Newly introduced (or newly updated) kit that should always be in your toolbox this year.

Another year implies new goals, which in the realm of 3D means checking the lay of the land to ensure the tools you’re used are the still the ones that are most appropriate to your needs as a artist. To commence 2019 properly, we’ve assembled the tools you should consider adding to your 3D art toolbox. The majority of the applications in this list are either new or have experienced a major update recently, so they’re worth a new look.

01. MODO 12.2

New denoting techniques in MODO 12.2 promise faster and cleaner renders

While MODO has been around for over 10 years now, the most recent version has unquestionably set out MODO’s stall for the furniture. With the integration of the most recent rendering tools, for example, AMD’s ProRender and Nvidia’s OptiX Denoiser (pictured) with a vigorously revamped and streamlined UI.

MODO offers artist a solid platform to consider with its best-in-class subdivision modelling toolset – which can be used to work with game engines effectively through customised layout and exporters. MODO 12 has likewise presented a VR viewport (on Windows just) that enables artists to draw near to their models in a way that is essentially is not possible in other of imagination in other digital content creation applications.

02. Redshift 3

Redshift 3

Redshift has earned its place in the industry as one of the main GPU-rendered engines – its one-sided underpinnings allows much more flexibility than unbiased choices. Redshift is also famed for its perfect clean animation over a wide scope of host applications, as can be found in the Bruton Stroube video over that utilizes Redshift.

In 2019, Redshift 3 will launch with a refactored core that increases the trace depth limit, allowing more indirect light bounces and improved transparency levels. Even faster render speeds are coming with Redshift 3 thanks to optimisation for the latest Nvidia RTX cards, as well as a wealth of other new features later in the year, including distributed and network rendering.

03. V-RAY Next

V-RAY Next

While there are newer rendering kids on the block, Chaos Group has been hard at work maintaining and improving V-Ray with the launch of V-Ray Next, currently available for Autodesk 3DS Max and Autodesk Maya. V-Ray Next features GPU acceleration that offers a 2x speed bump over previous GPU V-Ray options. A much improved IPR for lightning quick playblasts, crypto matte output and volume rendering all mean that Chaos Group is continuing to keep V-Ray amongst the leaders of 3D rendering technology.

04. Octane 4

Octane 4

Released in November 2018, Octane 4, the leading unbiased GPU render engine, promises a lot for users in 2019. Octane already had one of the fastest interactive previews of any render engine, but with the addition of OTOY’s own Brigade real time path tracing engine, Octane 4’s preview is between 10 and 100 times faster than previous versions. Out of Core geometry support is another feature of Octane 4, along with new denoising techniques with the implementation of the machine learning-based Spectral AI denoiser (video above).

Hopefully Octane 4 will make good on its promise of allowing Octane to work with any GPU, as OTOY has worked hard behind the scenes over the past few years to maximise Octane’s compatibility.

05. Gravity Sketch

Gravity Sketch

VR is fast realising its potential as a true creative tool. Price discounts on VR headsets, coupled with great software have meant that many areas of creative design are embracing VR. At the forefront of this creative software revolution is Gravity Sketch. When used as a concept development tool for 3D creation, there is little that can touch Gravity Sketch’s ability to immerse an artist in their design.

By purposefully limiting the toolset and features, Gravity Sketch enables artists to sketch in 3D and then use the intuitive snapping, surfacing and patch tools to create prototype models that can be exported as an OBJ or FBX into a full 3D or CAD application to be be refined. However, the lighting and texturing tools are good enough in Gravity Sketch to create a unique model sheet.

06. AMD ProRender

AMD ProRender

A number of our highlights for 2019 are render engines that make the most of the new GPU hardware on its way in 2019. But many artists have already paid a significant amount for their 3D modelling software, and understandably begrudge having to shell out for a third party render solution no matter how good it is. Thankfully AMD has realised that this is an issue and made its hybrid CPU/GPU render solution AMD ProRender available for free.

07. Houdini 17

Houdini 17

SideFX, the developer of Houdini, has recently released the latest version of its procedurally focused 3D application. Houdini 17 Banshee features the OpenCL accelerated Vellum cloth solver for better simulations, with support for multi-layered cloth elements and dynamic constraints for stitching, bracing and tearing. Vellum also works across hair and grooming.

There is a new material-based destruction tool paradigm that pre-fractures materials such as concrete, glass and wood and then builds networks to tie the resulting system together. In fact there are too many new features to list here.

As ever, Houdini starts with the free Apprentice edition, but the Indie version is great value for freelancers and is also available for subscription on Steam. Take a look at our 15 top Houdini tips to get started.

08. Cinema 4D 20

Cinema 4D 20

Many Cinema 4D users have started looking at Houdini to cover some of the shortcomings in Maxon’s digital content creation software. However, the release of Cinema 4D R20 changes all that by offering a whole new motion graphics fields-based paradigm, node-based materials, improved viewport performance, and improvements to the hybrid ProRender integration including features like motion blur and SSS (see these in action in the video above by f°am Studio).

Couple these with modelling improvements such as the new CAD importers and the whole new volume modelling paradigm, and Cinema 4D becomes one of the most compelling, easy to learn and stable digital content creation applications available in 2019. It is rightly being awarded an Academy Award for its MoGraph toolset in February.

For advice and inspiration, take a look at our roundup of Cinema 4D tutorialsand Cinema 4D tips.

09. Blender 2.8

Blender 2.8

It is hard to believe that Blender, the open source digital content creation application, is now 25 years old. There are few, if any, applications that can do as much as Blender can – from 3D modelling and sculpting, to animation and compositing, all available for the perfect price of free (take a look at our roundup of brilliant Blender tutorials for inspiration).

With the recently released Blender 2.8 beta and accompanying roadmap, 2019 looks like an exciting year for existing and new users alike. Blender works on nearly every platform and the improvements in Blender 2.8 concentrate on making Blender easier to use, with a new UI, the Eevee real-time renderer (which works both for viewport and final render) and a raft of other new features.

10. Substance Painter

Substance Painter

Ladies and gentlemen, we may have a winner for the standalone texturing application of choice for the industry. Substance Painter seems to have become the default tool for texturing assets, with a constantly updating toolset that strives to match the creativity of its users. After a gangbuster year in 2018, Allegorithmic has spent the holiday break showing off some the stunning creations Substance Painter has been involved with, from games to CGI.

When coupled with the rest of the Substance suite applications and the fantastic Substance Source asset library, this is a toolset that works as a linking tissue between 3D and game creation applications for keeping material looks consistent. It is deserving of any CG artist’s attention in 2019.

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