How to Use Reference Images in 3D Modeling?

Reference images are a great source for 3D modeling. Source images are used for the output of accurate 3D objects. The designer can request source images from the client and if the images have the following qualities, the modeling process will be easier.

The best way is to use a reference image. Below are the steps you can follow for getting the best reference image for 3d modeling. Keep on reading!

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01. Select a Good Quality Image

Quality is the main focus of the image. Selecting good quality image is a mind-blowing problem. I can meticulously engage you to it.

01. Blurred less image
When you select an image for reference check whether it is blurred or not. In 3D modeling, we need sharp edges to make the model. And color varied images. If you select the blurred image you may not find the exact shape of the object.

02. High-quality image
High-quality images are highly recommended. It is with sharp lines. Hence you can have better guidance with using the lines. Images color should be sharp and it should not the same as the background color. And the image should be enough size. Low sizes images will blur when it enlarges in the 3D software

03. Image file type
According to the modeling software, a support file should be selected. Mostly it is included png and jpeg.

You can Download 51 reference images that match your skill. Start from Beginner.

02. Have Enough Views

When you are going to build up a 3D model. You need more detail. If the model is with tiny details you need more description about the model. The only way is to have this is a reference image. Therefore you must have enough view for the 3D modeling reference image.

Mostly we need front, back, sides, and top views. According to the complexity, you can have more detailed views. Fewer images can reduce the detail of the model.

03. Focus on Front, Side and Top views

Front, side, and top views are essential for 3D modeling. When you request reference images from your client you can have more. But you should focus on the front, back, sides, and top. Sometimes you can have a perspective view. If you are an expert in 3D modeling you can make the model with assumption areas.

04. Scale Images and Line Up

when you received the images from your client you can have different scaling and line ups. So it is your duty to line up the images with scaling. you can use photoshop or word for this simple. And if there is a disturbing background you can remove that too. When you scaling the images try to prepare 3 in 1 images like below. So you can have the same scale with any view.

05 Mark the Nurbs Paths

Nurbs are highly used in 3d modeling. It is the easiest way better than solid modeling. Nurbs should in with a clear path and should not be odd. When there is a clear path the object can be well shaped and there are no unexpected shrinkages. The least number of NURBS can quickly edit the object and highly NURBS are difficult to edit the object.

When you line up the given images roughly draw which should be the NURBS path. This will make easy of the modeling process.

06. Import to Software

After you prepare the suitable image you can import it to the software that you use. You can use jpg or png files for this and According to your visibility adjust the transparency and scales as you need.

How to import reference images in Blender?
1. Press “Shift+A”
2. Click “Image” then “Reference”

How to import reference images in Cinema 4D?
1. Press “Shift+V”
2. Click “Back” then “Load image”

How to import reference images in Maya?
01. Go to “View Tab” in the viewport
02. Then select “Image plane”
03. Select “Import Image”

How to import reference images in 3D max?
01. Go to Viewport (Top view)
02. Select “Plane” in “Object type”
03. Create the Plane by adding the values
04. “Open” the image location and “Drag and Drop” on to the plane

07. Set Scaling

scaling is very important. Your model has height, width, and length. So ask about it from the client and then set the units in the 3D modeling software. It can be meter, centimeter, etc. Then adjust your reference image according to that. First, have a know distance of the reference image and then d software and according to that adjust the reference image. Do not change the height and width of the reference image. Just change it as a unit.

08. Modeling

After you have done the all above steps you can start the 3D modeling process with reference image tricks. from the reference image. So how can you start this? I suggest you to start it with the most detailed view. Because you can have a better idea about the object and you are with a strong mind. So it will lead you to finish the project soon. And do not try to do it all in 1 day. Take time and think and do.

When you are modeling with the NURBS prepare the large-scale NURBS as it can be easily edited. And change the shapes soon as it needs. Do not over-move with the reference image. always follow the reference image. So you can have a great model.


Reference images are widely used in 3D modeling and you should know to prepare it properly. This guide helps you a lot to make a better and perfect reference image with your views.

Ricky Louis

Hey.. I am Ricky Louis, A professional graphic designer with years of experience in 3D modeling. I would like to share my knowledge with you.

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