What is 3D Art?

3D art is a term that can have several different meanings. 3D by itself literally just means three-dimensional. Using this definition, 3D art is any art that is extended in all three spatial dimensions (up/down, left/right, and in/out).

But actually, the term 3D art can include quite a lot more than what people might think of when they first hear it. In this article, we’ll go into several of these in detail, along with some cool examples and photos so that you can get a real feel for all the different things that 3D art can be.


The most obvious kind of 3D art is sculpture. Sculptures have been around for an extremely long time, dating back to prehistory. The earliest known sculptures that have been discovered are at least 35,000 years old.

They are called the Löwenmensch figurine and the Venus of Hohle Fels and were both found in Germany. Sculptures can be made of a huge range of materials, but stone, metal, wood, and clay are particularly common.

Some of the greatest works of art ever made are sculptures, from Michelangelo’s David to the Chinese Terracotta Warriors.

Pottery And Crockery

Many cultures also had (or have) traditions of creating beautiful, decorated pottery and crockery. These often had a practical purpose, such as holding water or wine, but can still be considered artworks in their own right. Ancient Greek vases are a good example here.

You’ve probably seen some with figures painted on them to show scenes from Greek history, myths, and legends. Similarly, Ancient Persian pottery goes back around 9000 years and includes plates and bowls that show scenes of love, hunting, and history.

3D Street Art

This kind of art is 3D in a different way. You might have seen the amazing chalk drawings done by street artists on streets and sidewalks that use tricks of perception to make them look 3D – they’re optical illusions. Of course, whatever tricks they use, they’re still only 2D in reality.

Nevertheless, they are often referred to as 3D art and the best ones can look very convincing. You might see some that look like waterfalls, staircases, or huge holes waiting to swallow you up.

Installation Art

Installation art is a kind of art that became more and more popular in the 20th century and is still popular now. It’s a kind of 3D art that is based around transforming a physical space (usually a room indoors) to change how people see and react to it.

This is an interesting concept because it often allows the audience to move around within the 3D space. In a way, the viewers are moving through the artwork itself. Some of them are even interactive and allow the audience to affect or change the artwork in some way. Embankment by Rachel Whiteread is an example of installation art.

Modeling Software

In today’s world, another way of creating 3D art is using 3D modeling software. With this kind of art, the artist creates 3D models and animations on a computer. These are often used in video games, movies, or television shows, but they can also be made as artworks in their own right.

Of course, since they only exist inside computers, they are not truly 3D. However, they are specifically designed to look as 3D as possible, similar to the chalk drawings we saw earlier.

If you’ve seen a Pixar movie, you’ve seen 3D art in motion. Those character models are designed and brought to life in computers. People also do this to create independent artworks too.

It’s common among fans of a certain show, movie, or game to create 3D fan art. Search for 3D fan art of some of your favorite characters and you might be surprised at how much of it there is.

These types of artworks are now sometimes sold as NFTs (non-fungible tokens). The way this works is that the artist creates an artwork and, using the same blockchain technology that powers cryptocurrencies, makes sure that only one copy of the file exists.

Since it can’t be copied, it means that one person can own the artwork, even though that artwork is only a computer file.

3D Printed Art

With the rise of 3D printing, it was only a matter of time before someone started using it to create art. In fact, lots of people are now doing exactly that. These artworks can be considered a kind of sculpture, meaning that there is an unbroken line stretching from the statues made by cavepeople tens of thousands of years ago to the 3D printed works of today.

How amazing is that? 3D printing has given artists a new freedom to create things that would have been very difficult or even impossible to make in the past.

It works by programming a machine to “print” many different layers of material on top of each other, each layer adding to the object. This is why 3D printing is sometimes also known as “additive manufacturing”. Of course, more complicated objects take a lot more programming.

One artist named Cosmo Wenman has a project where he scans classic, famous artworks from around the world (such as the Bust of Nefertiti from the Berlin Egyptian Museum) and makes the information freely available online. This means that anyone with a 3D printer can create reproductions of these works for themselves.


As we’ve seen, 3D art can mean a lot of different things. It began in prehistoric times with simple sculptures. As civilization developed, it grew to include pottery and crockery, having a practical and decorative purpose.

And, in the modern-day it has grown to include 3D printed creations of all kinds, along with computer-modeled characters and environments. We’ve also seen that 3D art can also sometimes refer to art that simply tricks your brain into thinking it’s 3D when really it’s just a 2D drawing. 3D art is a fascinating, beautiful thing. Long may it continue to grow and develop!

Michael Moore