updated March 17, 2013
There are a growing number of low-cost and pro-level 3D modeling tools that export to the COLLADA format. Some are available through Apple’s Mac App store. Below is a list of low-cost and free 3D tools. Some of these have better support and more features than others. I’ve rated them by skill-level requirement, 10 being for more experienced users.
3D Apps for iBooks Author
- Blender ~ 7
[opinion] I have not figured out this well received 3D tool. Perhaps it’s the 3-button mouse requirement which my MacBook Pro lacks? Although there are lots of tutorials, it feels over-bloated to me. Help me out here, anyone use Blender regularly for illustration purposes?
- Carrara ~ 5
Carrara was a merge of some of my favorite 3D apps of the 90’s – Ray Dream Studio (REALLY an awesome 3D tool which I miss) and Infini-D (a terrific UI and very good renderer) Possibly need to use this plug-in: https://code.google.com/p/carrara-collada/
- Cheetah 3D ~ 5
This approachable and versatile tool surprised me with how well rounded it is. The capabilities are fairly complete for some standard and complex modeling. It’s only $100 which, compared to other commercial apps, it’s a steal for what you get.
- Shade 3D (iOS only) ~ 3
I have nothing to say about this, other than it’s not a desktop app. I question the level of user-satisfaction from something traditionally requiring more depth (parden the pun) in a modeling tool. Anyone use this and have an opinion they want to share my my minions or readers?
- SketchUp ~ 2
Google acquired this years back and it’s one of the easiest 3D apps to date.
I have been a Strata user since day one – back in the early 90’s on my first computer, a PowerMac 7100. It’s fairly intuitive, and works very well with Adobe CS apps. What Strata has done with this app and their marketing is to make it as usable and familiar as possible for any graphic designer. So, if Illustrator is your first design tool, you’ll love Strata 3D.
If you have any experience with any of these, I welcome your comments.