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

| Created on December 3, 2019

Updated on February 17, 2021

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 vs 3DS Max

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 helps organizations and animators develop 3D models, animated videos and movies. You can also use this software for adding 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 Blender and Maya 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
Usage Most suitable for small start ups Better suited to large studios and production houses
Availability Open-source product Licensed product
Integration Being an open source, this 3D computer graphics software toolset can be accessed by anyone. Big studios mostly prefer to have Maya integrated in their systems

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 this free 3D animation software 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 3D animation maker online 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: With multi-tool support available, 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.

With easy to use self-explanatory keys, even a first-timer can use this application with ease.

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 of Auto: 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. As Blender currently has no light version available, let us do a Maya LT vs Blender comparison.

Here are the key differences between Maya LT vs Blender:

  • Maya LT supports multiple options and tabs for a clean user interface 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.

Blender vs Maya: 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. The 3D animation maker 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 Blender or Maya, 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, Autodesk Maya vs Blender can both be used depending on the user’s requirements and skills.

Difference Between Maya and 3DS Max

Both Maya and 3DS Max are 3D computer graphic tools with very close similarities. They both are animation software with 3D modeling, and rigging capabilities. As far as distinction between the two 3D animation makers is concerned, Maya is more appropriate for animators. The toolset and framework in Maya employs more curves than any other animation software. However, executing Maya also require scripting with the helps of MEL Script file format.

On the other hand, 3DS Max animation offers better work efficiency with other Autodesk product. Majority of users today prefer 3DS Max render for materials and rendering due to the ease of material setup.

Comparative factors Maya 3DS Max Animation
Usage Appropriate for character creation and virtual reality Useful for interior design and architectural visualization
OS & Platform Compatibility Linux, Windows, or OSX OS Only Windows
Versions Available 2020.3 / 2020 Theseus Autodesk 3DS/ 2020
Rigging Creates more complex rigs Creating rigs is a bit complicated here
License Requires a Trialware license Both SaaS and Trailware
3D Modeling Toolset Modeling is bit complex 3D Modeling is easy to grasp in 3DS Max
Price AutoDesk Maya pricing is ₹ 10,662 per month on Techjockey AutoDesk 3DS Max pricing ₹ 10,8150 per annum on Techjockey

AutoDesk Maya Vs 3DS Max: Which Is a Better 3D Animation Software

As far as the question goes, Maya is better with 3D animation per se, however, making 3D models in 3DS Max is easier. Let’s find out below, which among these two, is better in the following categories. Here, you will get a detailed AutoDesk Maya and 3DS Max walkthrough in terms of features.

  • Round One: User Interface

As 3D animation making software, both Autodesk Maya and 3DS Max animation software have different workflows and user interface. Had the 3DS Max design been a bit more user friendly, it would have been still better to compare the two. But as Maya is more popular among animators, 3DS Max architecture doesn’t have much of a standing.

Round One Winner: Autodesk Maya

  • Round Two: Rendering

Both programs are integrated with Mental Ray rendering engine into the software. As a result you get similar results in either of the programs. Though the workflow is different, you get pretty much the same results in both of the application.

Round Two Winner: It’s a tie!

  • Round Three: Animation Features

As it is being said above, when it comes to animation, Maya performs much better as compared to 3D Max animation. However, you cannot deny that the latter gives a tough fight to the Autodesk software in texture and mesh modeling as Maya has a bit confusing layout and workflow. Though in terms of workflow, 3DS Max has greater edge, it is not as comprehensive as Maya.

Round Three Winner: Autodesk Maya

  • Round Four: Modeling Features

Now that it has been established that 3DS Max performs much better at texture and mesh modeling, thinking that Maya 3D animation software will win this round, then you are wrong because Maya has recently updated its tools as well. Both the software are known to be used in the gaming industry, Maya LT does better when it comes to cost effective game developing program. But if your work involves a lot of architectural visualization, then Autodesk 3DS Max modeling will work better for you.

Round Four Winner: It’s a tie!

  • Round Five: Pricing

3DS Max Price starts from ₹10,8150 per annum

AutoDesk Maya pricing starts from ₹10,662 per month

Round Five Winner: Autodesk 3DS Max

Final Result: Tie (2-2)

Maya or 3DS Max: The Verdict

Going by the parameters for this competition, clearly Autodesk Maya has a greater edge in most departments as against to 3DS Max. But does that mean that 3DS Max doesn’t stand a chance, no! As a free 3D animation software, 3DS Max, is easy to grasp for architectural visualization and easy to work around. Though it’s not the right choice for developers working in the gaming industry, 3DS Max works well architectural workflows and interior design projects.

Final Thoughts on Autodesk Maya vs Blender vs 3DS Max

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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