INTRODUCTION 3D-Coat is one of those 3D applications that for many years has flown under the radar of the wider 3D arts community. Increasingly, however, this little gem of a program is drawing attention because of its excellent development and its very competitive pricing. Pilgway, the company that created and is developing 3DCoat, has done a remarkable job of raising awareness of their program by focusing primarily on the quality of the program and their customer service.
I recently had a chance to work with the newest version of 3D-Coat (version 4.7) which adds, among many other new additions, a Physically Based Shader (PBR) and some great new low-poly modeling Retopology tools. At this point, let's look at a fuller list of what's new in 3D-Coat 4.7
Almost all Voxel Shaders are PBR compatible now. Each shader has rich set of parameters, including different textures, SSS, Gloss, Metalness, Cavity and Bulge settings. Very good support of cavity and bulge is present in realtime.
All PBR shaders effects (except pseudo SSS effect) are exactly baked into paint room.
PicMat-s are also present but it is not guaranteed that they will be baked correctly, so use them only on intermediate stage.
GGX exact support means compatibility with most of current game and render engines.
Multiple maps Baking, including AO, SSS.
New Export Constructor. It allows to pack many channels into one texture in custom way. It helps to adopt 3D-Coats texture export for any render or game engine.
Anti-aliased painting introduced everywhere: Vertex Painting, PPP, MV, Ptex. It is applied to stencils, materials, brushes, text, curved pictures.
New low-poly modeling Retopo Tools: Cut and Connect, Extrude faces, extrude vertices, Intrude, Shell.
New Primitives Added: screws, spirals, etc with rich Options set
WORKING WITH 3DCOAT 4.7 Installation and set up for 3D-Coat 4.7 is simple and easy. Once installed, the interface is slightly daunting with lots of shelves and icons, but once you become familiar with the 3DCoat workflow, it all makes sense and is quite intuitive.
3D-Coat uses the idea of rooms for doing things in the application (similar to Poser). When you first open the program, you are presented with several possible rooms to work in (sculpting, voxel sculpting, UV and retopology are just a few). Of course, most of the UI is easily customized, so you can set up the interface any way you like.
Another great thing about the interface is that you have lots of presets and examples you can use to start a modeling or texturing project. Plus, you can combine these presets in ways that get you to the desired result very quickly. The new PBR (physically based rendering) viewport makes it so easy to work with your models and see the results in real time.
3D-Coat is known primarily for it's excellent voxel sculpting and it/s UV texturing. Voxel sculpting is different from traditional polygonal sculpting in that there is no subdivisions involved with the model you are working on. Instead it's the models densityÂ that you work with. Professional artists like character designer Anthony Jones used 3D-Coat as his primary tool for sculpting.
I found that voxel sculpting was a lot of fun once I got the hang of it. You'll have to double the resolution of the model if you want fine detail, but that's easily done with a click of a button. The variety of mirror tools, smoothing, pinching, et. al., enables you to create smooth even sculpts or to make hard lines if you are sculpting something like a gun or a machine.
POWERFUL PAINTING AND UV TOOLS I suspect many users of 3D-Coat are drawn by its incredible UV mapping and painting capabilities. I certainly found this aspect of the program to be very easy to use and enjoyable which is something I can't say for many 3D applications I've used over the years. Both the UV room and the Paint room are intuitively design and simple to use. Simply by pressing the spacebar you get a whole suite of tools in the Paint room. And that's just one simple workflow opportunity. There are many, many more.
GETTING YOUR MODEL IN AND OUT OF OTHER PROGRAMS (APPLINK) Introduced relatively recently, the Applink workflow in 3D-Coat allows you to communicate with many other 3D programs. Lightwave, Modo, Cinema 4D, Unity, Mixamo, Zbrush and many others can interact with 3D-Coat so that you can, for example, export a model from Maya and then retopologize or texture paint it inside of 3D-Coat. I tested Applink with Maya and had no problems bringing in a medium sized model into 3D-Coat for retopology.
a complete list of the applications 3D-Coat communicates with.
Applinks have to be installed into 3D-Coat for them to function. Free download links for approximately 16 major 3D applications are available at the 3D-Coat Applink page. There are videos for each app that guides you through the process.
FINAL THOUGHTS At a fraction of the price of other 3D sculpting/modeling apps, 3D-Coat 4.7 is a steal. Updated functionality, better implementation of Applink and a tremendously fun process of modeling and texturing make 3D-Coat 4.7 a top choice for independent artists, game makers and pros who want to create or texture a model with speed. Perhaps the interface is a bit clumsy in places, but that's really nothing as you can redo the UI any way you like.
I really liked 3D-Coat and found the documentation, tutorials and discussion forums to be informative and helpful as well. Frankly, I don't understand why this outstanding 3D application isn't better known. You owe it to yourself to download the demo and try 3D-Coat 4.7.