3D Modelling Software

Discussion in 'Design and Graphics' started by Hexiii, Aug 18, 2012.

  1. macrumors 6502a


    Jun 30, 2011
    Prague, Czech Republic
    So I was searching for some threads here, but they are kind of old.

    What are good/most used 3D programs for Mac? What are their advantages/disadvantages? I found Cheetah 3D which seems to have user-friendly UI, but therefore there is a question if it is not somehow limited?

    Then Blender seems to be nice, but I don't really know this field yet, so I would appreciate some advices.

    Thank you :)
  2. macrumors 65816

    Mar 22, 2010
    I'm also interested in dabbling in this realm.

    I'd like something capable, but still user-friendly as well.

    I look forward to people's advices.
  3. chrono1081, Aug 18, 2012
    Last edited: Aug 18, 2012

    macrumors 604


    Jan 26, 2008
    Isla Nublar
    It all depends what you want to do. If you're just looking for modeling here are some suggestions:

    Silo is very popular, and cheap, and is often said to have the best modeling tools, but it apparently is only good for modeling (I haven't used it yet so I can't say for sure but they have a 30 day free trial).

    Cinema 4D is VERY popular and very capable. They also have Body Paint which is a highly used tool. You'll spend more for Cinema 4D though.

    Modo is another good one. They offer a 15 day free trial and I really liked Modo but its learning resources are a bit scant and lots of training (like rigging) they want you to pay for. (If someone has found good, non $200 modo rigging tutorials let me know). Their renderer is fantastic.

    Blender is another one, its free. I personally do not like Blender but its quite capable if you stick with it.

    There's also Maya (the one I use the most). Its not the best for modeling since its a tad cumbersome but its a good one to know how to use. The price tag is high though. Its around $6500. Maya is popular for its animation tools and easily has the largest amount of learning resources.

    There is also ZBrush. Its not really a modeling program but more of a digital sculpting program. (You can model in it too but not in the traditional sense). People familiar with clay techniques love ZBrush. I myself love it and use it daily but it has quite a learning curve. You also NEED a Wacom tablet.

    I hesitate to mention this one because even though its excellent software it has barely any learning resources and is most likely a lot more than you are after but there is also Houdini.

    The best advice I can give is to give their trials a try (make sure you have time to dedicate to learning a particular software through tutorials, 3D is not pick up and play). Using trials + Lynda.com is a great way to learn the software fast and see if its for you before settling with a package.

    EDIT: Also I wanted to mention that with 3D modeling, you'll have an easier time if you learn it in steps. Get your modeling tools down to where you can make really good models, then learn texturing (this will require some Photoshop skills or if you use something like Cinema4D you can learn Body Paint). Once you get texturing down start learning lighting/rendering or animation (if you want to learn animation). Learn in steps, it'll help you from getting overwhelmed.
  4. thread starter macrumors 6502a


    Jun 30, 2011
    Prague, Czech Republic
    Ok, thank you for your extensive post, I appreciate that.

    About the steps.. yeah you are probably right, I tried C4D/3DS Max trial earlier and there are really tons of things which I don't know what are for :)
  5. macrumors 6502a


    Jun 17, 2012
    Cinema4d is very stable and full. I love modo too :D
  6. macrumors 65816

    Jun 20, 2009
    Lincoln, UK
    I use Wings 3D, partly because it is free, partly because I found it very easy to use for low-poly game modelling. It doesn't have any animation tools, so it is not for you if you need that.

    It works quite differently to any other software I have used, but I love it and has a simple interface because of it. It works by having mosts commands on context-sensitive right-click menus. You only see the vertex tools on the menu if you are in vertex mode for example.
  7. macrumors 65816


    May 1, 2006
    Modeling is only a small part of the 3D realm.
    My advice would be to try Modo:
    It works on Mac as well as on Windows (in case you need a faster computer for rendering, you can just buy a PC for that, instead of a Mac Pro)
    The last version is very complete (rigging, animation...)
    It's modern, and the render engine is fast and gives gorgeous results.
  8. macrumors 68020

    Jun 26, 2002
    Im not sure if thats correct.
    Do you mean its not the best due to its deep set of tools and is a tad too hard to learn compared to C4D?
    Maya is up there as far as modeling tools go.
    Most of the Alias Power Modeler and Studio tools are there as well as deep polytools.
    Now of course we are talking pure modeling like finite surfaces for high end data models.
    You are right it does have the most learning resources.
    You can spend years in this app and still learning something new.
    My wish is that Max was Mac based.
    That I believe had the easiest modeling tools.
  9. macrumors 604


    Jan 26, 2008
    Isla Nublar
    Autodesk has let Maya's modeling tools stagnate. Not to mention Booleans are still broken (not sure about in 2013 but 2012 they still are).

    Other programs like Modo have more modeling tools and some are very useful (like the array modeling tools). I'd love if something like that were in Maya.

    Also features found in other programs like assigning materials in the rendering viewport are useful for quickly testing ideas.
  10. macrumors 6502a

    Oct 4, 2008
    Chrono pretty much nailed it.

    Cinema 4D is the easiest program out there to learn, and it does a lot of stuff. However, the modelling toolset is seriously long in the tooth and I find modelling anything polygonal in it is a huge pain in the ass. The renderer is decent (though many people prefer VRAYforC4D for realism), though a bit slow at times. It has an extremely expansive set of tools for motion graphics, and is pretty much unparalleled in that industry.

    Modo started out as a polygonal modeller, and it's still the best program out there to use if you're modelling with raw polygons. They've slowly been adding features to it over the years and the recent 601 release is pretty rock solid- it's got a good renderer that you can easily coax V-Ray quality renders out of, they've got a pretty decent rigging and animation system in there and 601 added support for volumetric and particle FX.

    ZBrush is something else- it's used for sculpting. 99% of the time, if someone is designing characters or creatures for a movie or computer game- the initial models will be sculpted up in ZBrush, then retopologized either in ZB or an external program and turned into assets that can be used further down the pipeline. ZBrush contains no renderer and doesn't do animation. It is strictly used for sculpting, and is therefore an industry standard (the biggest competitor for ZBrush right now is Autodesk's Mudbox).

    I wouldn't go near Maya.

    Maya is a platform, not a program. It is designed to give you a stable environment to write your own tools in, and that's what the majority of people who use it do. I don't know of anyone who uses Maya out-of-the-box without their own custom tools or third party tools purchased from others. Most companies who use Maya have their own set of internal proprietary code that runs under it- for example, WETA uses Maya for just about everything but they've practically rewritten every single tool that Maya comes with, then added a metric truckload of their own.

    Again, Maya is in another league, and I wouldn't bother wasting ANY time on it unless you're expecting to get a job in the industry dealing with it or you have some other requirement that only Maya can satisfy. Every single person I know who *has* to use Maya wishes they didn't. And I don't know anyone who wishes they *could* to work with Maya.

    I personally use Cinema 4D, Modo, and ZBrush. I use C4D for staging, rendering, and animation. I use Modo for modelling, painting/texturing, and occasionally realistic renders. I use ZBrush for high-polygon sculpting and character creation.

    I would recommend that if you're just getting into this stuff- you start with Blender, which is free. A lot of the basics that you'll learn going through tutorials and reading books about Blender will transfer over to the commercial programs, like Cinema 4D or Modo. A lot of people have done absolutely jaw-droppingly amazing stuff in Blender, so it's definitely not a program to overlook just because it's free.

  11. macrumors 68020

    Jun 26, 2002
    Booleans have been problematic for almost every known app out there.
    You have to know the rules in poly boolean just like using similar Illustrators boolean functions.
    Modo from day one has concentrated on modeling.
    Id say the same about Rhino back in the day too.
    Best known app for Booleans not counting Pro E and such was formZ.
    On the Mac that was the modeling app to have.
    I guess if you can find faults in Maya for your workflow I respect that.
    Just cant agree that its not up to par with the best of them.


    As far as Maya is concerned, we both agree on that part :)
  12. macrumors 603


    Aug 5, 2010

    Bodypaint hasn't been updated much in a very long time. If you want that kind of functionality, you can always look at something like 3d Coat as an added piece of software. Your price tag is off on maya. Also consider when you mention photoshop/texturing, traditional drawing skills would benefit the OP there. That is a weird step as if you're borrowing anything from photos, if it will be seen at close range, any surface distress should really be modeled at some level even as a bump/displacement map rather than implemented as a simple color attribute.

    Booleans are pretty terrible for most things. Zbrush has a decent boolean-like system with some of their subtractive brushes. One of the main things that is nice in maya is their deformers. Without them modeling there would be nearly impossible, but used correctly they allow a lot of flexibility. Unfortunately they're on a per object basis meaning you may have to extract. With something like 3ds max you have more component level deformers in their modifier stack. One thing about modo is their shading solutions look a bit weak and I don't know enough about shader writing to improve them to a usable level. I'm also not sure if they support things like proxies or layered/blended material solutions. It's difficult to create many things without that. Their renderer has less information than virtually any other, but I've known a couple guys that have used it successfully.
  13. macrumors 68020

    Jun 26, 2002
    My two cents...

    Okay now after reading the posts above over again I will have to take back everything I said and start over.
    Learn the easy stuff first.
    Easy as in accessible, free or cheap in costs.
    Then you can make your decision late on in this field.
    I was off-putted with the Maya comment and forgot my roots.
    I started with Swivel 3D on an Macintosh LC III.
    Then purchased a copy of Infini-D and after that Strata 3D.
    Back in the day these apps were super cheap as a student.
    Then after purchased formZ and COSA After Effects (Aldus > Adobe).
    Then for an actual huge project got a seat of Electric Image.
    That app alone was 12k CAD.
    All of it on the Mac :)
    As I grew out of the Mac for 3D, I then got into 3D Studio then Max.
    That was a dark period for me ;)
    Then came Power Animator/Modeler on Alias running on SGIs.
    After Softimage and Houdini.
    After all that, I had to go back to Max (at v 3.x) then finally found my home in Maya with a combo of mr and PRman on the side.
    Now that was from Maya v 1.0 where Polygons was a joke.
    A real joke honestly.
    With all that said, use what you can when you can.
    Its worth learning everything thats in your grasp.
    Im finding these days (yes as you can read my post I was one of them) that trying to get opinions from others tend to get you into these pointless deep rooted posts about which is better.
    I will say that Maya is the last for me even though I delved with C4D, Modo and XSI.
    The reason is two-fold.
    I teach it on the side plus I use it for work.
    I could throw a bunch of links, articles and videos at you to try and entice you but I wont.
    I think its best that you find your own way like most of us have ;)

    Good luck and have fun.
  14. macrumors 65816

    Jun 20, 2009
    Lincoln, UK
    Something that most answer have hinted on... What does the original poster want to do 3D modelling for?

    Some packages are more suited to low-poly work for games, while others are better for realistic film and TV animation.
  15. macrumors 6502a

    Sep 3, 2009
    Pretty much all of the software that I can think of has been mentioned, but keep in mind that if you want to make a career of this, you should learn standard programs for the industry you want to go into.

    Cinema 4D for motion graphics (Looks like R14, coming out in Sept. has some great new sculpting tools)

    Maya, 3DS Max for visual effects.

    SolidWorks, etc. for industrial design.

    Things like Blender are great for starting out, but any company is going to expect you to know standard software before being hired, so don't become a master at Blender and expect to conquer the industry that way.

    If you just want to play around, any of the suggestions above will do for you.
  16. thread starter macrumors 6502a


    Jun 30, 2011
    Prague, Czech Republic
    I don't plan using animation tools at the moment, therefore Modo seems like good and "cheap" starting point. Thank you all for replies.
  17. Renzatic, Aug 21, 2012
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2012

    macrumors G3


    What Dylan said is more or less true. Blender isn't an industry standard, and mastering it by itself won't get you a job anywhere.

    ...but for just starting out, it's a great piece of software. See, all these 3D modellers are, at their most fundamental, exactly the same. A polygon is a polygon regardless of if it's in Max, Maya, Modo, or Blender, and they all follow the same basic ruleset. A knife cut is a knife cut. A loop slice a loop slice. A subdivision surface a subdivision surface. An extrusion an extrusion. These are a few of the basic tools that look, act, and perform about the same in every single modeller. You can easily start out in Blender, get a feel for things, and move over to Max with practically no problems.

    Course if you don't mind spending the cash, Modo is a great place to start. But if you want to save a bit, Blender isn't half bad. I personally use it to complement Modo all the time.

    My personal opinion here of course, but if you're using booleans, you're not doing it right. :p
  18. macrumors 65816

    Mar 22, 2010
    I've looked at some of the suggestions and it seems that my needs haven't been sufficiently answered (or maybe I'm just too much of a skimmer).

    I don't want to spend hundreds of dollars on a 3D program. I want to test the waters first with software no more than $150. Yes, I understand that Blender is free, but is there a program that has a better interface ... and is (somewhat) "industry standard" that is in my price range?
  19. macrumors G3


    Yup. Silo. It's interface is minimal and easy to navigate, the modelling is simple and fluid, and...best of all...it's cheap. You get a 30 day free trial to test it out, and if you like it, it only costs $160.

    The only downside? It's just a modeller. If you want to render, bake, or animate, you'll have to use another program.
  20. macrumors 604


    Jan 26, 2008
    Isla Nublar
    I should try Silo, I've tried pretty much everything else.

    I'm heavy into Blender (which I don't care for) at the moment because I can sneak it on my work computer since it launches from a folder :D


    No booleans for me! I don't believe in them either. Well, I lie I'll use them in ZBrush but ZBrush generates good topology for them (kind of). Theres still usually some manual retopo needed if you want to animate but they're good for sculpting.
  21. Renzatic, Aug 21, 2012
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2012

    macrumors G3


    There are two reasons why I kinda like Blender.

    1. It's got a great, option heavy 3D window. More often than not, I'm working with realtime 3D stuff. If I'm doing a little low poly scene, I'll usually have a ton of alpha masks in there to flesh out the trees and whatnot. Modo sucks for this. I'm not sure if they've fixed it for 601 or not, but every version I've used can't display alphas in realtime. Trying to make a low poly tree in it is an exercise in frustration.

    Blender handles alphas just fine though. Plus I can flip on GLSL and light the scene just like a modern game from right inside the editor.

    2. Bsurfaces. Modo is pretty bare bones when it comes to splines. What's there does the job well enough, but it's hardly what I'd call a spectacular toolset. BSurfaces? Yeah. Just watch the video. I modelled the front of an old Ford pickup with it in no time flat.

    Wish I could talk to you more about Zbrush, but I'm still kinda new to it. The most I've done with it thus far is model an old man head in it (which came out really damn well considering it was my first attempt at sculpting), and grunge up the bones on a skeleton I've been working on to see what it'd look like.

    ...yeah. Don't think I'm a pro here. I'm pretty much in the dead center of being an intermediately skilled hobbyist. :p
  22. thread starter macrumors 6502a


    Jun 30, 2011
    Prague, Czech Republic
    So I downloaded the modo trial, I'll try to find some tutorials.
  23. macrumors member

    Mar 17, 2011
    If you're looking for modern UI and retina support with easy export to mobile (iPad/iPhone) you may want to check out my app :)
  24. OXO
    macrumors newbie

    Aug 18, 2011

    Try wings3d, especially for the modelling part. It's really easy and very fast.

    Best of all, It's free

  25. macrumors member

    May 12, 2007
    Really if you are interested I suggest Autodesk MAya...it is one of the industry standard and it has everything you need to compile from scratch to movie and effects...

    Im not saying that all the other mentioned are not good. But if you are starting off. Learn one, then research others.

    They all have their pros over the others...stick to learning one, master it and you will be fine.

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