The Best 3D Design Tools for Graphic Designers

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3D design, also known as 3D modeling, is a subset of Computer-Aided Design (CAD). It involves the use of computers to create, modify or enhance a design. The process entails creating 3-dimensional objects using simple shapes and complex polygon models in a simulated environment.

The simulated computer environment generated is determined by the software used by the artist. 3D modeling has so many applications in today’s world. The applications include:

  1. Video game development- 3D modeling is used to create all the visual and aesthetic features of games. The game environment and animations too.

  2. Architecture- The majority of architectural designs and objects are made and rendered using 3D CAD software

  3. Engineering- Engineers use 3D modeling to create to-scale renders of their designs.

  4. Film – The field of filmmaking relies on 3D designing to create title animations, CGI characters, environments, and animation movies.

With the recent development in technology, almost anyone can venture into 3D designing. The interested party has to purchase or lease the right software and a powerful device.

When animating, powerful Graphics Processing Units and processors are vital. Most budget computers and tablets will struggle to give you a seamless experience. Therefore, it is mandatory to purchase a suitable Graphic design tablet or a powerful computer. The computer should meet the minimum requirements of most graphic design software.

In the 3D space, there are different software for different consumer levels and needs. The software you use depends on your budget, intended use, and skill. It would be unwise for a beginner to invest in a $400 per month subscription software for professionals. Most of the resources would go to waste, and the learning curve would be very steep. Therefore, get the right software that works for you.

In this article, we shall discuss the various software you can use for 3D modeling.

  1. Blender

Blender is an open-source software for 3D modeling that offers its users its services for free.

It is user-friendly and is perfect for beginners since it is free. Apart from beginners, it is also suitable for intermediate modelers and can even work for professionals.

It is prominent for animating, sculpting, rendering, and modeling. Blender also allows for additional plugins. As a result, it is more adaptable and suitable for all levels of designers.

  1. Tinkercad

Tinkercad is another free software. It is a creation by Autodesk, a company known for creating some of the leading CAD software for professionals. Tinkercad is a cloud-based software for beginners.

It is so user-friendly that it is suitable to teach kids 3D modeling. Tinkercad is a go-to for those just starting their journey. It encourages users to combine and remove shapes to create objects and 3D models.

One notable friendly tool apart from the standard ones is the ability to scribble. The user can scribble as the software generates a sketch that can be re-designed. Cloud-based applications eliminate the need for installation, saving on space. The designs are also accessible from wherever you are.

  1. Maxon Cinema 4D

This software is handy for advanced 3D modeling. This makes it ideal for conceptual product design and any complex work that has multiple layers. Despite being a professional tool, it also happens to have a good learning curve.

It is easy to use and relatively cheap and comes with a free trial version. The monthly charge is $94.99 per month. You can opt for the $999.00 yearly subscription.

  1. Autodesk Maya

Maya is recognized globally as one of the best professional 3D tools. It is a versatile software that includes a library for tools to be used in multiple fields. However, it is majorly used in the film industry to develop and render CGI.

It is without a doubt the industry’s leading competitive software. It is available at a monthly premium of $215 or a yearly one of $1700. Autodesk also offers a free trial period for first-time users of Maya.

  1. ZBrush

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ZBrush is an inexpensive tool when it comes to visual design. It is convenient for detail orientation in work and for creating realistic models. It is the go-to for graphic artists and VFX developers in movies and Television shows.

ZBrush retails at just $40 per month. You can also buy it for $895 as a one-time buy. A free trial version is available.

  1. Autodesk 3DS Max

Yet another of Autodesk’s professional tools, 3DS Max is useful for game development, animation and simulation. It comes with standard features to support all these different functions.

It even supports third-party plugins into the 3DS Max module. These may be free or paid plugins. The plugins aid in rendering unique visuals as well as performing extra functions. However, one should be aware that plugins may slow down processes, or other unpredictable interactions may occur, leading to instability.

The software is available at $215 monthly and $1,700 per year. It also has a 3-year subscription plan for $4,590.

  1. Rhino

Rhino is known for its superior power when working with non-uniform rational B-spline curves(NURBS). These are complex shapes made using curve-shapes and splines. Different from the traditional polygons built with straight and flat lines.

The software supports the use of plugins and other developer platforms. It also comes with a scripting language to enhance complex detailing. With that said, the learning curve with this software is quite steep. However, you should not be discouraged from using it because it produces some good quality work.

This software does not come with a free trial version. It retails at a flat rate of $995. This will save you from monthly premiums but it will require a significant investment.

  1. Lightwave 3D

Lightwave 3D software is a product of NewTek, a software production company. Lightwave 3D has a broad horizon of applications in the graphic design space.

This software is useful for film, motion graphics, digital matte painting, and game development. Lightwave is also used in the field of architecture.

These capabilities make Lightwave 3D ideal for photo animation and imagery. This also happens to be ideal in-game development The software runs as two applications each with a specific purpose:

  1. Modeler- Used for building assets

  2. Layout – Deals with lighting, texturing, and animation.

The software comes with a bridge to Unreal Engine. Unreal is an engine used to create and render video games.  The bridge also allows for real-time collaboration while using the Unreal Editor.

Lightwave 3D is available for a free trial for 90 days for new users. This software is available for one-off purchase at $995 and upgrades will cost you about $495. The developers also offer a package for educational upgrades that go for $95.

Conclusion

The field of 3D graphic design is vast and has many tools to help you do the work. Before purchasing software, make sure you do intensive research on what software to get for your specific work. You should also look at your hardware options and get a good computer or tablet.

If you are getting into the field, you can look for online courses to help fast-track your growth. Most are detailed and quite good. You can also alternatively look for a professional to tutor you. They can also guide you on what software to use.