What are the best softwares for 3D Animation, Modeling, Lighting, Texturing, Rendering?

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Maya was originally an animation product based on code from The Advanced Visualizer by Wavefront Technologies, Thomson Digital Image (TDI) Explore, PowerAnimator by Alias, and Alias Sketch!. 

The IRIX-based projects were combined and animation features were added, the project codename was Maya. Walt Disney Feature Animation collaborated closely with Maya’s development during its production of Dinosaur.

Disney requested that the user interface of the application be customizable so that a personalized workflow could be created. This was a particular influence in the open architecture of Maya, and partly responsible for it becoming popular in the animation industry.

Maya is an application used to generate 3D assets for use in film, television, games, and commercials.

The software was initially released for the IRIX operating system. However, this support was discontinued in August 2006 after the release of version 6.5. Maya was available in both “Complete” and “Unlimited” editions until August 2008, when it was turned into a single suite.

Users define a virtual workspace (scene) to implement and edit the media of a particular project. Scenes can be saved in a variety of formats, the default being .mb (Maya D).

Maya exposes a node graph architecture. Scene elements are node-based, each node having its own attributes and customization. As a result, the visual representation of a scene is based entirely on a network of interconnecting nodes, depending on each other’s information.

For the convenience of viewing these networks, there is a dependency and a directed acyclic graph.

Nowadays, 3D models can be imported to game engines such as Unreal Engine and Unity.

2. Blender


Blender is another free 3D modeling application. Features include sculpting, animation, photorealistic rendering and video editing. For those ready to step it up a notch, the software also allows you to craft full 3D games, edit videos and realistic simulations (such as fluid, smoke and hair).

Blender is a free and open-source 3D computer graphics software tool set used for creating animated films, visual effects, art, 3D printed models, motion graphics, interactive 3D applications, virtual reality, and computer games.

Blender’s features include 3D modelling, UV unwrapping, texturing, raster graphics editing, rigging and skinning, fluid and smoke simulation, particle simulation, soft body simulation, sculpting, animating, match moving, rendering, motion graphics, video editing, and compositing.


Blender has an advanced polygonal modelling system that can be accessed through an edit mode. It supports features such as extrusion, beveling and subdividing.


Modifiers apply non-destructive effects which can be applied upon rendering or exporting.


Blender has multi-res digital sculpting, which includes the dynamic topology, maps baking, remeshing, re-symmetrize, and decimation. The latter is used to simplify models for exporting purposes. E.g. to use in a game.

Geometry Nodes


Geometry Nodes Editor

Blender’s Geometry nodes is a node-based system for procedurally and non-destructively creating and manipulating geometry. It was first added to Blender 2.92, which focuses on object scattering and instancing. It takes the form of a modifier, so it can be stacked over different modifiers. The system uses object attributes, which can be modified and overridden with string inputs.

Attributes can include Position, Normal and UV maps. All attributes can be viewed in an attribute spreadsheet editor. Geometry Nodes also has the capability of creating primitive mesh such as Cubes, Spheres, Icospheres and Cylinders. 

In Blender 3.0, support for creating and modifying curves objects will be added to Geometry Nodes. In Blender 3.0, the geometry nodes workflow was completely redesigned with fields in order to make the system more intuitive and work like shader nodes.


Cloth simulation


Blender can be used to simulate smoke, rain, dust, cloth, fluids, hair, and rigid bodies.

Fluid simulation

Physics fluid simulation


The fluid simulator can be used for simulating liquids, like water hitting a cup. It uses the Lattice Boltzmann methods (LBM) to simulate the fluids and allows for lots of adjusting of the number of particles and the resolution.

The particle physics fluid simulation creates particles that follow the Smoothed-particle hydrodynamics method. Simulation tools for soft body dynamics include mesh collision detection, LBM fluid dynamics, smoke simulation, Bullet rigid body dynamics, and an ocean generator with waves.


A particle system that includes support for particle-based hair. Real-time control during physics simulation and rendering.

In Blender 2.82 a new fluid simulation system called mantaflow was added, replacing the old system.

In Blender 2.92 another fluid simulation system called APIC was added. Vortices and more stable calculations are improved in Relation to the FLIP system. Improved Mantaflow is the source of the APIC part.


Keyframed animation tools include inverse kinematics, armature (skeletal), hook, curve and lattice-based deformations, shape animations, non-linear animation, constraints, and vertex weighting.

Grease Pencil

Blender’s Grease Pencil tools allow for 2D animation within a full 3D pipeline.



Rendering of different materials using the cycles render an engine.


Internal render engine with scanline rendering, indirect lighting, and ambient occlusion that can export in a wide variety of formats; A path tracer renders engine called Cycles, which can take advantage of the GPU for rendering. Cycles support the Open Shading Language since Blender 2.65. Cycles Hybrid Rendering is possible in Version 2.92 with Optix. Tiles are calculated with GPU in combination with CPU.

EEVEE is a new physically-based real-time renderer. It works both as a renderer for final frames, and as the engine driving Blender’s real-time viewport for creating assets.

Texture and shading

Blender allows procedural and node-based textures, as well as texture painting, projective painting, vertex painting, weight painting and dynamic painting.


Blender has a node-based compositor within the rendering pipeline accelerated with OpenCL.

3. Sketch Up


SketchUp is a 3D modeling computer program for a broad range of drawing and design applications including architectural, interior design, industrial and product design, landscape architecture, civil and mechanical engineering, theatre, film and video game development.

Owned by Trimble Inc., the program is currently available as a web-based application, SketchUp Free, and a paid version with additional functionality, SketchUp Pro.

The program includes drawing layout functionality, surface rendering in different “styles”, and enables placement of its models within Google Earth.

Pro Version

SketchUp Pro includes the functionality of SketchUp Make plus importers and exporters to common 2D and 3D formats, access to LayOut (2D documentation software) and Style Builder (create custom edge styles for SketchUp models).

SketchUp Pro 2016 has native integration with Trimble Connect, treat 3D Warehouse models as references, a rebuilt Generate Report and now LayOut offers web-friendly reference objects as well as a new LayOut API.

SketchUp Pro licensing is dual-platform and works on Windows and Mac machines.

Free Version

In November 2017, SketchUp Free was released as a web-based application which replaces SketchUp Make. 

Drawings can be saved to the cloud, saved locally as a native SKP file, or exported as an STL file. Compared to Make, SketchUp Free does not support extensions, creation and editing of materials

4. 3Ds Max 


Autodesk 3ds Max, formerly 3D Studio and 3D Studio Max, is a professional 3D computer graphics program for making 3D animations, models, games and images. It is developed and produced by Autodesk Media and Entertainment. 

It has modeling capabilities and a flexible plugin architecture and must be used on the Microsoft Windows platform. It is frequently used by video game developers, many TV commercial studios, and architectural visualization studios. 

It is also used for movie effects and movie pre-visualization. For its modeling and animation tools, the latest version of 3ds Max also features shaders (such as ambient occlusion and subsurface scattering), dynamic simulation, particle systems, radiosity, normal map creation and rendering, global illumination, a customizable user interface, new icons, and its own scripting language.

Autodesk 3ds Max, formerly 3D Studio and 3D Studio Max, is a professional 3D computer graphics program for making 3D animations, models, games and images. It is developed and produced by Autodesk Media and Entertainment.

It has modeling capabilities and a flexible plugin architecture and must be used on the Microsoft Windows platform.

It is frequently used by video game developers, many TV commercial studios, and architectural visualization studios.

It is also used for movie effects and movie pre-visualization. For its modeling and animation tools, the latest version of 3ds Max also features shaders (such as ambient occlusion and subsurface scattering), dynamic simulation, particle systems, radiosity, normal map creation and rendering, global illumination, a customizable user interface, new icons, and its own scripting language.

Many films have made use of 3ds Max, or previous versions of the program under previous names, in CGI animation, such as Avatar and 2012, which contain computer-generated graphics from 3ds Max alongside live-action acting.

Mudbox was also used in the final texturing of the set and characters in Avatar, with 3ds Max and Mudbox being closely related.



Character Studio

Scene Explorer

DWG import

Texture assignment/editing

General keyframing

Constrained animation


Skeletons and inverse kinematics (IK)

Integrated Cloth solver

Integration with Autodesk Vault

5. Cinema 4D

The difference is now only in licensing. 2014 saw the release of Cinema 4D Lite, which came packaged with Adobe After Effects Creative Cloud 2014. “Lite” acts as an introductory version, with many features withheld. This is part of a partnership between the two companies, where a Maxon-produced plug-in, called Cineware, allows any variant to create a seamless workflow with After Effects. The “Lite” variant is dependent on After Effects CC, needing the latter application running to launch, and is only sold as a package component included with AE CS through Adobe.

Initially, Cinema 4D was developed for Amiga computers in the early 1990s, and the first three versions of the program were available exclusively for that platform. With v4, however, Maxon began to develop the application for Windows and Macintosh computers as well, citing the wish to reach a wider audience and the growing instability of the Amiga market following Commodore’s bankruptcy.

On Linux, Cinema 4D is available as a command-line rendering version.

But before you even consider whipping out that credit card, you can take advantage of Maxon’s generous full free Cinema 4D download to trial the software. There are no restrictions on the software’s usage for the duration of the trial, making it the closest thing to a full version of Cinema 4D without paying.

If you’re a beginner and want to give your 3D creativity a boost without spending a single dollar, Blender is the better option. However, if you to learn a program used in many professional settings, Cinema 4D would be a good investment.

6. AutoCAD

AutoCAD is a commercial computer-aided design (CAD) and drafting software application. Developed and marketed by Autodesk, AutoCAD was first released in December 1982 as a desktop app running on microcomputers with internal graphics controllers. 

Before AutoCAD was introduced, most commercial CAD programs ran on mainframe computers or minicomputers, with each CAD operator (user) working at a separate graphics terminal. AutoCAD is also available as mobile and web apps.

AutoCAD is used in industry, by architects, project managers, engineers, graphic designers and for 3D Designing purposes, city planners and other professionals. It was supported by 750 training centres worldwide in 1994.

AutoCAD was derived from a program that began in 1977 and then released in 1979 called Interact CAD, also referred to in early Autodesk documents as MicroCAD, which was written prior to Autodesk’s (then Marinchip Software Partners) formation by Autodesk cofounder Michael Riddle.

The first version by Autodesk was demonstrated at the 1982 Comdex and released that December. AutoCAD supported CP/M-80 computers. As Autodesk’s flagship product, by March 1986 AutoCAD had become the most ubiquitous CAD program worldwide. 

The 2022 release marked the 36th major release of AutoCAD for Windows and the 12th consecutive year of AutoCAD for Mac. The native file format of AutoCAD is .dwg. This and, to a lesser extent, its interchange file format DXF, have become de facto, if proprietary, standards for CAD data interoperability, particularly for 2D drawing exchange. AutoCAD has included support for .dwf, a format developed and promoted by Autodesk, for publishing CAD data.

7. Rhino


Rhinoceros (typically abbreviated Rhino or Rhino3D) is a commercial 3D computer graphics and computer-aided design (CAD) application software that was developed by Robert McNeel & Associates, an American, privately held, and employee-owned company that was founded in 1980.

Rhinoceros geometry is based on the NURBS mathematical model, which

focuses on producing a mathematically precise representation of curves and freeform surfaces in computer graphics (as opposed to polygon mesh-based applications).

Rhinoceros is used for computer-aided design (CAD), computer-aided manufacturing (CAM), rapid prototyping, 3D printing and reverse engineering in industries including architecture, industrial design (e.g. automotive design, watercraft design), product design (e.g. jewellery design) as well as for multimedia and graphic design.

Rhinoceros is developed for the Microsoft Windows operating system and macOS. A visual scripting language add-on for Rhino, Grasshopper, is developed by Robert McNeel & Associates.

Rhinoceros 3D relies on a few plug-ins that facilitate 3D printing and allows the export of. STL and. OBJ file formats, both of which are supported by numerous 3D printers and 3D printing services.

Rhinoceros supports two scripting languages, Rhinoscript (based on VBScript) and Python (V5.0+ and Mac). It also has an SDK and a complete plug-in system. One McNeel plug-in, a parametric modeling/visual programming tool called Grasshopper, has attracted many architects to Rhinoceros due to its ease of use and ability to create complex algorithmic structures.

8. Revit


Autodesk Revit is a building information modelling software for architects, landscape architects, structural engineers, mechanical, electrical, and plumbing (MEP) engineers, designers and contractors.

The original software was developed by Charles River Software, founded in 1997, renamed Revit Technology Corporation in 2000, and acquired by Autodesk in 2002. The software allows users to design a building and structure and its components in 3D, annotate the model with 2D drafting elements, and access building information from the building model’s database. 

Revit is 4D building information modeling capable of tools to plan and track various stages in the building’s lifecycle, from concept to construction and later maintenance and/or demolition.

Charles River Software was founded in Newton, Massachusetts, on October 31, 1997, by Leonid Raiz and Irwin Jungreis, key developers of PTC’s Pro/Engineer software for mechanical design, with the intent of bringing the power of parametric modeling to the building industry (PTC had previously tried and failed to market its recently acquired Reflex software to the construction sector). 

With funding from venture capitalists Atlas Venture and North Bridge Venture Partners, Raiz and Jungreis hired several software developers and architects and began developing Revit in C++ on the Microsoft Windows platform.

In 1999 they hired Dave Lemont as CEO and recruited board members Jon Hirschtick, founder of SolidWorks, and Arol Wolford, founder of CMD Group.

The company was renamed Revit Technology Corporation in January 2000. Autodesk, best known for its AutoCAD line of products, purchased Revit Technology Corporation for US$133 million in 2002. The purchase allowed more research, development and improvement of the software.


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