The best 3D modelling software 2018

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If you want to create incredible 3D art, you need the right 3D modelling software. Whether you’re a designer or illustrator looking to up-skill this year, or you’re a seasoned 3D artist looking to upgrade your existing tools, there's a program out there to suit you – and you’ll find it in this list.

When it comes to choosing which 3D modelling software to go with, there are some key considerations to first bear in mind. 

As a general rule, any kind of 3D work will require around 16GB RAM and up. Most of the 3D software applications here require roughly 5GB of disc space to install, but you need to take rendering into account too. 

If you're taking your digital art seriously, then investing in a graphics card with a fast processor and a lot of memory is highly recommended. This way you're much less likely to experience a lag when displaying complex 3D scenes.

Read on for the best 3D modelling software packages the market has to offer...

01. Maya

The best 3D modelling software for professional artists.

Cost: £204/month | Pricing model: Subscription | OS: Window 7 & 10; Apple Mac OS X 10.11.x & 10.12; Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6.5 & 7.2; CentOS 6.5 & 7.2

Incredibly powerful 
High-end toolset
Expensive and difficult to learn

Ask any 3D artist to name the best 3D modelling software, and most will choose Autodesk Maya. Used by many leading VFX and animation studios, including Pixar, Maya's robust set of modelling tools are unrivalled. 

It's a seriously impressive and powerful piece of kit, which means it's also one of the most complex and hard to learn. And it comes with a pretty hefty price tag, too. However, for those who have the time, skill and patience to master Maya, it's the best 3D modelling software around and it's worth every penny. 

Want to get started with Maya? Our selection of mighty Maya tutorials will help you take a step in the right direction. 

02. Cinema 4D

Brilliant 3D modelling software for beginners.

Cost: From £810/pa | Pricing model: License | OS: Windows 7 SP1 64-bit or higher; macOS 10.11.6 or 10.12.4+ with 4 GB RAM (8 GB recommended)

Shallow learning curve
Short-term licences available
Perpetual licenses expensive

If you're dedicated to a career in 3D and have some money behind you, then you should consider investing in Maxon's Cinema 4D

It's a professional, complex piece of software, with which you can create some show-stopping work – and it's also the app with the smallest learning curve. 

Perfect for creating motion graphics, Cinema 4D boasts fantastic interaction with Adobe After Effects. And there's an absolutely huge library of how-to videos online – including our list of brilliant Cinema 4D tutorials – to help you go from newbie to pro in no time. As user-friendly programs go, you won't find a better piece of 3d modelling software for beginners.

Perpetual licenses for this software don't come cheap, so make sure you take advantage of the try-before-you-buy option, which gives you 42 days to experiment for free. Maxon also offers short-term and student's licenses at a reduced cost. 

03. Blender

Free 3D modelling software with professional-grade features.

Cost: Free | OS: Windows Vista and above; Mac OSX 10.6 and above; Linux

Free and lots of support available
Impressive modelling toolset
Non-standard

If you're after some free 3D modelling software, you won't find better than Blender. The open-source program has been around for a long time now, and subsequently has an army of highly dedicated artists, teachers and enthusiasts behind its continued development. And boy, for an open-source project, have they created something special. 

Blender boasts a highly impressive 3D modelling toolset, and is considered a completely viable alternative to paid modelling programs. That said, it's a bit non-standard – so if you're thinking of upgrading to more expensive software endeavours at some point, you might face a steep learning curve. 

But it's a brilliant starting point for checking whether 3D floats your boat (we have a host of fantastic Blender tutorials to get started with elsewhere on the site). And it's capable of producing images and animations that are on par with just about any other 3D modelling software on the market.

04. Autodesk 3ds Max

Developed specifically for Windows OS, this 3D modelling software is perfect for your PC.

Cost: £204/month | Pricing model: Subscription | OS: Microsoft Windows 7 (SP1), Windows 8, Windows 8.1, and Windows 10 Professional operating system

Robust toolset
Easier to learn than Maya
No support for Mac OS

3ds Max is Autodesk's PC-only professional 3D computer graphics program. Like its sister software Maya, 3ds Max boasts a very robust toolset for 3D modelling. However, thanks to a huge library of different modifiers, 3ds Max can make the modelling process a little easier for new or intermediate 3D artists. 

It comes at a considerable cost, but students can get the software for free and a trial version is also available for 30 days.

05. ZBrush

A popular choice of 3D modelling software for 3D printing.

Cost: $795 | Pricing model: License | OS: 64-bit editions of Windows Vista or newer; Mac OSX: 10.8 or above

High quality 3D printed models
Difficult to learn
Expensive

Most 3D modelling software is suitable for 3D printing – as long as you can export geometry, you're good to go. However, some programs lend themselves to 3D printing better than others. 

ZBrush, for example, is a popular choice among artists wanting to 3D-print vinyl toys and action figures. So if you're familiar with the ZBrush toolset, we'd recommend using this 3D modelling software for 3D printing. 

If not, the other 3D modelling programs highlighted in this list are also highly capable of producing quality 3D prints, so stick to what you know. 

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