Interview with Aiman Akhtar


Aiman Akhtar is a Los Angeles based 3D Artist who has transferred his art skills to the 3D Printing industry.  In the past several years, he has gained a reputation as a successful 3D print artist, specifically printing for collectible toys, products, jewelry, wearables, and even fashion.

Aiman is also the founder of a development 3D printing company, 3D Smiths LLC, resident 3D print expert for 3D World Magazine, and most recently an instructor for Mold3D Academy where he teaches a 3D Printing for ZBrush Artists course.

Mold3D recently sat down with Aiman to discuss his experiences in the fast paced CG and 3D printing industries.

Aiman standing next to the statue he helped create.

Mold3D: Hi Aiman! Thank you for taking the time to talk to our audience! Can you please tell us a little bit about yourself and your career?

Aiman: My pleasure! I’m a freelance 3D character development artist based in Los Angeles CA and I specialize in 3D printing. Being a specialist and a sort of mercenary, I bounce around a lot, having worked at seven different studios in 2016. Projects this year ranged from the miniature stop-motion animated series Supermansion to the massive 12ft tall statues for Blizzard’s Overwatch release. I’m currently at startup, 3 Black Dot, developing video game characters and an in-house 3D printing workflow for vinyl toys.

Mold3D: How would you describe your aesthetic style? Which artists inspire and influence you?

Aiman: I’ve tried, of late, to master a stylized animation aesthetic akin to Dreamworks and Disney Infinity. In crafting my style, I’ve been influenced by a lot of industry experts including Danny Williams, Andrew Hickenbottom, Carlos Ortega Elizade, Matt Thorup, Pedro Conti, Alena Wooten, Steve Lord, Kris Kosta, and my fellow instructors Mike Defeo and Dylan Ekren. I think what sets me apart is an eye for anatomy and my unique take on established character archetypes. 

Mold3D: How did you get started in 3D printing?

Aiman: My first print was a cake topper for my own wedding, a little sculpt of myself carrying away my bride. From there I established myself as an expert by tackling a new 3D print workflow per month for 3D World magazine, including product design, jewelry, toys, trophies and even a wearable dress. Next I established my own 3D print/development business, 3D Smiths, and a challenging series of freelance contracts requiring my new found expertise. The best training for 3D printing is doing. You have to train to approach a model not only as a sculptor but also an engineer.


The best training for 3D printing is doing.
— Aiman Akhtar

Mold3D: What opportunities does 3D Printing have for a 3D artist (in your opinion)?

Aiman: The industry is full of unexpected uses for the technology, feature film concept work, prop and costume design, character maquettes, stop-motion animation, even robot and spaceship design. Toys are a big opportunity, not only for the big names like Hasbro, Mattel or DC collectibles, but also for an artist to develop their own Intellectual property. I’ve just launched my first IP, “Fungisaurs,” at Designercon 2016 and I plan to develop that into a toy line in 2017. 3D printing is a new tool and creative artists are using the technology to develop their own niche products, jewelry, and fine art and this is great news as consumer demand for original content is only increasing. 


Mold3D: What innovation do you hope to see for the 3D printing industry in the next five years?

Aiman: Speed and color are the two holy grails for the technology which is unfortunately slowed down by legal patents and high cost of invention. That and the development of affordable and simplified, one-click 3D printers will really proliferate the technology and allow it to be more widely adopted in the mass consumer culture, though that may be a little more than 5 years away. The biggest change we’ll see coming soon is a wide array of printing outputs as material scientists are constantly pushing new filaments and resins on the market.


Mold3D: What do you think of emerging technologies like AR and VR? Do you see yourself using this to sculpt or visualize your character work one day?

Aiman: I love VR! I was often told as a child that I danced around too much when I played video games, and in that sense I feel the freedom of VR was made just for me. I’ve worked on characters for a VR commercial animation project for Supercell’s Clash Royale, and I plan on incorporating VR into my personal sculpting and 3D print workflow in 2017. As a craftsman I’m always tweaking my process with the latest technology and tools, but with VR I kind of forget about all that and can focus more on the creativity and what I want to say with my art.

As a craftsman I’m always tweaking my process with the latest technology and tools, but with VR I kind of forget about all that and can focus more on the creativity and what I want to say with my art.

Mold3D: What’s your sculpting workflow? (starting form a zsphere, sphere, working off an existing sculpt, etc.)

Aiman: My workflow reflects the style of a character, If it’s a realistic model I like to start from a base mesh as this can save time on the front-end and you can quickly dive into the detailing. If a model is stylized, it’s all about creating an interesting silhouette and proportions so I like to start with a series of shapes in ZBrush, moving and scaling them around until I dynamesh for a good starting point. Then I figure out the anatomy and look for planes to simplify and craft the character’s unique appeal.

Mold3D: Thank you Aiman for taking the time to talk to us about your career and 3D print experiences!

Aiman: You are very welcome!

Aiman is currently teaching a 3D Printing for ZBrush class for Mold3D Academy and registration is open now! If you are interested in learning 3D Printing from Aiman, be sure to check out the class!