Free Tools For Creating 3d Characters

This is one example of a 3-D character.

Movies such as Dreamworks’ “Shrek” films and Pixar’s “Toy Story” films have inspired many people to try to develop 3-D characters of their own. The computer software and hardware necessary to create such characters used to cost a fortune. Fortunately, a thriving open-source software community and affordable, high-end computer hardware has put 3-D character building into reach for almost anyone willing to put in the time.


A free, open-source piece of software, Blender has an enormous range of features that can fill the needs of most 3-D character building. According to the Blender site, the software package includes modeling, sculpting, rigging and rendering features, including skeleton creation; 3-D objects such as polygon meshes (for structure building); and UV maps (for lighting adjustments). Blender also allows users to animate characters. Compatibility also makes Blender an attractive free choice for character creation. According to the Blender site, the software can be installed on Windows 2000 through Windows 7 operating systems, in either 32- or 64-bit versions, as well as Linux x86-32 and Linux x86-64, Irix, Mac OS X, and Solaris.


Another free, open-source program, Anim8or lacks some of the more sophisticated features of Blender. It does provide all of the essentials necessary to produce a 3-D character, such as primitives (3-D objects, such as spheres) for structure building, splines (for curvature) and texture effects, according to the Anim8or site. The program exports in several standard image formats, including .JPG and .BMP. The program also includes animation options.

3D Canvas

Produced by Amabilis, 3D Canvas has both a free version and two, more sophisticated, pay versions. The free version, according to Amabilis, provides a basic introduction to 3-D modeling and animation. Its features include 3-D primitives, real-time rendering, background images and splines., a resource site for designers, reports that the program employs a drag-and-drop approach to modeling. This feature represents a major advantage over other programs for beginners looking to develop a 3-D character.

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DAZ Studio 3

Designed primarily for 3-D character modeling, DAZ Studio 3 also comes in free and pay-for versions. Aimed at the beginner, the free version of DAZ Studio 3 also provides drag-and-drop functionality. It comes with photo-realistic and cartoon rendering options, primitives, and background images, reports DAZ3D. To simplify character creation, the company also provides free, premade 3-D models and accessories, as well as video tutorials on using the program.