15 Best Maya Alternatives

Any professional animator will agree that Maya – Autodesk Maya – is one of the best applications for animation and 3D modeling. Maya lets you create realistic characters and effects using modern animation tools.

You can model 3D objects and scenes with ease and simulate effects like explosions. Scale for complexity, functionality to create stunning visuals, and state-of-the-art iteration are just some reasons why professional animators chose Maya.

The platform, however, can’t do everything. Depending on what you need, there might be some features Maya lacks.

Most of the complaints about Maya are about the price. Maya’s pricing starts at $225 per month and peaks at $5,089 every three years. In between, there’s the $1,785 annual plan. These prices may be too expensive for you to pay.

Furthermore, some users wish Maya had a more friendly UI. Your reason for wanting a Maya alternative may be different.

Notwithstanding, I’ll be listing out the 15 best Maya alternatives in this post, for you to choose from.

Best Maya Alternatives

1. Blender

Blender is a 3D creation suite that’s about as popular as Maya. In terms of features, Blender is tantamount to Maya – some users even say it’s better. Notably, Blender supports the whole 3D people line system.

In other words, you can use Blender for 3D modeling, rigging, animation, compositing, video editing, simulation, rendering, and motion tracking.

Blender comes with a built-in unbiased path-tracer engine known as Cycles. Cycles work for ultra-realistic 3D rendering. It supports PBR shaders, HDR lighting, and VR rendering.

VFX tracking in Blender is rated as the best in the market, ahead of Maya and other 3D modeling tools. With Blender’s built-in camera and object tracking, you can import and track raw footage, mask it, and watch it live in your 3D scene.

As an open-source platform, Blender is constantly updated which means its features are always improving.

Thanks to the open-source nature of the app, Blender has a strong user community on social platforms, most especially YouTube. Using Blender makes you part of this community.

Blender Pricing

While Maya is a paid and proprietary software, Blender is free and open source. Hence, if you need a free platform to replace Maya, Blender is your best bet.

2. Unity

One feature most Maya users wish the tool has is a game engine. You can only access a game engine with Maya LT which is a different software. With Unity, you get one of the best game engines in the market.

Unity is a real-time development platform; a 3D, 2D VR, and AR engine. Side by Side, the platform has more features than Maya. In addition to the game engine, the platform supports automotive, transportation, and manufacturing of real-time 3D models.

You can create films, animations, and cinematics thanks to support for more creative iteration and wider integration. Unity also works for architecture, engineering, and construction.

Unity Pricing

Unity isn’t a very affordable tool but it’s not as expensive as Maya. In addition, there’s a free plan albeit it is exclusive for students.

Here are the full pricing plans:

  • Personal Plan: Free (for students only)
  • Plus Plan: starts at $399 per year per user
  • Pro Plan: starts at $1,800 per year per user
  • Enterprise Plan: starts at $4,000 per month per 20 users

Note that some features come with additional costs post-subscription.

3. SketchUp

SketchUp was launched to make 3D modeling easy for everyone. It’s a proprietary tool, like Maya, but it’s freemium. You can use it for free to “discover 3D modeling”. This includes access to a web-based 3D modeler, mobile model viewer, and 10GB of cloud storage.

With the SketchUp desktop modeler, you can create anything you imagine. It’s a full-featured modeler. It’s simple, yet powerful, with a focus on accuracy.

SketchUp is a Maya alternative to opt for if you do a lot of architectural designs. Its 3D modeling features are better fitted for architecture than animation.

One of the advantages of using SketchUp is access to hundreds of expertly-developed extensions. These extensions are available in the SketchUp Warehouse and will save you the considerable time you would spend creating the products and models yourself.

SketchUp Pricing

SketchUp is far more affordable than Maya. Excluding the free, $0 plan, here are the available pricing plans:

Personal Plans

  • Shop Plan: $119 per year
  • Pro Plan: $299 per year

Professional Plans

  • Shop Plan: $119 per year
  • Pro Plan: $299 per year
  • Studio Plan: $699 per year

SketchUp also has exclusive plans for academic institutions – Higher Education Plans and Primary & Secondary Plans.

Find out the best alternatives to Sketchup in this post.

4. Cinema 4D

Not minding its name, Cinema 4D is primarily for 3D computer animation, modeling, simulation, and rendering.

However, Cinema 4D is renowned for its intuitive interface. Notably, it features an expansive preset system, UI enhancements, and what you can call a modern skin. Hence, you should find it easier to use than Maya.

Cinema 4D features a presets system, a library of already created 3D objects, materials, and node capsules. In addition, there is the scene nodes system for faster workflow as it creates entire scenes in a hierarchy-based view.

Cinema 4D Pricing

Cinema 4D is a part of the Maxon One product catalog. Hence, you can purchase the entire Maxon suite or purchase just Cinema 4D. Also worth noting that Maya is still more expensive. Cinema 4D Pricing plans include:

Individual Plans

  • Maxon One Plan: $149 per month ($99.91 per month with annual payment: $1,199)
  • Cinema 4D Plan: $94 per month ($59.91 per month with annual payment: $719)

Teams Plan

  • Maxon One Plan: $1399 per year
  • Cinema 4D Plan: $949 per year

Cinema 4D also features perpetual pricing plans and plans for schools, teachers, students, and distributors.

5. LightWave 3D

LightWave, by NewTek, is a platform for independent artists. Perhaps it’s the oldest Maya alternative on this list as its initial release was in 1990. It works for 3D modeling, animation, and rendering.

For the most part, what you get with LightWave 3D is a modeler and layout. However, the most recent updates came with some major additions.

Examples are the new global illumination render engines, FiberX shaders, OpenVDB production tools, tone mapping, local action center, improved scene editor, and a redesigned motion system among others.

These are some reasons why you could opt for LightWave 3D as an alternative to Maya. You can use LightWave 3D on Windows and Mac computers.

LightWave 3D Pricing

You can try LightWave 3D free – risk-free with access to every feature – for 30 days. Afterward, you have to buy the software; it’s unlike Maya where you pay monthly subscriptions. The prices include:

  • Full Commercial Version: $995 one-time payment
  • Upgrade: $495 – $595 depending on the version you’re upgrading from

Like a few other alternatives on this list, LightWave 3D also features exclusive editions for educational institutions.

6. Modo

The next Maya alternative on this list is Modo. It shares similarities with Maya in terms of 3D modeling, 3D rendering, and animation. Tagged the “starting point for creative exploration,” most users pick Modo over Maya for its ease of use.

Modo comes with a powerful and versatile 3D modeling, animation, texturing, and rendering toolset. The pipe system lets you construct your own tools; you can as well create gesture controls for the system using the OmniHaul feature.

With support for Rig Clay and Modo’s sophisticated Order of Operations deformation system, you can edit geometry like a pro – even if you’re a novice.

Furthermore, Modo features a physical-based hybrid renderer with iterative denoising technology known as mPath. In essence, mPath allows you to quickly and intuitively see the results of your creations in real-time.

Modo Pricing

Modo gives you the option to pay yearly subscriptions or monthly subscriptions. The pricing plans include:

  • Modo Maintenance Plan: $462 per year
  • Modo Subscription: $689 per year or $68 per month

Modo also features Education, Business, and Enterprise plans but they are all custom plans; you must contact the sales team to get a quote.

7. Bforartists

Here is another noteworthy tool on our list. It was created for artists, hence, Be For Artists – Bforartists.

Based on functionality, Bforartists is more comparable to Blender, which was mentioned earlier, than to Maya. In fact, it’s a fork from Blender, created by 3D enthusiasts to improve the software.

Mainly, the fork aims to improve the graphical user interface and overall usability. Bforartists has a comprehensive 3D art pipeline for games, movies, and stills. You can use it for 3D modeling, rigging, animation, rendering, and post-processing.

As a fork, Bforartists works with all Blender files and add-ons. Hence, if you prefer Blender as a Maya alternative, you’ll also prefer Bforartists. In fact, Every Blender functionality should work in Bforartists.

Some of the improvements from Blender include a native keymap, left-aligned UI, extended user interface, colored icons, toolbar, better tooltips, and a better standard theme.

In terms of compatibility, however, Bforartists is not much different. Both tools support Windows, Mac, and Linux. Bforartists further supports AmigaOS, MorphOS, and Haiku.

The good thing about Bforartists is that you can always download and use older versions.

Bforartists Pricing

Bforartists is a free and open source 3D content creation package unlike Maya which is paid and proprietary.

8. Adobe Dimension

Adobe is a giant brand when it comes to graphics design and illustration with apps like Photoshop, Illustrator, LightRoom, and Creative Cloud. Dimension is one of the recent additions to their expansive catalog and it’s one of the best Maya alternatives.

Adobe Dimension offers 3D modeling and 3D rendering. The tool makes it simple to create brand visualizations, graphics, and other creative works.

The pre-built models, materials, and lighting help you quickly turn ideas into compelling 3D content. You can show 3D models in context by placing a vector image or graphic inside them.

Also, with the built-in search, you can easily find 3D objects from Adobe Stock. If you already use other Adobe tools, then you might want to opt for Dimension as they all integrate seamlessly, most especially Photoshop and Illustrator.

Adobe Dimension Pricing

All Adobe tools are premium and Dimension is no different. To use Adobe Dimension, you need a Creative Cloud All Apps subscription and the plans include:

  • Monthly Plan: $79.49 per month
  • Annual Plan, Paid Monthly: $52.99 per month
  • Annual Plan, Prepaid: $599.88 per year

Still, Adobe Dimension is less expensive.

9. Rhinoceros 3D

Here’s another paid and proprietary software. Like Maya, you can use Rhinoceros 3D for 3D modeling but the tool does far more than that. It also works for Nurb surfacing, Parametric modeling, Procedural modeling, CAD, and CAM.

You can do a lot more with the recent Rhinoceros 3D version 7. This version unlocks new modeling techniques and refines many already existing features.

For creating models, Rhinoceros 3D features tools to create points, curves, surfaces, solids, and meshes. For editing, there are transformation tools, Boolean operations, and curve surface intersections.

The display is one of the main reasons you might want to switch to Rhinoceros 3D. It supports unlimited viewports, clipping planes, floating planes, and overall extremely fast graphics.

Rhinoceros 3D Pricing

Rhinoceros 3D features pricing plans for commercial users, students or faculty, and schools. The plans include:

Commercial Plans

  • Full, Single User: $995
  • Upgrade: $595

Students or Faculty Plans

  • Full, Single User: $195
  • Upgrade: $95

Schools Plans

  • Full, Single User: $975
  • Upgrade: $295

While Rhinoceros 3D pricing may be expensive, it’s a one-time payment, unlike Maya which requires recurring subscriptions.

10. Wings 3D

Here’s another free and open source alternative to Maya. Wings 3D is described as an “advanced subdivision modeler.” The downside of this tool is that it doesn’t work for animations; it’s exclusively for 3D modeling.

Wings 3D features a friendly interface, simple with not too many featured tools. However, the platform does come with comprehensive 3D modeling and selection tools.

This includes regular tools like move, rotate, cut, scale, bridge, bevel, and extrude amongst others. Along with, there are advanced tools like inset, circularise, bend, intersect, sweep, shear, and plane cut.

Others include tweak & sculpt tools, magnets and magnet masking tools, intuitive navigation tools, and virtual mirrors useful for symmetrical modeling.

Notably, Wings 3D supports AutoUV. With AutoUV, you can better customize your models including cutting and unfolding model surfaces and adding textures.

If you’re a developer, you can join the Wings 3D official development forum. Here, you can discuss with other users how to implement new features and improve existing ones.

Wings 3D Pricing

Wings 3D is an ideal free Maya alternative if you’re new to 3D modeling. Professionals who just want to create 3D models can also use it.

11. Lumion

Lumion is a 3D rendering software built for architecture. Hence, it’s another ideal Maya replacement if you do mainly architectural works.

Lumion is an intuitive and fast software. You can create images, videos, and 360 panoramas of your 3D models. Notably, you can model as you render thanks to the LiveSync feature.

Some of the unique features on Lumion include volumetric spotlights, surface decals, animated phasing, orthographic views, rain streaks, open street maps, and a full content library among others.

An advantage of using Lumion is that it’s compatible with major CAD and 3D software programs. You can import 3D models, CAD files, and BIM objects from other programs to use in your work.

Despite being focused on architecture, you can still use Lumion for animation – it supports curved animations, multiple keyframes, and various animated effects.

Lumion Pricing

Like most other alternatives on this list, you don’t pay recurring subscriptions to use Lumion; you simply buy the software. The pricing includes:

  • Lumion Standard: €1,499 one-time payment
  • Lumion Pro: €2,999 one-time payment

You can try Lumion free for a limited period before making payment.

12. KeyShot

KeyShot is self-described as “The Best 3D Rendering Software to Create Amazing Visuals.” While that’s up for debate, the software is undoubtedly one of the best to replace Maya with.

KeyShot is more or less a suite as it supports various exclusive products including KeyShot Animation, KeyShot Viewer, KeyShotXR, and KeyVR.

The software provides real-time 3D rendering, decreasing the time it takes to produce realistic product graphics. It natively supports over 30 popular 3D file formats. KeyShot’s powerful lighting, studio, and image capabilities ensure you capture the perfect shot.

You should consider KeyShot if you need a Maya alternative for integrations. The one-click plugin loading and LiveLinking keep your design synced across different third-party apps. Thus, you can save time and do more creating.

Furthermore, KeyShot comes with over 750 preset materials. There are thousands more on the KeyShot Cloud.

KeyShot Pricing

KeyShot features very simple pricing plans. They include:

  • KeyShot Pro Subscription: $99 per month (billed at $1,188.00 per year)
  • KeyShotWeb Subscription: $39 per month (billed at $468 per year)
  • Network Rendering: $16 per month (billed at $192 per year)
  • KeyShot NX Subscription: $29 per month (billed at $348 per year)

13. Houdini

Houdini is software that you can install on Mac, Windows, and Linux. Developed by SideFX, it’s a 3D procedural tool for modeling, VFX, animation, video, and even gaming. The tool was built for artists to create and share their works with ease.

3D Modeling and Rendering with Houdini isn’t very different from what you get on Maya. However, Houdini follows a node-based workflow. Every action in Houdini is a node and these nodes are linked together to form networks.

The networks form a recipe that you can use to get your final result. The main advantage of this node-based approach is that you can reuse the recipes as many times as you want.

Houdini Pricing

Below are the available pricing plans on Houdini:

  • Houdini Apprentice Plan: Free
  • Houdini Indie Plan: $269 per year or $399 for two years

Artist Plans

  • Houdini Core Plan: $1,995 one-time payment ($995 for upgrade)
  • Houdini FX Plan: $4,495 one-time payment ($2,495 for upgrade)
  • Houdini Engine Plan: $499 per year

There are other plans for studios and education.

14. 3D Coat

If you need a Maya alternative exclusively for 3D sculpting, you’ll want to check out 3D Coat. 3D Coat is a sculpting and texturing tool that comes with several unique features; notably the UV unwrapping tools.

3D Coat differs from other sculpting tools in that it employs voxels instead of polygonal meshes. For emphasis, voxels are the 3D version of pixels so the tool literally creates a virtual grid in 3D space with the mesh forming its shape.

Because 3D Coat employs voxels, it eliminates the need to partition polygons, which can improve performance on some systems. Also, unlike a polygonal mesh, your 3D object is solid which facilitates some sculpting and deformation processes.

3D Coat Pricing

With 3D Coat, you have the option of purchasing the software for life, rent to own, annual rent, and monthly subscriptions:

  • Permanent Purchase: starts at €379
  • Rent to own: starts at €39.7 per month and you get a permanent license after the 11th month
  • Monthly Subscription: starts at €19.85 per month
  • 1-Year Rent: starts at €149.85 one-time payment

15. Rocket 3F

It’s not a Maya alternative for you if you use Mac or Linux. Nevertheless, if you’re a Windows user, you’ll love the simplicity and workflow of Rocket 3F.

To start with, there are four themes to choose from for the interface. In addition, you can create your own themes by editing the existing themes. For simplicity, you can use Rocket 3F with just mouse buttons.

Furthermore, you get extreme edge control with the Ultimate Crease Tool and you can draw complicated Retopology in a few clicks with the draw mesh tool. Finally, Rocket 3F features an incredibly simple yet powerful 3D rendering system.

Rocket 3F Pricing

Rocket 3F is a free polygonal modeler for Windows. Unlike Maya, you don’t pay to use Rocket 3F although it’s not open-source.

Bottom Line

There you go! The best Autodesk Maya alternatives.

Overall, I would recommend Blender. The platform matches and even betters Maya in terms of features according to users. Not to mention it’s a free and open source software.

If you’d prefer a premium Maya alternative, then, you can go for Unity. It is feature-rich and more affordable albeit with some additional costs after subscribing.

About Author

Tom loves to write on technology, e-commerce & internet marketing. I started my first e-commerce company in college, designing and selling t-shirts for my campus bar crawl using print-on-demand. Having successfully established multiple 6 & 7-figure e-commerce businesses (in women’s fashion and hiking gear), I think I can share a tip or 2 to help you succeed.