3d modeling

Which 3D modeling software is right for you?

Not all 3D software is built the same, even when both suites come from the same brand. Autodesk is such a big name that it needs two types of 3D animation and editing software in its wheelhouse: Autodesk Maya and 3DS Max, loved by professionals and amateurs alike.

Should you choose 3DS Max or Autodesk Maya? While we can’t answer this question definitively, we can certainly provide some advice.

What do Autodesk Maya and 3DS Max have in common?

3D artists at all levels use these two animation programs to get their work done. Broadly speaking, these two Autodesk products have a lot in common:

  • Maya and 3DS Max are applications used to create 3D models, animations and images.
  • Both include advanced features like particle effect, rigging, keyframes, materials, lighting, and other special effects.
  • Both can be used for designing games or in other industries, such as medical modeling.
  • Both cost exactly the same: $215 per month, $1,700 per year, or $4,590 every three years.

The differences between 3DS Max and Maya mostly relate to the overall workflow, the tools available in each, and the skills required to use them.

To download: Maya for Windows, Apple, and Linux (from $215 per month, free trial available)

To download: 3DS Max for Windows (from $215 per month, free trial available)

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Related: The best free CAD software

Autodesk Maya vs 3DS Max: the differences


A person working on a laptop.

Honestly? Much of the difference between Maya and 3DS Max will ultimately come down to personal preference. There’s no cap on what either is capable of, but there are a few key differences to consider.

Required configuration

We were surprised to see that Maya is actually the more demanding of the two systems when it comes to hardware requirements. Additionally, 3DS Max is only available for Windows; Autodesk discontinued Mac support for this app in 2017.

Other than that, you’ll find all the usual stuff: Windows 10 or higher, as well as macOS 10.13 or higher for Maya users.

Additionally, you will need a few other things:

  • Both systems prefer a high-end graphics card, either Intel or AMD.
  • Maya requires 8 GB of RAM; 3DS Max only requires 4 GB.
  • For Maya you will need 6 GB of free space on your hard drive, and for 3DS Max you will need 9 GB.

These are not unreasonable expectations by today’s standards. Any properly equipped system will be more than capable of running either program efficiently.

Related: The best laptops for 3D modeling engineering software

Modeling tools

None of these creative apps leave much to be desired when it comes to 3D modeling tools. Many claim that 3DS Max reigns supreme when it comes to granularity, but it all depends on what you’re trying to do.

3DS Max is best suited if you are modeling architectural, product design, engineering, or construction models. It also offers a more advanced materials workflow and integrates more seamlessly with other related Autodesk products, which can be ideal in some cases.

Animation


3D shapes

According to Autodesk itself, Maya is the brand’s flagship animation software. However, 3DS Max is still more than capable of animation.

Curves in Autodesk Maya, along with an extensive toolset for keyframe animation, makes this option a favorite of many. However, many of these features require scripting, which may limit the potential to be found here for some.

Competence level

Both of these systems are advanced industrial-grade 3D modeling programs.

Maya is considered by some to be harder to learn between the two, but that’s not always the case. One thing’s for sure: there are a lot of tools to learn in Maya, way more than you’ll find in 3DS Max.

While it’s usually possible to create whatever you’re trying to create in either, Maya offers more success-leaning possibilities than 3DS Max does in general. It all depends on what you are used to working with and what you need to accomplish.

Related: How is 3D modeling changing our world?

Autodesk 3D Modeling Software: Should You Use Maya or 3DS Max?

There are many, many arguments in favor of Maya and 3DS Max for both casual and advanced users.

As staunch believers in the power of imagination, we argue that the one you choose has less to do with your end result than the love and care you put into every 3D project. No matter where you end up in the Autodesk catalog, we guarantee you’ll be able to use everything you find to bring your dreams to life.


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