9 Best Rendering Software for 2022
Updated: October 04,2022
Are you searching for the best rendering software for your 3D or 2D project but don’t know where to start?
You’ve come to the right place!
In this piece, we’ll:
- Introduce our top picks.
- Flesh out their capabilities.
- Talk about their advantages and drawbacks.
- Underscore the areas they’re best for.
- Define what rendering software is.
- Discuss the factors you should consider when choosing a renderer.
- Answer the hottest questions about rendering.
1. 3ds Max
Hundreds of third-party plugins
30-day free trial
3ds Max by Autodesk works well on the latest Windows systems.
Arnold (MaxtoA), its native GPU 3D rendering plugin, lets you view changes to the scene as they happen. Its interactive ActiveShade viewports display physically based rendering (PBR) materials and camera effects directly.
Arnold’s previews are virtually indistinguishable from actual renders. With their help, you avoid tweaking the scene frequently as its aesthetics would practically look like the finished output.
Moreover, you can control camera settings like exposure, aperture, and shutter speed.
Plus, Autodesk’s Scene Converter enables you to enhance your legacy scenes when new features become available.
Regarding technical support, its help desk can assist you through phone, chat, email, or remote desktop access. The company also has insightful self-help resources, including online supplement content.
Autodesk offers 3ds Max by subscription and through its pay-as-you-go model called Flex.
If you choose the former, the fee is $141.25–$225/3 PCs/month. But if you only need the digital rendering software occasionally, go with the latter.
Flex lets you get around the limits of your 30-day free trial.
For only six tokens, you can use 3ds Max for 24 hours. Autodesk sells credits in bulk and on a per-team basis in the following increments:
- 500: $3/token
- 1,000: $3/token
- 5,000: $2.93/token
- 10,000: $2.85/token
- 15,000: $2.78/token
- 25,000: $2.70/token
- 50,000: $2.63/token
Unused tokens would expire one year from the date of purchase. However, similar to annual and triennial 3ds Max subscriptions, they’re refundable within 30 days. Monthly subs come with a 15-day money-back guarantee.
There may be free 3ds Max editions in store for students and educators too.
3ds Max doesn’t have the widest operating system support around, nor does it offer multiple hyper-realistic rendering options. Still, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more interoperable program of its kind.
Well-thought-out price structure
30-day free trial
V-Ray is a 3D rendering plugin for nine design platforms:
- 3ds Max
- Cinema 4D
To make your life easier, this versatile software has real-time rendering capability. And it doesn’t only support CPU rendering but also has a combined GPU and CPU option.
It uses its proprietary scene intelligence and adaptive ray tracing tech to calculate light distribution and any material’s physical properties. The result is unmistakable photorealistic 3D visualizations for multiple industries, including architecture, interior design, gaming, and software development.
Chaos offers a distinct V-Ray workstation license for every supported platform. Your expense will be $18–$80/month, depending on your design software and subscription length.
The good news is the company’s 30-day free trial license covers all supported design apps.
If you intend to use this rendering solution long-term, you may be able to buy a perpetual license. The one-time fee is around $790–$1,180. Compared to the most expensive subscriptions, you can break even with perpetual licenses in as fast as 14 months.
In addition, V-Ray perpetual licenses include future updates. Upgrading an old version to the latest one costs about $395–$590.
To get 14 other Chaos products, you can mix V-Ray with them for $49.97–$58.25/month.
With the company’s academic pricing, you can drive down the bundle’s cost to $12.42/month. If you’re a student or an educator, you may qualify for its pay-as-you-go option and buy 50 or 100 credits for $0.65–$0.66/credit.
Chaos’s à la carte V-Ray price for students is $9/month. And you can knock 30% off of the regular price of an annual subscription when you become a professional.
Irrespective of the license, you’ll be entitled to a 14-day money-back guarantee and free tech support.
If V-Ray’s relatively limited interoperability doesn’t bother you, it’ll definitely help you budget for your digital rendering needs more easily.
3. Autodesk Maya
Well-rounded rendering capability
Cross-platform 3D rendering software
30-day free trial
Maya is a 3D animation toolset for Windows, macOS, and Linux. Its license grants you access to its current and three previous versions and permits installation on three computers max.
Autodesk integrates it with Arnold, allowing for GPU and CPU production rendering. Using Hypershade, you can create and connect rendering nodes like lights and textures in order to build shading networks.
With Maya’s surface shading and color management capabilities, you can check out highly accurate previews of materials and colors. In Render View, you can monitor scene modifications in real-time.
Protected by a money-back guarantee, Maya is for sale as monthly, annual, and triennial subscriptions for $141.25–$225/month. And it has a 30-day free trial too.
Thanks to Autodesk’s leniency, you can ask for a refund even after your term’s renewal. This guarantee will be good for 15 days if you sign up for its monthly subscription. Otherwise, it’ll go on for 30 days.
If you purchase Maya through financing from one of Autodesk’s partners, requesting a refund may trigger a fee.
For more flexibility, pay as you go instead of buying a subscription. Like other Autodesk products, you can rent this rendering software for a day in exchange for six tokens.
For every transaction, you can buy packs of 500–50,000 tokens/team for $3–$2.63/token. If you need more, ask for a quote.
You have to consume your tokens within a year, or else they’ll expire. But you have 30 days to return unused ones and get your cashback.
In terms of customer support, different options, including chat, phone, and email, are at your disposal.
For educational purposes, Maya may be available for free.
It can be difficult to master Maya, given its comprehensive set of features. But once you get a handle on it, the possibilities of what you can create will be endless.
30-day free trial
Revit leverages Autodesk Raytracer.
This in-product rendering engine can lend realism to scenes based on physically accurate lights. It takes reflection and diffusion into account. As a result, this software for rendering can simulate the way light reflects off different surface types and how shadows appear.
Revit also supports cloud rendering, allowing it to produce photorealistic imagery.
As with other Autodesk solutions, you can download this program in four different versions. And you can install them on up to three PCs that run Windows 10/11.
Sold for $211.81–$335/month as a subscription, Revit is available in three billing options.
Likewise, you can buy tokens for your team through the pay-as-you-go route. To access this Autodesk rendering software for 24 hours, you only need to redeem six.
With no minimum balance required, you can buy between 500 and 50,000 credits at a time.
Price starts at $2.63/token. If you wish to purchase a larger volume, you can get custom pricing.
Furthermore, Revit is part of Autodesk’s Architecture, Engineering & Construction (AEC) collection. This bundle of 17 products will set you back $258.89–$410/month.
If the cost of Revit or AEC looks too steep, consider Revit LT instead. It’s ideal for teams that work in building information modeling (BIM) and computer-aided design (CAD), and it’s worth $39.17–$60/month only.
However, what you gain in savings, you lose in features. For instance, Revit LT lacks in-product rendering capability and can’t do lighting analysis.
Whichever route you take, you can benefit from Autodesk’s 15- or 30-day money-back guarantee and reliable customer support options.
However, Revit’s 30-day trial may exclude rendering features. But qualified students and educators may use it for free.
Revit comes with all the perks of every Autodesk product. But its user-specific editions can help you obtain excellent architect rendering software as your needs grow.
5. Unity Pro
Strong tech support
Customizable rendering functionality
Per-seat pricing model
Pro is the mid-tier premium version of the Unity 2D and 3D game engine.
It’s perfect for producing content you only need to build once and deploy across dozens of platforms. You can create 3D games and immersive experiences for desktops, mobile devices, and gaming consoles.
To get started, you have to download Unity Hub, which runs on Windows, macOS, and Linux. The installation process should be smooth sailing once you have your Unity ID.
With Unity’s customizable Scriptable Render Pipeline technology, you can tailor the rendering process and see changes in real-time.
You have two options to choose from: Universal Render Pipeline and High Definition Render Pipeline.
The former is ideal for maximizing your interactive project’s platform reach without coding, while the latter helps you optimize your content for high-end hardware.
This 3D rendering software provider markets the Pro edition for small teams, selling it on a per-seat basis. You place an order for up to 21 users for $150/seat/month. If you need more seating, you’ll have to contact sales.
Unity Technologies offers nothing but an auto-renewing annual subscription, but paying 12 months in advance is optional. So, you can still pony up for the bill monthly.
The company generally shuns refund requests. But you can get Unity Pro for free by:
- Using its watermarked trial for 30 days.
- Going with the personal or student plan.
- Applying for the Unity Education Grant License for multi-seat classroom settings.
With this vendor, you’d have to pay extra for technical assistance. The cost of standard tech support is $183.33/seat/month, which includes the Unity Pro license.
For premium support, the price starts at $2,100/month.
There’s no getting around it: the full extent of Unity Technologies’ support capability costs serious coin. But if you have the means and truly value quality customer care, the expense is worth it.
No installation cap
Perpetual floating license
14-day free trial
Lumion is architect rendering software that can improve your design workflow. You can manually feed it 3D models from the following major CAD and BIM programs:
- Collada (.dae)
- SketchUp (.skp)
- Autodesk (.fbx, .dwg, and .dxf)
- 3ds Max (.3ds and .max)
- Wavefront (.obj)
To directly move designs into it, you can leverage its downloadable LiveSync plugins for:
- AutoDesk FormIt
With its real-time rendering prowess, Lumion lets you model as you render and vice versa.
Moreover, the number of assets and effects you can access would depend on the CAD rendering software edition you choose. And you have a pair of options: Standard and Pro.
Functionality-wise, the former has a third of Lumion’s assets library and limited rendering effects. Meanwhile, the latter has it all.
In the compatibility department, these two are virtually even. And you can install either on hardware that runs at least x62 Windows 10 and has a dedicated graphics card.
Either way, you’ll get a perpetual floating license. You can use it indefinitely and install it on countless PCs, provided they belong to you.
Originally priced in euros, Standard and Pro cost about $1,608 and $3,218, respectively, in dollar terms before tax. Both are available for trial use for 14 days and have a two-week money-back guarantee.
If you need to share your CAD rendering software license with someone else, you’d just have to buy more seats. Every extra seat costs the same as the license’s price. But you may get a volume discount when buying in bulk.
If you’re a student or faculty member, you may use Lumion’s free educational license for non-commercial purposes.
As for support, the company has tutorials, support tickets, a knowledge base, FAQ pages, and an active community.
Lumion is perfect for individual users, but its price can be exorbitant for teams. Still, it’s cheap in the long run, even though its cost can be steep at first.
7. Adobe Dimension
Adobe product integrations
7-day free trial
Dimension is a 3D design rendering app that supports models in the following formats:
As a virtual photo studio, it lets you arrange content elements like lighting and objects in 3D space.
To produce photorealistic images, the Dimension software uses various rendering types.
In Design mode, canvas is the best option for speed but sacrifices accuracy. Plus, it doesn’t display some effects like reflections.
Its Render Preview uses ray tracing to enhance the image’s quality. The result won’t be on par with the final render, but it’s enough to see how good your output would be. And, of course, you can put the finishing touches in Render Mode.
Dimension renders 3D models locally on the hardware. It can run on x64 Windows 10 Anniversary Update or higher and macOS 10.12 (Sierra) or up.
The 3D model rendering software edition for individuals comes in monthly and annual subscriptions, costing $49.99–$82.49/month. If you want your yearly subscription billed monthly, there’s a cancellation fee in case you don’t finish it.
Also, there’s a Dimension license for students and teachers for $29.99/month. And expect to save cash during your first year with Adobe’s introductory discounts.
If you want to go all-in on Adobe products, you can sign up for the Creative Cloud. This bundle of 20+ apps has editions for businesses and educational institutions, with a starting price of $54.99/month.
Whichever direction you take, you can enjoy a 14-day money-back guarantee. Considering Dimension has a seven-day free trial, such a refund policy is quite generous.
If you need technical assistance, you can choose from Adobe’s bevy of support channels.
Dimension is the most intuitive rendering solution we’ve come across. But it’s known to have some flaws, especially during exporting. Be sure to test it out first to see if Adobe has ironed out its kinks.
Renderro is an online 3D modeler, editor, and renderer rolled into one.
As a rendering program, it supports any 3D software, including Maya, Cinema 4D, and Blender. It’s hyper-scalable, letting you maximize Renderro’s robust cloud infrastructure on a pay-as-you-go basis.
You can choose from four setups, which may cost you as little as $7.99–$9.99/hour. But as far as hyper-realistic rendering goes, your best bet is the Turbo configuration. It can reduce the rendering time of even the most resource-intensive scenes by up to 75%.
If you don’t need the rendering part of the program, you can simply move between setups to cut your costs until you do.
This software provider sells four plans: Freelancer, Pro, Studio, and Enterprise.
Available in monthly and annual billing, the first three cost anywhere from $40.83 to $250/month. Enterprise is subject to custom pricing. It’s neat when you find Renderro’s standard sets of resources inadequate.
Besides CPU, GPU, and RAM customizations, this digital rendering software vendor’s storage is configurable too. You can buy 1 TB of extra space for $25/month. With Studio, you can extend the Cloud Desktop limit from 2 to 5 for $99/computer/month.
To avoid having too much skin in the game while testing Renderro, use Freelancer’s seven-day paid trial. This option allows you to explore its ins and outs for just $1 a day.
To see how Renderro works, you can check out the company’s tutorials, blog, and knowledge base.
Apart from joining its Discord, you can engage this vendor via phone or email. It can also schedule a demo by request.
Renderro embodies seamless scalability, but there’s no way to try it out without a credit card. Paying an access fee of $7 for 7 days isn’t too bad, though.
Two rendering engines
Cross-platform animation rendering software
Blender is an open-source 3D creation suite.
Its render software supports macOS, Windows, and Linux. Blender’s also portable, so you can install it on a flash drive and take it with you wherever you go.
It’s useful for the entire design pipeline. But on the rendering front, this software has two engines: one ultra-realistic and one non-photorealistic.
Blender’s photorealistic renderer is Cycles. It’s based on ray tracing and lends itself to both CPU and GPU rendering approaches. It’s stacked with features, but the most notable ones are unilateral path-tracing, PBR shaders, and HDR lighting.
Blender’s new EEVEE engine gives you more accurate Cycles shading and viewport previews in real-time – and also accelerates the shading and texturing process.
The full extent of Cycles’ capabilities makes it suitable for all things filmmaking. Likewise, this production rendering engine supports immersive experiences like virtual reality.
If you intend to create non-photorealistic content, you can use the Freestyle engine instead. It can generate a huge array of pre-scripted line styles. But if you’re technically proficient, you can use Python scripting to push the envelope.
This cross-platform 3D rendering app has decent interoperability. It supports a wide selection of file formats, including:
This means you can import files from third-party 2D and 3D software and then export and edit them elsewhere.
In terms of licensing, you can use Blender for any purpose at no cost. It’s a bold departure from other free renderer licenses that prohibit commercial use.
Plus, the organization behind Blender relies on other sources of funding, so it stays free forever.
Blender’s documentation is available for public consumption. It has a massive library of YouTube tutorials and maintains a myriad of forums.
The real cost of using Blender is quantifiable in days, not dollars. This 3D model rendering software is too sophisticated for the novice. But hey, no mountain is high enough if you have the patience and drive to use it to maximum effect.
What Is Rendering Software?
Also known as a renderer, rendering software is a program that generates 2D imagery from 3D (or 2D) models. Called renders, the resulting graphics would bring your creative scenes to life.
There are multiple elements that could compromise a model, but the three main ones are geometry, lighting, and viewpoint. The renderer’s job is to use the descriptions of a scene to produce a more refined version of it. The output doesn’t have to be super realistic, though.
The rendering process is a major stage near the end of the design pipeline. So, the final render is the finished product.
How To Choose the Right Software
In the digital age, computer graphics are ubiquitous.
Naturally, the market is awash with rendering tools. And it’s all too easy to pick the wrong one for the job.
To filter out the products that don’t suit your needs and identify the right one, consider the following:
Is the software designed to render particular scenes?
Some rendering engines try to be one-size-fits-all solutions. But many vendors optimize their apps for specific types of visualization. For example, those meant for gaming may not be perfect for architecture.
Research how a rendering software provider advertises its program to know how flexible it is. Just don’t overestimate its capability. Even a robust renderer would underperform when used improperly.
What technologies can the renderer work on?
Find out the list of modeling programs your prospective rendering engine is compatible with. It’s imperative that you know the file formats it supports to import and export models without friction.
The same goes for your existing computer. If you can’t run your chosen 3D rendering app on your hardware’s OS, you may have to upgrade it.
A piece of hardware suitable for 3D rendering can be a big-ticket purchase. So, you may want to consider using a cloud workstation or a render farm.
This way, you can achieve your goals through online rendering with your current computer. After all, it’s not always practical to spend good money on expensive hardware. This holds especially true if you only need to use a renderer occasionally.
How hard is the rendering tool to set up?
Most 3D rendering tools are a sub-component of standalone design apps. Others are independent programs that exist within a wider ecosystem.
Some are plugins and extensions built to lend more functionality to other software. And the number of cloud-based solutions is growing.
Understand the nature of the program to have an idea of how easy or difficult its setup is.
Don’t forget about system requirements too. Renderers demand certain hardware specs to function as intended.
What exactly can the renderer do?
Learn about the visualization technique behind the engine. Design rendering software vendors widely use ray tracing, but that’s just one of many possibilities.
The technique used would determine the level of realism the render exudes. It also matters in achieving the art style you envision.
Moreover, pay attention to the effects a renderer is capable of applying. They’d tell how the software tries to simulate real life and how effective it is at that.
How fast can an application render?
Programs that specialize in pre-rendering would use your CPU as the primary resource for calculations. CPU rendering is notoriously time-consuming but makes it possible to render advanced effects.
Due to the impressive photorealism CPU rendering can produce, architectural visualization artists and movie studios love it.
An increasing number of renderers leverage GPUs to display results in real-time. GPU rendering is preferred in interactive app development as it can deliver smoother graphics in fewer frames per second.
Real-time rendering, as the name suggests, is speedy. In the past, GPU-based 3D rendering programs couldn’t handle complex computations and required approximations in post-processing to achieve target results.
Thanks to the advancement of technology, the limitations of GPU rendering are becoming a thing of the past.
Ease of Use
Are you technical enough for the rendering app?
Make sure that the software’s usability matches your level of expertise. Not all tools have a straightforward setup process and simple interface. Some will always be easier to navigate than others.
If you don’t have the time to master the functionality of a complex tool, choose a beginner-friendly one. But if you’re an experienced user, you may be able to maximize a sophisticated renderer with little trial and error.
Sometimes, it’s you who has to adjust to the app, not the other way around.
So if you must use an unfamiliar program, check out if there are enough helpful tutorials to guide you. The easier the instructions are to follow, the faster you can learn the ins and outs of a rendering engine.
How will the digital rendering app vendor help you in your hour of need?
As mentioned, quality tutorials and other self-help resources can bail you out in cases of technical trouble. However, more often than not, they only address basic issues.
You can only do so much on your end. So, you should use a renderer provider that can meaningfully assist you through thick and thin.
A reliable vendor should be reachable via multiple channels and have a help desk that never sleeps.
How much are you willing to pay for a rendering software license?
When it comes to renderers, you get what you pay for. Software vendors know the value they can offer and charge accordingly.
Having said that, you may not have to fork over your cash right away. Free and paid trials aren’t uncommon. So, take advantage of them to see whether the renderer does exactly what it says on the tin before committing.
Freeware is hard to come by. But many vendors offer educational licenses that permit students and teachers to use their 3D rendering tools for free.
Also, pay attention to pricing structures.
Unless pay-as-you-go is the default payment model, rendering software companies generally advertise fees in monthly terms. So, be mindful of the subscription’s length and do the math. This way, you can tell exactly how much you have to pay to avoid going over budget.
For maximum savings, consider a perpetual license, if available. This would make sense if you intend to stick to the software long-term. A perpetual license would cost way more than any subscription at first. But you’d have one less regular bill to think about.
Lastly, take time to read about the vendor’s refund policy, if there’s any. Some money-back guarantees are conditional and/or short.
But even those inspire much-needed peace of mind in case you regret your purchase after the fact.
So, there you have it.
We hope that this helps you make an informed decision when the moment comes.
But to be honest, you can’t go wrong with any of the best rendering software featured here. We’ve already filtered out the bad apples. It’s just a matter of personal preference now.
Most of them cost nothing to try anyway. So, feel free to test-drive as many as you want until you find the right one for you.
What is rendering used for?
Rendering is a process of turning 3D (or 2D) models into 2D images. It lends unrealistic styles or photorealistic elements to raw scenes.
It’s instrumental in creating quality visualizations in different industries, including architecture, interior design, and gaming.
Can we do online rendering?
Yes, online rendering is a thing.
If your computer doesn’t have great specs, you can use render farms and cloud workstations. This way, you can harness the power of high-end hardware to get quality renders done quickly.
What is the easiest rendering software?
Of all of our favorites, Adobe Dimension is the most user-friendly. On the other end of the spectrum are Maya and Blender.
How can I render for free?
Most renderers are available for use at no cost one way or another. But of course, there’s almost always some restriction.
The best rendering software program that fits the bill is Blender, which is totally free.
3ds Max, Maya, and Revit, among others, have an exclusive free edition for students and educators.
Lumion is available for trial use for 14 days only.
And V-Ray would be refundable if you cancel it within your first two weeks of subscription.
Romj is a veteran copywriter who used to be a Jack of all trades. Now, he's trying to be a master of one: technology. He jumps down the rabbit hole to size the latest innovations up. As a content contributor for TechJury, he hopes to help you keep up in our fast-paced world with his discoveries.
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