Autodesk Maya vs Blender: A Comparative Study of Popular 3D Software

autodesk maya vs blender

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What is Blender 3D Software?

Blender is a computer graphics software that is used to develop 2D and 3D animated movies, games computer graphics, digital art, visual effects, and much more. Since it is open-source, this 3D graphic designing suite’s source code can be modified to suit the requirements of the user.

autodesk maya vs blender

The open source software suite can be run on various operating systems such as Windows, Linux, and Mac OS.

Blender comes with a wide variety of tools suitable for a gamut of tasks and projects such as modelling animation, rendering, VFX, video editing, texturing, rigging, simulations, and game creation, to name a few.

What is Maya Software?

Maya by Autodesk is one of the most popular 3D applications offered by Autodesk and can run on Windows, macOS, and Linux. Maya 3D animation software is used by animators and organisations that create animated videos, 3D models, animated movies, games and require visual effects.

With the help of its 3D animation, design, and modelling suite, some of the leading movie production companies create animated videos, and VFX.

Latest Maya 2020 and Blender 2020: Features Comparison Table

Since, we have established that both the 3D designing software are at par with each other, let’s have a look at some of the latest additions in Maya 3D software and Blender:

Comparative Factors Blender Maya
License Free to use General Public Licence (GNU GPL) Trialware/Student/Commercial License
Application VFX, Interior design, architecture, startups and academics Commercial Animation Videos, Videogames, 3D Animated movies, texturing
Rendering Engine(s) Cycles Arnold, Solid Angle Mental Ray
Motion Graphics/ Special Effects Fabric, Fur and Hair Textures, Smoke, Fluid, Fire and Surface Meshes Collision Simulation, Object Interaction
Marketability Small and freelance projects Industry standard
Customisation Language Python 3 MEL
Support Modules Online tutorials, Community Support, Discussion Forums Online Courses, Textbooks/Dedicated Support

Autodesk Maya Vs Blender: Key Differences

Now that we have a basic understanding of the functions of both software solutions, let’s compare Autodesk Maya vs Blender to explore the key differences between them:

  • Round One: User Environment

One of the most crucial aspects of a graphic designing platform is its UI. The reason for having a user-friendly interface is so that designers can navigate tools without having to spend time looking for them. 

If we have to make a choice between the UI of Maya or Blender, Maya provides a seamless user interface by default, which is easily navigable. Users across forums have described Autodesk Maya’s user environment to be navigable and straightforward.

Maya 3D software
Autodesk Maya’s User Interface
blender maya
Blender’s User Interface

In Blender’s defense, its user interface isn’t complicated. However, it provides limited features as a default that can be customised to suit the user’s requirements.

Round One Winner: Autodesk Maya wins

  • Round Two: Pricing

Blender is crowdfunded for its development hence it is free. The objective of Blender is to make 3D animation easily available for everyone, hence it is licensed under General Public License (GPL).

On the other hand, Maya costs nothing as well if you are a student. While there is no difference in the functionalities of student and commercial versions, student/educational license is only meant to be used in a qualified educational institution.

Round Two Winner: Blender wins

  • Round Three: Usability and Application

Both Blender & Maya are suitable for creating high-end animation videos, movies, and videogames, and provides powerful image/video rendering capabilities. Maya is also apt for texturing and creating 3D animated movies

Maya requires a proper understanding and expertise for optimal use of the software. In addition, Maya also provides a student license aimed for students and educational institutions.

Blender is especially suitable for students to learn nuances of animation and provides simple tools to work with. In addition, Blender provides tools more suited to visual effects, interior design and architecture.

Round Three Winner: Due to its application in different places, Maya wins this round.

  • Round Four: Tools

Autodesk Maya has included more tools that can be used for modelling, exporting, development, animation, rigging, and rendering.

While Blender has revamped its 3D designing tools as well, which makes it easier to design 2D and 3D designs seamlessly. This provides designers who cannot draw, assistance without little to no drawing skill.

Round Four Winner: Due to the multiple areas its tools extend too, Maya wins this round as well.

  • Round Five: Rendering Engine

Arnold is one of the most popular rendering engines in the market. It enables designers to render heavy-duty graphics efficiently and quickly. Autodesk’s suite Maya has renderers too, such as mental ray. Its Solid Angle lets designers create Hollywood-level effects.

Cycles, like Arnold, is a well-known renderer in the industry. It helps users to trace unidirectional paths. In Addition, it provides state of the art shading and lighting choices.

Cycles has multi-GPU support and is suited for NVidia CUDA and AMD OpenCL rendering. Its UI for animation rendering too, is easy to understand.

Round Five Winner: It’s a tie!

  • Round Six: Animation Rendering

Rendering an animation in Maya can initially be time consuming and tedious. Designers are required to ensure that they have the right frame and animation extension set or it might glitch. It also requires the correct camera angle to get the contrasting illumination. In addition, not placing the render animation key in render settings can make it confusing for users, initially.

Blender makes animation rendering easier and more efficient for the users.  It provides straightforward options in the render settings menu. "Render Active Scene" can be used while working on the current scene while "Render Anim" can be used to render the whole set of animations.

Most of the keys are self-explanatory and are easy to understand, even for a first-time user.

Round Six Winner: Blender Wins

  • Round Seven: Keyboard Shortcuts

Maya has improved its Hotkey editor so that it becomes easier for designers. Pressing Ctrl, Shift, and Alt in any combination on the keyboard shows the unassigned keys, which can be allocated for smoother transition between tools.

Blender has easy keyboard shortcuts for almost all functions. It lets designers use their left hand for shortcuts on the keyboard and the right hand for designing with the mouse. Ctrl+B performs a few functions depending on the mode you are in.

Round Seven Winner: Blender Wins

Final Result: Tie (4-4)

As a final result of Autodesk Maya vs Blender, both have a tie!

Maya LT vs Blender

Autodesk, in its website itself, states that Maya can be a bit difficult to work with if you are a beginner.

Hence, they have come up with Maya LT, a light version of Maya with limited functionalities. It is suitable for those who are starting their journey in 2D and 3D animation and graphics. Since Blender doesn’t provide any light version, we are comparing Maya LT vs Blender.

Here are the key differences between Maya LT vs Blender:

  • Maya LT has a simplified and clean UI whereas since Blender is a consolidated software Its UI has more tabs and options.
  • The Polygon Modelling tools are well-designed in Blender while in Maya LT, the tools are limited. However, if we were comparing Blender vs Maya vs 3DS Max, 3DS max is a clear winner.
  • Maya LT is explicitly designed for beginners. It can be a more viable option for students as it comes with all the basic functions. Compared to Maya LT, Blender’s advanced tools might be overwhelming for students, in comparison.

Our Verdict

Maya 3D Software is one of the leaders in the industry, which is known for its modelling, animation, texturing, and rendering capabilities.

But is Blender good as well? Yes. Blender provides a free and open-source alternative with equally competitive features and capabilities.

Blender is also user-friendly and intuitive; however, if a seasoned designer or animator needs to work professionally, Maya is the more suitable option.

For a better analysis on whether to choose Maya or Blender, here is a quick summary of the upsides of using both, Blender vs Maya:

Blender

  • Simple tools for visual effects and modelling.
  • Simple and intuitive UI.
  • Completely free.
  • Open-source.

Maya

  • A plethora of visual and 3D effects and modelling tools.
  • State-of-the-art rendering engine.
  • Customised scripting options.
  • User guides, courses, and books readily available.

Well-attributed animation and modelling solutions in 2D and 3D, Maya and Blender can both be used depending on the user’s requirements and skills.

Final Thoughts…

After looking at all the aspects, we cannot say that one is better than the other. Autodesk Maya vs Blender is a close game with both the contenders having an equal number of aces in their deck.

To conclude, we would suggest that you choose the one that suits your convenience, nature of requirements and skills. Have more inputs on this Maya-Blender comparison that we missed? Comment below.

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