As 3D artists, we are constantly trying to find tools that allow a faster and more efficient workflow. Either to finish projects quicker, keep up with client's requests and maintain cost-effectiveness, or just to gain extra time to focus more on the creative stage of the development, we are always searching for that magical tool that makes our life easier. The fact that software is getting more user-friendly and less complex helps us in a way but it still feels short when you are trying to stay competitive in a fast-paced market, where everything needs to “be done yesterday”.
Social-economic theories apart, I would like to show you some of these tools which I think might help you save precious minutes or even hours in your next project.
I could have done a list of all the best plugins for 3ds max, but there is already so much information about Railclone, ForestPack, Vray, and others that I decided to make a list of free ones, which you might have never heard of, or never tried, especially if you are just at the beginning of your career. And free software is always a good choice, more so if you are just starting.
The list is not ordered by rank and I am not sponsored by any of the software developers or creators below.
Floor Generator from CGSource is a useful plugin that generates procedural flooring. Specifically, it works as a modifier and generates floor objects made of individual boards inside any closed 2D shape or flat surface. You can control width, length, and grout size which enables you to create other floor types like tilled stone, for example. You can also randomly rotate, offset, tilt the geometry and randomly assign textures with the help of another free plugin from the same developer called MultiTexture, which I will talk about next.
There is also a paid version with extra floor patterns, but if you just need the running Bond type or any other rectangular/square shaped tiling, the free version is everything you need. Nevertheless, for a bit more than $20 you can support the developer and get the upgraded version with added floor types (Herringbone, Chevron, Basket Weave, and Hexagonal shaped tiles).
MultiTexture is a plugin that works great with Floor generator but can also be used by itself. It loads multiple textures and assigns them randomly, either by object or by material ID. With controls to randomly adjust the gamma, hue, and saturation. You apply it on the desired material´s map slots, (diffuse, reflection, bump, etc.) and add textures on the manage textures list. CGSource has many textures available on their website you could purchase, but you can also use your own, of course.
Version 2.04 works with 3ds Max from 2012 up to the current 2021 release. It's compatible with scanline, Vray, and Arnold with "Legacy 3ds Max Map support" turned on.
Unique Material ID 1.00
Also from CGSource, there is a small script that assigns a unique material ID to each element inside an object. Floor generator also does this task, enabling the MultiTexture plugin to apply different textures to different IDs. But Unique Material ID becomes useful when you need random IDs/textures on another geometry rather than a floor. This script will make it possible to use the MutiTexture plugin on other objects like for example, leaves by applying to each leaf or group of leaves distinct IDs so that they can be slightly different in color/texture.
It is advised that if your object has a lot of elements it can be quite slow to assign the IDs. In most cases, it's faster to break up the object into several objects, run the script, and attach the objects back together.
Copy-paste by Miled Rizk
This is a very simple script but a must-have for any 3D max user out there. There are other scripts at scriptspot.com that do the same task but I have been using this specific one for a long time and, therefore I know it is reliable. The script automatically saves the selected object or objects when you click on “copy objects” and merge them into your new scene when “paste objects” is pressed. If there is a name conflict, the new object will be renamed. Also if there is a material's name conflict, the new object will preserve its material but the material name will change. In a nutshell, it simplifies the process when you need, for example, a chair from another 3D scene. Of course, you could also merge it directly without opening the file but we often can´t remember the name of a specific chair in a big 3D scene.
This is a small and simple script to have if you don´t use a project management software like Connecter.
You might already know Neil Blevins´ Soulburnscrip, and also that I had to include it on this list. It is not a script but an entire collection of the most useful set of scripts you can have as a 3ds max user. From the more than 80 scripts I will just mention a few:
wireColorRandomizer - Changes the wirecolor of all selected objects to a random value.
transformSelector - Lets you select objects based on their position, rotation, or scale.
transformRandomizer - Lets you translate, rotate, and scale a group of objects or modifier gizmos by a random amount.
splinePainter - This script lets you paint splines on the surface of another piece of geometry.
selectionRandomizer - Will randomly select objects based on a value provided.
objectReplacer - Replaces a selection of objects with a new object, or randomly from a set of objects.
layerCleaner - Deletes all empty layers from your scene.
Aligner - Aligns one object to another. Similar to the Align tool in max, but optimized to allow a variety of aligns with the least number of mouse clicks necessary.
Take a look at Neil´s extensive list and you might find a few scripts that are exactly what you need.
One important issue which I already mentioned in one of my posts is the fact that Neil will stop updating his collection after Autodesk announced, back at the beginning of 2020, that it will change the 3ds Max licensing method to a subscription/rental only. You can read more details here.
Neil has a strong position concerning the latest Autodesk business plan. You can read his opinion in detail in two statements he made, in his blog here.
This useful script created by Sergo Pogosyan aims to replace the standard 3ds Max's Batch Render by adding more features and better control over your renders. This is a great tool to render one or more images and animations in a row. You can specify parameters like frame size, frame number, output path of each camera independently. Additionally, you can also specify different scene states, state sets, and render presets. Among many more, another feature consists of specifying which light will be turned on or off for the selected camera. It is a must-have replacement for the default and sometimes unreliable 3ds Max batch render.
Offered free of charge by itto software, developers of the widely known Max plugins ForestPack and Railclone, Color Edge allows the creation of a procedural two map gradient along any visible edge of an object. Using the Editable Mesh surface tools, by turning visible edges on or off, you can control the placement of gradients and even add noise effects. This plugin is made for blending, for example, between a path/road and terrain, to get rid of the sharp edge between the two materials. The generated gradient includes separate controls for offset, width, ramp up and ramp down for a better control of the effect.
Be aware that ColorEdge may slow down if you apply it to very complex geometry.
Clone is another free plugin from Itoo software and it consists of a modifier that creates object copies by incrementally translating, rotating, and scaling. It is similar to 3ds Max's in-built Array tool but fully parametric, so you can change the number of duplicates and their position without destroying the stack. Other features include the ability to randomize transforms and material IDs and add multiple Clone's to the modifier stack to create 1D, 2D, and 3D arrays, each with their settings. With it, you can easily create not only tiled floors, or brick walls, but also many different and creative patterns and arrays. Just trying the different settings is a lot of fun, with all its combinations of different arrays.
Plugin/Maxscript to generate ivy’s
This plugin created by Guillermo LLaguno is based on the well-known plugin from Thomas Luft Ivy Generator, but with the convenience of being a max script, therefore there is no need to export and import meshes to and from external software. But the advantages don’t end here: you can control a multitude of settings and parameters regarding the growth, branches, and leaves. There is a detailed explanation of how every setting works on Guillermo´s website and if you think it´s a useful plugin, you can also support him with a small donation.
Relink Bitmaps is a small and useful plugin created by Colin Senner, that allows the search for missing textures in your scenes. Other programs like Connecter or Project Manager offer this feature and much more, but they are fully fleshed programs, not plugins, and Project Manager does not offer a free version.
Relink Bitmaps quickly performs a search of missing maps on a selected folder and subfolders and relinks them to your file. A much simpler way than using the search option in Windows and relink the maps in Max´s asset tracking toggle.
I hope you found my list useful and if you know other free 3D Studio Max plugins that you think are worth mentioning, let us know in the comments below. We all appreciate it!