3ds Max


3ds Max is a powerful software package for creating professional-quality 3D designs. With a creative tool set for 3D modeling, animation, simulation and rendering, 3ds Max helps pre-visualisation, games, film and motion graphics artists create better 3D content in less time. The 3ds Max 2021 update sees several improvements on the 2020 release.

3ds Max

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Arnold as the Default Renderer

Shipping with Arnold 6.0, 3ds Max provides a modern and high-end rendering experience ready right out of the box. Artists can convert from V-Ray and Corona materials to the Physical Material thanks to Scene Converter scripts. It also supports new Bake to Texture workflows.


Bake to Texture

A streamlined and intuitive feature as all the settings and functionalities are exposed in a linear way which aligns with the user journey. The texture baking experience is fully scriptable allowing artists to customise and automate, and the modernised tools support PBR (Physically Based Rendering). A baked element for map override allows advanced and powerful workflow with OSL and procedural maps. It also features an industry standard of MikkT Normal maps support, with Roughness and Metalness maps added in Arnold.

Note: The legacy Render to Texture and Render to Surface tools are still available in 3ds Max. The goal is to have feature parity before removing the old functionalities.


A quicker and more simple online and offline installation process than previous releases - up to 50% faster. In-product messaging prompts the user to install any missing or optional components.

Scripting with Python 3

The Pymxs API enables users to access all the 3ds Max features for Python 3. Developers and technical artists can create cross-application user interfaces that work seamlessly in 3ds Max thanks to the integration of PySide2. The reach and power of the tools artists can create are extended as off-the-shelf Python 3 extension libraries are fully supported.

Note: Python 3 is the default Python interpreter, however Python 2 is still supported when explicitly enabled through a 3ds Max command line switch or environment variable.


Physically Based Rendering (PBR)

Modern, physically based rendering and real-time engines benefit from the renderer-independent Physical Material being the default. The simplified PBR Materials intended specifically for simplifying real-time engine workflows, along with the improved viewport shader for the Physical Material shows visuals as much closer to their final appearance in real-time engines (game, VR, etc). Also allows for full export/import of Physical Material in FBX.

Improved Viewport Quality and Settings

Artists can produce high quality and high-fidelity viewports with simpler viewport configuration workflows, with Viewport Settings able to be saved as presets. Also, when manipulating the Viewport, Ambient Occlusion is always visible. It has progressive refinement controls in the UI and roughness support for Physical Material. Shadows for lights are on by default.

OSL Shaders

There is an improved OSL user experience overall with enhanced UI and new shaders for the 2021 update. The shaders support a custom UI template designed in Qt designer, and have a more visually appealing and usable UI thanks to new ways of driving UI from the metadata.

Some of the new OSL shaders in 2021 include:

-Colour Correction

-HDRI Environment

-HDRI Lights

-Float and Colour Curves

-Camera Projection

-Object Projection

-Spherical Projection

-Uber Noise

File I/O

A scene with roughly a thousand assets could save 50% faster which also benefits Autobackup (Autosave) and Hold operations.



Support has been added for new chamfer technology to the vertex, edge, and face level component modes of an Edit Poly modifier and Editable Poly object consistent with the Chamfer modifier work added and refined in previous 2020 releases. The enhanced support for Edit Poly and Editable Poly operations inside of 3ds Max preserves and works with existing UV data when generating new mesh results. There is also support for Uniform, Radial, and Patch chamfer types, and for Edge Depth, End Bias, and Radial Bias control and refinement. Users can blend the new geometry into existing mesh data with smoothing support for the generated results.

-Weight Normals

Support has been added for weighted normals to be calculated and applied to models in 3ds Max allowing users to generate new explicit normals for mesh data faster and better than ever before inside of 3ds Max. Artists can use Area, Angle, or Largest Face weight options to influence the direction of the computed normal results. Hard edge normals for mesh can be generated via defined Smoothing Groups/Defined Hard Edges, UV seams, and/or Edge Angle already placed on a mesh.  Users can also control the smoothing/blending of the various results to increase the output.

Fit and Finish

SketchUp Import

Enhancements have been made to the ATF-based SketchUp importer to make it the only SketchUp importer necessary in 3ds Max. Users can completely skip importing Hidden Elements from the SketchUp file. Also, the ability to preserve Layer information from the SketchUp file can be used to automatically assign imported objects to matching Max layers.


There is support for all render engines that ship with Max (Arnold, Scanline, Quicksilver, ART), and support for up to 8k textures. Also, users no longer need to export maps from Substance. Artists can set up Substances quickly with a particular type of material or to bake out maps to files with new scripted tools. Usefully, you only need to install the Substance plugin when you need it as it comes as a separate component.

Note: The legacy Substance map is currently still included, but may be removed in the future.


There is support for 24bit .wav files and for 88.2kHz and 96khz sample rates. Also for unlimited numbers of audio clips. (Previously a maximum of 100 clips.)


Artists have the option to export animation only when exporting to FBX, and there is support in FBX exporter for Shell material – the option to export the original of the baked material.

Physical Material support and FBX allow for exporting and importing OSL nodes in 3ds Max.

Users can disable Post-Sampling key reduction by script, which could be useful when importing subtle animation data that needs preserved when resampled.  

3rd Party Developer Tools

3ds Max 2021 supports plugins compiled for 3ds Max 2020, allowing users to migrate when ready. The Plugin Package format supports AMG and OSL shaders, and Scene Converter extensions, allowing a wider range of plugins to use the application plugin packaging format. Users can simplify development and installation of plugins for 3ds Max and easily distribute the plugins on the Autodesk App Store by using the application plugin package format.