Choosing the Best 3D Modeling Software: Here’s How

Choosing the Best 3D Modeling Software: Here’s How
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If you’re aiming to enhance the quality of your digital design projects, the best 3D modeling software can make a big difference. These days, creating 3D models is relatively inexpensive—with some companies even offering free software—and most computers have the hardware necessary to model a range of designs. And many 3D modeling programs don’t require specialized training, so whether you work in architecture, animation, advertising, or any other industry, the market is overflowing with software products to choose from.

At the same time, though, it’s important to pick software with the features required for your projects. To help you sift through your choices, this article will explain:

What is 3D modeling?

3D modeling is the process of using software to create three-dimensional (3D) digital representations of a wide selection of surfaces and objects. Specially designed software tools make it easier to manipulate specific points to form multiple vertices (or virtual spaces). As a result, new objects are created based on specific parameters.

Design software allows you to manipulate points automatically or manually, depending on your workflow processes. 3D models play an integral role in various industries, including movie and video game production, health care, car manufacturing, and more. Objects created via 3D modeling enable a user to achieve character animation and other special effects. Once the objects are created using the 3D modeling tools, the files can then be exported to another program in tandem with the design process.

Who uses 3D modeling software?

Most industries rely on 3D design software to handle a wide range of projects. In the next few sections, discover 3D modeling use cases in advertising, animation, and architecture.

Animation

The animation industry uses 3D modeling to create functional models with complex characteristics, such as realistic internal structures that produce external movement. Examples of complex animated creations include humans and animals, which require complex internal features to produce fluid movement.

Achieving realistic visual effects is a critical objective in animation. Thankfully, 3D modeling streamlines the entire process, allowing character rigs to represent humans and other characters accurately.

3D modelers employ various animation techniques to achieve the desired results. These techniques include digital sculpting, Boolean modeling, box modeling, laser scanning, subD modeling, and NURBS modeling. When employed correctly, these techniques can enhance the appearance and performance of the object. The right approach depends on your technical abilities, project objectives, and the type of object you want to create.

Digital sculpting shares significant similarities with clay modeling; it streamlines the creative and production processes by eliminating the need to focus on the technical constraints of 3D animation. If you work in the entertainment industry, you’re more likely to become familiar with Boolean modeling, which integrates geometric objects to create specific characters. This technique simplifies the animation process, allowing the production team to work more efficiently.

With the laser scanning technique, you can create a digital representation of a particular object by scanning it using laser technology. This approach is quick and easy, but it’s vital to tweak the object before use.

Architecture

Structure visualization is a key component of architectural design services, necessitating the deployment of CAD software. In the past, architects relied on 2D technical drawings and blueprints to visualize structure elevations and plans based on scale measurements. This approach resulted in the creation of multiple drawings of a structure.

The introduction of 3D modeling transformed architectural processes, eliminating the need to create multiple drawings. Nowadays, architects visualize various aspects of a building using one 3D modeling file.

By using 3D modeling in architecture, you can leverage maximum flexibility and creativity in your projects. You can modify various aspects of a building design quickly and easily after creating the first draft. Digital modeling tools also enable you to expand architectural design options to create new building concepts. In addition, it makes digital representations of buildings more realistic and enhances assessments by allowing you to visualize even the tiniest detail before creation.

Realistic visualizations also allow property owners to view the building plans in 3D to understand how rooms, hallways, and other spaces will look. On the other hand, 3D modeling makes it easier to identify technical issues before construction starts. Software companies are constantly improving their 3D modeling capabilities to make their tools faster, cost effective, and lifelike. For this reason, you can expect the quality of rendering software to improve.

Advertising

Companies of varying sizes are increasingly integrating 3D modeling in advertising to leverage the powerful visual effects created by this technology. 3D artists use these powerful tools to make presentations and advertising messages more appealing. Marketers also take advantage of the technology to handle product design. Additionally, 3D models enhance the appeal of less photogenic products.

Companies rely on the best 3D modeling software to enhance the advertising workflow, reduce marketing costs, and produce high-quality models. In the end, 3D models allow customers to visualize specific products and gain a detailed understanding of how they work. Many companies showcase product designs via websites and social media. They also produce 3D models for banner advertisements and printed media.

Another key application of 3D modeling in advertising is feature-rich rendering. It enables companies to customize various product features in a way that grabs customers’ attention. They can also rely on three-dimensional modeling technology to present products on a white background to suit specific marketing campaigns. As a result, customers can visualize various aspects of the product, including colors, texture, and shape, thanks to photorealistic rendering. Examples of products that can benefit from 3D modeling include frozen products, household appliances, canned foods, and bottled foods.

With a basic 3D rendering, it’s easier to customize an image to suit specific project objectives. For instance, you can customize a particular product range for special or promotional offers. Three-dimensional modeling also helps simplify any product modifications. 3D modelers can collaborate with marketing experts to integrate a narrative or story for a particular advertising campaign or logo design.

5 best 3D modeling software to consider

Software companies offer a wide range of 3D modeling products (both paid and free versions), but here are the top five to consider.

Autodesk 3Ds Max

This computer graphics program allows you to create high-quality animations, 3D models, and digital images. Many 3D artists rely on Autodesk 3Ds Max for its comprehensive toolset that streamlines the creative and production processes. If you’re looking for quality software to render photorealistic images in architectural and other projects, count on 3Ds Max to get the job done.

You can handle various animation stages quickly and easily. 3Ds Max comes with advanced features capable of streamlining pre-visualization, rigging, rendering, modeling, VFX, texturing, and lighting. So, it’s no surprise that this software is one of the most popular graphics programs available on the market. Many professional studios handle animation and other projects using 3Ds Max.

Video game production companies use the program to create various game assets, character models, and realistic animations. This tool enhances productivity by streamlining creative workflows, saving production teams time. The advertising and film industries also use Autodesk 3Ds Max to generate complex graphics.

Other sectors that use 3Ds Max for visualization include education, manufacturing, medical, and engineering. Photorealistic models generated by the software make it easier for real estate and architectural industries to visualize construction projects more accurately. One of the most popular features in 3Ds Max is polygon modeling that improves precision and expands the range of detail available to designers. Completed graphic design projects are downloadable as STL files and other file formats.

Pros:

  • Enhances flexibility with multiple customization options
  • Incorporates a native scripting language, Maxscript
  • Offers the best spline tools to create circles and helices

Cons:

  • Steep learning curve
  • It doesn’t run on Linux or macOS

Operating systems: Microsoft Windows 10 (64-bit)

Price: $215 (monthly subscription) or $1,700 (annual subscription)

Have experience with Autodesk 3Ds Max and want to put your skills to the test? Or are you a business looking to hire the best Autodesk 3Ds Max specialists? See how Upwork continuously connects clients and expert freelancers.

Blender

Blender is an open-source 3D modeling software that comes with several industry-standard features to help you handle various projects. It’s a viable alternative to leading software products like Adobe Creative Cloud, SolidWorks, and Autodesk Mudbox.

The program provides access to an extensive array of well-designed plugins and tutorials, making it easier for hobbyists, beginners, and experienced designers to understand its functionality. As a designer, you can rely on Blender to develop high-quality gaming content using the Hard Ops feature (a hard-surface modeling toolset).

This 3D modeling software has a user-friendly interface and comes with a ray tracer-rendering engine known as Cycles. You can rely on Blender to handle real-time rendering and cel animation, also known as traditional animation. The program’s most popular tool is the integrated EEVEE render engine that allows you to switch from one render engine (Cycles) to another seamlessly. This feature streamlines your workflow by allowing you to work faster without the need for external installs or managing several windows at any given time.  

Pros:

  • Makes it easier to add depth to your scenes
  • Integrates two compatible rendering engines
  • Supports an entire CG pipeline

Cons:

  • It doesn’t include rasterized brushes
  • Cumbersome multilayering in Adobe After Effects

Operating system: Windows 8 and higher, macOS, Linux

Price: Free

Finding 3D model work involving Blender has never been easier. See how much success other Blender specialists have had on Upwork.

Rhino

Rhinoceros 3D is a powerful tool that comes with a user-friendly programming language known as Grasshopper. It can handle architectural projects with repetitive bay layouts thanks to its ability to update designs and models quickly. Many designers rely on the tool for precision modeling and rapid iterations. Another key functionality associated with Rhino is that it works well with other software, such as Revit.

This functionality allows you to transfer Rhino sketches into another application. On the other hand, its parametric modeling features ensure rapid iterative processes, while the white box rendering display eliminates the need for post-production work. The program also features several modeling commands identical to those found in SolidWorks.

It also plays an integral role in the evaluation of prototypes before 3D printing. Some companies in the apparel industry use the tool to analyze footwear performance and leather textures. You can also use Rhino 3D when dealing with interior design projects, as it allows you to showcase plans to clients.

Pros:

  • Handles complex 3D geometric modeling
  • Easily transfers sketches into other applications
  • Fully programmable

Cons:

  • Limited architectural elements
  • Large files become slow to save
  • Limited sheet layout tools

Operating system: macOS Mojave and newer and Windows 11, 10 or 8.1

Price: $1,126 (permanent license)

Check out the extensive list of Rhino 3D specialists who’ve made a name for themselves on Upwork and get started with your own Rhino 3D career today.

ZBrush

Pixologic ZBrush is a digital sculpting tool with intuitive workflows, an elegant user interface, and powerful modeling features. You can use ZBrush to sculpt an unlimited number of polygons to suit specific projects.

The program handles 2D images, 3D models, and 2.5 “pixols” in unique ways thanks to its mode-free and nonlinear functionality. It comes with a comprehensive toolset and streamlines the workflow, allowing you to transition from a 2D or 3D concept to realistic renders. Depending on your project objectives, you can choose to export the final 3D model to another program or send it to a 3D printer.

When using ZBrush, you don’t need to spend money acquiring pricey graphics cards. Instead, the tool allows you to sculpt, texture, and paint using an extensive range of polygons. The tool features proprietary pixol technology that stores depth, color, lighting, orientation, and material information. These details play an integral role in the composition of your objects.

Pros:

  • Handles models with a high polygon count
  • Provides access to exclusive features, like noise sculpting, and sculpting layers
  • Highly customizable

Cons:

  • Unsuitable for low-poly modeling
  • Steep learning curve

Operating system: macOS 10.11 or above and Windows Vista or newer (64-bit only)

Price: $39.95 (monthly), $179.95 (six months), and $895 (lifetime license)

Businesses in need of the best ZBrush specialists have easy access with Upwork. See how you can connect with clients and get started on ZBrush projects today.

Autodesk Maya

Autodesk Maya allows you to generate 3D models for advertising materials, games, movies, and other productions. It boasts powerful rendering, animation, modeling, texturing, and simulation tools. If you’re an animator, designer, or modeler, you’re sure to find the software useful for a wide range of projects.

With this program, you can start projects by defining a virtual workspace or scene to create specific media. Your workspace visual representation comes in the form of interconnecting nodes.

Maya’s intuitive modeling tools allow you to shape scenes and 3D objects to suit specific objectives. Examples of visual effects produced by Autodesk Maya include explosions and cloth simulations. To create detailed simulations, you can take advantage of the Bifrost extension, a plugin that works in a single visual programming environment to help you create simulations more accurately.

Pros:

  • Simplifies animations and effects
  • Super-intuitive poly tools for character rigging and organic modeling
  • NURBS functionality

Cons:

  • Steep learning curve
  • Cumbersome node editing processes

Operating system: Windows 10, macOS, and Linux

Price: $4,590 (license valid for three years), $1,700 (annual), and $215 (monthly)

If you’re looking for your next Autodesk Maya project, join the thousands of Autodesk Maya specialists already having success on Upwork.

Working as a freelance 3D modeler

Working as a freelance 3D modeler comes with many benefits. For instance, you’re free to pick up projects that use specific modeling software or focus on areas of interest, like animation, gaming, or architecture. You can also find projects that help expand your design horizons or challenge yourself.

The best part is that Upwork provides a platform to showcase your 3D modeling skills to clients across the globe. To discover diverse projects and clients looking for talented 3D modelers, browse the best 3D modeling jobs on Upwork today.

Are you a client looking for a 3D modeler for your next project? Upwork can help guide you in the right direction. Browse some of the best 3D modelers currently available who can bring your project to life.

Upwork is not affiliated with and does not sponsor or endorse any of the tools or services discussed in this section. These tools and services are provided only as potential options, and each reader and company should take the time needed to adequately analyze and determine the tools or services that would best fit their specific needs and situation.

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Choosing the Best 3D Modeling Software: Here’s How
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