Technological advancement is real and undeniable. We’re marching towards the stage where life without machines and computers will be unthinkable. Thanks to this exponential technological progress, we now possess the power of 3D rendering and modelling which is changing lives.
3D rendering and modelling have allowed designers and artists to display their ideas digitally using a 3D model in the fastest and the most cost-effective way possible. Effectively conveying their idea to the clients has always been one of the most daunting tasks in this profession.
However, 3D rendering and modelling have changed this tradition for the better. Artists and designers can now convert their idea into a digital 3D model which is easy to create and is easily understandable.
There is plenty of software available to do the job of creating mind-blowing 3D renders of physical real-world objects. However, they differ in functionality and complexity. Some 3D rendering software has an easy learning curve and some with a toolset so vast that they have become industry standard, e.g., Maya. Let’s look at some of the best 3D rendering and modelling software in no particular order.
You guessed it right! Maya tops our list of best 3D software. Choose any Computer Graphics course or work in any company as a graphic designer, there is a very high chance you’ll be working on Autodesk Maya. Why is that? Maya has an insane set of tools for rendering, modelling, texturing, and lighting.
The toolset that Maya boasts is practically unrivalled and it takes years to master all of them. However, depending upon your profession and interests, there’s a chance you might not even touch some of its features. In that case, you may prefer another 3D software with a not-so-steep learning curve.
However, with insane toolsets come insane complexity and a hefty price tag. That said, learning to use Maya for Graphic Design and development isn’t going to be a very smooth journey for you. You may come across some tools that are difficult to learn and even difficult to exploit. However, once you master the software, the sky’s the limit.
A list of the best 3D software is incomplete without Blender. It is one of the top contenders in the industry, boasting a vast toolset and comparatively easier learning curve than most of its competitors. You can develop mind-blowing visual effects and fluid animations using Blender.
It provides you with features like customizable shortcut keys which are mostly found on paid 3D software. No wonder why it’s considered one of the best free alternatives for paid 3D software like Maya and Houdini, if not the best.
Probably the best part of all is that it’s free. It’s open-source software and thus doesn’t require thousands of dollars worth of annual subscription to run on your computer. Blender is a perfect tool for beginners who want to step into the 3D industry without spending a dime on software.
You may shift to a paid software once you get familiar with the working of this 3D software and gain a significant level of experience.
3. Cinema 4D
Cinema 4D is a 3D software that is used to create 3D models. Cinema 4D is one of the most recommended 3D software of all time. It has the required tools to get you to your desired results. The main highlight of this software is, however, a simple learning curve.
It’s one of the most easy-to-use 3D software to get the job done quickly and effectively, thanks to the simple and easy-to-use command-line interface.
The software supports 3D body painting and has a wide range of preset materials and scenes to assist you with your project. The software comes with a 14-day free trial. So, if you don’t like the software, you can simply discontinue using it.
4. 3Ds Max
3Ds Max boasts a huge number of toolsets and built-in simulation engines to get you through even the most complex projects. It has exceptional parametric precise modelling capabilities and bulti-in particle, cloth, and light simulation engines with Augmented Reality support making it one of the most effective 3D software for creating and simulating gaming environments.
No wonder why 3Ds Max is one of the top choices of the gaming industry giants like EA and Ubisoft.
It can produce a realistic environment with fluid animations and exceptional attention to detail. However, all that makes up for a steep learning curve, it can take years to completely master the software for even the most experienced players in the industry.
5. Houdini by SideFX
Houdini by SideFX is the top preference of studios when it comes to creating VFX in a movie. It’s the most widely used software in the VFX industry, thanks to the node-based procedural approach which results in exceptional flexibility and control over graphics.
However, if you prefer the traditional workflow, you can simply use polygons but that reduces the flexibility and you don’t get to use the full power of the software.
The software boasts all the features and toolsets required to create beautiful and exceptionally detailed VFX for movies and TV shows. The vast toolset, coupled with an entirely different nodal workflow, makes it up for one of the most complex software available for 3D.
At the same time, it’s also one of the most expensive 3D software with prices going up to a whopping $4,485/year for the Houdini FX, and $1,995/year for Houdini Core. There’s also an affordable version for small studios named Houdini Indie which is priced at just $269 a year. However, if you don’t want to use the award-winning Houdini for commercial use and don’t want to deal with extreme complexities while using the software, Houdini Apprentice is made for you. Moreover, the apprentice version is completely free to use.
FurryBall is a great 3D rendering software that gets a lot of support and love from designers all across the globe. It may take hours to view the final renders for an average computer to process, without a live progressive view it’s not possible to see the results before finishing the render.
However, with FurryBall, that’s not the case. Thanks to FurryBall’s live progressive view, designers can see the renders as they progress. The tool is also pretty fast and smooth while in action.
As a bonus, FurryBall can be conveniently used as a plugin for animation and visual effects purposes. You can use it as a plugin for Maya, Cinema 4D, and 3Ds Max and it’ll work like magic.
The software is relatively cheaper than the competition, it doesn’t require an annual subscription, just a one-time payment of $110 and you’re good to go. The developers of FurryBall specifically developed this 3D software for users who don’t want to deal with the extreme complexities of Maya and 3Ds Max.
7. Substance Designer by Adobe
Adobe is always known to create the best and the most efficient software for graphic designers and artists, the tradition continues with Substance by Adobe. You get a node-based, non-linear, and non-destructive workflow that lets you create material with full control and infinite power of expression.
You don’t have to worry about errors as you are using a non-destructive workflow.
The software boasts numerous presets, filters, and tools to edit or create unique and versatile materials or access and modify the sources of any resource or filter. You can have complete control of the material due to the exceptional editing capabilities of the software. Moreover, it offers a real-time view of the object, what more could you ever want?
VRay is another popular choice among designers all across the globe. Thanks to the powerful engine, its fast speed, and high-quality renders are unmatchable. Expert designers categorize VRay as one of the best 3D rendering software available.
Ray-tracing is one part of 3D rendering which demands a lot of CPU resources and memory. VRay does it playfully, it combines the power of CPU and GPU to calculate complex calculations for tracing paths, the brute force method that the software deploys comes in handy in this part.
However, VRay isn’t made for beginners, the extremely steep learning curve makes it very hard for beginners to learn the software. The software only attracts designers with years of experience with such software. Not everyone can play with the complex controls of VRay.
Sculptris falls in the category of the easiest 3D modelling software available in the market. Its beginner-friendly control and interface allow you to master it in a couple of days with no prior experience required with any 3D modelling software.
As the name implies, Sculptris allows you to create digital sculptures with exceptional detailing. The software isn’t very technical to use and thus, as a result, lacks the availability of toolsets and functionality to perform such complex tasks. You have to choose more capable software with a vast range of toolsets like Maya or Blender to get you through your most difficult projects. However, Sculptris works just fine with more abstract models such as sculptures and figures.
10. Daz Studio
Daz Studio provides you with tools and presets that make it easy to create custom scenes and environments. The interface is easy and simple which makes it easy for amateur designers to create realistic images.
The drag and drop functionality makes it even easier to work on the software. Moreover, Daz Studio has a variety of scenes and objects like creatures, buildings, environments, etc, all to make it easy, fast, and effective.
It provides the functionality of painting models with your hand, which results in more control and flexibility while working on a project. Furthermore, you can directly export the output (which can be in COLLADA, Universal 3D, BVH, or FBX format) to more advanced software like Maya, Mudbox, or 3Ds Max. This allows you to move to advanced levels with your project.
11. Foyr Neo
Foyr Neo is a well-optimized, lightning-fast 3D rendering software known for its amazing capabilities. Foyr Neo excels in developing designs for interiors, the smooth and simple UI coupled with a vast range of toolsets and powerful features makes it the best 3D rendering software for interior design purposes.
However, it’s not limited to just creating interior designs, it can do much more than that if one has the skill set.
The optimization of Foyr Neo is on par, it can work in systems with just 4GB of RAM. That said, it also has the ‘preview render’ functionality which lets designers preview their render as they work, no need to wait for hours to see the final results.
This preview functionality with a non-destructive workflow enables the designers to do more with their designs.
Arnold is a tough competitor of VRay with almost identical features and similar functionality. It has a vast toolset and loads of features backed by a powerful engine, allowing it to effectively fulfil VFX and animation production demands. Impressed by the software’s straightforward method of delivering remarkable results, Autodesk bought Arnold in 2016.
Arnold gives its users the freedom of choosing CPU or GPU-based rendering according to their requirements. Users can switch between the two with just a simple click. The software can also be used to work on both setups simultaneously if the user demands.
The main difference that sets Arnold apart from VRay or any other Ray-tracing software is the straightforward User Interface with an easy learning curve.
Surfer is a 3D modelling and mapping software aimed at creating high-quality maps. Surfer uses an advanced interpolation technique that allows it to do so. Just input the data and it will quickly transform the data into great-quality, highly customizable maps.
This software has very limited functionality, it’s specifically made for creating maps. However, in that specific job, no one comes even close to Surfer.
14. Adobe Fuse CC
Probably the most underused and underrated software of Adobe’s Creative Cloud Suite, Adobe Fuse CC packs in some of the great features no other 3D modelling software can provide. It solves one of the biggest problems of any 3D artist: Creating new humanoid characters. Adobe Fuse is primarily used for creating characters and you can also clothe them using numerous presets that come built-in.
The characters are quite detailed and can be easily animated using Adobe’s Mixamo service. The characters can also be modified to a great extent, thanks to the vast range of customizations.
However, the software is still in the beta stage and thus has a limited set of options, it is expected to improve and grow in further updates.
SketchUp comes as a great solution for businesses. It’s a 3D modelling software primarily targeted at businesses in several industry segments including architecture, interior designing, woodworking, and construction.
However, it’s not limited to these, an artist just needs to be creative enough to get the best out of it.
SketchUp was recently owned by Google until they decided to sell it to a company called Trimble. The designer can create 3D models and easily convert them into 2D designs for a more detailed view with dimensions and annotations of the 3D model.
It has a wide array of built-in tools which allow the designers to create, move and manipulate 3D shapes, perfect to create a VR walkthrough of a building or an area.
That said, it allows designers to present their idea to the clients in the best way possible: VR-based walkthroughs. It also allows businesses to integrate the software into various third-party solutions using a specific API (Application Programming Interface).
16. Dust 3D
Dust 3D is a free and open-source software for 3D modelling. The thing that sets Dust 3D apart from any other 3D modelling software is the approach towards creating 3D models. It doesn’t follow the traditional method of creating a 3D model which was creating a series of circles across 2 axes. Instead, it uses a more advanced yet simple and straightforward approach.
However, the generated 3D models from Dust 3D software are not that detailed and lack quality. At the same time, the process is fast enough to rapidly create base meshes that can be exported and used in other more advanced 3D modelling software like Maya and 3Ds Max.
Modo is quite a popular name in the world of 3D modelling. Thanks to the impressive workflow of Modo, it has become one of the favourite go-to 3D modelling software for artists and designers from around the world.
No matter where and for what purpose you’re using this software, it has quite an impressive range of tools and features that will get you through most of your projects. It’s a fully functional, feature-packed digital content creation tool that artists and designers love.
It comes with a toolset vast enough to enable artists to create jaw-dropping visuals and mesmerizing 3D scenes. No wonder the software is widely used in animation, gaming, film-making, and media production.
Furthermore, as if this wasn’t overwhelming enough, Modo offers a variety of useful additional plug-ins at an additional cost so that the software doesn’t act as a bottleneck for any artist’s capabilities.