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3D models can be rather complex and challenging to understand if you are unfamiliar with them. To provide customers, collogues, or stakeholders with an almost accurate picture of the final product, a 3D rendering software program can transform the 3D model into a two-dimensional image with textures, colors, and materials. And as 3D printing becomes more popular and well known, so does the interest in rendering software. Over the last couple of years, there have been more and more rendering programs. We put together a list of different rendering engines and programs to help you navigate and find the best program for you. But first, let’s first find out what 3D rendering software programs are!
The goal of a rendering is to create a realistic two-dimensional picture of a 3D model that reflects how the part would look printed and under natural light. In many ways, it is comparable with photography. However, a render does not only help customers and colleagues to understand how the part will look but also helps to find possible adjustments.
Providing renders for customers is becoming a norm nowadays and is growing the rendering business. Therefore various software programs can be used to create a realistic image. However, there are differences between the software. Some specialize entirely in rendering and offer a very deep and comprehensive toolset. Some software programs focus on other parts of 3D printing but offer an included rendering engine within that.
Rendering software programs are often differentiated between two types of renderings – real-time and offline. The main difference between those two is how fast the rendering process is.
When offline rendering is used, the speed of the rendering is lower and needs more time to complete. However, the results have the highest quality standard.
Rendering real-time is used when the images have to be created quite fast. But this speed comes at a price – the images often don’t have such high quality as those made through offline rendering.
When discussing 3D rendering engines, the words unbiased and biased are bound to be mentioned.
Engines that take no shortcuts and trace every ray are called unbiased engines. They often need more render time and are incredibly precise. It is a big misconception that biased engines are not as accurate as unbiased ones and achieve a wrong result. In most cases, they are physically accurate and create a correct result. It depends on the project and how much time and effort there is. If you need a result as fast as possible, a biased engine may be the best choice. However, if you need an actual scientific image, an unbiased engine is recommended.
Many industries have already taken advantage of rendering and are using it to provide their customers with a realistic representation of the product. One of these industries is architecture. There it is highly important to show a realistic version of your products. With the help of rendering software programs, architects can not only provide full images of houses or flats, with a realistic background and lightning, but some 3D rendering software programs also offer the option of creating walkthrough simulations to give an authentic experience of how the flat or house would look like. 3D renders are quite useful for architectecs or interior designers.
But not only the architecture industry uses 3D rendering software programs they are also very popular in the gaming and movie industry. Almost all movies have parts that were rendered, all visual effects that can be seen on screen are created by a 3D rendering software program.
Rendering is also essential within the industrial design process. Before, prototypes or mock-up renderings were used to ensure that the product looked like the idea.
Many different 3D rendering software can be used to create a render. We have compiled a list of the best Rendering software. So let’s take a look!
Arnold is a very popular 3D rendering software. It is mainly used for movies and videos as it provides excellent image quality with real-time 3D rendering. Users praise the straightforward approach to rendering and the option for changes while an ongoing rendering process. Arnold is also a standalone rendering engine with supported plugins, e.g., 3DS Max, Cinema 4D, and Maya.
You can use Arnold on Windows, Linux, and macOS. There are different price options: $45 per month, annually it costs $360, and if you want to get the best value, there is a 3-year option for $1,025. When you are not sure if Arnold is the 3D rendering software for you, there is a 30-day trial!
Blender is not only an open-source software, but it is also free. Within the Blender software, users can find various 3D printing applications, like rigging, modeling, simulation, animation, as well as rendering. So compared to Arnold, it is not a standalone rendering software. The unbiased rendering engine within Blender is powerful and provides ultra-realistic images. Blender can be used on Windows, Linux, and macOS.
Maxwell Render is available for Windows, Linux, and MacOS and is very popular in the architecture industry. It impresses with an user-friendly interface and creates renders in less setup time. The unbiased rendering software focuses on the lighting aspect to make the most realistic-looking pictures. However, it is not only popular among architects but also a reliable partner in industries like jewelry or automotive.
This standalone rendering software can be implemented into different 3D applications like Cinema 4D, Maya, or 3DS Max – this costs about $495. There is also the option to use Maxwell Studio, an independent scene editor. The “Nodelocked” option costs $495, and the “Floating” option is $695 high.
V-Ray Collection impresses with high-speed and quality renders, making them one of the best software. In the V-Ray Collection, the user gets 15 Chaos products, like chaos V-Ray, chaos Phoenix and chaos Vantage. This license costs $629 a year. However, if you want to try it first, to figure out if it suits you, you can use their services in a free trial for 30 days. There is also the possibility to add V-Ray to multiple 3D applications like 3DS Max, Maya, Blender, or Cinema 4D. If you want a V-Ray for just one of those 3D applications, the prices differ, so be sure to check them out to maybe save some money.
V-Ray is used in different fields, like advertising, architecture, automotive, games, or Television VFX. V-Ray for Maya was used by Elastic to render the animations in the opening credits of Game of Thrones.
GPU acceleration is the foundation of this biased rendering software. It is not only a good option for small as well as large studios but also can be used by individuals with a creative mind. The different features help you to achieve photorealistic results. Redshift can be integrated with various 3D applications, like Maya, 3DS Max, Cinema 4D, and Blender. It works on Linux, Windows, and MacOS. Redshift costs $264 ($22/ month) if you choose the annual paying option, if you want to pay monthly, it costs $45 per month.
Enscape is another 3D rendering engine that can produce real-time rendering. Like all rendering engines, Enscape can create amazing-looking images out of your 3D models. But there is another highlight, which can help your company. Enscape can be used for files from 3D applications like SketchUp, Rhino, or Revit and export them as standalone executable files. This is the advantage of showing your client your work through walkthroughs to provide an even better idea of the finished product.
If you want to try out Enscape first, you can use their 14-day-trail. After that, you have the option to choose between their floating license or their fixed-seat license. The first one costs $778,80 per year and the other one $454,80. Enscape is only usable on Windows devices.
Keyshot is another real-time rendering engine. This standalone rendering software is rapid and provides an easy workflow. Due to its import pipeline, almost any file format can be imported, and data from many 3D applications can directly be transferred to Keyshot. One of the focuses of Keyshot is also to provide scientifically accurate materials. That means that a physically accurate representation of the shown material is being reflected. Keyshot allows the user to see a change instantly in an updated version. This does not only help to evaluate if the change was the right one but also saves time in the process.
The KeyShot Pro subscription costs $99/month, and it is useable for Windows and macOS users.
LuxCoreRender is a free software used on Windows, macOS, and Linux. Physical-based equations which create the transportation of light are the foundation of this unbiased engine. The software can accurately picture many different phenomena and facilitate HDR (high-dynamic range) rendering through this foundation. The software can be used for private projects as well as commercial ones.
This rendering software is specially made for architects. Within the architecture industry, rendering is becoming increasingly important. Lumion is trying to support them within their working task by providing detailed renders and creating them not only efficiently but also quickly. Lumion impresses with its vast content library, including over 6,900 objects and more than 1,350 materials. This allows the user to create beautiful images and videos with great details.
If you want to try this architectural rendering software, you can use their 14-day trial. When you like working with the software, you can choose between a standard and a pro package. The standard Lumion package costs 1499 €, and the Lumion PRO costs 2999 €.
Marmoset Toolbag is a rendering engine that allows real-time rendering to create photorealistic results. New features can easily be implemented using the modular material editor and drag-and-drop the desired parts into teh render.
There are two different price options – a perpetual one and a subscription. The subscription costs $14,99 per month, and the perpetual license is a one-time fee of over $299. For Marmoset Toolbag, you either need a Windows or macOS device.
Thea Render is a standalone render (Studio) that does not only offers a material editor and various tools but also can be used as a plugin for different modeling applications like SketchUp and Rhino. This software engine is unbiased and has three different engines that work together within the same framework. The user can easily switch between the three via a click.
Whether you want the Thea Render for SketchUp or Rhino, you can choose between the annual license or a 3-year one. The license for one year costs 249€ and the 3-year one 599€.
This render says about itself that it “is the world’s first and fastest unbiased, spectrally correct GPU render engine (…) on the market”. Octane Render is compatible with many 3D applications like 3DS Max, AutoCAD, Blender, Cinema 4D, and SketchUp. With advanced lighting and camera tools, it is possible to achieve photorealistic results. Another advantage of Octane Rendering is its steep learning curve.
To rent this rendering software, 39,95€ will be billed yearly.
Now it is your turn! Choose a 3D rendering software that fits your needs to wow your clients or your co-workers.
Renderings are a great option to show a realistic rendering of your 3D model and point out what you are working on.
If you are satisfied with your rendering and want to hold a real version in your hands, we at Sculpteo are happy to help. With our uncomplicated and accessible online printing service, you can simply upload your 3D file and select the desired material. Our experts at Sculpteo will do the rest and send you your printed part.
If you are looking for a free 3D rendering software, you can try one of these interesting and complete software: V-Ray Collection, ZBrush, Luxcore render.
Other 3D rendering software might not be free but can offer a free trial.
If you are looking for an easy 3D rendering software, here is a list of useful tools. Most of them are 3D modeling software offering rendering options: SketchUp, Keyshot Render, Blender, ZBrush, FreeCAD.
Check out our complete selection of the best free 3D modeling software. Among the most used 3D software, you can find software such as: Autodesk Maya, Autodesk 3DS Max, ZBrush, Lightwave 3D, Cinema 4D, Modo, Blender.
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