September 20, 2023 Yen Lily

3ds Max and Houdini: which one is better?

3ds Max and Houdini are two of the most famous 3D software which artists and studios often use in many fields. They both have different things to offer, and in this article, let’s compare them. We will try to give you an overview of the key difference between them, and what these two are capable of.

Which one is easier to use/ learn?

Both software has their own user interface and workflow. However, 3ds Max is easier and faster to learn than Houdini if you are newbie. it has most of toolset and modifiers available to ease the modeling process on the user interface.

Houdini, on the other hand, is difficult because it demands technical knowledge and a background in programming and mathematics. It’s considered to be the most difficult software to learn. However, when you work enough with it, it will become very convenient. Houdini’s distinctive node-based procedural workflow makes it simple to explore iterations as you refine your work and allows for multiple iterations so that it is easy to make changes and evolve your animations and effects. It allows you to generate a system in place for controlling the features of a model with the use of procedures. It is also useful for simulation and allows for pipeline production.

Compatibility with render engines of 3ds Max and Houdini

When it comes to rendering, both have built-in render engines, and also support third party renderers (like Arnold, Redshift, Octane, V-Ray, etc.) which use GPU power.

Because 3ds Max is very well-known for architectural visualization, it supports some render engines for Archviz as well, such as Corona, Fstorm, Lumion, Twinmotion, Enscape, D5 Render, etc. Redshift or V-Ray are also very famous.

With Houdini, its famous and powerful rendering engine is Mantra. Right now, SideFX team, Houdini developer, is considering replacing Mantra with Karma. Karma is a render engine which can use both GPU and CPU power, making it become an XPU engine. However, it still has a long way to go to become a stable engine. If you don’t want to use Houdini built-in rendering engine, external render engines like Redshift, Octane, Arnold or V-Ray still are the best choice because of rendering speed.

Application in 3D computer graphics industries


As mentioned above, because of its user-friendly interface, 3ds max is much easier and capable of modeling than Houdini if you are new with computer graphics. It allows you to make complex and realistic 3D models with speed and many functions. Moreover, if you are working in architecture or product designing, 3ds max is perfect for them as it has access to robust libraries for 3D design and 3D printing, which could help you achieve more atmospheric visualization. Houdini is often used for large-scale environments due to its ability to create complex objects rapidly.

Rigging and animation

When it comes to character rigging and animation, both are not powerful like Maya. However, 3ds Max could be better than Houdini in animation.

Architecture Visualization and Design

If you are working in architecture or product designing, 3ds max is perfect for them as it has access to robust libraries for 3D design and 3D printing, which could help you achieve more atmospheric visualization. 3ds Max is the product of Autodesk, so it will allow integration with Autodesk CAD software like Revit, Inventor, AutoCAD, also with other software like Sketchup, Unity, Unreal, Lumion, Fstorm, etc.

Visual Effects/Simulation

Houdini is a 3D package you can rely on when it comes to VFX production, because of its fantastic simulation features for fire, smoke, water, explosion, etc. Its node-based and procedural workflow help artists easily respond to client feedback. You can make any changes at any time, even deep into production.

Game development

In the game development industry, 3ds max is more popular than Houdini. If you work in AAA games, 3ds Max is in the pipeline for creating assets, animations, environment because of its strength in modeling, texturing and meshing models.. Some of the most iconic game titles used 3ds Max are Warcraft, Lara Croft: The Tomb Raider, and Halo Games.

However, Houdini strength of VFX/simulation and modeling for large-scale environments is a big plus. So far, Houdini has been used for some of the best video game titles such as Farcry 5, Horizon Zero Dawn, Uncharted 4, Ghost Recon, and much more. You can see that it has great potential.

Final thought

We have explored the differences between 3ds Max and Houdini, from learning/using possibilities, their strengths over the other and their application.

To summarize, if you would like to work with Archviz and product design or game development area, 3ds Max is more suitable. Houdini will be used to merge complex simulated effects within already existing movie scenes and animations, and it’s most suited for a big studio pipeline for VFX.

Both 3ds Max and Houdini often come with third render engines like Redshift, Octane, V-Ray, Arnold, Fstorm. Whether or not you use any of those render engine, you still can find a suitable package at iRender.

For Redshift, V-Ray and Octane, we suggest you our 2/4/6 x RTX4090s, or 8x RTX3090s. For Arnold rendering, you can choose our single RTX4090.

Moreover, iRender provides single card package for Archviz renderers like Lumion, Twinmotion, Enscape, D5 Render. If you work in 3ds Max with one of those software, iRender is the best option for you.

Let’s see some of 3ds Max and Houdini tests on our packages multiple RTX4090s and RTX3090s:

Not only those powerful configurations, iRender also provides you more services. We have a useful and free transferring tool named iRender drive for macOs and Linux user. For Windows users, we recommend using our all-in-one application iRender GPU to work, and you don’t need to come to our website but still can transfer your data, recharge your account and access the machine through the app.

Our price is flexible with hourly rental which has a pay-as-you-go basis, daily/ weekly/ monthly subscription with discount from 10-20%. Plus, you have 24/7 support service via livechat with real humans who will support you whenever you encounter an issue.

Register an account today to experience our service. Or contact us via WhatsApp: (+84) 916806116 for advice and support.


Thank you & Happy Rendering!


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Yen Lily

Hi everyone. Being a Customer Support from iRender, I always hope to share and learn new things with 3D artists, data scientists from all over the world.


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