What is BodyPaint 3D?


BodyPaint 3D is known for its 3D painting and UV mapping capabilities, but it's actually a complete 3D software solution. Although BodyPaint 3D has been around since the year 2000, it still causes quite some confusion as to exactly what it is and how it differs from our 3D animation software: Cinema 4D. So here's a blog post about it. I shall do my best to ensure you understand all about the product and what it can do.

When BodyPaint 3D was first created some 17 years ago, it was designed as a 3D painting tool which made it easy to paint directly on to 3D models without having to texture in external image editors. The software included a range of popular image editing tools with full graphics tablet support to ensure that you could do a lot of texturing work without having to jump into an image editor. BodyPaint 3D supports layers, masks, mixing modes and much more, as well as many of the core tools artists love from popular image editors.

As the software developed, it began to offer more powerful UV mapping tools (these help you project 2D images onto 3D objects) as well as projection painting tools, which is a way or projecting textures planar to the camera and then BodyPaint 3D automatically warps those textures to fit your model so the image looks good to your view. Projection painting is a huge time saver to the likes of film artists who don't have to stress about making perfect UV maps. But even if you want to paint in another image editor, BodyPaint 3D's core toolset is still really useful to ensure your UV maps are as distortion free as possible, and you can even set up BodyPaint 3D's layer system to be the very popular .psd format, ensuring it's easy to switch from BodyPaint 3D to Photoshop at any point.

Another interesting thing about the early editions of BodyPaint 3D was it included several exchange plugins which enabled you to use it not only with our own Cinema 4D, but with other well-known 3D applications too.


Over the years, as Cinema 4D and BodyPaint 3D developed, the program code for each software was becoming inefficient to maintain seperately, so a decision was made to fully integrate BodyPaint 3D into the Cinema 4D toolset of all commercial versions (currently Cinema 4D Prime, Broacast, Visualize and Studio). However, because of BodyPaint 3D's usage by other applications and its brand awareness, a standalone version also remains for users of other 3D software. That gave BodyPaint 3D a huge feature upgrade because over the course of one version, BodyPaint 3D inherited the entire feature set of Cinema 4D Prime and the sculpting tools of Cinema 4D Studio. Nice!

So compared to when BodyPaint 3D first started where it was purely a 3D painter and editor, BodyPaint 3D now includes a full suite of modelling tools including sculpting, animation tools, materials system, rendering tools and so much more. That means at its price point of £750 ex VAT, it's a very attractive option for any game artist looking for a set of tools to create game assets that can be polygon modelled, sculpted, textured and output to game engines like Unity or Unreal. To me, that's a very attractive option for any games artist looking for a lot of toolset for the money. But let's bang this all home by breaking down some of the killer features you get when you invest in BodyPaint 3D.

3D Painting Tools

3D Painting Tools

BodyPaint 3D includes a powerful suite of tools that you'll already be familiar with. Brushes, erasers, masks, layers, filters, there's loads to work with. Whilst admittedly BodyPaint 3D doesn't offer everything image editing tools like Photoshop provide, you can still get a lot of texture work done. The huge benefit is being able to work directly on your model and see your changes in real-time. BodyPaint 3D's support for graphics tablets is also really nice. Brushes feel like they should when working on your tablet, and you can even tweak the pressure settings to your own preference if you wish. You can also use Photoshop .abr brushes. BodyPaint 3D also offers the ability to paint in several channels at once. For example, you could set up a rust multi-brush to paint in the colour, displacement and reflection channels and see the results in real-time!

Whilst being able to see your painting on your model in real-time is a big advantage vs going to and from an external image editor, BodyPaint 3D also has one special trick up its sleeve, which massively swings things in its favour: Projection Painting. Whilst we'll get on to UV mapping later, Projection Painting is truly magical. Basically, you paint your texture in planar view and then BodyPaint 3D adapts it to your textures even if your UV map isn't that great. Getting perfect UV maps can take time, but BodyPaint 3D has some auto generate options for UVs such as Optimal Angle Mapping, which can get you some great results when combined with Projection Painting.

What this means is you can paint or paste imagery onto your model so that it looks perfect to the camera and BodyPaint 3D will split and warp it to fit your UVs. This even works over multiple objects. Projection Painting is often used by film artists where broken UVs don't affect final performance unlike games where it does. It means artists can save masses of time by not having to worry about UV mapping.

UV Mapping Tools

BodyPaint 3D UV Mapping

UV Mapping relates to the process of getting your textures onto your models and keeping them on there if the model geometry deforms. UV mapping tools are there to help you 'unwrap' a 3D model to a flat layout, enabling you to then paint on a flat image and have that wrap around the model.

For example, if you wanted to texture a game character, then you need to 'unwrap' the model with as few breaks, seams and distortion as possible. This is an arduous process, but BodyPaint 3D provides a full suite of tools to make the process easier. There are various auto and manual options as well as ways to create quick maps for multiple objects. BodyPaint 3D's paint set-up wizard lets you quickly create maps and materials for multiple objects, then you can edit each map further if you so desire.

Sculpting Tools

Sculpting Tools

If you buy the BodyPaint 3D standalone app, you get the sculpting tools that are found in Cinema 4D Studio. These powerful tools let you quickly sculpt geometry. The tools are great for either creating models from scratch or adding detail to existing models like adding detail to a base character model.

Whilst sculpting can be a tricky skill to master, the sculpting tools found in our software were specifically designed to be easy to use ensuring they are accessible by any user. So if you've tried sculpting before and failed, be sure to give our version a whirl as they really are fun and easy to work with. 

Cinema 4D Prime Tools

Cinema 4D Prime

Whilst the painting and UV tools above are all great to have, what sets BodyPaint 3D apart from other 3D painting or sculpting software is you get the rest of the Cinema 4D Prime toolset, which means you have a complete, professional piece of 3D modelling, rendering and animation software too.

Cinema 4D Prime contains the core features that Cinema 4D users rely on, include all modelling tools, loads of animation tools, most material options, loads of lighting tools, standard rendering tools, some character animation tools, a basic particle system, and most pipeline integration options - including output to the likes of After Effects, Final Cut Pro and many more. Workflow-wise, you can still move assets to game engines like Unity & Unreal, just the same as any other Cinema 4D artist. Learn more about Cinema 4D here.

BodyPaint 3D R19 Enhancements

With the recent announcement of Cinema 4D R19, BodyPaint 3D now makes use of the latest and greatest viewport enhancements. This makes 3D painting an absolute joy to work on. Check out this example of how detailed the editor view is now!

So there you have it, BodyPaint 3D is a feature-packed piece of 3D software that does a lot more than just 3D painting and texturing. If you'd like to give it a go, grab a free trial here.

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About the MAXON Blog

Welcome to the official MAXON UK Blog. This blog provides the most up-to-date official information about MAXON, its products – in particular its flagship product Cinema 4D – and the Cinema 4D community. You can expect to see posts from a wide variety of MAXON UK employees.