Many people who are learning 3D graphics are doing so without being able to afford the costs of 3D commercial software. Its not that expensive but often you need additional tools, some other software only for a special purpose or just want to learn new products without the associated cost.
The best way to do this is to use some of the great free graphics applications available and to also take advantage of the trial or educational versions many vendors do offer. Below, I’ve included a list of many of the 3D software packages, tools and applications that you might find useful for learning and doing 3D either as a hobbiest or a studio with a small budget. I use many of these tools myself or have at one point before switching to commercial versions when I could afford to so I hope this helps you find the right tools to learn 3D!
3D Animation and Modelling Software:
Blender – This is truly an amazing 3D package that allows you to do everything in 3D in a well done package. Modelling, animation, rendering, and all related work. Available for Windows, Linux, Mac, FreeBSD
Wings 3D – A subdivision modeler. Available for Windows, Linux, Mac
Google Sketchup – great for starting in architectural work or mapping of any kind. Available for Windows, Mac
Sculptris – A great free sculpting product as an entry level tool, from the makers of zBrush.
Hexagon 2.5 – (no longer free, $20). Useful for modeling and scultping. Available for Windows, Mac
Ivy Generator – great way to generate plants & ivy for your 3D scenes. Available for Windows, Linux and Mac
Landscape and Terrain
Terragen 2 – free version available. For Windows and Mac
Bryce 7 – currently a free version is available for Windows and Mac.
Human and Character
Make Human – a human model and posing application. Available for Windows, Mac, Ubuntu.
Daz 3D Studio – character setup and animation
Image and Pixel Editing
Paint.Net – an excellent and very fast image and pixel editor for windows.
GIMP – Extremely capable yet sometimes confusing image and pixel editor. Available for Windows, Linux, Mac, Sun, FreeBSD
MyPaint – an artist style paint application with great tablet support. Available for Windows, linux
Pencil – a 2D classic animation program for pencil style 2D animation drawings. Available for windows, linux and Mac
ArtWeaver – another artist focused painting application. Available for Windows
Video Editing / Compositing
Lightworks – A windows editing system built by editor, for editors. Quite impressive free version with option to upgrade to pro
DJV imaging– Image sequence playback. Available for Windows and Linux
Inkscape – for Windows, Linux and Mac
Unity 3D – An amazing 3D engine available for Windows & Mac
Screen / Video Recording
CamStudio – screen recording with audio capture. Available for Windows