a basic human bust and sculpts it into a character. This is a useful shortcut that allows for a lot of experimentation when designing creatures and characters from scratch.
It’s a great demonstration of sculpting detailed faces, skin folds, wrinkles, and facial expressions too. You can do a lot with Mudbox!
The artist even applies textures quickly to create stubble and pores on the subject’s skin.
This sculpt was done in only two hours which is darn impressive. Check the video notes for a quick recap of all the steps.
Hammer Speed Model in Maya
This artist uses basic forms to model a stylized hammer in Maya before sculpting details in ZBrush. The whole process can seem pretty complex yet it took less than 30 minutes!
This technique of modeling first and sculpting later to add details is very useful if you’re making an object from basic forms.
And this is a super fun watch if you’re just getting into Maya for a 3D workflow.
Either way speed sculpting is a great way to develop your skills as a 3D concept artist, character designer, or modeler.
And if you just like watching others sculpt you’ll find plenty of videos on YouTube.
Author: McKella Sawyer
McKella is an artist and freelance writer from Salt Lake City, Utah. When she isn't painting or writing for clients she loves to write fiction, travel, and explore the mountains near her home either on foot, horseback, or a mountain bike. You can view her art on Etsy and her writing services at TheCafeWordsmith.com.