One thing is a fact for most 3D digital artists, no matter how many 3D models you have in inventory there are never enough. It doesn’t matter if you make your own props and characters as there is always a need for something you don’t have.
It doesn’t take long to discover the bigger repositories like Sketchfab, Turbosquid, and CGTrader but what about all those smaller sites that seem to have a lot of quality models for free? Some even seem to have similar site templates and may even share models found in other repositories. We all know this could be legit or scam city so off we go to Google.
First and foremost, let me state for the record, I am not endorsing or even slightly implying that any of these sites are safe. That is for you to determine. I’m just presenting what I found out about some of them in the hopes that it may save time and headaches down the road. As with all things I write about… you enter at your own risk… but I will try to provide at least some basic info for you.
All this being said one has to keep in mind the legality of using 3D model repositories in your work. You could set yourself up for legal problems if you include models that cannot be traced to a license. If there are vague terms or little to no attrition as to the authorship of the models on a particular site then it would be wise to jump over to your favorite search engine and do some research. Not just to check out the intellectual property aspects but to protect your computer, phone, or tablet from unwanted visitors.
- Renderhub– Clean site layout with the ability to sell your models. 100 percent Trust score (ScamAdvisor) with no reviews. Found a negative over at polycount.com about selling ripped-off content but the content was removed upon notification. Has a small but fairly active member forum. Provides links for DMCA notice and Licensing.
- 3dmodelhaven – Clean and corporately stylish website. Couldn’t find any trustworthy scores. Lists several creators on the About/Contact page. Offers Creative Commons (CCO) license. Website FAQ claims they are not only funded by Patreon supporters but also received a $10k grant from Epic games and are supported by E-Cycles.
- Clara.io (free library) – Startlingly simple website design but requires a free account to download models. Clara has its own, albeit simple, Wikipedia entry concerning its development by Exocortex of Canada as freemium 3D software. There appears to be a large online repository of models that can be downloaded or edited online. Several file options available for download like FBX, Blend, STL, OBJ, and others. Claims to be a growing community of over 100,000 users.
- Downloadfree3d – Clean but very simple website design. Little to no information with only a contact page showing a single email and “3D models only for your own personal use”. Couldn’t find any info about it being trusted or safe. Considering the lack of info and the “personal use” statement this site would bear further research before using any assets.
- 3dexport - Clean layout typical of repositories. Trustpilot score 3 out of 5. Three five stare reviews and one one-star review for selling stolen content and renders. Positive reviewers made note of the bad sellers on the site. Facebook reviews show problems with stolen content and unable to contact anyone. One claim of stolen identity and so forth. Highly recommend more research before using the site.
That was three out of five for free model repositories. As always… be vigilant about downloading models for any reason and in particular for commercial use as it could put your project in jeopardy and open you up to legal ramifications that could far outweigh any benefit of the project in question.
M.D. McCallum, aka WarLord, is an international award-winning commercial graphics artist, 3D animator, published author, project director, and webmaster with a freelance career that spans over 20 years. Now retired, M.D. is currently working part-time on writing and select character development projects. You can learn more about MD on his website.