A license to use the most popular 3D modelling software currently on the market doesn't come cheap these days. Thankfully, there's a bunch of generous creatives around the world who like to share the tools they've created, as well as some canny companies offering free versions of paid-for tools.
To save you time and effort, we've rounded up the best free 3D software around for you to download today. So if you're a 3D artist, bookmark this page now!
If you're serious about 3D but struggling to afford software, then you're in luck. Blender is a free, open source 3D content creation suite, available for all major operating systems.
Started by Blender Foundation founder Ton Roosendaal back in 2002, Blender is now largest open source tool for 3D creation. Its makers are constantly working on its development, but you can pretty much do anything 3D related with this software, including modelling, texturing, animation, rendering and compositing.
02. Daz Studio
Daz Studio is a 3D figure customisation, posing and animation tool that enables artists of all skill levels to creating digital art using virtual people, animals, props, vehicles, accessories and environments.
With Daz Studio, you can create custom 3D characters and avatars, design virtual environments, produce graphic design elements and much more. The latest version, Daz Studio 4.5, normally retails at $249 but is currently available to download free of charge.
03. Softimage Mod Tool
If you're into game creation then you might want to check out this Softimage Mod Tool from the makers of Maya and 3ds Max. Design software company Autodesk also produces this brilliant free 3D modelling and animation package for creating and modifying non-commerical games.
The software is based on the professional toolset found in Autodesk Softimage 7.5, used to create 3D characters, levels, props and animation.
If you're interested in the art of digital sculpting, check out 3D software Sculptris, from Pixologic. Perfect for all skill levels, the software is a great starting point for users new to the discipline and more experienced CG artists will find the software a quick and easy way to realise concepts.
Sculptris is based on Pixologic's ZBrush, the most widely-used digital sculpting application in today's market. So, when you're ready to move on to the next level of detailing, skills learned in Sculptris can be directly translated into ZBrush.
05. Houdini Apprentice
Houdini is a 3D animation and visual effects tool, used widely throughout the media industry for film, broadcast, entertainment and visualisation. And its cheapest version costs just a little under $2,000.
But the makers of the programme – Side Effects Software – are a good bunch and, knowing that cost can be an issue, offer an Apprentice version for free. With this you can access all of the features of the full version in order to develop your skills in the software and work on personal projects. The programme is purely for non-commercial use and learning purposes.
E-on software offers two free versions of its Vue landscape-generation product range. These Personal Learning Editions are non-commercial versions of the company's high-end products, Vue Infinite and Vue xStream.
There is no time limit on how long you can use the software for, however, the files able to be saved in the PLE are not compatible with other versions of the software and final renders are watermarked.
07. Maya and 3ds Max free trial
Ok, so it's not free forever. But if you're a 3D artist looking to invest in software or a student unsure of which to master, then it's worth knowing that design software giant Autodesk offer free, 30 day trials in its 3D content creation suites Maya and 3ds Max.
These comprehensive pieces of software are industry favourites, used by many of the world's leading VFX and animation studios, and to buy will set you back $3,675 at the least. Autodesk know both of these products are a big investment and so helpfully offer its customers the opportunity to try before they buy.