Chara design: Top 9 of the best software to design your own 3D character
3D modeling software is used by character designers for animation, illustration, cinema and video-games. This kind of software is essential to create complex characters, or creature designs for science-fiction movies for example. Obviously, efficient software is required in order to create really detailed and realistic designs. It can also be used for rendering, and even for 3D printing. Indeed, some software dedicated to character design are offering the possibility to get 3D models optimized for 3D printing. This way you could 3D printing your 3D character, for professional or personal purpose. It is a good way to make miniatures to work on design and details.
In this blogpost we will see more precisely what is 3D character design, and what are the best software to create 3D characters. Thanks to this top, you will find the software that will perfectly fit your needs, and that will help you for you design projects.
3D modeling software and character design: The perfect match
Choosing the good 3D software
3D software is now an essential tool to create character designs. Thanks to these efficient programs, the possibilities are becoming endless for concept artists or professional designers, in charge of the creation of 3D characters for various projects. In order to create the perfect figure, you have to choose the good software to get an optimized result.
3D modeling software allows to work on many different aspects, such as sculpture, painting or texture. Some of them are better for renderings, others are more used for cinematographic purposes. There is also software specially made for character creation, that will be more efficient to work on morphologies or expressions.
Character modeling is not for everybody
Chara design is not just for anyone. It requires a lot of knowledge and practice in order to get impressive results, and very detailed characters. A real character designer knows how to create human-like models, with fluide gestures and good body topologies.
Digital art designs are a real job, that is why some software tools are quite complex, they are not made for art enthusiasts. Moreover, even if you are experienced with 3D modeling software, character modeling requires a lot of practice. Indeed, being creative is not enough. 3D artists have a lot of knowledge regarding 3D character creation: for example, the visual aspect of the 3D figures has to match with the character personality and psychology. They have to take in account a whole background and it also has to match with the visual identity of the project.
What is the best specialised 3D software to design 3D characters?
Some software tools are made specially for chara design. We made a selection of the best software, for amateurs and for experienced users.
MakeHuman is a free and open source 3D modeling software. It can be used to create a 3D character for any application, from illustration to cinema. This open source software is perfect for beginners, it has an intuitive interface and all the various parameters are easy to use. There are for example a lot of facial features. This design software offers 1170 morphings for effective parametric modeling, allowing to work on body proportions, faces, eyes, etc. MakeHuman is offering a lot of possibilities, especially for amateurs, with no previous experience in 3D modeling. However, you will not be able to make realistic rendering with this open source software.
Daz Studio is a free composition and rendering software.Thanks to this program you will be able to modify characters so they can fit your needs. There are different platforms available inside Daz Studio:
- Victoria 4, that is offering high polycount and a large selection of morphs to apply to your 3D figure.
- Genesis, that will allow you to work on body morphs.
- Genesis 2 & 3, perfect to work on movements and articulation.
- Genesis 8, that will allow you to create realistic renderings and work on the expressions of your characters.
You can easily export your creation to the 3D modeling software Maya, in order to create more detailed figures. Also, it is possible to create 3D models optimized for 3D printing.
iClone is a 3D software specially made for animation work and developed by Reallusion. It is used by animators, filmmakers, for animation, cinema and even video games. It is a design software for professionals. iClone allows to do freeform body morphing, to work on facial animation and body motion. This software offers a wide range of tools: among them, you can find Character Creator, a perfect solution to make fully-rigged figures for animation projects. It will allow you to generate unlimited human faces and bodies, that you can modify as much as you want. You can also work on the way your character moves.
Reallusion made a lot of video tutorial which are available to learn how to use the amount of parameters offered by this software. You can see an example of what it is possible to do with Character Creator in the video below:
Mixamo is a very simple software to use. It is a good program if your a just beginning with 3D character design. It requires no previous experience in 3D animation and you can create animated figures in no time. This is not a professional tool, you will not be able to make very detailed 3D characters and good renderings with this program. But it is still very useful if you don’t want to use a complex software.
Autodesk Character Generator
Autodesk developed a web based software for character design. It is a web based program, allowing you to get rigged models, specially for animation and video games. 3D characters can be totally created, customized and downloaded with Character Generator. It is easy to use, you don’t have to be an experienced user to make the most of this software, but it can also be used for a professional purpose as the quality of the 3D models can be really good. You will be able to create a 3D figure quite quickly with this 3D software.
Other modeling software that can be used for chara design
Some traditional modeling software is allowing to create impressive 3D characters. Indeed, the accuracy of these software tools and their efficiency are perfect to work on 3D character designs.
Maya is a 3D modeling software developed by Autodesk. This is an efficient tool, that will help artists in their daily work. This software is not dedicated to 3D character design, but it is known to be used to work on animation for movies and video games. Indeed, the renderings and environments that you can make with this software are quite impressive. Maya has a great toolset that will allow you to create figure drawings and models. It is possible to work on the clothes movements and the hair, in order to make your 3D character as realistic as possible.
Here’s an example of character modeling with Maya:
Check this blogpost to learn how to export a Maya format file in an .obj file format. It could be useful for you, especially if you are planning to 3D print your 3D model.
ZBrush is a software developed by Pixologic. It is an amazing and efficient program to work on modeling, painting and texturing. It is addressed to professional designers and experienced users, as it has a lot of advanced software tools. ZBrush will allow you to work on character designs, and much more. You will be able to make digital illustrations and digital painting.
Pixologic recently published an interesting podcast with Léandre Lagrange, a concept artist working on the visual effects of movies such as Alien: Covenant, or Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. In this podcast, Léandre Lagrange talks about the work process on a movie when it comes to creature designs and textures, and more specifically, he talks about his work with ZBrush:
Blender is a free and open source 3D software. This program is used for game creation, so you can totally create 3D figures with it. This 3D software is powerful and will allow you to create nice 3D character designs. You can use it to make realistic characters for animations or games projects. A lot of tutorials are available on their website if you need a little help to get started with this 3D design software. You will surely find good beginner guides in order to work on your characters anatomy and expressions for example.
If you are interested in this software, we have a tutorial to help you to use Blender for 3D printing.
3ds Max is a software developed by Autodesk, mainly used by professionals to create worlds and environments in video games. It is a really powerful 3D tool for graphic design visualization and renderings. This software has advanced features allowing you to make impressive 3D designs from scratch for your characters.
See how to create a rigging character in 3ds Max in the following video:
You can also check our tutorial to create a 3D model with 3DS Max.
As you can see, there are a lot of different programs to work on 3D character designs, and you don’t have to necessarily use a modeling software dedicated to the creation of 3D characters. There are a lot of 3D modeling software tools on the market, but we hope that this top of the best software for 3D character design jobs will help you to choose the program that will fit your needs and projects.
Credit for the main picture: https://www.artstation.com/artwork/NGwX1