The broad range of the modeling capabilities of Autodesk 3ds Max makes it extremely useful in diverse professional fields. By using Maxscripts to improve functionality, optimize user interfaces and modify objects in a myriad of impressive ways, 3ds Max becomes a powerful accessory to help you achieve both speed and accuracy in a variety of creative fields. Consequently, it is a popular feature in most film, games and architectural studios as these professionals use it to create stunning visual effects to improve both the quality and aesthetic appeal of their creative projects. In addition to its already impressive functions, the incorporation of 3D plugins specifically designed to help 3D artists and professional developers enhance their workflows in the 3ds Max interface provides a set of adaptable utilities that you will certainly need to maximize your creative ideas and bring them to life.
These scripts and plugins are all tailored to be used in a lot of different situations and depending on your professional field, you can considerably accelerate your workflow, get easier access to the UI and bring some new creative elements to bear in your use of 3ds Max.
In this article, you will find a list of more than 40 scripts and plugins. Some of these are free and readily accessible while others fall into the premium category meaning that you have to pay some money to be able to use them. This collection contains some of the very best scripts and plugins that you can find to optimize your creativity with 3ds Max.
Free Scripts and Plugins
The word free is often associated with a lack of value but these scripts and plugins are some of the most frequently used within the creative environment.
Many of them were created by people to address a deficiency in their professional work and help others solve the same problems. However, they are very useful and having easy access to them should not be taken for granted.
This script is aptly named as it regularizes multiple loops at once on both curved and planar surfaces. It is extremely useful for edge loops and prevents loops from branching outside the object field or becoming needlessly linked together.
It is great for modifying shapes and can be accessed in sub-object polygon, edge or border mode. For best results, use this script in 3ds Max 9 and above.
This extremely useful script allows you to work smoothly with both texture and material maps. It allows you to locate maps by name and shows material instances as well making sure that you know where to find whatever you’re looking for at all times.
The inbuilt material/map count feature saves you the stress of keeping track of the number of maps and you can switch the viewport map display to give you a better angle.
A plugin that lives up to its name, scatter allows you to spread objects on any surface and is highly recommended for artists working with chaos group V-Ray. It is able to scatter objects randomly on thousands of points and can be used with other renderers.
One of the most important features of this plugin is that it allows you to modify and replace objects according to type without regenerating the distribution each time.
The relink bitmaps script is a unique type of script. I call it the lifesaver. This is because it allows you to reconnect missing files like bitmaps, VrayHDRI and other files in case you change your computer or the files change directories.
If you find yourself working on a project and you suddenly have to move your work, this script relinks all your missing files all by itself.
An upgrade from the nature painter script, this script is essentially a brush-based tool that allows you to create surfaces, textures, and patterns from its library of seven pre-set ink selections that can create grass, stone and spaghetti patterns.
In addition, it functions as a random distributor of selected objects. If you’re an artist that enjoys using multiple surfaces to optimize your work, you will find this script extremely useful.
This is another scattering plugin. However forest pack functions in a completely different way. It helps you create scenes filled with trees, shrubs and grasses like the typical forest terrain on a large scale making it well suited for video game animators and other visual creative artists.
One interesting feature of this plugin is its ability to bring unlimited objects and polygons into scenes without necessarily using up a lot of computer resources.
Many workflows on 3ds Max and other modeling platforms use grids to set up geometry and measure objects. This plugin allows you to create grids over the viewport by drawing vertical and horizontal divisions over it. This is especially useful for final rendering where you need to focus the camera on the central piece of your scene.
In addition, the overlay grid plugin helps you create safe frames around margins.
This particular plugin is a favorite of animators and movie makers. It is specifically designed to render both static scenes and animations in great detail. By using a 2 stage technology, it ensures that all frames get uniform quality irradiance map in little to no time.
You can completely render an entire scene and add the irradiance map in the first and second stages which is great if you’re working on multiple creative projects.
The script helps you accurately select 3 points in a particular scene by aligning the slice gizmo of the modifier to the points you have selected in the scene. It is a useful thing to align object gizmos to picked points in a scene to avoid distortion which can ruin all your work.
Once you run the script, the orthogonal snap feature will be activated to optimize speed and precision.
An architectural themed script, sweep profile uses a sweep modifier to apply profiles to various shapes. It allows you to create and trim balustrades and structures inside and outside a building from a set of ready to use architectural profiles.
This means that you do not have to carve out the outline of trim each time you want to create a particular shape. In addition, you can import your own custom profiles.
This is essentially a selected collection of useful scripts for 3ds Max. It features 86 different scripts that can be applied in various ways to model, create, modify and distribute objects. You can run the script in UI or default mode to access any of the scripts.
Some of these scripts include camera lens packager, group with point and many bitmap scripts making it one of the most useful free scripts available.
Machine parts like nuts, bolts, and screws feature heavily in the making of machines and metal objects on 3ds Max and other modeling tools. The process requires both time and patience but the nuts and bolts plugin does it all with a single click.
You can add bolts to nuts and washers, adjust details like shape, size, and depth and link these to your objects in no time.
This script splits a mesh into many parts and allows you to maintain a link between the main mesh and the broken parts. It is great for creating shattering or splintering effects and can be used to make creative broken glass sections in buildings or other objects.
Simply point it at an object and it breaks it into any number of pieces depending on your specifications.
Merging layers is a good way of avoiding a high mesh count which can leave your scenes too crowded and affect the speed of your workflow in 3ds Max. This script helps you merge your scene into one mesh by opening up the scene according to the layers and showing you the necessary information in the UI to help you merge parts of your scene quickly.
This tool is actively used in the production of television commercials and video games. It allows you to easily create spectacular animation effects by using an impressive range of parameters and adaptive tools to modify and customize animations in three major working modes that incorporate essential elements of geometry.
It boasts several sleek features that can transform your work quite remarkably. These include pattern and slice fragmentation and an editor curve that optimizes your animations.
This terrain tool allows you to add features of the groundwiz terrain map into your scenes. It includes a diverse collection of material samples and terrain that allows you to combine these elements to create your own backgrounds. With built-in features like extensive border detail, layer channel displacement and custom color layers, this version is more compatible with new versions of 3ds Max.
A useful tool that allows you to pick objects within your scene, random select helps you change the position of the pieces of an object distorting the uniformity of the scene itself. You can do this by setting a percentage of objects to be varied or by counting such objects.
This is great for varying the materials in one scene or an object and adds some mystery to an otherwise plain scene.
This script is a creative tool that allows you to replicate walls and floors by creating stone patterns, pavements, and walls in ready to use geometric profiles. It also gives you different types of maps all baked and ready to use. In placing the stones, it uses it alters parameters like height, size, and position to make it look realistic for real-time use.
Premium 3ds Scripts and Plugins
Some of the plugins and scripts on the premium list are extremely powerful, high end products that are utilized by the very best professionals to achieve outstanding results.
They also come at a cost that more often than not represents good value for the performance they deliver.
This widely popular plugin is the full version of the free forest pack lite and is used in many world class studios to render scenes with virtually unlimited objects and create large areas of rock forms, forests, crowds and buildings.
It allows you to scatter just about any object and utilizes precision engineered native shading to produce great scenes.
At 249$ (£197) per year, it is quite expensive but it is worth every penny.
This parametric 3ds max plugin takes creativity to a whole new level by utilizing geometric manipulation to create objects based on conventional modeling principles. You will find it especially useful if you work with shapes. It uses an in-built editor to transform and deform created objects in equal measure and is able to add subtle variations to any object.
It costs 127$ per year which is quite fair given the value it provides.
Book manager is a script that manages to do complex things in a simple manner. It is a robust tool for modeling books and bookshelves as well as placing specific books in different locations. This is especially useful for creating virtual bookstores or scenes with libraries. It allows you to create flipped, horizontal, leaning or open books with its default presets.
Pricing ranges from 5$ for personal use to 40$ for corporate commercial use.
Like the name suggests, this tool is used to randomize parameters like position and scale to create different unique objects that can be used in various scenes or rendered individually as finished products. It is extremely fast and efficient as it allows you to get all this done with a few mouse clicks. You can also apply it to material maps and keyframes for similar results.
It can be purchased at 13$.
This is a plugin that is unique in a number of ways. It allows you to develop second UV channels for a large collection of objects. This essentially allows you to bake lightning to develop production-ready scenes for your 3D software. The flat mapping feature that allows you to unfold grouped objects quickly is quite impressive.
You can pay for this plugin by making a donation to the creators or get it completely free.
Unlike many of the scripts I have listed above, this script helps you break objects by systematically unhinging their polygons. However, you can also achieve this by simply slicing the object into different pieces. The pieces can be modified to recreate the object from different angles allowing you to see each of the components clearly. The script can also be used with mesh objects.
You can get it for a one-time fee of 10$.
The Light Painter script was created to help you with lighting your scenes and setting the reflections on your objects using V-ray lights. You can place the reflections from different lights exactly where you want by picking points on your objects. Watch the video and see how fast you can create great renderings.
An upgraded version of the book manager script above, it allows you to operate an automated process of books placement and replacement. In addition, it has in-built book quantity settings that help you track the number of each book you have placed in a shelf polygon.
It retains all the qualities of the previous version and is available for 15$.
I have listed some scatter plugins in the list of free plugins but this 3ds Max plugin takes it to another level. You can create millions of objects in different arrays, render them in no time and get a viewport view in real time.
It is also equipped to transform objects by simple rotation on different scales and distribute the objects according to various procedural maps.
It is priced at a flat fee of 226$.
A highly rated advanced renderer, corona is extremely useful for architects and visual artists. It comes with rich resource of default materials that you can put to great use in various scenes and allows you to import materials from other programs seamlessly. Another added advantage is that it can be used interchangeably with the V-ray renderer which is more expensive.
It costs 25$/month or 290$/year.
Yet another great tool for architects, laubwerk is a set of software extensions that allow you to create 3D plants and scatter them over objects. It is especially useful if you’re working on a CG project that requires plants. The tools are easy to use and can be used to modify detail extensively to give you the desired final product.
Each kit costs 169$.
This plugin is great for visualization and is mostly used by architects to create stunning floor panels with extensive detail. The floor panels are made up of separate single boards which allows you to texture them without distortion. You can do this in any 2D object and flip and move the floor boards in different positions to make it look as random as you desire.
It is relatively cheap at 23$
A top class rendering software that is in high demand in the design environment, Maxwell gives you stunning realism and high-grade quality in the same product. It uses a surprisingly simplified interface despite its spectacular delivery and renders objects and scenes in great detail. It is another highly recommended tool for architects.
It is quite expensive at $595 but it lives up to its billing as a world-class rendering tool.
Used in major movie production Krakatoa helps you render natural phenomena like smoke and ocean foam into real-time high quality production worthy scenes. It has the capacity to render huge quantities of these particles with its multi-faceted pipeline and even renders solid objects in equal measure. It has been used to generate outlandish scenic effects in some of the world’s most famous movies.
It costs between 1575$ and 5395$ depending on its components.
V-Ray Next Scene Intelligence delivers faster ray tracing, cleaner sampling, and more accurate rendering. That means you work smarter — not harder — by automating steps that used to take up valuable time.
This plugin allows you to develop architectural designs using a mesh object. As an architect, you can alter the details of your structure and watch your building transform to fit into the new parameters. You can modify and adapt building features like window frames, doors, balusters, arches and other components to give it the appearance you want. Although it has great pre-set options, you can create your own custom designs.
It is available for 25$.
This multi-dimensional dynamic tool is used to enhance fluids by simulating effects such as fire, smoke and splashes. It allows you to create realistic scenes and is great for 3D artists that require a lot of dynamism in their designs. Engineered specifically to suit the 3ds Max software and it has contributed to some high profile movie and visual productions over the years..
It costs 390$ per year.
The tracker allows you to work with animated objects by picking creating and tracking nuke points quickly. It helps you develop space point trackers for any 2D screen. This is especially useful for animators who want to pick multiple points in objects and retrace such points easily.
At just 2$, it is a cheap effective tool.
Making ornaments is a time consuming task and making many at once can take a considerable amount of time. With this plugin however, you can create multiple ornaments in a few minutes and inscribe intricate ornamental patterns on decorative objects.
With adjustable product geometry, you can vary the details of the ornaments using the 12 default templates available.
It is priced at 39$.
While the preceding plugin is used to make ornamental patterns, this one allows you to damage objects, scenes and models to add a touch of realism to them. You can also save the actual seed value of the damage you have done to one model and apply it to a similar project where you want to create the same amount of damage.
This is useful for stone-based walls, edges, and margins and is costs 29$.
The ornatrix plugin modifies the appearance of hair in diverse ways. It helps you build and sculpt hair, fur and feathers in creative patterns. If you’re a video game developer or a visual designer, it helps you braid, brush or weave the hair of characters in realistic and dynamic ways that add finesse to your scenes and videos. It comes with templates and tools that make your job much easier.
Expectedly, it commands a steep price at 599$
This bundle of object-based plugins is made up of 25 optimized plugin features that can be used to develop graphics and motion pictures. The plugins can all be animated to allow artists and designers to generate high-quality animations and scenes. Some of these plugins include EQbars, Gridcircle, and Networkorbit.
It costs 20$.
This lightning fast tool allows you to attach objects based on different parameters in as little as 15 seconds representing a stunning 12000% increase in speed compared to conventional tools. This can be done on the basis of similarity of material used or the position of the objects. In addition, it allows you to sculpt more than one object at once making it an extremely useful tool.
Payment for this script is by donation to the developers.
These scripts and plugins are some of the very best available and both free and premium lists feature useful, innovative tools that can improve your workflow considerably. New plugins and scripts are constantly being developed so you can be sure that I will have an updated list next time you check.