Please help design my workflow for 3D


Would anyone be so kind as to give me some advice regarding choosing the right tools please?
I’m just a hobbyist digital artist, so far I’ve been entirely focused on 2D, using mostly Photoshop and Illustrator.
I’d like to start developing some 3D skills to use it mostly for illustrations (but maybe also play around with VR too).

I’m planning to use UE4 for real-time rendering (as regular CPU/GPU rendering is very slow and not fun at all), but I’m having real trouble with picking the right tools to make the workflow trouble-free and efficient.
Also, it would be really great to limit software cost to 100 USD per month.

  • I’m mostly interested in concept design and environments, but sometimes also doing vehicles and characters.
  • I’m not planning any animation or rigging
  • Not really interested in pure-sculpting tools like Zbrush
  • the goal is to have fun, whatever software is popular is completely irrelevant in my case

Which tools would be the best in my situation?
I can’t decide between MODO and Blender, now thinking about trying Maya too.
Should I also consider tools like Nvil, Mari or Substance Designer?

Could you please recommend any efficient workflow/tools to use with UE4?
Any help would be much appreciated! : ) Thanks!

lot of questions there. I’d say watch some intro tutorials to all the software you just listed. I think you’ll find one stands out to you as something you’d like more for one reason or another. If you can’t decide watch a few more tutorials on the software you’re choosing between. Then I’d say go find forums for that software. If the forums are active you will find a home for using it. If not… move on.

Everything you listed is cool, but you can’t learn it all at the same time so start with the main 3D modeling package.

Heya TonkaDrone,

I am not an expert or professional, mostly a hobbyist/hopeful Indie VR Dev and I found for ME personally the workflow with Maya LT 2016 ($30/Month at or Steam) as well as Substance Indie ($19.90/Month at their website) gets pretty much everything and anything I want into UE4 simple and pain free. Maya LT for the modeling (also rigging/animation though you said you don’t need that) as well as Substance for beautiful textures. Because Maya uses FBX format which is owned by Autodesk (which owns Maya) and FBX is the format UE4 takes I found it very easy pipeline to get stuff in and out of UE4 simply without any headaches. Before I was using Blender, which is very powerful, but when it came to import/export and the various things that could and would go wrong with simple models or rigs and animations I found just paying for Maya’s tools much simpler in the long run.

Just my two-cents, do with it what you will :slight_smile: Have fun in UE4!


P.S. Also to learn Maya LT 2016 (which was released March 26th 2015) you can use Maya LT 2015 or even Maya 2015 tutorials, most of the stuff carries over fine.


Thanks so much for your suggestions!
I still haven’t decided yet though - looks like each modelling software has its pros and cons!

MODO has most powerful modelling tools, but “MODO Indie” appears to have some UE4 and Substance limitations that Maya LT doesn’t.
Blender is fantastic, but it seems that GPL license somehow limits interoperability with proprietary software.
Maya LT provides smooth pipeline, but the modelling tools seems to be the weakest…

Awww… Why there are so many choices!
Would it be still OK to choose Maya LT if I’m not planning any animation or rigging?

I would go with Maya LT if I were in the market.

I think I’m gonna try the following and see how it turns out:
Photoshop + Quixel SUITE + MODO Indie + UE4

I think Quixel might be better than Allegorithmic for me, because everything is based on Photoshop which I constantly use anyway.
I guess it might be also just easier, as I already need to learn tons of other things…

MODO has probably the best modelling tools so a n00b like me might find it easier to create something nice.
It’s also getting popularity in commercial use, so it might be beneficial one day if I’m to switch my careers or become a freelancer or something.
MODO Indie has also excellent renderer built-in, so it might come in handy too…

As noted earlier, I’m just a scrub so I’m not even sure if that makes any sense, but that’s what I came to the conclusion of after a week of thinking :smiley:

So you mentioned not wanting to do animation or rigging but wanting to work with UE4. That’s a broad stroke hard line to draw for yourself. UE4 has a whole system called the ART (Animation and Rigging Tool) that allows you to do these things within the engine. While I agree starting with something like basic extrusion models is a great idea and super duper fun time USA, I think that eventually you are going to want to see those models live and breathe. You just are.

I use Maya and I’m going to explain why. I’m a technical producer and the artists that I manage use Max/Maya/Zbrush. It is very common in gaming to find Autodesk products and so that’s why when I, many moons ago, decided I wanted to be a cool kid too, started playing with animation and modeling, chose Maya as well. It’s pretty affordable and it is /very/ compatible with UE in UI and FBX pipeline. Generally, if something is popular it is because it is A) good, B) easy to use, C) affordable, and D) compatible. Maya is a big thing, it can do a lot more than you want, but that’s not a bad thing. Like I said eventually you may want to expand your horizons and you don’t want to have painted yourself into a tiny box. What if you find out that after all this modeling and painting you rig your first skeleton and do your first basic animation and fall completely in love with the process? It happens, it totally happens. Don’t decide now what future you wants. Leave all doors open.

MODO is not bad, I’m not saying don’t use it. I’m just saying that there is a reason people and studios choose Maya and Blender (Blender is basically open source Maya, it’s not as robust and I don’t use it nearly as much so I can’t speak to it in as much depth, but it’s still a good choice for beginners plus free).

Being new to modeling doesn’t mean you are less or should use less, not that MODO is less or anything, like I said it’s great. You just consistently say you are a noob and stuff and that’s not the way to think. You are at like the coolest phase of learning. Learn everything. Starting yourself off right with tools that will allow you the best understanding of the world around you and an industry you’ve expressed you may someday want to work in is a really great way to start yourself off.


Thank you so much for valuable advice! I’ll definitely keep that in mind.
What mainly attracts me to MODO is modelling speed and versatility.

This short video here shows how it’s being used in concept design

I can’t really do that with Maya LT as it doesn’t even have a renderer.

Another example - Tor Frick with one of his 1 hour environments:

This is really a tough decision to make… But I think that proper UE4 integration in MODO is only a matter of time!

I’m sorry, I got a bit sick and busy and went off the grid there. So yes, Maya LT does not support rendering but it supports the full…you know hang on there was an article about this.

There we go.

Also, you are using UE4 which DOES support rendering. It’s 100% your choice, fully your call, I just wanted to offer another perspective. Since the FBX pipeline is so simplified in Unreal and easy to optimize via Maya, I figured it was worth talking it through.

I’m not sure the future of non-FBX pipelines in UE4, but I’d be interested to know as it is relevant to other projects I have been working on as well.

Good luck!