Antoinette Jade
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3D rendering is fundamental in many industries including animation, visual effects, computer games, and industrial visualization. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that there is a large number of different 3D rendering applications available today.

In this article, we will be talking about 3D rendering software for animation purposes. For the longest time, the 3D animation industry has been working with photorealistic renderers, pushing a lot of 3D animation films towards a similar look, the “CG look”. Pierre Coffin, the director of the ‘Despicable Me’ franchise summarized it in a conversation with us a while back.

Everyone seems to go for photorealism that ultimately, has only but one style.

Not all hope is lost for 3D artists who want to create things differently though. In 2020, there are some serious contenders developing powerful non-photorealistic rendering (NPR) software for many styles.

Here are 5 NPR software for you to try out in 2020 in no particular order (some are even free).

Pencil+

For Maya and 3ds Max | 61,600 Yen (stand-alone license) | ~580 USD

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Underdog by SIDE9, made using Pencil+

PSOFT Pencil+ is a non-photorealistic renderer for Autodesk’s 3ds Max and Maya, which specializes in rendering the distinctive style seen in Japanese animations and illustrations. It provides highly customizable cell-shading materials and powerful tools to produce line drawings from 3D geometry. The rendered linework can further be tweaked during compositing using After Effects. The renderer is often used as a visualization tool for products, graphic design and motion graphics.

MNPRX

For Autodesk Maya | Free for non-commercial, Indie 25-250 USD (per month-year), Studio 50-500 USD (month-year)

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Fú by TAIKO Studios, made using MNPRX

MNPRX by Artineering is a new real-time non-photorealistic rendering plugin for Autodesk Maya. It has a growing library of styles (watercolor, cutout, hatching, frayed-edges) and the team works closely with studios to develop custom styles and tools for their productions. The renderer also includes an artist-friendly toolset to immediately art-direct the style in the viewport and transfer the stylization between scenes with ease. MNPRX can be combined it with offline renderers for unmatched flexibility during compositing in Nuke.

Maneki

For Autodesk Maya | 120 USD per month, 650 USD per year

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The Dragon Prince by Bardel, made using Maneki

Maneki by J Cube combines modern offline lighting, shading and path tracing techniques with the traditional design elements of Japanese Anime. The renderer is integrated into Autodesk Maya with a set of materials, lights, procedural patterns and geometry processing tools. It is designed to produce beautiful imagery straight out of the renderer, minimizing the work done in compositing. Additionally, it also introduces a re-coloring workflow for directors via Maneki Composer for Nuke.

Liquid+

For Autodesk 3ds Max | 48,400 Yen (stand-alone license) | ~450 USD

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A test scene, made using Liquid+

PSOFT Liquid+ creates ‘blurred and soft rendered images’ using a variety custom brush patterns. It is even possible to render images that look similar to traditional analog paintings. The renderer comes with a custom set of materials and the ability to generate contour lines. However, it also has excellent compatibility with the standard 3ds Max line renderer and is tightly integrated with Pencil+, PSOFT’s linework and anime renderer (featured above).

finalToon

For Autodesk 3ds Max | 150 USD per year

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A test scene using finalToon

finalToon by Cebas comes fully integrated into 3ds Max and can be used in conjunction with many of its renderers. As a 3ds Max Render Effect, interactive rendering updates are possible without the need to re-render the whole scene multiple times. The renderer comes with cell-shaded materials, but specializes mostly in line-work including contours and hatching, making it especially interesting for producing technical and architectural visualizations.

Pretty cool huh? Let us know what you think of them and make sure to share your results with us.