There are some new versions of art software coming along this year. I’ll mention the ones which have caught my eye and a few others which are of general interest.
I don’t own a tablet but I may as well mention an interesting update to the 2D painting application Procreate 5.2 which will introduce the ability to paint on 3D models. No doubt this feature will be very useful to tablet users.
The developers of 3D Coat, a voxel based 3D sculpting application with UV mapping tools and model painting tools is working on a 2021 Beta version which you can download as a trial here: 3D Coat 2021 Beta trial.
New features will include a new brush engine, rich curves toolset, low poly modelling, smart retopo, new GUI and sculpt layers.
Moho a vector based 2D animation suite, recently got re-acquired from Smith Micro to its original creators Lost Marble.
They just released a new version 13.5 which introduces some new features including Vitruvian bones, quad meshes and wind dynamics. Cartoon Saloon is a professional animation company which makes use of Moho, most recently with Wolfwalkers.
Blender is a free Open Source 3D creation suite.
The current stable version of Blender as I write this is 2.92 but they have a roadmap on their website detailing the planned updates for the next version of Blender. Improvements to the Cycles rendering engine, animation tools and grease pencil features are just a few of the things they are working on. There is a really interesting article about how Cartoon Saloon a 2D animation studio used Blender for some 3D pre-visualization for their latest film Wolfwalkers.
Blender 2.93 LTS has just been released.
This is an amazing update, watch this excellent video to find out what is new in five minutes:
Silo and Milo
Silo which is for 3D modelling and UVs in a lightweight application has had an update recently. It also comes with a new real time rendering application called Milo which is built atop Epics Unreal Engine. Find out more on their website: Silo
Ive been very impressed with the development of PD Howler 2021 and it is a fun program to use every so often for digital painting and cool effects. It doesn’t replace Krita (or something like Photoshop or Affinity Photo) because of the lack of PSD support and layer compatibility, but it has some nice tools and unique features you may want to check out.
I have to admit I hardly use most of its potential for 3D effects and animation, particularly the cool 3D animated flyovers. Its feature set is really impressive for such an affordable application.
Also of interest is that the developers of PD Howler have recently been using the 3D Coat beta and making videos on how to use PD Howlers height map features with 3D Coat.
I recently learned from their newsletter that they have been working on Howler 2022. New features so far include:
- Non-Local Means noise removal filter
- Adaptive Threshold filter
- An option to feather the alpha channel.
- Distance Transform filter
- Stored images now have the option to be marked as Indelible, meaning they will survive a program restart.
- Multi-frequency option for CLAHE (Contrast Limited Adaptive Histogram Equalization)
- filter/combine by swap filter to calculate the Euclidean distance between the pixels of the two images
The newsletter said for people currently using version 2021 If you want to get Howler 2022 you can use the upgrade option on their website. They are updating the page soon to reflect this.
I caved in and bought a ZBrush license last year and I have not been disappointed. It is a wonderful 3D sculpting application. There are subscription and cheaper versions available but I got the full version because it was my birthday and I’d been putting it off for too long.
It has had some pretty cool updates just in the time since I got it and it now at version 2021.6 which introduced some new 3D sketching features, 2Dalpha extrusions along curves (hair brush), snake curve brushes and true raytracing ambient occlusion among others.
The free ZBrushCoreMini was recently updated to version 2021.
I use Krita all the time for Illustration and digital painting so I’ve always got my eye on what they are working on. I hope they don’t think I’m stalking them LOL. I think the next big update (version 5) will be a while but version 4.4.3 was released back in March this year.
The Krita development team has been busy making videos detailing the upcoming version 5 release (planned release date is August this year).
Curvy 3D Go
This qualifies for this article because there was an update back in February this year. Curvy 3D Go is a nice little lite 3D art application you can get on Steam. I’ve been using it to make quick base meshes which I then work on in ZBrush.
ZBrush is introducing more 2D sketching tools to the 3D features, but Curvy 3D is still ahead of the curve (for the 2D sketching base mesh approach- not the sculpting, but it does have basic tools for that as well) in my opinion. Not surprising because that is it’s chief focus. It just seems easier to use for quick base meshes using sketching and curve tools, but I am still new to ZBrush.
I think Curvy 3D Go is ideal for people who are new to 3D coming from a 2D background and it is only £3.99.
Quixel Mixer 2021
Quixel Mixer is a free 3D texturing tool by Epic Games. They recently had an update which introduced some improvements in the latest release. Find out more by looking at this feature snapshot video and visiting their website.
Material Maker 0.95
Material Maker is an Open Source procedural PBR (Physically Based Rendering) materials authoring tool, based on the Godot Engine. From version 0.94 which was released in January of this year it also includes 3D painting tools.
Version 0.95 released in April introduces more feature updates including an editor for 3D environments using HDRI images and directional lights (for the mesh painting and preview), major updates to the nodes/brushes library management and some improved nodes. Find out more here: Material Maker 0.95 update notes.
Inkscape 1.1 was recently released. It is a free and Open Source software for making vector based graphics.
Under Development and Experimental
I’ll mention a few things I’ve seen which are being worked on and look interesting.
This one looks interesting because it is a sketch based 3D modelling tool. It isn’t quite ready yet, but there will be a beta version.
NClay is a multi-platform, multithreaded, Vulkan based 3D sculpting software using subdivision surfaces that developer Germano Cesari has been working on for several years. He has recently released it to the public for free under a MIT license and wants feedback from artists.
I haven’t really tested it very much myself yet but it looks really promising. The UI is simple and intuitive and the developer is helpful, friendly and takes feedback into account. One to keep an eye on perhaps.
This is a web based tool by Stéphane GINIER (developer of Nomad and SculptGL) experimenting with raymarched signed distance field 3D modelling technology.
A prototype software in development by MagicaVoxel developer ephtracy. There are some examples/demos of this available on Twitter under the hashtag #sdf_edit.
Hopefully it will have its own webpage eventually.
The early development version can be downloaded (for free) here: MagicaCSG.
The examples by artist Ryan Corniel who must be a tester for the software look very nice.
There are already a few videos about this software on YouTube. Given the popularity of MagicaVoxel I would say this is definitely one to keep an eye on. It reminds me of Clayxels.
Neobarok is a free 3D modelling tool in development by sole developer Lucian Stanculescu. Version 2.1.2 was released earlier in the year and there is a VR tool called Clavicula being worked on behind the scenes. There is not much information on this software but it does have video examples and a work in progress documentation.
Thanks for reading!
I’ll probably add things from time to time to this article as I find out about them.