From Christopher Robin, Sherlock Gnomes to the Incredibles 2, the world of 3D sculpting has delivered some of the greatest animated movies of all times. But have you thought of how these images came to life to produce such excellent precision in movement, character depth, and soul to them? All this are possible with the use of 3D sculpting programs available over the internet. In this article, we will discuss some of the best sculpting software applications available and how they function to give dimensionality to your digital clay.
So, What is 3D sculpting? 3D sculpting, also known as 3D modeling or sculpt modeling, is the process of manipulating shapes to produce three-dimensional images or objects with edges, vertices, structure, and depth like those seen in animation movies or video games.
Unlike traditional sculptors, a digital sculptor using a specialized software application to deform and recreate digital clay through carving, brushing, meshing, grabbing, smoothening, dragging, and adding finishing touches to bring the object to life. With digital sculpting tools, style, depth, precision, and techniques are translated into fascinating and magnanimous images that wow us each time after textures and forms are added to the images.
What is 3D sculpting used for?
For an artist at heart, creating quick, professional and stunning animated creation involves having software that allows you to build and carve your images through shaping, molding, sculpting using your intuition or the accuracy tools provides. The software allows you to do plenty such as:
• It allows you to model sculpt and paint the object with precision. This feature is particularly important in animation and game creation as it allows you to design and reshape your object to perform the exact movement you want it to such as jumping, spinning, acrobatics, flying and to the develop the environment too. It also gives images a real-time look making your characters come to alive.
• It is used to create excellent detailing to images, allowing you to build shapes, structure, depth, and refinement to your sculpture. It also allows the artist to add patches and textures to the images creating a more realistic look as in the case of superhero where facial expressions, muscles, and scars can make a huge difference to a scene.
• It allows for easy and comfortable control when working. Unlike a regular artist with paint, pen, and eraser with mistakes and changing of paper before the right image is achieved, with the 3D sculptor software, animators can work with ease at creating and developing a character without hassle. For example, with ZBrush tool; an artist can add color, intricate, and exquisite detailing like hair, twitches, and depth without deviating from the originality of the object. Basically, a 3D sculpting application allows you to work more efficiently and neatly.
• Probably the best feature about 3D sculpting is the speeds at which artists can deliver several works of art with great precision and allow the movement of the object with such speed like in reality. Furthermore, it allows you to work on many programs concurrently to create more depth to a character.
Best 3D sculpting programs
Whether you are a beginner or a professional 3D designer, having the right tools and applications can be the difference between delivery excellence and an ugly piece of creation. The applications don’t just bring the designs to life but give a perfect finish that makes the object or design so lifelike it feels like jumping out of the computer. With so many software on the market; which is the best to allow you bring your thoughts to life? We have scouted through various applications, and we’ll be discussing 12 most commonly used and wonderful 3D sculpting applications just for you.
This is a computer-based 3d sculpting and painting tool owned by Autodesk but was created on the set on The Lords of the Rings in New Zealand by Skymatter developers Tibor Madjar, David Cardwell, and Andrew Camenisch where the extensive tools were first tested on the remake of the movies King Kong. Mudbox features are its excellent and well-defined resolution in digital sculpting, texture painting and other tools to create and bring computer images to life.
Some distinct features of Mudbox are:
Mudbox has the best 3D display feel of sculpturing that works well with any display device with good map baker compatible with high-quality renderers
• It has a technical breakthrough for better and sophisticated than Zbrush with a vector map displacement since 2010
• It is a comprehensive application for beginners and professional and still in competition with the best 3d sculpting tool available
• Mudbox is very easy, and artists have greater control of the tools to create impeccable designs all the time
• The Mudbox application allows users to design and model on a different pipeline, sculpt and texture in another, render yet on another and be able to combine the finished image elsewhere without losing data or integrity of the object.
• Mudbox application makes developers and programmers feel like part of the application, thereby truly immersing their talent, and developing stunning works of art.
• The Mudbox learning curve is very simple giving a newbie the platform to develop their talents faster and better.
• Mudbox price is quite affordable at 10 dollars per month or 80 dollars per annum.
If you are looking to develop and create exquisite life-like images with the most sophisticated 3D application, then ZBrush is your best tool. ZBrush powerful and real-life environments provide the best atmosphere, effects, texture, patches and a conducive environment for any computer graphic artist. With ZBrush, developers and programmers feel likes they are working with real-life tools and brushes than with a computer model.
Features of ZBrush
• It comes with a 45-day trial for you to get acquainted with the tools before paying the almost 800 dollars fee for the complete application
• It has a complete toolbox and brush for designing and creation
• ZBrush has an excellent base geometry for users and tons of application options for sculpting, designing and building complex shapes and images
• Although it has a 2.5D canvas, ZBrush provides users with custom brushes with brushing parameters to create the perfect brush strokes with the ability to modify at your own discretion.
• It is a difficult application to master without proper knowledge and understanding of how it works.
This sculpting application was developed by Ukrainian game developer tool programmer Andrew Shpagin and takes a totally different approach to other sculpting tools on the market. With the Pilgway 3D coat, users sculpt using voxels which are three-dimensional pixels compared with blocks of digital clay employed by other applications. Since its inception, the 3D coat has come to find a place with other powerful sculpting application like Mudbox and ZBrush among others with multi-tool loved by artists and production people now.
• It has a simple texturing and physical based rendering viewpoint with a texture size of 16k
• Working with the volumetric voxel is similar to using the dynamesh tool on Zbrush
• It has excellent sculpting tools such as the Booleans and curves that allows users to blend and remove models on an existing model
• It comes with a 30 day trial period and is affordable coming at less than a 100 dollars for newbie and 379 dollars for the professional package
• Has the best texture painting application that gives life to models; it’s simply fantastic.
Other features that make the 3d coat excellent are the UV wrapping, baking, rendering, and retopology great for game developers and film producers
Modo is the fastest, powerful and most flexible 3D sculpting and modeling application with some rather unique feature for any artist and developer. Originally created by Luxology, the Modo application runs various software devices such as Windows, Mac, and Linux. Furthermore, it is an excellent toolset for animators and designers with great intuitive and works fluidity producing realistic characters and paintings. It comes with a 399 dollars annual subscription fee.
• It has an excellent and comfortable user interface great for game developer and animators
• It gives users control of the sculpting tools for example; animators can incorporate the conventional techniques in the framework to help tackle with the most challenging production problems
• Modo allows you to create realist human features like body parts, hair, facial and bodily expression with an excellent camera and production tools that will not interfere with your sculpting
• The non-destructive and non-linear tools give Modo the flexibility for easy creation, editing, and reuse of complex rigs pieces due to the node base rigging system
• Modo allows users to make changes on their sculptor during bake without waiting for the final look
• It has good rendering and shading toolsets that make an inanimate object so realistic it’s crazy.
Founded in 2015 and launched by the company’s CEO Aaron Brenuer, self-cad is a 3D web designing program for anyone that wants to be a digital sculptor.
If you are looking for an online 3D sculpting program with all the features and capabilities in one place to develop your creative talent and excellent for beginners and professional with a good tutorial and video training course to transition you into the world of digital sculpting, then the self -cad is your best application.
Features of the Self-cad
• It is an online program that means no downloads or installation needed
• It comes with tutorial video courses to aid beginners to be the best at 3D sculpting
• You can design, customize, sculpt, render, and print the finished image all on one page without users having to open different pages
• It has great users interface and very easy to use
• It comes with a 30-day trial and costs a token of 9.99 dollars per month
Another 3D sculpting program by Autodesk and as the name implies, the program allows users to create new 3D character or image by combining and blending different images within minutes. For example, creating a human character with goat horns and horse leg or just let your imagination run wild. Meshmixer has recently updated its program making it more intuitive and seamless to produce unbelievable images.
• It is free
• It has an extensive and elaborate library for users to have fun while developing the digital sculpting skills
• It allows users to mix, sculpt, and print your original designs from an existing one
Another 3D sculpting program from the developers of ZBrush but it is free. Absolutely free and it is an excellent application for beginners due to its user interface. Sculptris is a good way to learn the intrigues of ZBrush on a simpler model.
• It has all the capabilities of ZBrush but it is free and saves you a whopping 800 dollars
• It is a great learning tool for newbie digital sculptors
• If your aim is to move on to ZBrush in future, Sculptris is the best program to start with
Other features are the sculpting brushes, automatic UV creation, projection painting, and extensive toolbar and customize navigation controls among others.
The Blender 3D open source sculpting program and it is free too. The program supports modeling, rigging, animation, rendering, compositing, editing and game creation for beginners and professionals alike.
• It is the ideal sculpting program from beginners thanks to its latest upgrade
• It comes with tutorials and manuals to aid newbie through the application and usage
• It is a very powerful sculpting tool that compares with ZBrush, Modo, Mudbox, and co
• It is fast with an easy learning curve too
• It is a good tool for animating and rendering engine
Take your love for 3D sculpting to the next level with this fast and easy sculpting program by Maxon computers from Germany. Although comes with a 42-day trial, the Maxon 3D sculpting program is not cheap and comes at a price of 3,500 US dollars.
• It has a high-resolution tool for sculpting and an advance symmetry options for great designing and character build
• It comes with a large range of brushes, stencils, and stamps
• Users can create advanced 3D graphics easy and quick in different dimensions and effects
• It is a great program for modeling, rendering, lighting, texture, animation, and motion graphics
Another digital sculpting program by Autodesk compatible on Windows, macOS, and Linux and with the recent upgrade in the program, users can now sculpt 3D virtual image with it. We recommend using a graphics tablet to take full advantage of the sculpting features making it the best animation 3D sculpting tool in the production industry.
• It is an excellent program for animation, modeling, rendering to produce 3D objects using polygons
• It has a difficult learning curve but a powerful tool if mastered
• It helps the user to work fast, great workflow and enhancements and keyframes for animating your 3D object
• The ability to create dynamic stimulation effects like smoke and water movement
• It provides a step by step instruction on how to put your 3D character together for a beautiful visual
For 3D artist on the move, Umake makes it excellent to work on your iPad making you more in tune with your project.
Umake is a powerful 3D CAD program for mobile devices and the best way to transform your creativity into wonderful works of arts. Although some features like rendering, painting, and texture are absent from this software, it has not hindered the program from producing excellent 3D design and characters.
• The feature is so easy that you can cook up a creative piece just by lounging in your living room without any hassle
• It comes with excellent and easy to use navigation button for seamless designing and sculpting
• Users are more hands-on as they design with their fingers pr use stylus
• Users like the ease and fun functions
• It can be easily integrated into your workflow and has good precision
Created by exchange student Stephane Ginier is a free 3D sculpting CAD program. It lacks many features like rendering, rigging; painting, texturing and you will probably need another program to finish up your design.
• Good software that enables users to sculpt, designs, or apply symmetry and export or import files in a 3D format
• It can be used on devices with limited storage space or memory
What to consider before deciding on a 3D program?
The cost: while some applications are free or have a free limitation, artist programs are quite expensive and will set you back a lot. However, if you are a beginner artist, it is recommended to go for the free application or use Autodesk application which is widely used by all artist and 3D sculptors.
The use of the program: 3D programs are either for the artistic mind or for engineers and architects. If you are an artist, then look for programs geared towards your likes as an artist to avoid problems during structuring and application of the tools on your design
The ease of the program: while some software applications tutors you to be the best at sculpting others might take a longer time to understand which can create difficulties. Before paying for a program, understand the setting and how ease of use of the tools first.
File conversion: this allows files worked on to be saved and printed without deforming and reducing the integrity of the images.
Tools and application: creating the perfect three-dimensional images involve using tools and models that are easily interchangeable without compromising on the final object and images.
If you are interested in digital sculpting and modeling images that look alive on your computers or display device, the above 3D sculpting software will give you a lot of options to develop your talent or take it to the next level. However, if you are using any of the software mentioned here or not but want to create jaw-dropping animated characters, then you are in luck with software like Mudbox, ZBrush, and Blender among others.
Video game producers, artist, and animators are not the only users of 3D sculpturing programs, but engineers and architects also use it in their field of work. The aim is to create and develop digital marvels with lifelike personification to stun the minds. Furthermore, beginners at home or professional can finally bring their creativity into reality comfortably and in a controlled environment through these programs.