Most Popular 3D Modeling Software (and how much it costs)

3D rendering and visualization artists are always trying to hang onto the bleeding edge of software and computer technology. The better their programs are working for them, the faster they can complete jobs and the more attractive their portfolio becomes. 3D modeling software, specifically, is the backbone of any 3D rendering artist’s suite, providing them with the tools to build the digital worlds they present to the actual world.

The programs on this list represent the best, most powerful, most popular on the market. Professionals can use this as a guide to map out their next spending spree, and newcomers can use it to figure out where it makes the most sense to invest their money on getting their practice up and running.

And even though you might have a solid collection of modeling programs at your disposal, it’s important to keep your skills sharp and constantly be introducing new techniques and more knowledge into your weekly work flow. Here is the most popular 3D modeling software, and how much it costs.

SketchUp (free)

Among architects and interior designers, there is no more ubiquitous 3D modeling program than SketchUp. Of course, this wasn’t always the case, but the easy-to-use modeler has evolved over the past decade to give users digital design freedom they could seamlessly pass along to their clients.

SketchUp isn’t the greatest production tool on the planet, but for strengthening the feedback loop and working the design, there are few others like it. It’s toolset is familiar, it’s interface is straightforward, and its plugin compatibility is robust. SketchUp is popular for a reason, and there are no more unsettling stigmas associated with using the program every day.

3DS Max ($1,505 for yearly subscription)

If that price tag didn’t scare you away, I’m here to tell you there’s good reason why the cost of admission is so high. 3DS Max has been used by rendering, animation, and 3D modeling professionals for decades. It’s one of the most powerful, capable modelers available, and comes with a rendering engine, material library, and animation studio on board. For those dedicated few, unlocking the secrets of 3DS Max will send you to the visualization promise land.

3DS Max, is an investment, but one that will pay off if you’re willing to put in the work to get the most out of it. The endless supply of helpful tutorials and online support will hold you up when new program fatigue sets in.

Rhinoceros 3D ($995 for single license)

For the more refined architectural modeling guru, Rhino is the lifeblood of their visualization career. It’s a program that offers an astounding amount of flexibility and complexity, while maintaining a gradual learning curve that is easy for beginners to digest. A professional license will definitely cost you, but the developers offer a free trial program for new users to test out before unloading their bank accounts.

Rhino has a similar toolset to that of SketchUp, but with the ability to freely create curvilinear wireframes and even write scripts that can generate models based on user input and code. Rhino interfaces seamlessly with most common rendering software, making it the perfect modeler for those who also render.

Revit ($2,250 for yearly subscription)

Revit is a 3D modeling program that is used by architects and engineers to build powerful information models that also produce construction documents. It’s expensive, and should only be purchased by those who will use it to its full potential. However, for all the great things revit does for project management, it can also be used as a unique type of visualization tool.

Visualization is all about communication, just like construction documents. When the architect can provide the builder with detailed specification and details as well as a realistic depiction of what the final building will look like, there is a much better chance of the design being executed as it was intended. This is the power of Revit, and why designers and engineers are using it despite how much it costs to operate.

Blender (free)

Blender has been the open-source darling of the 3D modeling and visualization industry for quite some time. It’s interface is different, but easy to manage once you have someone point out its nuances and underpinnings for you. Once you’ve gained control of this beast, however, you’ll be modeling all kinds of models that can be used for rendering or animation.

Blender comes with it’s own proprietary rendering engine called Cycles, making it the perfect one-stop-shop for those who don’t have the funds to invest in some of the more premium software on the market. Rest assured, though, Blender is every bit as capable as those other guys, and does so without jeopardizing your financial future.

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