Autodesk Mudbox — The Best 3D Sculpting and Painting Tool

In case you are completely unfamiliar with the software, let’s take a look at where it all began. Founded by David Cardwell, Andrew Camenisch, and Tibor Madjar, Mudbox is one of the most commonly used 3D sculpting and painting tools in the world. The three founders were working on Lord of the Rings at the time of creating the software, and when people with that much experience decide to create something new, you know there was a real demand on the market for it.

The first commercial use of Mudbox was during the production of King Kong, which is one of the biggest movies in the history of Hollywood. In 2006, the team released the beta version, while the first 1.0 version came out only a couple months later, in 2007.

The Software

Mudbox features a 3D environment where users can create bookmarked movable cameras. If you’re starting a fresh new project, you’re going to work with a polygon mesh at first, which you can customise and adjust in any way you like using all kinds of tools. Pick one of your models and subdivide it in order to increase the resolution and the number of available polygons that should be used for sculpting.

All Mudbox files can be imported or exported as .fbx, .bio, and .obj files, besides the standard .mud format. What designers like to do is create a fairly simple model in the application for 3D modeling, before importing it to Mudbox in order to sculpt.

Usage

Mudbox welcomes everyone. Regardless of whether you are a professional designer working on some of the biggest projects in the world or a complete amateur when it comes to 3D painting and sculpting, there is always something new to learn and find the right tools to complete your tasks. Having theoretical knowledge about the 3D world, vectors, matrix and similar software technologies definitely helps. The learning curve is steep if you are a complete beginner, but nothing is impossible, and neither is working with Mudbox.

The key selling points of Mudbox are that it allows non-destructive sculpting, design visualisation, and high, but moderate polygon counts. The layers are combined in an additive way, so the way you order them isn’t important for the end model. This also means that arbitrarily creation is allowed.

Other Tools

Stencils and stamps bring a lot of value to Mudbox. Grayscale is overlayed by stencils, but can also work as bump maps, or the so-called image of the Alpha channel, on top of the mesh. The entire image and all of its details, or only some parts, can be projected onto the mesh by using brush strokes, which is a very effective way of sculpting surface details.

One of the most important advancements of Mudbox is that its API appeared inside the software development kit (SDK). The interoperability with other applications for 3D modelling, sculpting and painting was drastically improved as well.