10 great new tools for 3D artists in May

May marks the beginning of conference season, and with it announcements for digital artists are coming thick and fast. Here are some of the biggest 3D design announcements for this month.

01. Arnold 5 subscription

Arnold is the latest app to move over to a subscription model

Arnold is the latest app to move over to a subscription model

Now that Arnold 5 is out of the door, Solid Angle has just announced that artists can get Arnold on subscription for $600/year or $65/month (perpetual licenses will still be available to purchase until 30 April 2018). This means yet another app has moved over to a subscription model.

While there have been grumblings from some artists, subscriptions do make it easier to manage costs, and also to help the developer maintain frequent updates rather than having to save everything up for a point release.

02. BodyPaint 3 open beta

BodyPaint, Maxon’s Cinema 4D painting tool (and standalone application), has been in what appears to be development hell for years, with no significant new features appearing over the last few releases of Cinema 4D.

Finally, Maxon has announced that BodyPaint 3D will be available in open beta for registered owners of Cinema 4D and BodyPaint. With much better feedback, using all the new viewport improvements of R18 and great new projection improvements, the open beta of BodyPaint 3D is worth checking out.

03. NVIDIA Volta

NVIDIA Volta is a new GPU architecture

NVIDIA Volta is a new GPU architecture

During the keynote talk at NVIDIA’s GTC conference, the incredibly high-end Tesla V100 GPU card was unveiled. Based on the new Volta architecture, this card promises to bring even more power to the GPU tasks that more and more digital content creation applications depend on.

NVIDIA is claiming at least a 4x speed improvement over the already quick Pascal cards, and when Volta technology comes to Quadro and Geforce cards (hopefully in 2018), this card could have profound implications for all compute-intensive creative tasks.

04. Mental ray for 3DS Max

Mental Ray is now available for 3DS Max 2018 users

Mental Ray is now available for 3DS Max 2018 users

With the release of 3DS Max 2018, Autodesk switched the primary render engine from Mental Ray to Arnold 5. NVIDIA has just released a new Mental Ray plugin for 3DS Max, which allows legacy scenes to work in 2018 with no issues, and brings new features from the standalone Mental ray 3.14. It also includes the GPU-enabled global illumination system GI Next.

05. Windows 10 Fall Creators Update

Microsoft has just announced the next version of Windows 10, arriving in September. The Fall Creators Update will bring a batch of new useful tools, including much more support for pen input.

There’s also Timeline – a new feature that lets you use apps and workspaces between PCs – and a cloud clipboard that will let you paste between Windows, iOS and Android. A new ‘Fluent Design’ paradigm will see the desktop start to evolve.

06. Microsoft VR motion controllers

Another major part of the Microsoft push for creators is the new VR motion controllers. Used in conjunction with the new Windows Mixed Reality VR headsets, these controllers will be available this Christmas, bundled with VR headsets for $399 in the US (around £310). The controllers are inside out, meaning that they don’t require external trackers, making VR a lot more accessible.

07. Clarisse 3.5

Clarisse has become a mainstay of many large production facilities due to the way that this unique 3D tool can handle and work with data. Whether it’s being used for digital environment creation, look development or the final composite, Clarisse is a unique application. Version 3.5 (now available) brings with it tools such as particle and property paint, as well as improvements to groups and file referencing, better PBR materials, and a free PLE edition. It’s definitely worth checking out.

08. iClone 7

Real time 3D solution iClone is getting a new release in June. iClone 7 comes with real camera settings to mimic production cameras and enable better animation blocking. PBR materials are also available with the new release. And if you pre-order, you get iClone 6 and a raft of free training materials.

09. Gigabyte Aero 15

With yet more 3D artists making the move from Mac to Windows, finding a MacBook Pro alternative is one of the first tasks on many artists’ to-do lists. Gigabyte has just announced the new Aero 15, which can compete with the Dell XPS 15 by offering an i7-7700 with a GTX 1060, x-rite calibrated display, mechanical keyboard and Thunderbolt 3. With decent battery life as well, we have a new creative laptop contender.

10. Figure Drawing for Concept Artists

Kan Muftic’s new book will improve your figure drawing skills

Kan Muftic’s new book will improve your figure drawing skills

3D Total has just released a new book from concept artist Kan Muftic on how to improve your figure drawing. With a range of hints on technique, craft and attitude, anyone wanting to improve their character development will benefit from reading and using this book.

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Mike Griggs

Mike Griggs is a veteran digital content creator and technical writer. For nearly 30 years, Mike has been creating digital artwork, animations and VR elements for multi-national companies and world-class museums. Mike has been a writer for 3D World Magazine and Creative Bloq for over 10 years, where he has shared his passion for demystifying the process of digital content creation.