Real-World Scale


While using real-world scale is a requirement for CheckMate Pro Certification, it is also essential when creating any scenes that you wish to sell on TurboSquid. It ensures that all components interact without creating conflict or confusion that would otherwise interrupt the scenery. If a model is not properly scaled it can interfere with its surroundings or not function properly.


CheckMate Pro LogoPSLogoUsing real-world scale is a requirement for CheckMate Pro (2.3.1), PixelSquid (1.1), and StemCell (2.1) certification
Real-World Scale

Imported Model at the Wrong Scale  (Gondola model by shop3ds)

proper Real-World Scale

Properly Scaled Gondola  (Venice Buildings model by 3DMarko)

Using real-world scale ensures that when a customer purchases your model it can be used immediately, and without scaling issues. It is expected that your model can be placed into a scene and have it match scale with minimal editing. If a model is not made to real-world scale the customer will have to scale and tweak it themselves, either by taking the time to look up measurements or by estimating, slowing down production and possibly ruining the impact of their scene. No one wants this.

And it’s important to remember that many features built into modern 3D applications are based on real-world scale. Things like global illumination lighting, skin and muscle systems, rigid body physics, cloth and fluid simulation all depend on the geometry that is in the scene to be realistically scaled to produce expected results. Keep that in mind before you start to build your models.


improper Real-World Scale

That’s a HUGE Beetle! Wrong Scale (beetle model by 3d_molier)

proper Real-World Scale

Real World Scale beetle (Tree Stump model by 3dror)


It is very important that modeling scale remain consistent and that you review your scale prior to starting work. Rather than modeling in generic units in your 3D application of choice (which is often the default), we recommend that you first set the scale in your application so that modeling can be done in centimeters for small or medium object and meters or kilometers for larger objects. Modeling in generic units can quickly lead to building a model you think is 100 meters tall, when under the hood it’s scale is 100 inches.

Why not use imperial units? You can, but in general, metric units are safest as they are used worldwide and transfer well to other applications. This ultimately helps broaden your possible market and can earn you more money. 

Another important reason to model at real-world scale is so that customers don’t have to try and fix models that have rigs as part of their structure. If you create a character or mechanical model with a rig, and you haven’t built your model to real-world scale, often trying to scale everything up after the fact will cause the rig itself to break, and that can quickly lead to returns from unhappy customers. You can save yourself a lot of frustration by making sure what you’re building is set to the proper scale.

Setting Up Your Working Units

3ds Max is a bit different from other 3D applications as it has both a Display Unit Scale and a System Unit Scale, and it’s easy to mix them up and ultimately cause yourself headaches when it comes to building your models at the proper scale. In order to build at Real-World Scale, you should focus on the System Unit Scale value. To access it, do the following:

  1.  From the 3ds Max menu, choose Customize -> Units Setup…
how to set up units in 3ds Max

3ds Max Main Menu

  1. Within the Units Setup dialog, click the System Unit Setup button
how to set up units in 3ds Max

Units Setup Dialog

  1. Change the System Unit Scale to Centimeters, and click OK.
how to set up units in 3ds Max

System Unit Setup Dialog

You shouldn’t need to worry about changing the 1 Unit = value, simply focus on the unit of measurement you want to use. As a rule of thumb, it makes sense to set your Display Unit Scale to the same as your System Unit Scale whenever possible.

  1. From the main Maya menu, choose Window -> Settings/Preferences -> Preferences (in Maya 2016 it’s Windows -> Settings/Preferences -> Preferences)
how to set up units in Maya

Maya Main Interface

  1. Within the Preferences dialog, select the Settings option in the left column
  2. Under Working Units, open the Linear menu and select Centimeters
how to set up units in Maya

Maya Preferences

At this point, you will be building all of your models to real-world scale in Centimeters. If you prefer another working units, you should set it before you start to model.

  1. From the Main CINEMA 4D menu, select Edit -> Preferences
how to set up units in Cinema 4D

CINEMA 4D Edit Menu

  1. Within the Preferences dialog, choose Units in the left-hand column
  2. Under the Basic set of options, click on the Unit Display options, then select Centimeters.
how to set up units in Cinema 4D

CINEMA 4D Preferences

At this point, you will be building all of your models to real-world scale in Centimeters. If you prefer another working units, you should set it before you start to model.

  1. Inside of Modeler, press the D-key on your keyboard to bring up the Display Options dialog.
how to set up units in LightWave

Display Options Dialog

  1. Within the Display Options dialog, choose the Units tab
how to set up units in LightWave

Units Tab

  1. Change the Unit System to Metric, then switch the Default Units to Centimeters
how to set up units in LightWave

Metric Units Setup

At this point, you will be building all of your models to real-world scale in Centimeters. If you prefer another working units, you should set it before you start to model.