What is Low Poly and High Poly Modeling?

what is low poly and high poly modeling
✔ Learn what is high poly modeling.
✔ Find out how high poly and low poly models are different.

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You can only distinguish one thing from a variety of 3D models produced with different modeling techniques and in different 3D modeling software. It is polygon count since it defines the level of visual fidelity and details.

Various industries, correspondingly, need different levels of detail in their 3D objects which establishes the high and low poly modeling. Since these are the widespread types of 3D modeling, the number of polygons is not the only thing that distinguishes them.

Hence, we’ll go through the general definition of high poly modeling, define the main differences between low and high poly models, and cover what spheres they are mostly used in. 

Are you ready?

What is a High Poly Model?

A high poly model is a 3D object with a high polygon count created from 2D shapes combined into a polygonal mesh to achieve fine details.

Therefore “high” here stands only for the number of polygons used to create a model. Higher polygon count provides you with a diverse geometry you can manipulate to get better shapes. 

Creases on clothes or curves on human faces can’t be created without high poly models. This makes it easier for you to determine which object has a high poly or low poly mesh.

Would you be able to tell?

low poly model
Low poly model
high poly model
High poly model

High Poly Modeling vs Low Poly Modeling

When we talk about high poly models we can’t but mention the low poly modeling as the opposite of it. You already know that these two types of modeling are defined by the number of polygons used. 

However, that’s not it. 


The main thing that helps you differentiate between low and high poly is the level of detail. High poly models are more detailed, while low poly models don’t have the same impression because of the smaller number of polygons and simpler mesh.

low poly count
Low poly mesh
high poly count
High poly mesh

Note: Use texture baking to simulate how the light behaves on an object when rendered. If you do this correctly, your low poly model will create a visual impression of a high poly object.

Still, there is a way around this if you want to use low poly models preserving a high level of details.

Ease of Usage

Though a high number of polygons allows you to achieve finer details, high polygon models are hard to work with in terms of loading, viewing, and editing. It takes time to load the edits and move around the viewpoint. So, high poly modeling is considered “heavier”. 

Above all, creating a high poly model can become a nightmare if you create it with millions of polygons, but use old hardware that just can’t handle it.

Low poly models, on the other hand, are much easier to work on due to cleaner topology.

Rendering Time

high poly rendering time
(Source YouTube)

Same as the modeling process, rendering takes time regarding the complexity of the model. 

Would you take a guess which is easier to render?

Low poly models will come in handy when you develop a game and need to do a lot of on-the-fly rendering. They use less computational power so render extremely fast compared to high poly models that take hours to complete.

However, once again, file details come at a price. Some consider hours of waiting to be a reasonable price. 

Texture Maps

low poly texture maps
(Source YouTube)

The second important thing you need to consider after the number of polygons is the texture you use. And it is not only normal map or diffuse maps that matter here. The number and size of the images you add to a texture map count as well. It adds resources to your model which then need to be calculated.

High poly modeling is considered resource-heavy. Therefore, you can use many images of different resolutions to achieve higher fidelity. 

Low poly models, on the other hand, can’t afford it. Since they use less computational power, they are “lighter”. Regarding this, you rarely use images larger than 4096×4096 in low poly models.

Pro Tip: condense all of the maps you use to fit into a texture sheet to apply to the UV model. It will take less time to render.

high poly and low poly difference

Low Poly and High Poly Modeling Use Cases

Since 3D modeling has been incorporated in multiple industries it is hard to define where high poly modeling and low poly are used the most. However, we’ll try to cover the most common cases.

High Poly Mesh Detail

Let’s start with the high poly models:

  • Photorealistic 3D representations for any industry that requires a high level of detail from prototyping to promotional purposes. Correspondingly, it benefits architectural modeling, eCommerce catalog creation, prototyping toys and furniture items, etc.
  • HD 360 viewers for marketing and promotion can use high poly models to achieve an excellent level of visual accuracy. And you should not be afraid to add on the zooms. High poly modeling maintains an even level of detail and avoids distortions.
  • Cross-sections and assembly guides fit the best in engineering and industrial environments where people can use high poly rendering to view how complex machinery elements assemble.

    Museums and educational establishments can benefit from it too since it allows you to divide complex concepts into cross-sections and study each separately. 
HIGH vs MID vs LOW Poly Modeling (Which One is for you?!)

Low Poly Models

A low poly base mesh is used when the visual details don’t matter as much as the “smoothness” of their performance. Hence they are used when users need to interact with the object.

  • Virtual reality is becoming more popular in the marketing and educational industries due to multiple benefits. So, to make it run easily without glitches and provide a sufficient level of interaction, programmers rely on low poly models that cover it.
  • Augmented reality goes hand in hand with virtual reality. Details also don’t matter as much as the speed of the model rendering here.
  • 3D gaming is a booming industry. Many would argue it is a good example of a low poly modeling use case. Still, low poly models are often used in gaming to provide fast rendering time, especially for secondary characters and environments.
where to use low or high poly

Should I Choose High Poly Over Low Poly Techniques?

Fewer polygons mean that such models load considerably faster. Each has it’s own advantages.

If you are looking for maximum detail, then add high poly detail. Used for motion CG imagery and animation. More polygons = visual richness.

If you need maximum speed – Low polygon modeling gives you lower poly count. It is great for the gaming industry. Go for a low poly mesh and compensate with a normal map.

There is a diversity of 3D modeling services and opportunities for any artist who wants to master it. All they need is reliable 3D modeling software, time, and creativity. The type of 3D modeling technique doesn’t matter that much.

Be it a high poly modeling or low poly counts, your 3D object will be good as long as it serves the purpose it was created for. Since low poly modeling is simpler you’ll start there. However, mastering it along with the high poly will benefit you better.

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