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Learn about 3D animation

What is 3D rendering software?

3D rendering software is the process of generating an image from a model by means of computer software. Rendering is used in architecture, simulators, video games, movies and television visual effects and design visualization. 3D rendering, the last step in an animation process, gives the final appearance to the models and animation with visual effects such as shading, texture-mapping, shadows, reflections and motion blurs.

Types of 3D rendering

  • Software rendering

    Software rendering produces images of the highest quality, letting you achieve the most sophisticated results. Computation occurs on the CPU, as opposed to hardware rendering, which relies on the machine’s graphics card.

  • Hardware rendering

    Hardware rendering uses the computer's video card and drivers to render images to disk. It is generally faster than software rendering, but typically produces images of lower quality compared to software rendering.

  • Vector rendering

    Vector rendering lets you create stylized renderings (for example, cartoon, tonal art, line art, hidden line, wireframe) in various bitmap image formats and 2D vector formats.

  • Cloud rendering

    Rendering in the cloud takes advantage of virtually infinite computing power. Quickly create photorealistic and high-resolution images in a fraction of the time required on your desktop.

How is rendering software used?

Home – a VR Spacewalk

London VR production studio developed Home, an epic virtual-reality spacewalk inspired by astronaut training programs at NASA.

See what our customers are doing

The Walt Disney Company

In Moana, Disney artists programmed a CGI ocean to behave like real water does, and gave it a personality the real ocean doesn’t have.

Ready At Dawn

These game makers are pushing the boundaries of video gaming across platforms and devices, to create rich game worlds and characters that feel "real".

Featured 3D rendering software

Media & Entertainment Collection

Get Maya + 3ds Max + Arnold + more

The Media & Entertainment Collection provides end-to-end tools for creating animation content, from first draft to final frames.

Workflows for rendering software

  • Rapid-prototype modeling and rendering

  • Building visualization

  • Learn about new procedural tool sets in Maya 2017, speed up modeling workflows, and gain insight into physically based shader presets in Arnold.

  • Learn how to use 3ds Max software to generate high-quality still images and animations of building models created in Revit software.

Free rendering software

Free software for students and educators

We offer free Autodesk software for students and educators. Use the same 3D animation software as top professionals around the world.

Free software for nonprofits

Are you a nonprofit or entrepreneur working to create positive impact through design? See if you qualify for our Technology Impact Program.

Rendering software resources

Learn more about rendering software with these tutorials, tips, and guides.

  • Watch video lessons on rendering and visualizations from expert rendering artists and architects.

  • Autodesk's official CG community. View free tutorials on rendering and get the latest industry news.

  • Learn how to move your design visualizations from 3ds Max into VR, to add more immersion and interactivity.

  • Join our technical experts in this webinar series focusing on cloud-connected reality capture, 3D BIM modeling, and immersive visualization.

  • Learn about innovative workflows to create interactive visualizations and virtual reality experiences.

  • View our comprehensive online gallery of design projects rendered using Autodesk software.