model maker

What Backgrounds Do Model Makers Have?

model making

How does a person become a model maker? There are a variety of ways that today’s model makers started out before becoming professionals in the business. While most model makers will tell you that they enjoyed working on hobby model kits in their youth, some found their way to the craft later in life. All model makers have advanced dexterity, a keen eye for detail and artistic sensibilities. Another prerequisite is the ability to visualize in 3D. And no amount of model building skills will parlay themselves into a career unless the work can be done in a timely manner. In other words, there are people who can build a decent model if given enough time, but professional model makers always work within particular time constraints.

College degrees specifically in model making do exist. A quick search on the internet brings up BA’s in Model Making, Model Making for Design and Media, Model Making for Film and Television and Model Design and Model Effects. There are Bachelor of Science Degrees in Industrial Technology – Model Making, as well as Associates Degrees in Applied Sciences in Model Making and Design Model Making and Rapid Prototyping. Plenty of model makers hold degrees in Industrial Design, or come from Engineering or Fine Arts backgrounds as well.

Of course, formal education is not a prerequisite to model making. Some model makers learned through apprenticeship or come from backgrounds in crafts or other skilled trades.

Increasingly model makers are expected to  be proficient in computer programs. Plans and designs are frequently sent through AutoCAD, Rhino or Adobe Illustrator. More model parts are being drawn on the computer before assembly. Computers are used to make parts as well, with CNC mills, lasers and 3D printers.

Model making remains an intriguing mix of talents that require mental focus, creative problem solving skills, design appreciation, fine motor skills and willingness to embrace new technology as it presents itself. In spite of some pessimistic predictions about the future of model making, it’s still a thriving profession. It turns out the demand for concrete objects will never go out of style.


Here is an interesting UK article about the qualifications and background needed for Junior Model Makers in the Stop Motion Industry:

2 thoughts on “What Backgrounds Do Model Makers Have?”

  1. Very well written article. I absolutely agree with the statement that model makers need the “ability to visualize in 3D”. I would say that in addition to that they also need to be able to visualize the steps ahead to reach the desired goal. Nobody can start making something from scratch if they cannot see in their imagination all the steps that lay ahead of them … and when one step fails to achieve the desired goal they must be flexible enough to choose another route “on the fly” and begin seeing the new steps ahead of them in their imagination.

    1. Thank you for your thoughtful reply. Your comments about visualizing the building steps that lie ahead, as well as ongoing flexibility when it comes to trouble shooting, are so true. I have been studying the guys here for almost a year, and it still strikes me how much mental work goes into model making. i sat down with one a while back and tried to have him describe how he goes about starting a project in his head, and he uses words like yours:

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