Best 3D Modelling Software For Architecture

Have you ever wondered how games like Final Fantasy XV and Grand Theft Auto manage to display virtually pixel-perfect graphics? With 3D Modeling, developers can super detailed models that closely resemble reality. Due to this, filmmakers, interior designers, and architects have been utilising it for many years. As a result, clients can easily visualize the concept being sold by these service providers. For instance, an architect could create home plans effectively, catering to his clients’ needs.

Art has been continuously developing, and thanks to technology, it gets even better and easier. Several 3D modeling software packages have emerged in recent times. Combining innovation and expertise, the developers sure know how to please even the most meticulous clientele. However it is important to combine your modelling software with 3D rendering software to get the best outcome. The best part is you can actually download some of them for free. Additionally, you can get the basic features from most of them without spending a cent via a trial.

3D modeling may be not for everyone. It takes time to learn the skill and get familiarized with different tools. All 3D modeling software has its own set of unique features and toolkits, so mastering two or more might be challenging. It’s definitely achievable, but you need patience and determination. Doing research and asking advice from professionals like architects would help you big time as well.

With that being said, here are some of the best 3D modeling software which you can try out for yourself and your team.

Revit

Cost: $2250 USD a year

Pros:

  • Versatile software with great attention to detail
  • Huge collection of objects
  • Ideal for BIM projects, allowing architects to coordinate with engineers and consultants simultaneously

Cons:

  • More focused on CAD plans instead of 3D modeling
  • Requires professional training to utilize the software properly

3D modeling may be not for everyone. It takes time to learn the skill and get familiarized with different tools. All 3D modeling software has its own set of unique features and toolkits, so mastering two or more might be challenging. It’s definitely achievable, but you need patience and determination. Doing research and asking advice from professionals like architects would help you big time as well.

Revit is a building information modeling (BIM) software. Similar to a 2d CAD program but draws in 3D. Each line you draw has attributes and a 3d model associated with them. This allows the 3d model to be created. It is a very versatile program for architects. Revit also has the reputation of being an estimating tool for any construction project, thanks to its stringent attention to detail and attributes associated with each model. Whether it’s a townhouse, a condominium, or a custom development, Revit performs excellently. It builds comprehensive quantity sheets and drawing plans which are documented and linked to the 3D models.

This software gives you the freedom to manage, store, and utilize their impressive library of preset objects for your project. It is the perfect tool for BIM-related projects as it processes all the information related in the most efficient manner.

The tradeoff, however, is that this program is not solely focused on 3D modeling and more on replacing traditional CAD plans. It does this by speeding up architectural, civil and engineering projects because it relates all the processes and disciplines into one such as estimating, engineering, drafting, and scheduling. However, due to this, you need to be trained to master and utilize Revit to its full potential.

Revit is not a sole 3D modeling program and its main focus on architecture and making the design process collaborative between all the disciplines involved. So, with that being said there is better software out there if you want to only 3D model.

ArchiCAD

Cost: Custom pricing, please contact the Australian branch for your quote

Pros:

  • The software is regularly upgrading
  • It has a streamlined interface for easier usage
  • Faster and smoother 2D navigation
  • More enhanced workflow

Cons:

  • This software’s 3D modeling features are limited
  • Pricing structure
  • Not able to open new Archicad files in old versions

Similar to Revit, ArchiCAD is also known for its excellence in executing BIM-related projects. In fact, they are pioneers of BIM technology. When it comes to conceptual design, ArchiCAD gives you more ease and convenience compared to Revit. It has a slick and simple interface which appeals to many architecture firms.

In addition, ArchiCAD’s teamwork capabilities are like no other. It allows you to communicate and streamline projects through its platform instead of relying on another program. It handles and publishes pages effortlessly. Being able to have different drawing sets for various purposes like contractor vs client sets is a must, and this software pulls it off outstandingly.

However, again like Revit, because it is a BIM software its main focus is not 3D modeling and the model created by this program is best exported to one of the more advanced 3D modeling software like 3DS Max.

3ds Max

Cost: $1505 USD a year

Pros:

  • Contains multipurpose and groundbreaking tools
  • Huge production capacity
  • Compatible with many render engines
  • Very intuitive and easy to use

Cons:

  • May be too overwhelming at first
  • Issues like bugs and crashes

The strength of 3ds Max lies on its versatile and advanced tools. You can create all sorts of realistic projects with this software, even the most outlandish ideas. Also, its workspace allows you to open numerous windows with different angles, which is resourceful. This lets you import some elements of other formats and distribute tasks easily in your workspace.

There are modifiers that make the process faster when modeling 3D objects, which is a great help for architects.

Producing fantastic 3D models with 3ds Max may be hard at first. Once you’ve gotten over the learning curve, the process won’t be that complex anymore. It’s very compatible with the Autodesk software and other render engines, like the popular VRay.

3DS Max is probably the number one program for 3d modeling. It has been tried and tested by many professionals and has a huge number of plugins available to help you create fantastic 3D renders from your model.

Google SketchUp

Cost: Free or Pro: $695 USD a year

Pros:

  • Easy to use, perfect for beginners and professionals alike
  • The free version has everything you need
  • Provides you ample training before trying out more complicated programs

Cons:

  • Performs weakly compared to its more advanced counterparts for realism
  • Less detailed graphics

Here’s the thing: We already know that SketchUp has a free version with limited features and a paid version. Does it make you wonder why it’s on our list? Well, for one, this software gives you competitive features that architects can use as stepping stone before advancing to more sophisticated applications like 3ds Max for modeling.

Its interface resembles a Photoshop palette, making it easy to use. If you’re a beginner with structural design, you can experiment with its tools and never worry about your output having illogical dimensions. Its intuitive and adaptive push and pull tool will guide you.

Many pros may not suggest you SketchUp due to its simplistic approach. The objects may not be as defined and precise compared to other 3D modeling software. However, it’s a great companion to those who are still learning the basics of architectural design and those who don’t want to spend much.

Blender

Cost: €9.90 a month

Pros:

  • Perfect for out of the box architectural projects
  • Cheaper than usual 3D modeling programs
  • Has great attention to detail

Cons:

  • Does not cater much to conventional architectural or structural design
  • Adaptation may take a little more time than other software

Many review sites and professionals revere Blender as the best 3D modeling software out there, but they are not viewing it from an architectural angle. For one, Blender is not your conventional modeling software for construction projects. Why? Because it focuses more on object mobility, which is more suitable for animated movies and games.

This is actually good news for those who love out of the box concepts, as Blender’s tools can materialize them perfectly. Not only it has quick modeling and animation tools, but it also comes with a dynamic shader system as well as sculpting capabilities.

TinkerCAD

Cost: Free

Pros:

  • Free software, no download required
  • Has an interface that’s easy to use and understand

Cons:

  • You have to do everything online
  • Not architecture-oriented compared to other brands
  • Not as advance as competitors

If you’re a student or someone who possesses a keen eye for complex geometric design, then TinkerCAD is for you. The approach is straightforward – you combine several simple objects into more complex shapes until you’ve built an object. You may also modify these shapes to create forms like arcs and holes, using negative space as a tool.

Mastery in 2D editing helps a lot with this software since you can utilize classic tools like Stretch, Rotate, and Distort to highlight dimensions further.

One downside to this application is you need to do everything online. An unstable internet connection may put all that hard work into waste. Other than that, it’s an ideal tool for beginners and advanced users alike. However, it’s not really focused on architecture so be aware of that so if you are after photorealistic renders from your models, stick to some of the bigger programs.

Maya

Cost: £204 a month or free limited version

Pros:

  • It has Blender’s creativity and 3ds Max’s versatility of tools
  • Contains a tricaster system for seamless 3D modeling

Cons:

  • Quite expensive

Maya is a great software if you really want to turn your ideas into reality. Similar to Blender, you can easily create detailed house models, animated movements, and integrate almost realistic objects.

The interface is straightforward; your toolsets are consolidated into a very well-organized tabbed structure. This allows immense customization and optimization options for your workspaces depending on your needs. The tools themselves are adaptive, ideal for 3D modeling environment. It can also render brilliant 3D virtual sets with a tricaster system. Basically, you can manipulate everything with simple controls.

Unfortunately, these amazing features come with a hefty price tag. This is the main complaint among Maya users. Overall, it’s pretty much a good investment, but you may have to take such matters with a grain of salt.

Cinema 4D

Cost: £810 per year

Pros:

  • Very accessible and hassle-free to use, for the most part
  • Regularly updating and upgrading
  • Compatible to many render engines and other integrations

Cons:

  • Not a large selection of textures

Cinema 4D is probably the most user-friendly 3D modeling software in this list. It has a non-destructive workflow which enables users the ability to keep objects parametric. This software defines robust and mature 3D design and animation which evolved since its first edition. It’s incessantly upgrading, so there’s more to expect in the future.

You can further expand your limits with render engines such as Octane or Indigo to create more realistic renders. In addition, you can integrate your work with Adobe After Effects to implement 3D designs into media forms.

Having said that, there are minor drawbacks with Cinema 4D. It has a less impressive collection of pre-made high-quality textures compared to other software. You may also notice that some of their tools like graph and modeling kits aren’t as optimal as others. Typically, you can get by easily with these flaws, but implementations of necessary changes are something to look forward to.

Rhinoceros 3D

Cost: $995 USD (Rhino 6 for Windows), $695 USD (Rhino 5 for Mac)

Pros:

  • Provides high-quality shapes and textures
  • Mastering the software is easy and can yield better output
  • Lucrative licensing deals without mandatory subscription or yearly updates

Cons:

  • May discourage coordination with multi-user environments
  • Integrations may not work as expected

You can rely on Rhinoceros 3D when it comes to parametric and geometric modeling and visualization. It provides adaptable and wide-ranging control over curves, surface, solids, and meshes. Achieving model transformations and manipulations such as rounding, solid operations, sweeping, lofting, and trimming is very possible. It emphasizes NURBS geometry and to a lesser extent, Mesh geometry. This ensures your projects are made precise up to the last detail. Grasshopper plugin works best for this software.

It has a free commercial version but if you’re opting to buy, then its licensing may appeal to you. Rhinoceros 3D also gets plus points for not enforcing subscription or yearly updates to customers

Before you settle with this software though, you need to consider a major flaw: Rhinoceros 3D may not be suitable for multi-user environments. Mac users don’t get the best out of this software since Mac does not support Grasshopper. AutoCAD integrations might be tricky at times too.

Wrapping Up

In an ideal world, people would say that the best things in life are free. However, 99% of industry providers would be more willing to extend their services to people who pay. This also applies to applications that create 3D models seamlessly.

If you’re taking things to a professional level and your focus output is detailed 3d models for rendering, then you should try 3DS Max first. If you are looking to stop using CAD and get into BIM: Revit and ArchiCAD are a great choice and will help create pretty realistic 3D renders with their plugins. Meanwhile, I would suggest Google SketchUp, Rhinoceros 3D, Cinema 4D or TinkerCAD as your starter or training tool, or maybe try Blender or Maya to unleash that wild side of yours.

I do recommend watching some videos on each program before you commit to see it is for you. You may even test two or three applications to determine which one works best for you.

Let us know how your exploration went. Talk to us if you have questions or concerns with these tools. We will be more than willing to help!

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