3D modeling has earned a reputation of being difficult, and I am not going to say it is easy, because it's not. However, every now and then, there's a new 3D application that aims to make 3D modeling easier.
Dust3D is a free, and open source, 3D modeling application that features auto UV mapping, auto-rigging, PBR material support, plus posing and animation. The application is being developed using funds from Epic's Mega Grants.
The application itself is very small, only 19 mb in size, so you don't need to worry about hard disk space when you try it out. Also, it is very light weight and runs very smoothly. The interface is very simple, and doesn't have the countless tools and menus other apps have.
The workflow is very simple. Basically, you need to import your reference sheets (one for frontal view, and another for lateral view) into your application, and then you add “spheres” to your canvas. These spheres are automatically connected, creating a solid surface. You can change the radius of the spheres with your mouse wheel (or Wacom wheel, if you are using one), to increase or decrease the width of different parts of that surface. As you need to add more parts, you simply create more elements using more spheres. For example, if you are creating an animal, you may have one part for the torso, four parts for each limb, another one for the tail, etc.
A really nice feature is how the different surfaces are automatically connected. If you are creating that animal, you created the torso but now are making the first leg, you notice that, when you move the limb's “root” sphere closer to the torso, it is automatically combined with the torso, no extra steps needed.
Dust3D also has other tools that let you do other things to your surfaces, like add subdivisions, select materials, or change the object's width or thickness. This last option is very good when you want to make areas that are a little flatter, like wings.
Adding materials is also easy. You simply create a new material, and, after you select your textures, it is automatically added to your 3D model without the need of UV unwrapping.
When you are done, you can export the 3D model as .gib, .fbx or .obj. I don't use .gib files, so I decided to try the .fbx format. Unfortunately, Maya did not open that file. However, the .obj file worked just fine.
The application also lets you add a rig to your 3D model. However, I was unable to test it in Maya, for the reason stated above (.obj files don't support rig exporting).
One thing you must know is that the UI doesn't scale well on high resolutions. I am using a monitor at almost 4K resolution, and the buttons of the interface show up tiny. Extremely tiny. This is very important to know in case you are using a big monitor with a high resolution.
Dust3D is a very simple and easy to use animation tool. While it doesn't offer the more sophisticated tools other 3D applications do, it allows you to make 3D models very easily, a very good thing considering you are able to send your 3D models to other applications, or even 3D engines. You should give Dust3D a try.
Get Dust3D: https://dust3D.org/
Dust3D on GitHub: https://github.com/huxingyi/dust3D