Here are programs that can be grouped into free rendering software. Generally there are two kinds of rendering programs: standalone renderer and built-in with 3D modeling programs such as Blender and 3DS max.
In this article I have tried to include from all types so that you can choose the right kind for your project.
Since the price of rendering programs is expensive, you can use one of the following software that work pretty similar with pro editions. Try one of them and you can go to the pro edition later on.
Blender is a complete and full featured open source 3D animation suite. It features all 3D tools including photorealistic rendering, modeling, sculpting, rigging, compositing, animation and simulation. Using Blender, you can also edit videos and create a Game.
Here are the main features of Blender
- Support Photorealistic rendering using new rendering engine called Cycles
- Create, transform, and edit models using the comprehensive array of modeling tools comes with it
- Include various realistic materials
- Transform a model into a character using Rigging tools including skeleton, envelope, skinning, etc.
- Allows to turn your characters to animation
- Include complete 3D Game Creation Engine
- Support sculpting, Camera and Object tracking
- Support Fast UV Unwrapping
- Comes with full compositor that allows to finish all tasks in the program
- Has different types of Simulations including realistic water, smoke, hair, cloth, building, simulations
- Supported file format including image (jpeg, png, taga, openexr, tiff, etc), Video (AVI, MPEG, QuickTime), 3D (3DS, DAE, FBX, DXF, OBJ, X, LWO, BVH, SVG,STL, VRML, X3D)
Compatibility: Blender is a cross-platform application that runs on Windows, Linux and Macintosh computers.
Website: Blender 3D Modeling Suite
3Delight Studio Pro
3Delight is one of the popular high quality and high performance rendering software. It is industry standard rendering program used in many projects movies, TV commercials, research projects, etc).
3Delight provide three types of rendering programs: 3Delight for Maya, 3Delight for Softimage and 3Delight Studio Pro. 3Delight for Maya is a rendering plug-in designed for Autodesk Maya 3D animation software. 3Delight for Softimage is another rendering plug-in for Autodesk Softimage 3D animation software. The final is 3Delight Studio Pro. It is fast, high quality renderer that produces photorealistic images.
3Delight is not free rendering software, however, you can download one full license for free which can be used for commercial use as well. The only limitation in the free license is performance. It uses maximum 4 cores of your computer processor during rendering.
Main features of 3Delight Studio Pro
- Include advanced rendering tools such as path-tracing, REYS rendering algorithms, depth of field, motion blur, area lights, multi-camera rendering, etc
- Support a complete set of RenderMan geometry including subdivision surfaces, polygons, patches, NURBS, Curves, Quadrics, etc.
- Handle complex scenes
- Compatible and render any RenderMan Interface Bytesream (RIB)
- Support programmable shading and lighting
- Support RnderMan APIs and plug-ins
Compatibility: 3Delight is multi-platform software that works on Windows, Linux and Mac OS X.
Website: 3Delight Studio Pro
LuxRender is a free renderer that works as standalone rendering engine or as plug-in with Blender, 3DS Max, Sketchup C4D, DAZ Studio, XSI, Poser and Carrara 3D modeling applications. The software is free both for commercial and personal use and licensed under the GPL.
Main features of LuxRender
- Is physically based spectral rendering and supports high-dynamic range rendering
- Simulates the flow light to physical equations
- Includes a variety of material types and complex properties
- Support virtual film which allows to pause and continue rendering
- Write state of rendering to a file
- The source code can be downloaded
Compatibility: Windows, OS X and Linux (both 32 and 64 bits are supported)
Website: LuxRender free rendering program
Art of Illusion
Art of Illusion is an open source and 3D modeling, rendering and animation software suite. It allows you tocreate photorealistic images and animations in .mov format. Written in Java, Art of Illusion has some powerful 3D modeling tools.
Features of Art of Illusion
- Include 3D modeling, rendering tools
- Create high end animations
- Include flexible and easy to use editors for textures and materials
- Support 4 basic flavours: primitives, spline meshes, triangle meshes and tubes
- Easy to use interface and ample documentation and tutorials
- Include scripting features (Groovy and Beanshell scripting language) which allow to create new types of objects
- Include scripts and Plugins manager
Compatibility: it is a cross-platform applications that run on a computer installed with Java 5 or later.
Website: Art of Illusion free modeling
Aqsis is another open source and free rendering software that produce photorealistic images. It is works as a standalone renderer and compatible with the RenderMan interface standards. Aqsis integrates useful rendering tools and components.
Key features of Aqsis
- Support different rendering methodologies such as Raytracing and Scanline
- Include advanced lighting, shadows, reflection
- Include geometry
- Features key features such as depth of field, motion blur, programmable shading
Compatibility: Windows and Mac OS X
Website: Aqsis free rendering software