3D rendering has been around for 60 years already and now it's very popular, so it is not surprising that there are multiple rendering tools offered in the market today. Big diversity of software makes it difficult to find the best app to meet both personal and budget expectations. This review of the best 3D rendering apps will help you to learn their basic features and come up with the idea of the most suitable app easier and faster. Let’s start!
It is a 3D computer graphics software released in 2000. It is a product of Illumination Research and runs on Windows, Mac, and Linux. It uses a Path Tracing algorithm that can be optionally changed for REYES + RayTracing. This is a multi-threaded renderer that also supports distributed rendering and has a lot of features including Area light sources, Global illumination, Special camera projections, Texture, Displacement, Photon, and Environment mapping, Level of detail, and many others. The tool uses the RenderMan shading language and supports integration into 3ds Max, Katana, Maya and others. It can be downloaded for free by single users, but corporate clients can expect to pay as much as $720.
This is Monte Carlo ray tracing software for computers built for the demand for high-quality animation and visual effects. It runs on computers powered by Windows, Linux, and MacOS and features simple and intuitive UI and controls. It supports integration with all of the top 3D digital content creation tools and allows building custom sharers easily. The tool supports real-time rendering with the possibility to apply changes to the rendering during the process and volumetric as well. It is a built-in renderer of several most popular 3D modeling tools and it has been used to create multiple movies. The cost of this software ranges between $45 and $370 a year depending on the functionality.
Being one more example of 3D rendering software Artlantis features a good selection of indoor and outdoor lighting effects. In fact, it is an architectural visualization tool that allows creating renderings quickly and easily. It has a clear and ergonomic interface and is easy to learn even for beginners. One of its unique features is a real-time preview of the scene to control every change made. Artlantis is the only rendering software on the market that provides an efficient quality / time ratio. It is possible to preview the rendering fast enough using the “draft” and only then continue rendering the model. The range of tools is rather extensive including shaders and textures, objects and 3D characters, an extensive media store, etc. There is a 30-day free trial version, but a yearly plan costs around $705 a year.
What makes Blender great is being a free open-source software available for everyone. It can run on computers powered by Windows, Linux, and MacOS and it is not only a rendering tool since it supports the whole 3D pipeline too. The app is constantly improved and its latest version has received a lot of different icons, interactive tools, has become customizable and acquired an absolutely new Eevee rendering engine. Blender supports several rendering cycles, while its tools include the following categories: geometry, subdivision and displacement, shading, lighting, interactivity, layers and passes, motion blur, volumes, textures, and others.
Another great tool to render models is Clarisse. This software has been developed for computers with Windows, MacOS, and Linux and can boast to have participated in Star Wars production. This rendering software allows creating renders quickly, cheaply and without much hassle. The reason for that is a unique rendering engine used for its production. Clarisse had several releases and its latest version introduced a transform tool, surface constraints, and a fast solid volume preview with cutoff for a fast preview of smoke or clouds. The volume shader was improved, while portal lights and adaptive sampling were added as well. Clarisse is more expensive than other tools with a full license around $2,800 a year, but there is a rental version too.
Corona is full-versed software as well as a plugin for 3ds Max and Cinema4D that is famous for its ease of use. Its user interface is free from clutter and it guarantees faster rendering than other tools too. Its main benefit is flexibility since it allows disabling some features to unload the computer as well as use artistic materials that have little in common with reality. There is a range of powerful tools that also allow improving the post-production look. It has an image editor, personal camera, scatter system, unified later, and many other great features. There are a lot of different materials and support for distributed rendering as well. Corona is CPU-based software that is also quite affordable in comparison with other apps - only $30 a month and you are not restricted to its functionality.
This great plugin can export files from such leading tools like Revit, SketchUp, Rhino, ArchiCAD & Vectorworks and was originally created as an architectural visualization tool. It has a photorealistic render mode and its images can be viewed both on the computer and VR goggles. Moreover, there are several stylized modes including sketch, paper and polystyrene models. In general, this tool is great for creating real-time walkthroughs and it has adjustable atmosphere settings to get a better image. It is suitable for collaborative annotation and has an ever-expanding Asset Library too. Escape is available only for Windows and has a fire trial that can be claimed on the website. The traditional price of this tool is $469 a year.
One more tool developed only for Windows is FelixRender. It allows uploading scene files easily and quickly as well as features 256-bit encryption for all files. This is a cloud-based rendering solution that supports importing CAD-BIM projects and working on them rather fast. There are ready-to-use resource libraries and it allows developing projects of any size. Being 100% operational it is easy to learn and offers the uncompromising quality of Maxwell Render. Designers appreciate advanced lighting for interiors and exteriors as well as treat animations similarly to simple images. All these and many other features are available for free which is a great benefit.
This software was created to make inspiring views of architectural and home design projects. It is available on computers with Windows and Mac OS as well as is an affordable solution with a price of around $15 a month. It makes no difficulty to learn this tool since it is intuitive and fast with a focus on usability and efficiency. It has a free trial version and allows rendering without special technical knowledge and expensive equipment. It is the only renderer that does not suffer from GPU limitations and is an unbiased renderer with physically accurate materials and lighting. The tool has an extensive range of features for 3D modeling. It is suitable for architectural, product, jewelry, and interior design rendering, while its technical specifications include features divided into several groups: interface, materials, camera, lights, outputs, performance, full-spectrum and volumetric rendering, etc. The library of material offered is quite extensive too and designers can create new materials as well since this tool is built in the Open Shading Language.
One more tool running only on Windows OS is FurryBall. This is both a biased and unbiased GPU renderer with a live progressive preview feature. It can be used as a stand-alone tool or serve as a plugin for Maya, Cinema 4D, 3ds Max, etc. This tool operates very fast and was developed for purposes of CGI animated movies, VFX and feature movie rendering. The whole image can be tuned with one parameter only and a designer can use all standard Arnold materials. There are features to work on Hair, Fur, Fluids, Particles, Displacement. The tool supports unlimited output resolution, textures, lights and uses an approach of global illumination ray tracing to deliver the best results. First 20 hours of rendering are given for free, but a paid plan can cost around $110.
A popular render that has also been used in many films is called Guerilla Render. This is software for Windows and Linux devices that provides photorealistic progressive rendering. Its most popular features are a lighting environment for working on different light tasks and RenderGraph that allows tracking the workflow easily. Productive rendering is provided by the use of unbiased bidirectional path tracer, physically plausible shaders for surfaces and curves, and a large choice of lights and environments for all kinds of situations. This tool offers flexibility, first of all, since it gives designers a professional level of control and excellent customization opportunities. It provides full OpenEXR support and can be used free of charge by single users.
One more example of an unbiased rendering tool developed especially for architectural visualization and industrial design is Indigo Render. It features adjustable parameters and allows an instant result inspecting and supports not only NVidia graphics card but also AMD’s OpenCL standard. It simulates the physics of light very accurately using both GPU and CPU power for this purpose. This plugin is supported by multiple tools including 3ds Max, Blender, Cinema 4D, iClone, Maya, Revit, SketchUp, but you should find over $800 to be able to use it for a year or so. The latest 4.2 version of the tool has acquired a lot of new features. Now the list of its tech specs is really extensive including real time scene editing, multiple output image formats, Physically-based Sky and Sunlight Model, Support for Complex Geometry, Motion Blur, and many others.
Iray plugins are supported by the majority of popular 3D modeling tools and it helps designers to bring their ideas to life. The tool incorporates Iray technology and features an intuitive workflow that allows creating renderings fast and without much effort. This software has powerful physically-based lighting parameters and materials to choose from. It is used by many visualization companies though everyone without any rendering experience can cope with the process too thanks to its simplicity and user-friendly interface. The tool was developed for scenarios of real time usage, but it still guarantees photorealistic results of the highest quality thanks to the employment of physically-based materials. The price of this plugin is around $300 a year.
This is a standalone renderer that looks outstanding on this list. Being not connected with any 3D modeling tools it makes the rendering process user friendly and has a good selection of materials for designers. The software supports multiple 3D file formats and brings visual speed and agility to the entire product development process. It has advanced lighting capabilities and offers real-time rendering solutions with all the changes made visible immediately after application. Other great features are deep learning noise removal, over 700+ material presets, more than 60 high resolution HDRI environments, exclusive content like Axalta Paints, Mold-Tech Textures, Sørensen Leathers, and Poliigon Textures, etc. It is possible to try Key Shot for free while the cheapest plan costs $995 a year.
This tool was created for integration with many other CAD tools and provides real-time rendering for all Windows users. It offers a free trial and can be used either by experienced designers and architects or by newbies. The tool allows completing a rendering process in a few hours only and reconnecting the model and adjusting settings later if needed. There are over 5,600 objects in its library and over 1,200 materials supported. The tool offers creating not only images but also videos and panoramas. There are two Lumion versions offered nowadays. The standard version costs €1,499 and has a limited number of features (one third of all objects and materials), while a professional version is twice more expensive.
Featuring an unbiased rendering engine this tool serves only as an integration for other examples of software. It provides physically-based rendering based on state-of-art algorithms. Its main benefit is being free for users, but it also has a great API for other platforms. The tool uses several rendering methods and offers to render the most complex lighting scenarios efficiently. There is a wide selection of materials and textures as well as a powerful volume system. It is possible to make instant savings during the rendering process and it features true motion blur too. LuxCoreRender supports orthographic and environment cameras, has a tone mapping algorithm, and is available for Windows, Linux and OS X.
Toolbag One more powerful software with the capabilities to produce animation and textures is Marmoset Toolbag. It is standalone software that produces renders in real time. It also features a modular material editor to produce new materials anytime as well as makes it possible to produce physically accurate renders without much effort. Its intuitive design has drag-and-drop functionality and smart-loaders for ease of use, while many tutorials provided on the website will make it possible to render without much experience. Exporting the creations to Toolbag Viewer they can be viewed on any computer. This tool is available for Windows and MacOS. Users can try the full version for free for 30 days, while the license costs from $189 to $399 depending on the type.
Being a plugin for other 3D software Maxwell has been recognized as a powerful tool accessible on Windows, macOS, Linux computers. The workflow is easy to grasp and the final result features a high level of realism too. You may spot that this tool is slower on CPU, but its support for GPU may speed up the process (check the graphics card before using it). This tool works in the cloud that makes it accessible anytime, while its GPU version features additive materials and coating too. The list of features is quite extensive including the Random Color and UVs procedurals, Multilight, thousands of materials, etc. This software has a number of benefits: it provides unsurpassed realism, immediate feedback for adjustments, Denoiser feature, physical sky, realistic ocean and wave, hair, grass, and fur surfaces, etc.
Another plugin for over 20 examples of software is called Octane. It combines fast and high-quality rendering being recognized as one of the quickest rendered in the market. It has a number of significant features including volumetric rendering, deep pixel rendering, support of Open Shading Language, live texture baking, interactivity, and others. This is a flexible renderer with Light Linking and Light Exclusion features, support for subsurface light scattering (SSS), complex IOR, chromatic dispersion, and absorption, as well as toon shading. You can run this plugin on devices powered by Windows, macOS, Linux. It uses NVidia graphic cards (GPU), so there is nothing surprising that it costs around $700 a year.
Unlike many other tools, this software is biased and GPU-based. It allows rendering scenes with millions of polygons, so users get access to out of core geometry and a variety of textures using it. The tool has a number of features including global illumination, the world’s fastest performance, volumetric rendering, and multi-step transformation, and 2-step deformation blur. It has a unique ‘Min Pixel Width’ rendering technique to avoid noise in hair as well as offers per-object flexibility including advanced matte features and tracing options. Other significant features of Redshift are baking, command line rendering, physically-based materials, ray switches, no texturing limitations, powerful shading elements, etc. This plugin can be used on several tools that run on Windows, Linux or MacOS-powered computers. The cost of this software is around $500.
This software is one of the pioneers in the industry of rendering since many features that are considered common nowadays have been introduced by RenderMan. It features an interactive control for multiple layers and deformation blur that allows rendering moving volumes in excellent quality. However, these are not the only decent features of RenderMan. Its latest version is called by the company ‘World’s most versatile renderer’. Its framework is optimized for physically-based rendering and since this is Pixar’s product, all movies of this company are developed with its help too. This software features the latest open-source tools and comprehensive APIs. It allows controlling camera rays in a creative manner, copes with fire, smoke, and other particles efficiently, and allows resuming interrupted renders too. It runs on most modern OS and costs around $600 for users.
It goes without saying that there aren’t perfect tools and the rendering industry also has a gap that can be filled by Solidworks Visualize. This tool supports CAD files, offers progressive preview, and can process several renderings simultaneously. This standalone tool has a free trial for new users though the cost of this software is quite expensive - around $1,800. The main benefits of Solidworks Visualize is an intuitive interface, animation facilitation, and setup of scenes with mechanical parts.
Both a biased and unbiased render for computers with Windows, Linux, and MacOS Thea Render can run only on GPU and renders objects inside its own viewport which is very convenient for previewing and fast tweaks. The outstanding feature of Thea Render is the use of 3 engines operating within a single framework. The tool has an asset manager that offers access to the extensive library of textures and objects. It works fast and is adaptive to provide the highest quality of rendering. Its basic features are high accuracy and performance, light simulation, unique material editor, aero setup time, instancing, denoising, and many others.
Last but not least 3D rendering tool is called V-Ray that guarantees users excellent quality and speed of rendering. This tool uses a raytracing technique and utilizes both CPU and GPU. It can be easily integrated into many 3D modeling tools and boasts a wide range of features for artists. V-Ray accurately calculates the distribution of light as well as the physical properties of any material. It was recognized by the Academy of Motion Pictures for its contribution to the movie industry and has a free 30-day trial for interested people. The annual package costs $350.
To create 3D images, you need a deep knowledge in the field of 3D rendering, architecture and photography. It is almost impossible to get a perfect result without the special knowledge and a lot of experience.