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Learn about 3D animation

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What is 3D rendering software?

3D rendering software is the process of generating an image from a model by means of computer software. 3D rendering software is used in architecture, simulators, video games, movies and television visual effects and design visualization. 3D rendering, the last step in an animation process, gives the final appearance to the models and animation with visual effects such as shading, texture-mapping, shadows, reflections and motion blurs.

Types of 3D rendering

  • Software rendering

    Software rendering produces images of the highest quality, letting you achieve the most sophisticated results. Computation occurs on the CPU, as opposed to hardware rendering, which relies on the machine’s graphics card.

  • Hardware rendering

    Hardware rendering uses the computer's video card and drivers to render images to disk. It is generally faster than software rendering, but typically produces images of lower quality compared to software rendering.

  • Vector rendering

    Vector rendering lets you create stylized renderings (for example, cartoon, tonal art, line art, hidden line, wireframe) in various bitmap image formats and 2D vector formats.

  • Cloud rendering

    Rendering in the cloud takes advantage of virtually infinite computing power. Quickly create photorealistic and high-resolution images in a fraction of the time required on your desktop.

How is rendering software used?

  • Rendering Arrival

    The team of visual effects artists behind Arrival tackled complex scenes, from full CG shots to anti-gravity sequences and digi-doubles of the actors.

  • Tangram 3DS on VR and design visualization

    Tangram 3DS, a 3D visualization and digital design studio, specializes in comprehensive design solutions for the AEC, interior design, maritime, and real estate industries.

  • Rising Sun Pictures on Thor: Ragnarok

    Rising Sun Pictures used 3D rendering software to help shape Thor’s mythical visuals from pre-production through to the final cut including creature creation and set design.

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Explore technical workflows with Arnold, download free assets, and learn about the deep integration with Autodesk Maya and 3ds Max.

Free rendering software


We offer free Autodesk rendering software for students and educators. Use the same 3D rendering software as top professionals around the world.


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Rendering software resources

Learn more about rendering software with these tutorials, tips, and guides.

  • The place to ask and answer rendering questions and share knowledge about using Arnold.

  • Autodesk's official CG community. Find free tutorials, customer stories, forums, and share your work in the AREA gallery.

  • Watch video lessons on rendering and visualizations from expert rendering artists and architects.

  • Beginner-level tutorial to help you get started with Arnold for Maya, covering the basics of lighting, shading, and rendering.

  • Four part tutorial series exploring the basics of Arnold for 3ds Max including how to illuminate and render an interior architectural scene.

Frequently asked questions

When using Autodesk Arnold rendering software, a minimum of a 64-bit operating system is required. The following computer specifications and 64-bit hardware are recommended:

  • OSX 10.11 or later
  • Windows 7 or later, with the Visual Studio 2015 redistributable
  • Linux with at least glibc 2.12 and libstdc++ 3.4.13 (gcc 4.4.7). This is equivalent to RHEL/CentOS 6
  • CPUs need to support the SSE4.1 instruction set
  • Optix™ denoiser requires an NVidia GPU with CUDA™ Compute Capability 5.0 and above
  • Arnold GPU works on Linux and Windows and requires an NVIDIA GPU of the Turing, Volta, Pascal, or Maxwell architecture.

With seamless integration in 3ds Max and Maya, Arnold streamlines the rendering process providing you with high-quality images faster. The intuitive UI and interactivity in Arnold provide you with immediate results, leaving more time for you to iterate on your most complex renders.

Arnold supports a number of open standards including: USD (Universal Scene Description), OSL, MaterialX, OpenVDB and NanoVDB, OpenColorIO, and more. By supporting these open standards, Autodesk Arnold 3D rendering software streamlines the production pipeline getting you results faster. It’s ideal as architectural rendering software, due to the ease with which you can collaborate and share results and proposals with clients

Using Arnold, you can create photorealistic and high-resolution images in less time. Arnold 3D rendering software helps maximize performance on your most complex projects with production-ready tools. It offers the scalability of an open architecture that makes it easy to integrate into your pipeline and adapt to project needs, as well as create custom cameras, light filters, output drivers, and shaders.

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