3DS Max vs Rhino 3D: Which Software Should You Learn in 2022?

Pranjal Maheshwari

Writer at Oneistox

July 16

5 mins read

What is Rhinoceros 3D? What is it used for? What is 3DS Max? Which one is better? Can I translate my model from rhino to 3DS Max? Can they form a part of the same workflow? Let’s find out!

As architects or designers, we use our imagination and understanding of spaces to produce products and spaces. Once we have an idea of what to do, we can use the relevant tools to refine and present them to our clients/ users.

At present, there are too many tools to help out architects and designers with digital modelling of their designs and projects. Here we talk about two of them - 3Ds Max software and Rhinoceros 3D software.

Rhinoceros 3D

Modelling in Rhino 3D (Source: researchgate.net)

Rhinoceros 3D (or Rhino 3D) was developed by an American company named Robert McNeel & Associates. It works on NURBS (Non-Uniform Rational B-Splines), i.e. it produces a mathematically precise depiction of curves and freeform surfaces in computer graphics. The modelling process focuses on curves and surfaces that are manipulated through their control points. This provides Rhinoceros software with limitless possibilities with all sorts of complex surfaces and solids. The geometry can also be exported to laser cutters, milling machines or 3D printers.

Skipping to the good part

Rhino is fairly easy to use. Even if you do not know all the commands, you can work your way through them without too many complications. It also has a convenient licensing model from which you can export and import a wide variety of CAD and design formats.

Because of its NURBS technology, any shape ranging from simple lines and curves to complex geometries can be modelled in it with precision. The software also allows its users to analyse, document and animate the models beyond the basic creating and rendering of models.

And then comes its limitless possibilities when coupled with Grasshopper. Grasshopper is a visual scripting tool, designed to make parametric modelling easy to understand and use through the creation of ‘nodes’ in a sequence. Supplemented with the right plugins, it can be used for all range of tasks from climate and structural analysis, to performance analysis and even fabrication.

Then the issues

The Mac version for Rhinoceros 3D does not support grasshopper, which is clearly a bummer. Some tasks, when carried out in it as a standalone product can be cumbersome and hence one needs to be aware of the associated software such as VRay (for rendering) and Grasshopper for complex parametric modelling.

3DS Max

Modelling in 3DS Max (Source: autodesk.com)

3DS Max (formerly: 3D studio Max) was released in 1996 by Autodesk Media and Entertainment. It offers a wide range of utilities for the field of 3D animation, games, models and images. It creates surfaces using Meshes, which make it ideal for modelling organic shapes such as tree trunks or faces, etc. 3DS Max is a factory of tools and features suitable for interior architecture, industrial design, jewellery models, animation, organic forms, etc. It is also used for movie effects and movie pre-visualisations.

This software is widely popular among artists, hobbyists and design professionals. It allows you to alter 3D models and scenes while editing them. It also has fully adjustable curves and masks and a variety of textures supported with a large number of effects and plugins.

Skipping to the good part

3DS Max is very flexible and relatively easy to understand. Its wide range of features makes it possible to carry out the entire process of modelling within the same software. It even has an internal scripting language called MAXScript that allows its users to “write” their own tools.

Some of the tools available in 3DS Max are really convenient, like a collection of built-in primitive shapes such as teapots, cones, cubes etc. that can prove to be really helpful while the initial development of a model. Character modelling is also made simpler as it includes simulations for hair, skin, fur and cloth.

Then the issues

Although the individual tools are relatively easy to use, the overall palette constitutes a wide range of options making the learning and executing time significantly long. Many of its animation tools are also not very user-friendly.

A problem that people from the field of architecture or design may specifically face is how scaling is not addressed properly in terms of the units of the object. The boolean operations are also a disappointment - to create an opening in a wall for a door or a window is quite cumbersome.

Accepting the differences

3DS Max vs Rhinoceros 3D (Source: fixthephoto.com)

3DS Max uses Meshes for creating surfaces, while Rhino works on highly accurate NURBS modelling. This makes 3DS Max the ideal software to be used for rendering super-realistic high-quality visuals, and Rhinoceros for complex curve modelling.

3DS Max is used as a professional high-end rendering and animation software. Rhinoceros 3D serves more general modelling purposes. Basically, if you want to make good quality realistic renders without the need for accurate correspondence to the drawings, you can work on 3DS Max. Rhino, especially with the use of grasshopper is one of the most powerful parametric and generative design tools out there.

In terms of pricing, 3DS Max has a quick rendering time, providing a high return on investment but it has a high licensing investment. With Rhinoceros, the price is low (especially for the value received) when you consider that it provides a lifetime license in most of its packages.

Long story short

While 3DS Max specialises in high-quality rendering and animation, Rhinoceros 3D is one of the best tools for general design modelling. Rhino 3D sometimes requires associated software (like VRay and Grasshopper) while 3DS Max can carry out all the relevant functions by itself (at least to a certain level). There isn’t really a choice - it depends more on the aim of the task they are to be employed for.

So should you use 3DS Max or Rhino 3D?

Basically, if you are to develop a game, or create quick and realistic 3D animation or renders, 3DS Max is the best pick. If your aim revolves around architectural modelling, designing, industrial or jewellery design, automotive design or ornamental designing, Rhino is one of the best tools out there that can help you. Some firms also work in a way where they experiment with their design in rhino 3D and then export it to 3DS Max to render.

If you think Rhinoceros is a better fit for your work but don’t know where to start, check out Oneistox’s Parametric Modelling Certification Course. The course is structured and taught by industry experts who understand the need of the hour. For more information related to Rhinoceros and Parametric modelling, head over to our Resources page.

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Pranjal Maheshwari

Pranjal Maheshwari is an architecture graduate and writer from India. He likes to weave narratives through words and hopes his designs achieve the same. He loves mysticism and paradoxes.

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