What are High Poly and Low Poly Models?
The terms High poly modeling or Low poly modeling originated in the polygon modeling technique. Wherein, 2D polygons are joined together to build 3D models.
These polygons are small and closed geometric shapes having vertices and faces. For example, rectangles, pentagons, hexagons, etc. However, triangles are primarily used.
An average-sized 3D object can consist of thousands of polygons. The structure so created is called mesh. It acts as the surface of the 3D model.
High poly or low poly points to the polygon count of a 3D model. That means the number of polygons used to create a 3D shape.
Interestingly, there is no strict line to differentiate a high poly count from a low poly count. The terms are relative and the mesh can be objectively defined as high or low.
Some artists suggest 1-10K polygons as the comprehensive range for low-poly models. However, there are various factors that should be considered. The major factors are as follows:
- Time: The time of designing the meshes holds relevance. A super high poly object 20 years before might be super low poly today.
- Hardware: Hardware is also a factor to consider. What high poly is for one might be low poly for the other. For example, high poly for mobiles might be low poly for gaming consoles.
- Object: Some objects like a box or crate might not need a high poly count for a detailed look. Hence, the detail required in the final mesh might be lower than other objects in the same environment.
Hence, it is better to consider these factors before defining the poly count of an object. You can see the mesh of these polygons in the wireframe model of the object.
The poly count determines four aspects of the 3D model:
- Rendering rate
- Loading time
The image shared below consists of 3D models of spheres. These spheres are arranged in increasing order of polygon counts. The upper-left image has the lowest poly count while the lower right has the highest poly.
High poly vs Low poly: What is the difference? Which one should I use?
Long story short, the higher the poly count the higher the smoothness and accuracy of the 3D model. On the contrary, low poly requires less computational power and renders faster.
Both High poly modeling and Low poly modeling have their own advantages and shortcomings. It totally depends upon your choice, goals, and available resources.
Let’s look at the pros and cons of these modeling styles individually. Then, we compare both to understand the difference.
Low Poly 3D Modeling: Pros & Cons
Easy to work
Low poly 3d models are easy to load, view, and edit. Low polygon count means easy to load and view for lightweight size. Plus, they are easy to edit because of their less complicated mesh.
Good for real-time engines
Low poly 3D models also do not require high computational power for rendering. Thus, they are perfect for on-the-fly rendering for gaming and animation.
Perfect for Metaverse
Low poly models are amazing for AR and VR experiences. The computer can quickly calculate the manipulation of 3D models in a virtual environment. Hence, users can manipulate them in real-time with little to no lag.
Less Impressive Visuals
In low poly, the geometrical shapes creating a 3D object are fewer. Hence, the modeling style lacks detailing. This results in less impressive visuals compared to high poly models. However, there are some techniques that can make these appear as a high poly model. We have shared these techniques below, jump to the section “Pro tip – How to make low poly look high poly?”.
Manual Addition of Effects
Since low poly modeling comprises lower resolution, one needs to manually add effects. This includes reflection, refractions, shadows, and other effects on the 3D model.
High Poly 3D modeling: Pros and Cons
Realistic 3D Representations
High poly 3D modeling delivers very high-quality visuals. They result in detailed, accurate, and true-to-life 3D models. Even closely looking at the models does not distort the outcome. That is why they are good for rendering high-quality videos and images.
Creation of Cross-sections
High poly models are good for demonstrating cross-sections of an object. The object can be cut into and zoomed in for detailed observation.
The high poly models take a lot of time for rendering and calculation. The processor has to manipulate a lot of elements before producing the outcome.
High poly models are not easy to work upon. High-configuration devices are needed to view and edit these models. Creators and users both need the latest devices to access these 3d models.
Is High Poly better than Low Poly?
High poly models are obviously more complex than low poly models due to the large number of polygons they use for modeling. Moreover, 3D modelers have to check it multiple times for gaps, visible seams, chipping, etc.
Low poly models on the other hand are comparatively simple. There are less number of polygons to manipulate. Artists use the technique of retopology to add details to such models.
Retopology is the resizing and rearranging of the polygons to optimize their count. This boosts rendering while preserving the visual details.
High poly models are hyper-detailed. They can precisely show the intricate details such as ornaments, design elements, or other decors. That is why they are suitable for hyper-realistic and exquisite models.
Low poly models are not that detailed. The surface is smoother with less texture compared to high-poly models, thus, less realistic.
It is quite difficult to add texture on High poly models. Various texture maps are used one over another for realistic results. This also makes the model heavy.
For Low poly, the textures are “baked” together to form an image. Baking is the process of saving information related to a 3D mesh in a texture file (bitmap). Baking minimizes the number of texture maps.
While rendering a High poly model, the engine has to calculate the light refraction from all surfaces and edges of the object. This makes rendering a high-end and time taking process. Depending upon the model, the process may take days or even weeks. Firms get around this tedious process by setting up Render Farms.
A Render farm is a group of high-performing computers built to render computer-generated imagery (CGI). They generate highly photorealistic results.
On the other hand, low poly modeling can facilitate fast or even real-time rendering. The reason is the lightness of all their elements.
High-poly models are better for high-resolution static renders. They are great for showcasing scenes, silo renders, high-quality featured animation, etc. The CGI is of the highest quality having detailed models.
Low poly models are good for motion CG imagery such as interactive 360° views. They are great for 3D configurators where users interact with a virtual product in real-time. Then, there are games, augmented reality, and virtual reality. Low poly models help achieve the real-time rendering required in these areas.
We will discuss the usages in more detail in the section below (Industries more likely to use High Poly vs Low Poly 3D modeling).
Usage of High Poly vs Low Poly
|Criteria||High Poly||Low Poly|
|Complexity||– High complexity.|
– A large number of polygons to work upon.
– Higher chances of errors.
– Models have to be reworked multiple times.
|– Low complexity.|
– Fewer number of polygons to manipulate.
– Lesser chances of errors.
– Retopology to add details.
– Can show intricate details like ornaments, decor in an environment.
|– Less detailed than high poly models.|
– Can’t be used for meticulous detailing of a model.
– Smoother and less textured surface.
– Various texture maps are used for high-quality results.
|– Can’t be the complex for the sake of purpose.|
– The baking technique is used for realistic results.
|Rendering||– Time-consuming rendering.|
– Depending upon the model, it may take several days.
– Photo realistic results.
– Real-time rendering
– Good for Games, AR, and VR experiences
|Usage||– Static Renders.|
– Scene creation.
– Feature Animation.
|– Augmented and Virtual Reality.|
– 3D configuration.
– Interactive 3D views.
Pro tip – How to make low poly look like high poly?
Here are some tips to add details to a 3D model without increasing the poly count.
Use normal maps and height maps to affect how light behaves on the object in the render. This gives an illusion of details on the model. Further, you can also use diffuse maps to add color effects.
Do not use images above 4096×4096 or condense too many maps into a single texture sheet. This will defeat the purpose.
Model the low poly base mesh, clone it, and add high poly detail onto it. Then, use any software like Adobe’s Substance Painter to bake the high poly mesh detail. Then overlay this baked image on low poly mesh as a normal map.
Types of High-Poly Models You Can Create for Games
This heading can be a little off the road for some but not for gamers. Till now, we discussed that low-poly models are better for gaming due to their fast processing speed. However, there is a shift towards high-poly models.
The reason, GPUs are getting more powerful with every generation. They can calculate more vector points in less time. Thereby, they can render more frames per second compared to previous generation GPUs.
The evolution in GPU is making room for high poly models in the gaming industry. Apparently, games with breathtaking visuals are more preferred by gamers.
Thus, the game makers are using a combination of high poly and low poly models. Such games present an optimum performance – great visuals with fast processing. For this, game makers utilize high poly count for models at the forefront of the player’s attention. Here is the list of gaming models that you can create using a high poly count.
High-poly 3D Character model
Players spent a lot of time with the key game character. Giving the character maximum detail is a good and attractive point. The whole outward appearance of the character can be modeled to look realistic.
High-poly Structure 3D model
High poly models can also be used for structures integral to the gaming storyline. This adds features to the game making it immersive, unique, and realistic.
Gamers can also be attracted to high-definition vehicles used in the game. They can drive this vehicle and feel its power.
High-definition weapons can be a distinguishing feature of the game. This is something that players can flaunt in their games.
Props with a high poly count create a good impression of the game maker. It generates confidence in the gamer, thereby, boosting sales.
Industry examples of High poly vs Low poly models
Industries that are more likely to use High-Poly Modeling
High Poly 3D models are useful when you need photorealistic representations. The user can take a closer look at the model with the ability to zoom in and out. This way, they get clarity on the product at hand.
However, keeping in mind that high poly models favor accuracy and visual richness over interactivity.
Marketing & Promotions
High poly models can be used for digitally showcasing products. These models turned into high-quality videos that can show the product in the best light. Similarly, 3D product photography can save a lot of time and cost compared to its real counterpart.
Product Designing & Prototyping
High poly models offer intricate designing of the product before commencing the manufacturing process. They can also help in creating detailed prototypes of the final product. This help in minimizing the manufacturing defect and hence saving a lot of time, cost, and other resources.
High poly 3D models are proving a great tool for the real estate industry. They can offer a detailed illustration of the properties including the expected interior. This help in better valuation than just showing empty rooms or just plots.
Art & Museums
Those in the exhibition industry are also making good use of High poly 3D models to showcase their collections. They can show detailed 3D models that exactly replicate the original. This has brought a lot of benefits such as
- Saving cost
- Reducing time
- Damage, theft, and loss protection
- Better preservation of antiquities
Training & Education
Detailed visualization of complex concepts can work miracles for learners. They can have a deep understanding of the topic and explore it from different angles.
Moreover, a detailed model of the assembly line and the machinery makes training more productive.
Industries that are more likely to use Low Poly Models
Contrary to high poly models, low poly models are useful for real-time interaction and operation of 3D objects. Here, the visual details take a back seat.
Various e-commerce businesses are using low poly models for users’ real-time interactive experience. Users can rotate and flip the product to have a 360-degree view and its components. They can better insight into its functioning and what they are going to get.
Low polygon counts have always been favorites of the game makers. They have to strike a fine balance between polygon count and the game loading speed. Low poly makes room in their polygon budget.
With advancement, programmers can create interactive gaming worlds that flow smoothly without glitches. This brings a great gaming experience to the user and popularises the game.
Metaverse is making the most out of its living from low poly models. Whether it is an AR product demonstration or a virtual world where users can teleport, 3D modeling is based on low poly models. The reason is all the benefits that we discussed above like real-time rendering, easy manipulation, and operation.
Thanks to the advancements in technology, the poly counts are increasing, and the processing time is decreasing day by day. Hence, we are getting increasingly great visuals with all the functionality in less time.
However, the polygon count and the processing time dichotomy will now fade away so easily. With every advancement, there develops a room for a higher poly count. This inversely affects the processing speed. Thus, choosing High poly or low poly modeling really boils down to your goals. You have to balance both of these factors to get the best of both worlds.
As an expert in the field of 3D modeling, Queppelin can help you make better decisions. We help you offer the best visuals without spoiling users’ experience through prolonged processing.