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9 great new tools for 3D artists in March

We're always on the hunt for tools to help create 3D art (opens in new tab). This month's round-up includes a brilliant After Effects plugin, a beautiful reference book, powerful texture creation app and much more! Looking for something creative? Try these Photoshop alternatives.

01. Mosaic After Effects Plugin (opens in new tab)

Mosaic is a new plugin that creates amazing textured patterns

Mosaic is a new plugin that creates amazing textured patterns

Mosaic is the latest plugin from Yanobox, the excellent After Effects plugin developer. Put simply, Mosaic can create amazing Pixel or ASCII effects that tile adaptively with your footage; watch the video to see some of the stunning effects that can be created. The plugin is currently Mac-only, but the developer has said he will look at Windows if enough artists get in touch.

02. Substance Designer 6 (opens in new tab)

Substance Designer 6 comes with a new range of artist-friendly tools

Substance Designer 6 comes with a new range of artist-friendly tools

Allegorithmic has released the next major version of its texture creation software: Substance Designer 6. It comes loaded with a raft of new features, such as 32-bit compositing and amazing new scan processing nodes that can make normal and height maps (amongst others) from four photos of a surface. There is also a new Curve node to help you remap colour data, and finally a proper Text node.

03. MAXON Labs (opens in new tab)

MAXON Labs is a new home for experimental plugins

MAXON Labs is a new home for experimental plugins

MAXON, the maker of Cinema 4D, has just launched a site for experimental plugins, called MAXON Labs. There are three plugins and a Python script currently available, which can help both with team render tasks and with modelling – for example, the Coons Mesh plugin enables you to develop freeform mesh from four curves. 

These plugins can change or be removed at any point, so its worth bookmarking the page to stay on top of what new plugins become available.

04. Sketching from the Imagination (opens in new tab)

This beautiful book shows how leading artists realise their ideas

This beautiful book shows how leading artists realise their ideas

This great new book from 3dtotal shows how 50 leading artists develop their work in sketch form. Artists include Neal Brock, Real, Kyra, Zhi Hui Tan and Richard Anderson. With a wide range of styles, from tech to cartoon, every artist will find some inspiration in this book.

05. Substance Painter 2.5 (opens in new tab)

Substance Painter 2.5 new opacity brushes will help artists refine their textures

Substance Painter 2.5 new opacity brushes will help artists refine their textures

I'm pretty sure the developers at Allegorithmic don’t sleep, as besides the landmark release of Substance Designer 6, they have also released Substance Painter 2.5. Substance Painter has become my favourite texture creation app, due to the speed of brushing and the number of created textures and brushes that come with the application. 

New for 2.5 there is Brush Opacity control, as well as support for LUT and for the new text tools in Substance Designer 6.

06. Redshift For Houdini (opens in new tab)

Redshift for Houdini is now out of alpha and available to all users

Redshift for Houdini is now out of alpha and available to all users

The excellent GPU-based, biased render engine has been officially launched for Houdini. With support for hair and fur, Houdini primitives, instancing and volumes, this could be a huge boon for Houdini users – especially as Redshift is blisteringly quick compared to the inbuilt Mantra Engine. Best of all, if you are an existing Redshift user the Houdini plugin is available for free.

07. Unreal Engine 4.5 (opens in new tab)

Ray-traced distance field soft shadows are one of the new features in Unreal Engine 4.5

Ray-traced distance field soft shadows are one of the new features in Unreal Engine 4.5

The latest version of Unreal Engine has just been released, with improvements in compile time and a new Blendspace Editor. Cooking Blueprints to C++ is no longer 'experimental', and has become a full-featured part of the application.

Animation Blending is now possible, as well as support for Nintendo’s new Switch Console. With improvements to the renderer and improved texture streaming, there is a lot to like in this new release.

08. Affinity: Free Windows trials (opens in new tab)

Affinity Designer and Photo are now both available for free download on Windows

Affinity Designer and Photo are now both available for free download on Windows

For artists looking for solid alternatives to Photoshop and Illustrator, Affinity has made its Photo and Designer apps available for trial on Windows. Both of these applications are full-featured replacements for the Adobe behemoth, and at a fraction of the price. Many artists like the raw speed, which, coupled with the power of new Windows PCs, can only make creative possibilities easier.

09. Abstract: The Art of Design (opens in new tab)

Netflix has just released this brand new documentary series, which follows some of the world's leading creatives to give viewers a peek into their processes. The series takes in a range of disciplines – from photography to shoe design via architecture – with insights from creatives such as architect Bjarke Ingels, graphic designer Paula Scher and interior designer Ilse Crawford. The programme itself looks beautiful, too.

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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, world-class museums and his local radio-controlled-car club. 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.