I have recently upgraded to the latest version of Cheetah 3d (Mac only) Although I use Strata 3D for a lot of my work I have also used Cheetah 3d. Strata is great for geometric work, ie. Packaging and exhibitions but for more organic forms I am preferring Cheetah 3d. If you have ever tried Cinema 3D I think is works quite similarly though more simplified and a LOT cheaper at $149 for the full version.
There are also a series of videos you can buy to get you started quickly. What I like about Cheetah 3d is it is very mac like and not overly complex looking for the beginner. I have only dabbled with the new version so far and had a look through some of the tutorial videos. the materials system has advanced more from last version. If you buy Cheetah 3D 5 now you also get a free upgrade to version 6 when it is released.
I have been using Strata 3D CX for 3D along with Cheetah 3D for a while now to produce 3D visuals for my design work, so was pleased to see that they have now created a stripped down version Strata Design 3D SE for only 99 cents for a full license, to help get people started in 3D. Although Strata 3D doesn’t have the power of some of the big 3D software packages it is very easy to use, and the interface is quite Mac/Adobe like. I find it works best for more geometric type work like packaging and exhibitions (Cheetah 3D is better for organic stuff). For your 99 cents you also get two weeks free access to the Strata 3D university which has tutorials and videos to get you started.
If you have tried other 3D software before and given up as its to complicated give Strata Design 3D SE a go and see if you like it.
I was recently contacted by a designer who had been out of the industry a little while and wanted some advice on what sort of computer/software set up I would suggest. As a designer who deals more predominantly with print design I would definitely go for a Mac. Although design for print software is now readily available on the PC from my experience more designers who design for print use Apple Macs.
The new Imacs with computer and thin screen all in one are great giving you a nice large screen (19″ or 24″) without taking up to much space. I would go for at least 2GB memory, the more the better if you are using Photoshop a lot and any 3D packages.
An A3+ Inkjet printer is ideal for printing out any visuals required, possibly postscript colour management software – Iproof (gave me loads of problems) or Print Fab, try out the demos of these before you buy them (I wish I had). I was using an Epson Stylus R1800 but was having problems with colour casts and have now swapped to a Canon iX4000. You can also get round a non postscript inkjet printer by creating a PDF first and then printing that, though the colours may need some tweaking.
Fonts and Font Management
Mac system software now comes with built in Fontbook for managing fonts or you could look at a third party font management system such as Suitcase
Several fonts will come with your Mac and software packages. More can be bought from many sources such as linotype and Faces. Free fonts are also available from many sites such as Dafont, though I wouldn’t generally use these for main body copy as they don’t always have a full character set or good kerning.
Software Adobe Creative Suite can give you all the packages you would need for most design for print jobs – Photoshop for image manipulation, Illustrator for vector work, Logo design etc, InDesign for page layout, Acrobat for creating print ready PDFs.
I still prefer Quark Xpress for page layout over InDesign but many designers are now swapping/have swapped over to Indesign. As a package Creative Suite works out far more cost effective than having to buy Quark Xpress plus Photoshop and Illustrator.
Also for pulling in supplied Word/Excel files into layouts is the Open Source (free) Office Suite NeoOffice which I use regularly and saves having to pay for Microsoft Office.
If you are going to do some web design work the standard packages are Dreamweaver and Flash, which you could buy along with the other Adobe software in a bundle if you need them. If you intend hand coding there are lots of free text editors out there – Note Pad, Crimson Edit etc etc.
Most images these days are supplied digitally so a fairly basic scanner is usually fine. Mostly I use mine for scanning in sketches of logos etc. I would go for an all in one black and white laser, copier, scanner.
Other things to consider
Virus/firewall software and Mac Maintenance software
What about free open source design software?
For print graphics I there are some open source packages that you could use, though personally I haven’t tried them and don’t know of anyone who uses then professionally. If you are going to be working for other design agencies you really need to be using the professional packages so that you can pass documents between each other. If however you are going to be designing directly for clients and no-one else needs to be able to edit your files I guess Open Source Options would be possible to use as long as you could output them to print ready PDF.
Photoshop has to be one of the hardest of the graphic design programs to get a grip of. I remember thinking I would never understand it when I first started. There are just lots of different ways to accomplish the same thing with photoshop, I know personally I have only scratched the surface of what it is capable of. Jennifer over at Laughing Lion Design has created some video photoshop tutorials which are worth taking a look at to improve your photoshop knowledge.
There are loads of other photoshop tutorials out there if you need them too, take a look at Tutorialized which lists 9082 photoshop tutorials, that should keep you busy for a while 🙂 .
A few weeks ago I mentioned I was looking for some new 3D software to use for character design and modelling. Many of you offered advice on programs you recommended, thank you for that. Programs such as 3ds Max are just too complicated and expensive for my current needs. I had also looked at the other end of the spectrum at free 3D software and although there were some solutions they still weren’t what I was looking for. I dabbled with Animation Master but the interface is quite unusual although I know it gives impressive results.
While googling I came across Cheetah 3D which was a relatively cheap ($129) 3D design and animation software built specifically for the mac. I tried the demo and really liked it. It has a really simple looking interface which doesn’t completely daunt a novice but it seems to be very capable software offering a wide range of modelling options including box (subdivision) modelling which was something I was looking for. The Cheetah 3D manual is a little sparse but I bought some tutorial DVDs (only £15) which were really easy to understand and didn’t make me fall asleep like a lot of tutorial DVDs do.
If you are looking for a very capable but affordable 3D software for the mac try out the Cheetah 3D demo.
When I was first looking for a 3D design program several years ago, most of them were very expensive and complicated (far too complicated when I just wanted to use them for print work and packaging visuals).There are now several free 3D options available a couple of which I downloaded to try out.
Google Sketch Up
I had heard of google sketch up but to be honest didn’t really know what it was – the name makes it sound more of a drawing /design program rather than 3D software. What I like about Google Sketch up is that it is fairly intuitive. You click on a tool and a box with al the information about what that tool does and how to use it appears, which is pretty useful when you are trying to learn. You can easily make 3 dimensional squared objects by drawing lines in 3 dimensional space and extruding. You can also create lathe objects – although this is a bit less obvious using a a feature called follow me. Drawing curved lines is not as simple as straight, there is an arc feature but it is not easy to control, a bezier drawing tool would make a great addition. Available for Mac and PC.
Below is a very simple tutorial from Youtube showing how you can build simple objects in Google Sketch up very easily. There are several more video you can find with more complex examples on Youtube too
Art of Illusion Art of Illusion is an opensource 3D modelling and rendering program. I only quickly took a look at this program but I liked how simple the interface is unlike a lot of commercial applications. It looks like this program would be much better for organic forms than Google SketchUp with the use of Triangular meshes. There is also a online/download manual and tutorials available. This is definitely one worth taking a look at if you want a free 3D program. Available for Mac, PC and Linux