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3D modeling is the new Photoshop. With NFTs, augmented and virtual reality, and even fancy CAD tools making their way into more industries, everyone seems to be interested in making their own piece of the 3D world. Plus, it’s fun to see your creations.
But where do you start, and what is the best 3D modeling software for you? Should you just follow the masses and go for Blender, or do you need something more niche?
Let’s look at the best 3D software in 2023. We’ll cover the popular options and those you might never have heard of — and what each has to offer.
Ready to learn and make a choice? Good. Let’s get started.
Table of Contents
- Tips for Choosing the Right 3D Modeling Software
- Top 3D Modeling Software Reviews for 2023
- 5 Best Free 3D Modeling Software
- 5 Best Paid 3D Modeling Software
- Best 3D Modeling Software by Categories
- What Sort of Computer Do You Need to Run 3D Modeling Software
- What’s the Best Way to Learn to Use a 3D Modeling Software
- 3D Modeling Software FAQs
- Best 3D Software Lets You Create What You Want
Tips for Choosing the Right 3D Modeling Software
Choosing the best software for your needs is about getting the best solutions for your problems, and there is no single solution that will work for everyone.
Here are the most important factors that will help you make a good decision:
If you are on a tight budget, consider one of the many free options available, like Blender.
If you are willing to invest some more cash, you can get access to more advanced 3D modeling software. Before paying, however, make sure they are right for you and not a waste of money. Most software come with a 30-day trial, so start with a free trial.
Consider all the different applications you can do with 3D software. From manufacturing to architecture to game character design to movies. Be clear on what you want to use the software for.
Different products are specifically designed for various applications. We’ll go through a few options below and what they are best for.
Your Computer’s Capabilities
3D modeling software requires different hardware features to run. Once you know which software you will go with, check its minimum system requirements. Be sure your computer’s RAM, graphics card, storage, etc, meet those.
Level of Expertise
If you want to learn the basics, choosing one of the more user-friendly software is best. For those of you who already have some experience, there are more advanced programs where many features should already feel familiar.
With all this out of the way, let’s take a look at the top 3D modeling software (free and paid options) and discuss their features and overall value.
Top 3D Modeling Software Reviews for 2023
Now that you’ve got some idea about what to look for in 3D modeling software let’s check out the top 3D contenders.
5 Best Free 3D Modeling Software
1. Blender Best Overall Free 3D software
Credit: Blender Official Youtube Channel
Blender is an open-source 3D modeling software package that’s completely free to download, use and distribute. The package is well-known on the market and a reliable option for beginners and professionals.
Blender is user-friendly yet also has a high level of sophistication, allowing you to create high-quality models.
Best for: Learning 3D modeling, creating organic models, modeling, rigging, rendering
Top features: Rendering, Scripting, Interface, Video editing, VFX, 3D particle systems
Top industries: Animation, Cinema, Manufacturing, Construction
Available support: Online tutorials, forums, Blender community
Price: Free (donations to Blender are appreciated)
Compatible with: Windows 8.1, 10 and 11 or later, macOS 10.13 Intel, 11.0 Apple Silicon, Linux
Best laptops for Blender:
Where to get it? Download Blender
2. Tinkercad The Easiest 3D Modeling Software
Tinkercad is one of the easiest 3D modeling software out there! It’s ideal for making simple 3D models from scratch. You’ll still produce good quality models quickly and easily.
Best for: Beginners
Top features: Programming simulators, Fully online, Unique preset shapes, Project sharing
Top industries: Education, Entertainment
Available support: Online Tutorials
Compatible with: Microsoft Windows 10 or later, Apple OS X 10.10 +, Google Chrome OS on Chromebooks
Best laptops for Tinkercad: since Tinkercad is a browser-based 3D design tool it’s compatible with pretty much all recent laptops, including Chromebooks.
Where to get it? Check out Tinkercad
3. Unreal Engine 5 Multi-User Rendering Engine
Credit: Unreal Engine Official Youtube Channel
This is a multi-user rendering engine built entirely by Epic Games. It includes tools for designing, developing, and debugging 3D games for Windows, iOS, Xbox One, and Android devices.
Best for: Video Games
Top features: High-quality 3D graphics, Meta human creation, Volumetric lighting, Dynamic occlusion
Top industries: Games, Film and Cinematography, Simulation, Automotive, and Live events
Available Support: Forums
Trial: Free Download
Compatible with: Windows 10 64-bit and later; macOS Monterey; Linux Ubuntu 20.04
Best laptops for Unreal Engine:
Where to get it? Download Unreal Engine
4. Hexagon CAD Software Package
Hexagon is a free open-source CAD software package with an interface designed for 3D modeling. It’s quite versatile and has powerful tools for 3D modeling, making it ideal for 3D printing and other types of 3D projects.
Best for: Subdivision surface modeling
Top features: DAZ studio bridge, Sculpted primitives, Texturing, Modeling
Top industries: Animations, Cinema
Available support: Forums, blogs, community
Compatible with: Windows 7 or later, Mac OS X 10.2 – Mac OS X 10.15
Best laptops for Hexagon: any recent Windows or Mac laptop
Where to get it: Register free DAZ account and download Hexagon free
5. SketchUp Modeling Software Package
SketchUp is a 3D modeling software package that hobbyists and pros alike use to create models. It’s really easy to get started using SketchUp, allowing you to quickly make 3D models without any previous modeling experience.
Best for: Architects, interior designers, landscape designers, hobbyists, 3D printing
Top features: Web-based software, Powerful Modeler, 3D warehouse
Top industries: Architecture, interior design, Construction, Woodworking, Engineering
Available support: Forums, Blogs, Youtube tutorials
Price: Free, $55/year for Higher Ed and $119/year+ for commercial use
Compatible with: Windows 10, 11; macOS 10.15+, macOS 11+ (Big Sur), macOS 12+ (Monterey)
Best laptops for SketchUp:
5 Best Paid 3D Modeling Software
1. Autodesk Maya Professional-Level 3D Modeling Software
Credit: Maya Official Youtube Channel
Maya is one of the most trusted professional-level Autodesk 3D modeling software that lets users create more detailed designs than most consumer-level programs. Professionals use the program to create special effects in television shows and movies.
Best for: Cinema/Animation
Top features: Polygon modeling, Graph editor, Character Setup, Fast playback
Top industries: Film and Cinematography, Marketing
Available support: Tutorials, Online Community
Price: $225/month, $1,785/year or $5,085/3 years
Compatible with: Windows 10; Apple macOS 10.13.x – 10.15.x , 11.x; Linux Red Hat Enterprise 8.2, Linux 7.6 – 7.9; Linux CentOS 8.2 and 7.6-7.9
Best laptops for Maya:
Where to get it? Download Maya’s Free Trial
2. Fusion 360 Software Package for Creating 3D Models
Although Fusion 360 is not a free software package for creating 3D models, it does have an educational version that is free to use. It works similarly to other commercial 3D modeling packages and allows you to create high-quality models.
Best for: Collaboration, Sheet metal design, Electronics design, Engineers, CNC machine designs, PCB designs
Top features: Free for 3 years for personal use; Modular Design; CAD-CAM Import and Compatibility, Flexible Collaboration
Top industries: Product Design, 3D Printing, Manufacturing, and Engineering Visualization
Available support: Phone (1-833-843-3437), Webform, Online tutorials, Forums, Blogs
Price: Free for personal use for 3 years; $70/month, $545/year, $1555/3 years
Compatible with: Windows 8.1 or later, macOS 10.15.7 or newer
Best laptops for Fusion 360:
Where to get it? Download Fusion 360
ZBrush is one of the best software for 3D modeling and sculpting used to create digital representations of 3D models in commerce, the game industry, the film and entertainment industry, digital illustration and design, architectural design post production, physical therapy, and medicine.
Best for: Sculpting, Modeling, Digital Illustration
Top features: BAS Relief, Bevel Pro, Knife Brushes, Dual Alphas and Textures, Stroke interpolation
Top industries: Video Games, Film and Cinematography, Product Modeling, Illustrations, Advertising, eCommerce, 3D Printing
Available Support: Forums, Summits, Blogs, Online tutorials
Price: $39.95/month, or $359/year
Compatible with: Windows 10 or above; Apple macOS 10.14 and above.
Best laptops for Zbrush:
Where to get it? Download the free trial version
4. Autodesk 3ds Max Modeling, Rendering, and Animation Software
3ds Max features a robust modeling and UV/Image editing toolset. The software has all the relevant goodies: a powerful mesh and material editor, render-only tools, extensive scene management and rendering options. But it also features animation tools and a specialized particle system that can be used for attractive simulations.
Best for: Digital art and animation, design visualization projects
Top features: Rendering, Polygon Modeling, 3D wireframe, Lattice Modeling, Advanced Particle Flow, Special effects
Top industries: Entertainment, Animation; Video Games; Film and Cinematography, Engineering, Architectural Designs, Building and Landscape Designers
Available Support: Forums, Groups, Blogs
Price: $225/month, $1,785/year or $5,085/3 years
Compatible with: 64-bit Windows 10 and 11
Best laptops for Autodesk 3Ds Max:
Where to get it? Download Free Version
Houdini is a digital production tool for creating and animating high-quality 3D assets for VFX and Film/Theater. It’s mainly used for animation and special effects in film, online advertising, television, games, and other visual media.
Best For: Renders, Animation, Special Effects
Top features: Fluid simulation, Destruction Fx, Fire and Smoke Fx, Ragdoll dynamics
Top industries: Film and TV, Game development, Motion graphics, Virtual Reality
Available support: Tutorials, Webinars, Community Forums
Price: Multiple price tiers depending on license, number of users and duration: from $75 per week up to $2995 annually for single user (full price comparison here)
Compatible with: Windows 8 and later (64 bit only); Apple macOS 10.5 and above; Linux Ubuntu 18.04+, RHEL 7+, OpenSUSE 15+, Debian 10.0+, Fedora 28+, CentOS 7+, Mint 19.3+
Best laptops for Houdini:
Where to get it? Download the free trial version
Best 3D Modeling Software by Categories
While 3D modeling software reviews give you a nice overview of options, sometimes you want a straight-up answer for a category. We’ve listed below some of the most popular categories in the 3D modeling world and given our recommendations.
1. Blender Easiest 3D Modeling Software for Beginners
Why we like it: Blender is a full-fledged 3D software, so if you are a complete newbie, it’ll be overwhelming (we won’t lie). But it’s free, and there are a bunch of resources to help you on your 3D journey. Once you’ve mastered it, moving up to a more expensive and difficult software package is much easier.
2. Fusion 360 Best Software for 3D printing
Price: Free for personal use for 3 years; $70/month, $545/year, $1555/3 years
Why we like it: Fusion 360’s interface is ideal for making 3D models, which can then be output to a variety of 3D printing services like Formlabs and Cubify. The measurement accuracy and precision of the software are ideal for professionals and hobbyists who need to create high-quality prints from their 3D models.
3. ArchiCAD Best 3D Modeling Software for Architecture
Price: $280 per month (Solo Version), $320 per month (Full version)
Why we like it: ArchiCAD lets you design, visualize and collaborate on your construction business with other architects and engineers. The software is ideal for producing high-quality 3D models you can use in your architecture plans. Whether construction drawings or architectural models, creating high-quality graphics is easy. Download ArchiCAD here.
4. Adobe Substance 3D Best Software for 3D Product Modeling
Price: $49.99 per month for the Collection suite
Why we like it: Not only is it reasonably priced, Adobe Substance 3D is among the most versatile and functional 3D modeling software for consumer product modeling. Choose among the variety of materials, use pre-made objects, or import new ones, and add textures and colors. Then, you can even create customized lighting and background. Get Adobe Substance 3D Free Trial
5. Zbrush Top 3D Modeling Software for Mac
Price: $39.95 per month
Why we like it: Zbrush is intuitive and easy to use, meaning that even if you’re a beginner, you’ll still be able to use Zbrush efficiently. Zbrush is one of the most powerful 3D modeling packages out there, perfect for creating high-quality professional models with a high level of detail.
Zbrush is also one of the best programs for 3D modeling for iPads.
What Sort of Computer Do You Need to Run 3D Modeling Software
The hardware requirements for software programs differ based on how often you use the program, how complex the design work is, and how much texture and image detail are included in a project.
When looking for the right laptop specs for 3D modeling, you don’t always have to go for the best (and most expensive).
For example, at a minimum, a lightweight application with low requirements for graphics processing (for example, Blender) will work fine on most laptops with integrated GPUs.
However, if a higher-end video card is used with heavier 3D software (such as the popular 3DS Max), you may want to look for a more powerful computer or laptop.
Generally, it’s a good idea to look for these key components in any computer that you purchase for 3D modeling:
- A dedicated graphics card (such as an NVIDIA GeForce or AMD Radeon) with at least 2GB of vRAM. You will need much more if you want to do GPU rendering; an RTX 3050 Ti is a good start, but if you need more, check out the latest NVIDIA RTX 40-series
- 8GB of RAM to start with, but at least 16GB for professionals
- A 4-core processor, preferably with a clock speed of 2.0 GHz at a minimum; go for at least i5 11th Gen, and preferably 12th or even 13th Gen. i7
- At least 256GB recommended SSD storage space
- A top-of-the-line sound card. Sound cards are especially important if you’re making music or video games with complex sound.
Best laptops for 3D modeling cover all of these, for a smooth gliding across the 3D landscape.
What’s the Best Way to Learn to Use a 3D Modeling Software
If you’re new to 3D modeling software, you may have heard some horror stories about how difficult it is to learn. Don’t let that scare you away. Just like venturing into any other new area of interest, it may take a little time to get comfortable, but the skills you learn will be worth it.
The best way to learn 3D modeling is to look for tutorials and online training. There are tons of online tutorials, blogs, and chat forums that can help get you started.
One of the coolest things about this software is that you can find tons of free resources or paid courses.
There are also online forums and chat rooms where you can connect with other learners
In the end, remember that learning to use 3D modeling software does take time and effort. You may find yourself frustrated at times, but don’t give up. Set aside time daily or weekly to work on a new skill.
3D Modeling Software FAQs
What is the best affordable 3D software for modeling and rendering?
Maya is the best affordable 3D software for modeling and rendering. It is used by students, professionals, hobbyists, game developers, and CG artists alike. The software has versions that provide both standalone and plug-in solutions, so there are options for different needs. Maya offers features such as interactive design support to simplify difficult tasks like texturing or rigging.
What is the difference between a CAD tool and 3D Modeling software?
A CAD tool is a computer-aided design program used to develop 2D and 3D models usually based on technical drawings, and with a real-world application. On the other hand, 3D modeling software is more versatile and can be used for special effects, digital art, and entertainment. Some 3D modeling software are geared toward practical uses, too.
Which 3D software is most popular?
Blender 3D is the most popular 3D modeling software because of its large community and diverse set of powerful tools. Blender supports various projects, modeling techniques, and file formats. The software includes a variety of simulations like fire or smoke and an inbuilt game engine to create games on top of the rendering system.
Best 3D Software Lets You Create What You Want
The best 3D modeling programs are the ones that fit your needs while allowing you to express yourself completely.
For beginners, it’s best to start with free software. Here, you will be able to learn and develop at your own pace without spending money.
Students and professionals can use paid platforms because these tend to save a lot of time. They let you focus on the essentials and be more productive.
If you’ve decided on 3D modeling software, the next step is even more exciting — and that’s picking out the best 3D modeling course.