The recent decade has made humanity achieve marvellous achievements in the world of technology, with 3D rendering conquering countless milestones and transforming various industries. As a result, there has been quite a buzz around 3D rendering and everything that follows. However, as a beginner or even as a professional 3D rendering artist, choosing the best software for 3D rendering can often be daunting, forcing you to wonder what are the best 3D rendering software alternatives for 2022?
The buzz around 3D rendering is so real that flocks of newbies are getting attracted to this field, aiming to become full-fledged 3D artists. If you’re one of them, we’ll be telling you the best and latest 2022-ready 3D rendering software alternatives in this article.
Cycles is one of the best 3D render software available in the market, thanks to the Blender development team. Yes! Cycles are developed by Blender and share many features with Blender (another great 3D rendering and modeling software). Although Cycles is native to Blender, it is a powerful 3D rendering engine and can also be used as a standalone 3D rendering software.
The 3D rendering engine itself is GPU-accelerated and unbiased, enabling an easy workflow while providing you with as many tools as possible. Create mesmerizing, exceptional-quality images with realistic lighting, hair simulations, blackbody emission materials, volumetrics, and many more. The possibilities with Cycles are vast enough to satisfy beginners and professionals alike.
Blender has always remained at the top position when it comes to free and open-source 3D rendering software, thanks to the features it provides. It won’t be wrong to say that Blender Project has lived up to its reputation with yet another masterpiece. What’s more? Besides Blender, Cycles is natively integrated into Poser and Rhino and can be used as a plugin in Cinema4D and 3Ds Max.
2. Thea Render
Known for being one of the most versatile and powerful 3D rendering engines in the industry, Thea Render has managed to garner quite a bit of user base in recent years. It’s a physically-based renderer packing in enormous features to help you ace most of your 3D rendering projects. Thea render has its own application named Studio which has every tool to make you feel comfortable with the work at hand.
The feature-packed renderer uses state-of-the-art techniques in biased, unbiased, and GPU modes to present you with a high-quality photorealistic render. The engine even allows you to switch between modes with ease. Although the software has enough tools and features to satisfy you with most of your 3D rendering tasks, it enables you to install useful plugins within the app to expand the renderer’s usability even further.
Thea render comes with powerful tools such as Thea Substance Converter, Thea Node, and Thea Benchmark to boost your workflow. The Thea Node feature is especially helpful as this allows you to have more computers contributing to rendering static images and animations, decreasing the rendering time dramatically. A feature of such immense potential is rare to find in a 3D rendering software of this price range.
The interface is interactive and gives immediate feedback. Overall, Thea Render is one good all-around 3D rendering software that you’ll ever need. The best part of all is its pricing, it’s so affordable that some professionals consider Thea Render as the most premium rendering software in the market. However, if you’re a student, you can apply for a student license from Thea render via Atair University to enjoy the full-fledged Thea render at even further discounts.
LuxCoreRender ranks amongst the best free 3D renderers in the market competing toe-to-toe with commercial rendering solutions. When it comes to producing photorealistic results, physically-based materials take the lead. In that case, LuxCoreRender doesn’t fall short of any other renderer, it lets you make use of a wide array of physically-based materials to help you achieve jaw-dropping photorealism in your 3D renders.
Where the software particularly excels is while maintaining a good dynamic range in the produced output. The renders produced by LuxCoreRender have perfect lighting and exceptionally good dynamic range; most free 3D rendering software in the market fails to achieve this. Furthermore, the software enables a natural flow of lighting to achieve as much accuracy as possible while producing scenes involving complex reflections and shadows.
So, how does this free 3D rendering software compete with paid and premium alternatives? LuxCoreRender comes with various exclusive tools such as the discriminatory mode and focused features to optimize your 3D rendering workflow. You can increase the benefit in rendering speeds by adding more complexity to the scene (increasing the number of triangles in the scene will improve the speedup effect).
The latest version of LuxCoreRender (2.5) especially helped this 3D rendering engine to stand out from the crowd. Features such as optiX acceleration that were introduced in this version of LuxCoreRender allow the CUDA backend to utilize RTX hardware ray tracing and homogenous computing. This lets you contribute as many CPUs and GPUs to the same 3D rendering task, tremendously increasing the rendering speeds and without putting much load on the hardware.
LuxCoreRender can be integrated into Blender and 3Ds Max with ease. However, the standalone application also exists if you solely want to rely on LuxCoreRender for all your 3D rendering tasks. In any case, we recommend you use it as an integration in Blender.
Developed by Sony Pictures Imageworks, Arnold is a CPU-based renderer capable of real-time rendering. The unique real-time rendering feature of Arnold allows the changes in the render to quickly reflect during the rendering itself, preventing huge errors and saving time dramatically. The number of tools and features Arnold boasts including the real-time rendering feature provide you with total control over the render, enabling you to produce the output of your imagination with as much accuracy as possible.
The main USP of Arnold is its ray-tracing capabilities. The software handles a daunting and resource-hungry task like ray tracing like a charm. Expect the software to present you with accurate lighting and reflections as per your requirements. On top of it, Arnold supports volumetrics and possesses a node-based material editor.
Arnold is suitable for beginners and professional 3D rendering artists alike, boasting a vast array of presets that one can use to enable better ease of use. The user community of Arnold also contributes heavily to the cause, providing you with additional downloadable presets frequently. The software is available as a standalone package, though it also supports plugins in popular titles like Maya, Houdini, Cinema 4D, 3Ds Max, and Katana, enabling the software to achieve a loyal user base of millions of users.
5. Viz Engine
Viz Engine, thanks to the vast array of powerful tools and features it possesses, has managed to gain the top ranks amongst 3D renders when it comes to graphics and video production use cases. Boasting powerful composting, real-time 3D rendering, and a video playout platform, the Autodesk-owned Viz Engine is ideal to get you through most of your 3D rendering needs. The software makes use of multiple render pipelines (all running simultaneously) to ace any graphic and video production task.
The pipelines that Viz Engine utilizes to produce flawless results include the standard pipeline, the Fusion pipeline, and the Unreal Engine 4 pipeline, all working hand-in-hand to ace even the most complex of 3D rendering tasks. For example, the standard pipeline is used in live motion graphic elements, and the Fusion pipeline excels in producing immersive graphics and is optimized for virtual sets, thanks to Physical Based Rendering (PBR). Lastly, the powerful Unreal Engine 4 pipeline serves to add the final touches to your render, adding an extra level of photorealism to your render.
The best part of all is the software’s pricing- it’s free. Yes, you heard that right. Despite being owned by Autodesk and boasting countless powerful features, Viz Engine by Autodesk is completely free to use and can make you understand the true essence of Autodesk products in the 3D industry.
6. Solid Edge
Solid Edge also has live 3D rendering functionality, enabling a faster and error-free workflow while helping you accelerate product design and make revisions faster. The software offers unmatched mobility with parametric designing and exceptional quality 2D drafting with drawing layout, detailing annotation, and dimensioning controls.
The top-of-the-line sheet metal design along with flexible part and assembly modelling allows you to build a complete sheet metal design system and achieve outstanding assembly performance. To make you pay only for the things you need, Solid Edge offers 4 separate packages for different use cases.
Solid Edge Design and Drafting
Solid edge design and drafting is the basic version which includes basic part and assembly design and basic animation rendering and more basic tools and features. This basic version is suitable for those who don’t fully understand the field and don’t want to spend thousands on expensive software in the initial days of their 3D rendering career.
- Solid Edge Foundation
The Solid Edge Foundation is a worthwhile upgrade to the Solid Edge Design and Drafting package as it includes additional features such as sheet metal, frame, and weldments, surface modelling. More features such as 2.5-axis milling and plastic part design functionality and basic FEA simulation are also covered under this package.
- Solid Edge Classic
Solid Edge Classic is the most popular option among all 4 packages. This classic version includes all the features of a solid edge foundation plus extra features and benefits such as reverse engineering, subdivision modelling, generative design, photo-realistic rendering, dynamic visualization, and CAD direct. This version also adds a standard part library with vendor catalogue integration and engineering references.
- Solid Edge Premium
As you might’ve already guessed, Solid Edge Premium is the most feature-packed and the most expensive package the brand has to offer. It contains all the Solid Edge Classic features with some being the advanced versions (e.g. Advanced motion simulation, advanced stress simulation). Simulation optimization, electrical routing, PCB collaboration, and pipe and tube design are also added as bonuses in the premium version of Solid Edge.
7. Indigo Renderer
Indigo Renderer is one versatile 3D rendering software for creating flawless 3D renders. The OpenCL-based software relies on both CPU and GPU to render photorealistic images and visualize industrial design. Furthermore, the multi-GPU framework of this software allows it to work with Nvidia graphics as well as OpenCL-based AMD hardware, enabling the software to reach a wider audience.
The latest iteration of the software (4.4) brings some new top-notch features like denoising and FastSSS. FastSSS, which enables the creation of subsurface materials like a charm, is something you find exclusively in premium 3D rendering software. This feature also enables you to mimic a surface’s natural reflective and displacement properties in order to achieve absolute realism in your renders.
Indigo Renderer is used and trusted by millions. It can be used as a standalone application but also can be used as a plugin in some of the most popular 3D rendering software including Cinema 4D, Blender, 3ds Max, Revit, and Sketchup. So, even if you are a Blender fan or a Cinema 4D fan, don’t miss out on the extraordinary experience of working with Indigo Renderer.
Artlantis is primarily focused to satisfy the needs of architects and designers in the best way possible. It comes with a wide array of indoor/outdoor lighting adjustments to achieve the best lighting conditions for your scene in an instant. Comprising advanced shaders and luminous materials, the realism that Atlantis can generate in your 3D renders is straight-up unbeatable.
Artlantis comes with a render manager using which you can make your other local computers contribute to the 3D rendering task, minimizing the rendering time. The software allows designers to import IFC files, produce flawless scenes with LUTs for uniform ambience, and much more. Overall, Atlantis is considered a pioneer in architectural visualization, thanks to its ability to create photorealistic renderings as conveniently as possible.
9. Radeon ProRender
Created by the world-renowned computer CPU and GPU brand AMD, Radeon ProRender offers top-of-the-line tools and features to help designers produce stunning artworks and designs. Radeon ProRender is one of the best 3D renderers for personal as well as commercial or artistic use. The Radeon ProRender is even capable of helping highly skilled animators and design studios with their chunky projects.
The Radeon ProRender is built on “Rays” which is a technology produced by the hardworking developers of AMD. The 2.2 build of the software is OpenCL-based which allows it to be powered by the CPU and the GPU of the computer, enabling the production of high-quality and photorealistic imagery as quickly as possible. Exceptionally well-designed and physically-based material, along with subsurface scattering, precise lighting, and homogenous volume capability makes this software ideal for beginners and professionals alike.
Radeon ProRender is compatible with Windows and Mac OS as well as Linux, no wonder why Radeon ProRender has garnered an exceptionally gigantic user base. On top of that, being OpenCL-based allows the software to work flawlessly on AMD GPUs as well as those of other vendors, making it suitable for almost every capable computer available in the market.
Any list of the best 3D rendering or 3D modeling software is incomplete without Blender. That being said, Blender is an open-source and cross-platform feature-packed 3D rendering suite that supports modeling, rigging, animation, simulation, rendering composting, and motion tracking. In other words, Blender will help you through any 3D rendering task you throw at it.
Blender even comes with an edge and line-based non-photorealistic renderer to help you achieve a more cartoonish and artistic look in your renders. Only Blender can present you with features like these without charging you for anything, no annual subscriptions, no hidden charges whatsoever. The community that Blender has is also very active and helpful, you can expect to have quick workarounds for your problems with ease.
Introduced in the latest Blender 2.8, the physically-based real-time renderer in Blender helps the software to deliver remarkable results with absolute realism. The tools and features Blender 2.8 offers are so vast that no one can claim to have achieved absolute mastery over the software. Furthermore, this open-source and free 3D rendering software competes toe-to-toe with the likes of premium 3D rendering software like Maya and V-Ray.
Carefully assessing your requirements before making a purchase is crucial in any case, the same rule follows while choosing a 3D software for your 3D rendering needs. For instance, the toolsets and features that most premium 3D renderers offer are so vast that you may not even get to use them as a beginner 3D artist. Luckily, this list of ours comprises the best 3D rendering software alternatives to suit every taste and requirement, whether you’re a beginner or a professional.