What is the 3dtotal gallery?

Ever wondered how 3dtotal selects gallery images? In this article Studio Manager Simon Morse talks us through the gallery selection process...

Ever wondered how 3dtotal selects gallery images? In this article Studio Manager Simon Morse talks us through the gallery selection process...

Unlike almost any other art form or medium, digital art maintains a huge online presence which is powered by an enormous global community. In fact, if you are reading this there is a good chance you are part of that community and help keep sites like 3dtotal stocked with great art and useful tutorial content, or at the very least are part of the audience that enjoys it.

3dtotal is one of the original digital art websites and one of the cornerstones of our site is the gallery. For years, digital artists have been taking on the challenge of featuring in our gallery and trying to win the 3dtotal Excellence Award. In this article we will be talking you through how the gallery works and give you an insight into the judging process and how to get your work selected.

The 3dtotal gallery is one of the most popular parts of the site

What is the 3dtotal gallery?

The 3dtotal gallery is a huge collection of carefully selected digital artwork which is updated daily, categorised into six separate gallery sections (Scenes, Characters, Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Cartoon, and 2D Concept Art). Every image you see in our gallery has been submitted through our online submission process by a 3dtotal site user.

The gallery consists of both 3D art and 2D digital paintings of every genre, created using a huge variety of software and hardware and an array of different techniques and approaches, but they all have a high standard in common.

We get hundreds of submissions every week, which allows us to select only the very best images to feature in our gallery. This also means that, unfortunately, we disappoint at least 95% of the artists that submit every week, which I will talk about a little later!

The 3dtotal gallery is updated daily with the best new CG artwork

Who submits to the gallery?

The gallery is open to submissions from absolutely everyone. You could be a seasoned pro working on the biggest movie and game projects, or be a hobbyist who is just giving it a go for the first time. The gallery represents the best in digital art, rather than just the work of the best known artists or the artists with the best job titles.

This amazing character is the work of top industry professional Rafael Grassetti

How do we decide what is selected for the gallery?

This is the big question and something that we get asked often by those who have been unsuccessful in their efforts to make it into the gallery. The gallery is judged by a small group of 3dtotal team members who work exclusively on creative 3dtotal products like our books, magazines, and anatomy figures. When we look at the gallery images we often have no idea who they are by, which helps to ensure that the images are judged on their merits with no prejudice.


A slightly different approach needs to be employed when judging 2D and 3D art; as judging 2D is quicker to explain, I will start there. Digital paintings and matte paintings are very much an art form like traditional painting, therefore we will be looking first for strengths in composition, depth, perspective, and use of color.

We always like to see something original. Sometimes we can feel like we have seen something a million times before, but even if this is the case, as long as it is well executed with an evident understanding of the subjects listed above, we would most likely accept it into the gallery.

Quality of concept, however, is important. An ability to bring elements together to work in a scene can make or break a painting. It's pretty hard to describe in words, but we're looking for great design, a solid skill set, and demonstration of an understanding of how to put an image together.

This image by Jesper Friis has a strong composition, narrative elements and great use of color

This image by Jesper Friis has a strong composition, narrative elements and great use of color


With 3D art the above still applies, but it's also a bit more complicated than that. Firstly, we almost always reject basic still life projects. If you send a render of a bottle of ketchup, an individual light bulb or a letter opener, it is very unlikely that we will choose your image, as we are looking for images where we can see more of your artistic vision involved.

However, we do often say yes to recreations of real-world subjects like cars, architectural visualizations, and interiors, because these are important aspects of the CG industry and can be judged against the standards of those fields. When artists take on these subjects requiring a high standard of photorealism, the areas that cause regular problems are the materials and lighting, often giving away that a scene has been created in 3D. Another common problem is overly harsh edges. In the real world, very rarely would you see objects with perfectly un-scuffed or unvaried corners that come to an immaculate sharp point. This degree of precision should be saved for glossy, polished sci-fi scenes, as they often make real-world interior scenes look like plastic! When these issues appear it can stop an otherwise good 3D render tricking you into thinking it is real, and might stop us selecting your image.

Devon Fay hit the ball out of the park with this one!

Devon Fay hit the ball out of the park with this one!

We see a lot of 3D character art submitted to 3dtotal, and again, technical things like materials and textures will make or break your image. However, we also have new issues like anatomy to overcome. Issues with anatomy are one of the biggest problems we see with character art and will almost always mean your image is rejected. If you feel this is something you struggle with, we have a great book to help you with that and our anatomy figures are a really helpful resource. We are really used to seeing other people in our day-to-day lives, which means we gain knowledge of anatomy on a subconscious level, so if your model looks lifeless, rubbery or disproportionate, it will stand out very quickly.

Ian Spriggs is brilliant at recreating stunning human characters

Ian Spriggs is brilliant at recreating stunning human characters

Clay renders often make interesting submissions. The same rules about anatomy and interesting design apply here, but additional points to consider are the finish and presentation you apply. Although you can argue a clay render isn't a finished piece, the image you submit should still be a well presented render with lighting, composition, or a material applied – just because it's a clay sculpt doesn't mean it should look unfinished and unflattering.

James Cain did a great job at presenting his sculpt in this one

The best way to describe what we are looking for is simply something that is interesting, well designed, consistent, and well presented. When you consider that we see hundreds of submissions each week, we really have to choose images that tick all these boxes and represent the best digital artwork around at the time.

Gurmukh Bhasin ticks all of the boxes with this one

Gurmukh Bhasin ticks all of the boxes with this one

What happens if my art is selected for the gallery?

The lucky and talented few that are successfully selected for the gallery will have their art hosted in the 3dtotal gallery forever. 3dtotal enjoys hundreds of thousands of unique visitors every month, so if it's a bit of exposure that you're after, we can really help with that. We also offer an opportunity to be interviewed for the website, which means you could get even more exposure by being featured on 3dtotal's top row!

Featuring in our gallery has always been a great source of exposure as well as a great indicator of your quality as an artist. On top of this you also have the opportunity to win our monthly competition. Throughout the month, all the gallery images will be receiving votes from 3dtotal users. Voting is open on each new image for seven days after it's submitted, and then these votes are tallied and the most popular image wins a really cool little trophy.

Here you can see a small selection of images and their votes

What does it mean if I'm not selected?

Sadly the by-product of our gallery is that every month we disappoint hundreds of developing and professional artists who we do not select to feature in the gallery. This isn't personal or meant to be disheartening, but is simply unavoidable when we're compiling a gallery of the best CG art from a constantly changing influx of submissions. Sometimes an image has a great underlying sculpt but just needs a bit of an improvement to the texturing and lighting work. Sometimes a small presentation tweak is all it takes to show an image off to its best advantage and get it in next time! Don't be disheartened.

If you are new to CG or still developing your skills, we highly recommend you use the free tutorials on our site or even consider our fantastic books which are designed to help you continue your artistic development.

Our advice to every artist that isn't selected is to keep on trying. Our tutorial writers always say that every artist is eternally developing. Even the biggest industry professionals will tell you that they learn new things and improve their art year by year. Don't let the rejection put you off, but instead use it to motivate your next project.

Every submission will receive an automated email to notify them of their success or failure. We are really sorry that we can't give a personal response to every submission as this would be a full time job in itself.

3dtotal hosts thousands of free tutorials – you're sure to find what you're after


3dtotal was created as a digital art resource site with the goal of keeping people up to date with industry news and standards, but also – and more importantly – to help make people better artists. The gallery is one of the many tools we use to try to do this. It's not only a source of inspiration and a way of showing off the best CG artwork, but it's also a motivational tool, to make artists want to improve and push themselves to be the best artist they can be. But it's not the be-all and end-all, so don't be discouraged from working on a piece or re-submitting in the future! If you're considering submitting to the 3dtotal gallery, I hope this article is insightful, giving you a clearer understanding of what we look for and maybe some ideas on how you can improve your next piece!

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