You may think you’ve gone deep on character creation if you’ve experience games of the likes of Cyberpunk 2077, or have sunk many hours into the depths of Black Desert Online. When it comes to real character creation – that is, creating and editing characters from scratch divorced from any RPG or action-gaming purpose to follow – then most of even the very, very best character creator games are just the tip of the iceberg. Real character-creation buffs that find any character creators within games too shallow or brief for their liking, are best to seek dedicated character and/or person-making software.
Forget spending 30 minutes on editing some faces and then the next 3 weeks of your life in the throes of a thrilling RPG. This page is dedicated to looking at the best and most notable character creators out there, and we’re talking standalone, dedicated software, some of which could very well (and indeed have very well) been utilised in creating, rendering, and/or finishing off characters and animated persons that you may have seen on the big screen or in your time as a gamer. Some of the software here is character-creation software used by the people making games with character-creation elements.
Yes, you may have to part with cash to purchase some of these, but don’t worry: some free examples have also been included on the off chance that you may wish to get some free practice/sample time in before going all-in on dedicated character/person-making software.
Mixamo, it has to be said, is one of the more versatile pieces of 3D Character animation software out there. It’s got broad appeal too, and can be used by people that have relatively little experience in animating objects, through to being useful for even the intermediate to mildly advanced users out there. Mixamo’s primary appeal is that the software gives users the ability to put animation to pre-existing 3D characters, with a variety of options as to where the character comes from, and an automatic rigging system as its USP.
Mixamo allows you to either import your own 3D characters, as well as offering a wide variety of premade 3D characters that can be used for a variety of purposes. Whether you need a realistic character, a sci-fi-clothing-clad human/oid, or a straight-up cartoonish character for your project, Mixamo has a variety of choices for you.
For those importing characters, Mixamo also offers the option of automatic rigging. This can save you a lot of time if you want to skip the manual rigging process and have Mixamo do the work for you, injecting your character with a custom-made skeleton and enabling you to go almost straight to the animation process without lots of manual fiddling. Speaking of animations, Mixamo also has thousands of ready-to-use, motion-capture-powered animations to use.
Perhaps most impressively, the Mixamo software is based online, so you don’t have to download a hefty software package to use it. It’s free, too, so there’s no cost involved with using this particular piece of kit.
You would think that a piece of 3D character creation and animation software like Blender would command a very high price tag, given that it has an array of features that rival some full-price offerings out there. Blender is free to use and allows users the ability to create models, texture them, render, and even animate them, making it a one-stop shop for anyone looking to create and animate characters utilising the above functions.
Unlike Mixamo, Blender is a piece of software you need to download, but once you have done so, it is a serious contender in the dedicated character-creator spere. It boasts an intuitive interface that has been developed into something that’s extremely easy to use, yet puts impressive functionality at your fingertips.
Blender’s full list of features are quire astounding, but suffice it to say that y9ou can model, rig, animate, simulate, render, motion track, and composite until the cows come home. You can even use it as video editing and game creation software, too. Let’s just say that if you’re looking to create characters for free, Blender should be your first stop.
Reallusion Character Creator 3
Reallusion possesses a myriad of software suites and packages for you toanimate in 3D or 2D, with these (admittedly expensive) packages being an ideal consideration a software for any serious character-creator’s toolkit.
Now in its third iteration, Reallusion’s Character Creator 3 has been developed into a serious piece of character-creation mastery. You can use the drag-and-drop functionality to simply place clothing and other items onto your character, and you can bet that you’ll be able to use the software’s many sliders to tweak the finer details and shapes of your character to absolute perfection. If you like the slider configuration on one character, you can even save the selections and apply them to other characters you create at a later date.
One thing to be said about Character Creator 3 is that it isn’t the most intuitive of software for beginners to pick up. This is more of a side effect of the software’s staggering breadth of functions rather than a design flaw, but nonetheless it’s a bit of a learning curve for beginners to undertake.
Import and export to your heart’s content here, too, with the ability to export to Unreal and Unity in just a click of the mouse. If that isn’t enough, this software brandishes a big gun in the form of the iRay Rendering plugin that you can use.
You’ll have to fork out $199 for the privilege of getting to use this software. Don’t worry, though, because you can find it discounted on a frequent basis, with it going down to as little as $149 in some Black Friday sales.
This intriguing-sounding piece of kit certainly offers your average character-creator enthusiast a good starting point when it comes to making characters at a beginner to intermediate level. Makehuman began its like as an add-on or plugin for Blender, in fact, but is also available to use as a standalone tool given its popularity as well as its relative simplicity when compared to other more complex software packages that require a little bit more experience with modelling and animating for them to be used to their full potential.
Makehuman effectively lets you get the basics of a human-shaped character down to a tee. Plenty of customisation options are available, with a multitude of presets to choose from (just see the tabs for the different categories and functions). You can use the sliders to customise your character down to a fine level of detail.
You can rig up your character here, too, even though you’ll have to export in order to animate your character in any way. You can even rig up the face to animate its features in fine detail. Makehuman, is quite an unassuming tool: intuitive to use with some basic functionality. It doesn’t have the tools that Blender or Character Creator 3 provides, but it may suffice for beginners looking to get a taste of character creation.
If anything on this list is deserving of the description “serious bit of kit”, then Autodesk’s Maya is. You can expect virtually all of the functionality that any intermediate to advanced animator or character-creation enthusiast could want. This software is intended for all known purposes within the animation and character-creation sphere: 3d Modelling, rendering, visual effects, and animation. For this functionality, though you can expect to pay the price, and we’re talking big. £1,872 for a year’s subscription kind of big – that’s what you can expect to pay for Autodesk Maya 2020.
For the hefty price tag, though, you’re really getting one of the best pieces of animation, rendering, and modelling software on the market. For such a serious array of modelling features, Maya is also intuitive to use (the Shift+Key shortcuts let you access various tools easily). That’s not to say it’s without a learning curve – new users will need some hours or even days to get used to the array of functions – but it’s worth it to be using the industry’s stellar standard of 3D modelling, rendering, rigging, and animation software.