3D Modeling Software - Origins and Purpose

3D Modeling Software - Origins and Purpose

13 January 2020 by martin

We are surrounded by 3D models! They are practically used in almost every industry - animations, movies, video games, education, engineering, architecture and so on. The examples are endless and this means only one thing - the demand for 3D models of the highest quality is increasing on day-to-day basis! 

These models are created by qualified 3D artists. And the tools that are needed to craft these masterpieces are called 3D Modeling Software. In this blog post we will share with you the origins and purpose of the 3D modeling tools and if you stay with us until the end you will also discover what the future holds for them. Let's do this, shall we?

What is 3D Modeling Software?

To better understand this we have to first explain what is 3D Modeling itself. In 3D Computer Graphics this is the process of creating a digital representation of an object or surface in three dimensions. Consider this to be a realistic drawing. However, there is much more complexity involved for its creation which on the other hand allows for the incorporation of real-time data and interaction with the model using a computer. 

To do this you need to use 3D software. The users of these 3D modeling programs are called 3D Artists. Their 3D modeling skills allow them to create advanced graphics with a high level of realism and attention to detail.


What are the origins of the 3D modeling software?

Software 3d modeling, as we know it, can be traced back to 1960. In that year Ivan Sutherland created Sketchpad - the first 3D digital modeling software. And the world was changed forever! Artists had new horizons, new possibilities, and new challenges. 

By introducing Sketchpad to the world, Ivan Sutherland started the 3D era in which we live today! The creation of the grandfather of all modern modeling software caused the developers to react and to think for new and improved versions and other options for 3D imaging software. As of then the development of 3D modeling software was constantly improved so that each new addition to the family can provide more value for the clients and more flexibility and options for 3D artists.


3D Octopus with Wireframe

What types of 3D Modeling Software exist?

Modern 3D modeling programs combine both 3D and 2D features under one hood, however, some of them are marketed to provide these features into separate packages. And all of them have the ability to produce high-quality 3d models.

Many of the programs overlap in terms of capabilities. This means that they can be used in all areas of graphic, environmental and product design. However, if you think that there is a "one size fits all" principle for the usage of 3D models, then think again.

So what is the difference between all the players on the market? It depends on the type of 3D artists and their needs. There are vast job possibilities for them. 

For example, a 3D artist may decide to create animations. In this case, the best 3d making software will be the one that can provide capabilities like NURMS that allow the creation of faster and highly detailed 3D models.

An artist who will create models for the gaming industry will need one of the top 3D modeling software capable of crafting masterpieces that can simulate real-world with mind-boggling visuals. And even AR and VR designs as this is a thing for modern games!

When we are speaking for 3D product marketing, then the best 3d modeling software will be the one that is capable of polygon modeling, spline (NURBS) modeling or 3D sculpting. An artist that creates 3D models for prototypes will need good 3D software that puts the focus on creating CAD 3D models for 3D printing. Other artists are dedicated to 3D marketing animations and designs, architecture modeling and so on. You can clearly see the pattern.

3D Modeling Software Comparison Graph

What is the best program for 3d modeling?

Again this depends on the usage of the 3D modeling itself and the type of 3D artist. That is why it is very hard, almost impossible, to name the best software for 3d art.

However, most specialists will point to Autodesk Maya. The reason for this is because it is used the most, especially in animation studios (including Pixar). And this is for a good reason, as Autodesk Maya provides 3D artists with a massive array of powerful tools in a single package. 

The application is also capable of truly jaw-dropping live rendering features as well. That is why it is one of the best software for making 3d models.

Then what are the top 10 3D modeling software that you can choose from?

Autodesk Maya

You already know why it is on this list. Despite its advantages, there is a downside to choosing this program. It is expensive and not beginner-friendly. This means that you will have to spend some time learning how to use it before creating 3D Models with it. However, if you have the time and money, Autodesk Maya is 100% worth the investment as it is entirely capable to help you create an awesome portfolio that will catch the clients' attention.

Autodesk Maya Interface

Autodesk 3Ds Max

Our next pick is Autodesk 3Ds Max. One of the programs that can provide you with the best 3d software modeling. 3Ds Max has been around for a long time. It is safe to say that it is one of the pioneers in 3D modeling.

Considered to be one of the most stable and one of the best modeling software, this gem brings power with it! Need a gigantic library that gives access to countless functions? Want to make the process of modeling less tedious? In this case, you can safely consider 3Ds Max the best tool for 3d modeling.

On the downside of things, it is not cheap, however, there is a free student license. This means if you are a student and want to learn how to unleash the power of 3Ds Max you can do this without limitations. 

And if you are considering to purchase a license for your business but are not sure if the program is the right choice, there is a free trial mode. During the 30 days exhibition period, you will have access to all the features and this time is enough to make up your mind.

Autodesk 3Ds Max Interface

AutoCAD 3D

If you consider using a powerful Computer-Aided Design (CAD) software then here is a tool to take into deep consideration. AutoCAD 3D has a solid modeling functionality. Provides photorealistic 3D rendering and it works with multiple formats such as DFG, PDF and DNG. 

This program has a wonderful tool palette. With it you can import model data from online sources and even mobile devices. Another unique feature is the possibility of collaboration. This means that multiple users can work on a single project.

Autodesk AutoCad Interface


Moving on to the next nominee for the "best software to make 3d models" award - Houdini. This program is another industry-standard tool that packs powerful features. 

The methodology used by Houdini is a little different. It uses a node-based procedural style of production. What is so special about this? 

Well, if you are a 3D artist that wants a vast amount of control over the modeling process, then for you Houdini might be the best software to create 3d models with. Do not think that it is easy to use though! 

Like Maya, you will have to do some learning before creating 3D art. However, with some persistence, you will be crafting masterpieces in no time. Another disadvantage is the fact that Houdini is on the expensive side.

SideFX Houdini Interface


If you are wondering "What 3d modeling software should I use that stands out of the crowd?" then your search may be over! Modo takes its pride in doing things differently than the other applications on the market. 

And it is not a coincidence! Modo is created with art in mind - not just animation! That is why its selection of tools is quite interesting and can offer great results. 

Another advantage is its user-friendly interface. Thanks to it Modo can be titled as one of the easiest to use 3d modeling software. 

Even a novice user can start using it with relative ease. This means that you do not need years of training and perfection to start creating 3D art. Its powerful rendering engine is good enough to allow you to create professional models on the fly.

Foundry Modo Interface

Autodesk Mudbox

One of the easiest to use 3d modeling software and part of the Autodesk family. Its focus is placed on editing and sculpting 3D models. The toolset that comes with Mudbox is simple and intuitive. 

With it, you can handle more complex 3D tasks without problems. Some of the features that will make you fall in love with Mudbox are:

  • on the fly polygon count increase;
  • gradual adjustments of 3D models for absolute perfection;
  • the ability to set up layers;
  • powerful texture creation;
  • correct meshes and more

On the downside - if you want to focus on rigging, texturing, and animation, then Mudbox is not your best option. But if you want to create 3D art from scratch and sculpt models then your bet is safe with it!

Autodesk Mudbox Interface

Cinema 4D

Another serious player in the 3D Modeling Software market is Cinema 4D. It gives you the capability to produce perfect motion graphics design.

The quality is superb and it is very easy to learn. A perfect choice for beginners. However, it is very expensive but a free trial option is available.

Maxon Cinema 4D Interface


Do you want to sculpt human shapes, animals, places? Then ZBrush is a choice to be considered. Especially for the video game design industry. It is also suitable for 3D printing purposes as well. 

This sculpting tool combines 3D and 2.5D modeling, texturing and painting. Its proprietary “pixel” technology takes to care for the storage of color, lighting, orientation, material and depth information for all points that make up the objects on the screen. 

With ZBrush, you can create high-resolution models. It is so powerful that it is able to reach over 40 million polygons. Its user interface is perfect for art creation - it provides all the necessary tools for you to unleash your creativity from scratch. Another great plus of ZBrush is its price, compared to the previous options.

Pixologic Zbrush Interface


Packed with an easy to learn toolset, this 3D software allows you to start creating instantly. Its high compatibility and well-designed rendering engine allow the processing of complex animations without considerable slowdown. Free to use for 90 days - a time which will be more than enough to decide if Rhinoceros answers the question "What is the easiest 3d modeling software to use?"

Rhino3D Interface


One of its main advantages is that this is a free open-source multiplatform 3D modeling software. If you wanted to know what's the best 3d modeling software amongst the free options, then you have a definitive winner. It comes with all the needed tools that allow you to create 3D art. 

For example:

  • Texturing
  • Sculpting
  • Rigging
  • Animation
  • even UV

Blender is equipped with a solid rendering engine. You can expect constant updates and improvements - again free of charge and always up-to-date. This is the power of open-source software!

Blender 3D Interface

A few honorable mentions for our list of free 3D modeling software:

You already know what is the best 3D modeling program in the open-source world. However, you may check some of these free options as well:

  • 3D slash - free with a premium option. Suitable for beginners;
  • TinkerCAD - supports multiple file formats and it is a CAD software for newbies that runs in a browser;
  • FreeCAD - free multiplatform software for intermediate users;
  • Daz Studio - this software was recently made free and it can be used for 3D art using human, animal and other assets;
  • Houdini Apprentice - the free version of Houdini;

What is the future of 3D modeling software?

Constant improvements are a thing to expect. Some of them are related to Artificial Intelligence (AI). Auto-generated 3D models will be created with little or no effort from the human artist. All it will take will be some slider adjustments and usage of specific libraries. 

Even now there are AI tools that can convert any 2D photo or image into a 3D object in seconds.

However, do not expect that AI will be able to fully replace human 3D artists. While machine learning will allow it to grow a larger knowledge base and to adopt even better techniques, human artists will be needed to create libraries, requirements and so on. And for high budget projects (movies and AAA video games) they will most likely be irreplaceable.

Another expectation for the future of 3D modeling software is the focus on 3D printing so you can expect improvements there as well.


3D Modeling Software was, is and will be a game-changer!

In this post, you found out more about these programs, learned about their origins and know what you can expect for the future. You also learned that there is not a single answer to the question "What is the best 3d modeling software?" but you were presented with some of the best options for specific cases and projects.

What do you think? Which is your favorite choice? Share with us and if you need help with deciding or want a professional 3D modeling service, do not hesitate to contact us!


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