The popularity of VTubers across social media and live streaming platforms like Twitch and YouTube has seen an incredible boom over the past few years. With the ability to create content under the guise of a personalized virtual avatar while keeping identities private, the VTubing space is beginning to attract more and more up-and-coming creators.
There is one major barrier to entry for aspiring VTubers to get started, however, the cost.
What is the Typical Cost of a VTuber Model?
Before getting into the numbers, it is important to realize that there are many different types of VTuber models. From size and detail to animation style, each aspect will greatly affect the model’s market price.
2D vs 3D Models
The first major distinction between models is the animation style; 2D or 3D.
The more accessible of the two animation styles is 2D. One example of a 2D VTuber is Gawr Gura who has managed to gain a massive online following while using a 2D model. By using programs such as Live2D, creators are able to transform 2D images into faux 3D-like models with lively and expressive animations similar to traditional 3D models. These models don’t actually live in 3D space and are therefore limited in their range of motion, but can still achieve a successful level of expressiveness. As a 2D model is less complicated to create than a 3D one, they are a popular choice for beginning VTubers who don’t want to break the bank. Some creators also tend to prefer this animation style over 3D regardless of the cost.
One example of a 3D VTuber would be Kizuna Ai. Their character model is built entirely in 3D and is, therefore, able to achieve a great deal of realism and expressiveness due to the use of 3D space. These kinds of models can be controlled with gestures and facial expressions like their 2D counterparts, but can also be rigged to full body tracking suits to mimic real-time body movements for even more realism. These models require a lot of complex work in order to create, so they are on the more expensive side of the spectrum.
The next factor to take into consideration is the size of the model you would like to have. The three most common sizes are a bust (upper chest and above), half body, and full body. Just keep in mind that as the amount of work for each size increases, so does the cost.
It’s also important to take into account the cost of rigging (animation technique used to make characters move) in addition to the models themselves. Rigging may or may not be included with your purchase, so make sure to keep note of that.
The average 2D model can cost anywhere from $200—$2000 depending on the artist and whether or not rigging is included. Professional illustrators will obviously charge on the higher end of this spectrum while novice or amateur illustrators will charge less, but the level of quality will usually correlate with the cost. It is possible to find artists who will create a custom bust-sized model with rigging for around $200—$300.
When shopping around, you may find estimates for a 3D model in the ballpark of $3000—$5000. 3D models take a lot more time, skill, and effort to design and create so they will cost quite a bit more. There are some artists that are willing to create 3D models for a fraction of that price on places like Fiverr, but a professional job will certainly require a heavy investment.
Where to Commission a VTuber Model
There are plenty of resources available to those looking to commission their very own VTuber model. Where to look depends on one major factor; how much are you willing to spend?
If you are looking for a 2D model, the Live2D community discord is a fantastic place to start. You can find people advertising their services here and find somebody to work with. Twitter is also a great place to find artists that will take commissions for a wide range of price points for both 2D and 3D. The artists behind popular VTubers are oftentimes on Twitter and willing to take commissions for custom models, albeit for a hefty cost.
Another method would be to use a website like Fiverr or Etsy to commission the model. Price ranges can vary by quite a bit on these sites, but they are a safer alternative for those who feel uneasy making purchases directly with an artist. You can also find some fairly good deals with artists who are willing to charge much less than average.
Where to Find Pre-Built VTuber Models
If you are just wanting to dip your foot in the water of VTubing, you may find yourself interested in using a pre-built model as opposed to creating a custom one. Doing so would allow you to find your footing within the space and then eventually work towards a custom model down the line.
You can find pre-built 2D VTuber models available through nizima by Live2D. The site is Japanese so you may have to use a translator to navigate the site, but there are some pre-built models available here for purchase. You may also find users from forums like r/VirtualTubers or r/Live2D who are trying to sell their models for a discounted price.
Jumping into the VTubing space can be a daunting and expensive task, but these barriers can be avoided if you know what you want and where to look. In order to get the best bang for your buck, try exploring the Live2D discord or VTubing communities on Twitter in order to find an artist that will work with you to create a 2D model bust with rigging included. This way you can start creating as soon as possible, but always have the option to upgrade or renew your model further down the line.