3D for Designers - Maya vs 3DS Max vs Blender


May 17, 2009
Oddly enough, I posted this on a Graphic Design forum and got very (almost no) response.

I'm looking to learn a 3D program, but not for games/animation/film but rather just for product images. Mocking up packaging, making it look like a photo and using files made in illustrator/photoshop as the skin/texture since that's where the package art would be created. Eventually I'd like to design a few things like watches, but would be just for looks, I don't need internal stuff.

Most posts I've seen comparing them have been geared towards "are you using it for gaming or animation" which for me doesn't much apply.

Looked on YouTube, picked an item like a soda can and watched tutorials on how to create one for each app to see which seemed easier to learn and had better results and liked Maya, but then again, may have just been that the guy doing the tutorial was better.

Figured I'd see what people here thought... again, looking for ease of use, easiest to learn, photoreal end results and something that on a resume may be considered a plus... I considered Blender but, jobs I've seen posted either say 3D (and no program) or they specify AutoCad, 3DSMax or Maya... Blender never gets mentioned... but it is free... so, can't dismiss it too quick.

So, ya, if anyone has any advice I'd love to hear it. Thanks.


If you can learn Blender, you can learn the other apps. I do suggest starting with Blender. You can also get trial versions of the other applications, but don't sink money into this until you learn some of the basics (via Blender). Just a suggestion.


Jul 24, 2006
Blender is only used by more "progressive" studios. You won't find too many job ads with it mentioned, especially if the job ad was posted by a clueless recruiter who doesn't know the name of anything that isn't from Autodesk.

I've used 3DS Max and Blender and found the former easier to use, but that's likely because it fits the standard clickity-click workflow of most applications that I use. Blender is very keyboard shortcut-driven, and if you try to use the mouse you'll get frustrated because the menus are a bit all over the place. I didn't bother to learn the shortcuts so it was a struggle to get anywhere with it. I have used neither extensively though, mostly just to play around. I am not a professional or even an amateur.

Photorealism is dependent primarily on how good your modelling and composition skills are, followed by what renderer you use. Blender has exporters for most external renderers so you don't need to be stuck with what it comes with, but I'm not sure about the others. The built-in Cycles renderer is pretty good, but it's still relatively immature and it's designed more for "fast" rendering of animation. Mental Ray, which is shipped with Blender and Maya, is a much older and more mature renderer with many more features, but does not simulate light as accurately and will likely require more material tweaking to get right. You can also render out to something like Luxrender which can produce extremely accurate simulations of light. Cycles (and to a lesser extent, Luxrender) supports rendering using OpenCL and CUDA for some serious speed improvements, and it can also render the whole scene progressively rather than in buckets, which is good for test renders.


May 17, 2009
That's also where I was getting lost, when I kept seeing people talking about using 3D software, plus a half dozen other programs but no idea what most of them do.

Found a decent comparison yesterday between Maya and 3ds, saying 3ds was a bit easier to learn, also saw that there was a 3ds design edition.

I'd like to play around with them all but, portfolio needs some updating and don't have the time to spend a week or so with each programming figuring out which I like, although that would be ideal... Pretty much hoping a month from now to have the basics figured out and my portfolio updated.

Sadly, sounds like in addition to which programming to use, I'll also need to figure out which renderer? I have seen vray mentioned a few times.
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