Cinema 4D or Blender? Is one better than the other? Are these pointless questions?
Whether you’re a beginner about to start your journey in crafting 3D graphics or a professional with years of experience in either or both software, you’ve probably asked this question one way or another. If you’re a beginner, you’re most likely interested to know which one is easier to learn. If you’re a pro, you’re probably wondering whether you’re missing out by not using the other software.
In this article, we will offer insights and judgments on which software is better in certain aspects. But of course in the end, “better” depends on your needs, your process, and your circumstance. Your mileage may vary.
The comparison will revolve around 5 themes: user interface, modeling, rendering, animation, and pricing. We’ll tackle pricing towards the end so that you first get an idea of the capabilities of each before non-3D concerns, i.e. money, factor into your decision.
But before we launch into the head-to-head comparison, make no mistake: The whole Cinema 4D vs Blender contention boils down to preference. Both are fully-featured and robust 3D software that will deliver stunning, photorealistic (if that’s what you’re after), and simply amazing 3D visuals, provided of course that you devote the time to develop your skills.
Cinema 4D and Blender are both excellent 3D software, but they differ in certain aspects. Cinema 4D's user interface is more beginner-friendly and intuitive, making it easier to learn. In contrast, Blender has better sculpting and animation tools, which makes it a preferred choice for character modeling and simulations.
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Now, on with the software square-off!
Cinema 4D has hands-down a more intuitive user interface than Blender. It won’t even be a stretch to say that Cinema 4D has the best user interface among all 3D software. This makes Cinema 4D the more beginner-friendly software as well. With how seamless Cinema 4D’s UI is designed, it takes only a couple of days of familiarizing oneself with the menus and tools before it all becomes second nature.
In Cinema 4D, all object properties, brush settings, add-ons, and other features can be found in one area. Compare this with Blender, where different settings appear in separate panels that can be confusing and cause you to have a cluttered screen.
Another jewel in Cinema 4D’s UI crown is its Object Manager, its system for managing all the objects in a scene. When you are dealing with production-level scenes that have thousands of objects within one scene, a great management system is absolutely critical. The Cinema 4D Object Manager makes life simpler with its tagging system, take system, drag-and-drop capabilities, and more.
Where Blender gets a leg up over Cinema 4D in terms of UI is in animation. In Blender, it’s easy to toggle between the keyframe timeline and the graph editor. Unlike in Cinema 4D, when you want to see all location keyframes at once, things can get cluttered.
Both Cinema 4D and Blender 4D excel at polygon modeling. But when it comes to sculpting, Cinema 4D loses to Blender. Sculpting is a particular focus of Blender, with more sculpting brushes on hand plus it has sculpting updates seemingly every week. This makes Blender the better choice for character modeling as well. If the task involves modeling creatures or people, Blender’s sculpting tools are perfect for modeling your raging orc warrior or quirky office dad. Blender’s sculpting tools also lend themselves well to creating detailed buildings.
When it comes to populating a scene, Cinema 4D library of assets makes it easy to do just that. It has a vast collection of 3D objects, materials, and node capsules that you can use to help assemble your scenes quickly. From vases to trees to books to rocks, the Cinema 4D library probably has it.
Cinema 4D vs Blender in terms of rendering? not even close: Cinema 4D, on top of its native Physical Renderer engine, also has built-in support for Redshift, V-Ray, Octane, and Arnold. Blender only has Eevee (a real-time render engine) and Cycles. Eevee is not used that much on professional-level output. And while Cycles does the job quite well, Cinema 4D’s Redshift, V-Ray, Octane, and Arnold are just simply on another level.
Most film production-level VFX and world-class archviz houses render their stuff using one of those 4 top render engines. And so far Autodesk, the maker of Arnold, has no plans of releasing Arnold for Blender. It’s worth mentioning however that users from Blender’s robust community have created plugins that bridge Blender with top third-party rendering engines like Arnold.
Blender has outstanding fluid, smoke, cloth, and fire simulations. You can get realistic fluid dynamics and smoke and fire effects using native Blender tools that trump those of Cinema 4D’s.
However – and this is a biggie – Cinema 4D has built-in support for X-Particles, a premium (read: paid for) plugin that is simply the standard in particle dynamics effects. Once you plug X-Particles into Cinema 4D, frankly, you won’t look back. It can set you back anywhere from $107.25 (Learning Edition) to $1072.50 (complete edition) though. X-Particles is sold only as part of the Insydium Fused Collection that includes other plugins, add-ons, and libraries and cannot be purchased separately.
When it comes to 2D animation, Blender edges out Cinema 4D. Blender has what is called Grease Pencil, a unique tool that allows you to draw, composite, and animate 2D art inside 3D space. But why would you want to make 2D in 3D software, you ask? If you’ve ever heard of concept art and storyboarding, important processes that take place before any film production, then Grease Pencil is ideal for that. But hey, it’s not limited to that. You can create actual 2D movies using Blender with the help of Grease Pencil, which is exactly what Blender Studio did to showcase its 2D capabilities. Just see how cool this animated movie is. That’s all done in Blender.
For motion graphics, most artists would likely choose Cinema 4D over Blender. It has the MoGraph Toolset, an intuitive, comprehensive, and powerful palette of functionalities that will deliver on pretty much anything you can imagine when it comes to motion graphics--flying logos, transforming words, kinetic letters, abstract effects, and so much more.
At this point, you’ve probably noticed that we’ve said more good things about Cinema 4D vs Blender. But this is where we pull the rug from under your feet, so to speak: Blender is free.
Remember in the opening paragraphs where we said that Blender and Cinema 4D are both fully-featured and robust 3D software that can deliver pretty much comparable 3D output? That is true, but Blender is absolutely free. It is open-source and receives continuous updates and has a huge bank of add-ons that are also free. You can download it right now (it’s only 147MB!) and start designing. So while Blender is a good (and improving) 3D software with lots of amazing features to boast of, its price or lack of one is perhaps its most attractive.
But while Cinema 4D’s monthly subscription starts at around $109, its price is actually among the more affordable premium 3D software out there. So considering that it’s perhaps the industry standard in some aspects of 3D production, Cinema 4D doesn’t completely lose out in this aspect versus Blender.
This whole article has focused on pitting C4D vs Blender. But of course, nothing is stopping you from using both. For example, you can do concept renders and storyboarding in Blender then port everything over to Cinema 4D for the final renders. Cinema 4D and Blender are both 3D powerhouses, each with unique strong points that open up different possibilities for any 3D artist.