Those passionate about 3D modeling should be happy – they have plenty of practical tools for their trade. Unfortunately, 3D modeling software requires serious computer resources, and it was pretty restrictive a few years ago. Nowadays, the superior processing power of computers makes 3D modeling accessible to countless people.
Even if you don’t immediately jump on the bandwagon, it’s not too late to develop your 3D modeling skills. The first step is to identify the most suitable 3D modeling software for your skills and preferences. We saved you precious time with our research. The following 3D modeling resources are the best on the market, and you should give any of them a try. We cover both free or paid and complex or straightforward tools, so you will undoubtedly find one to suit your needs.
Autodesk is to the 3D modeling industry what Adobe is to image editing – both have been the leading companies in their spaces for many years. Similarly, their products are more complex and powerful than competitors. Sadly, the prices are restrictive for entry-level freelancers and agencies. The plans start with a 3-year subscription of $4590, a 1-year subscription of $1700, or a monthly subscription of $215. Before purchasing a subscription, you’d better test out the free trial. Download the software, but ensure that your computer and Internet connection satisfies Autodesk requirements.
3DS Max fits every type of CG project thanks to its fantastic set of features. It’s one of the oldest 3D modeling software and has been constantly improved over the years. It works for animations, game characters and effects, architecture, and product design. The latest version has enhanced smart extruding, faster rendering, and better smoothing possibilities.
Plenty of free and paid plugins are available to enhance the software functionality, so it’s hard to believe that 3DS Max wouldn’t be a reliable tool for your CG projects.
Maya is another top-notch product by Autodesk. This tool has the same subscription plans as 3DS Max, and, similar to it, Maya caters to experts. Use it for every type of project because the impressive set of features gives you unlimited power. Maya is an excellent choice to create complex characters and realistic animations. Ocean surface and waves, snow and dust storms, liquid effects, and fantastic visual effects are all achievable with Maya. The learning curve is pretty steep, so be prepared to invest time and resources to master such a complex program like Maya.
This program can be used by hobbyists, beginners, solopreneurs, and professionals alike because it’s free, open-sourced, and mighty. Don’t fall into the common trap of believing that a free product isn’t competitive. Blender has a long and impressive list of features to compete with expensive 3D modeling tools.
Use Blender to create and sculpt characters, generate motions and dynamic effects, edit videos, and simulate smoke, hair, fluids, and particles. In addition, it has a 2D pipeline, allowing combining 2D with 3D items. Hence, it’s a reliable solution to craft animations, short videos, and games.
The community created around Blender is truly fascinating and helpful. Blender fans have created countless tutorials, especially on YouTube. Use the Blender forum to get and provide help.
Cinema 4D is an extremely powerful 3D modeling software to create characters, motion, and cool effects. It’s one of the most complex software, but the quasi-unanimous community considers it one of the simplest to learn programs, too. Learning Cinema 4D is quite enjoyable thanks to its user-friendly interface and a vast number of tutorials on Cineversity.
Cinema 4D offers you everything needed to create cool characters. The sculpting and body painting options, in addition to multiple means of animation, let you conceive original characters. At the same time, Cinema 4D includes many ways to create and edit surfaces, volumes, and fields – all needed to create realistic worlds.
The subscription prices are more affordable, setting you back $199 to get the cheapest plan for a year. A perpetual license costs $299.
If you can ignore the dated design of the website, you will discover a robust and exciting 3D modeling program. Rhino 3D is a suitable tool for industrial, product, and automotive/aviation design. It helps you create entire ecosystems and animations, but its primary aim is 3D modeling objects.
The community and the learning materials are two essential advantages of this tool. Additionally, the more affordable prices make Rhino 3D an attractive option for graphic designers.
While Rhine 3D is the industry standard for object 3D modeling, ZBrush is the standard for sculpting characters. Users have a wide range of tools to craft the most detailed beings. ZBrush is powerful enough to allow designers to come up with standing apart shapes, bodies, and creatures. The sky’s the limit with this tool. ZBrush is ideal for creative game characters and avatars, but it’s also a good choice for 3D printing. Many cool 3D-printed joys were born with ZBrush.
The price is on the pricey side, but the perpetual license of $895 is a good deal compared to the ZBrush’s potential. You can pay monthly or biannually, depending on your budget.
Fusion360 is a good choice if you need a tool for industrial, engineering, and software projects. It’s cloud-based software, so your remote team can collaborate on the same projects hassle-free no matter their location. Parametric and surface modeling are the top advantages of Fusion360. You do need basic technical skills to get the most from this tool. The extensive documentation and the quality resource center are two capital places to learn the secrets of Fusion360.
Modo targets advanced users, and it does everything that a 3D modeling software should do: animation, shading, sculpting, and many VFX effects. Working with polygonal forms is what makes Modo stand apart, but it’s more than decent for creative projects, too. Modo also supports scripting in Python for those who prefer the coding language. Unfortunately, the prices aren’t accessible to hobbyists, but every new user benefits from a 30-day free trial.
VFX experts from Disney used Houdini for the movie Frozen, so the quality of the software is out of the question. Houdini was used for many other Hollywood movies as well. It caters to film, game development, motion graphics, and virtual reality industries. Houdini fits an extensive array of projects with 3D modeling, dynamic effects, and character generation.
Houdini’s secrets consist in the node-based workflow. Each action is stored in a node that makes a network. In this way, the end-user has granular control over each project. Altogether, the complete control and endless set of options make Houdini one of the most complex modeling software for beginners.
The price isn’t for tight budgets, but hobbyists and students may use the free version, with access to all the features but a watermark on your designs.
Dimension isn’t as well-known as products like Maya, 3DS Max, or Photoshop, but it fully deserves your attention. It’s another Adobe product aimed at helping designers to create outstanding 3D concepts. It’s simpler than Maya and 3DS Max and mainly targets product design. Altogether, it packs plenty of features necessary for 3D modeling. Its developers managed to find the sweet spot between simplicity and efficiency. It allows working with materials, ready-made models, lights, and textures.
SketchUp isn’t the best tool for VFX effects, but it gets plenty of prizes for being the best software for architecture design, which isn’t ignorable at all. Use this fantastic tool to create commercial interiors, residential constructions, modern buildings, and urban planning. Another significant advantage of SketchUp is its large variety of pricing plans. It ranges from a free plan for hobbyists and students to complex plans for top-class agencies. The free version works directly in your browser, so you don’t have any excuse not to try this fantastic piece of modeling software.
Currently, Daz 3D isn’t a famous tool amongst designers, but I predict it has a bright future. Daz 3D excels at creating human faces and is the only tool from this list that mentions the ability to develop Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs). You must live under a rock if you haven’t heard about the NFT craziness. A collection of Non-Fungible People is for sale on OpenSea, the biggest marketplace for NFTs. On top of that, Daz 3D is free of charge!
Do you want to learn 3D modeling but have zero previous experience? TinkerCAD is probably what you are looking for. It’s free of charge, user-friendly, and works directly in your browser. Tinkercad isn’t a tool to create complex movie characters or other complex jobs, but it’s the ideal solution to get the basics of 3D modeling in a short period.
Over to You
The market of 3D modeling software is ultra-competitive, and end-users benefit the most from this competition. You may go for high-end solutions like Maya, Cinema 4D, or ZBrush, but casual users can benefit from SketchUp or TinkerCAD. In addition, there are standard platforms like Modo or more unconventional alternatives like Daz3D. The above list covers a variety of needs, so we hope you will find a recommendation that best works for you.