Seriously, are there any 3D Packages to consider for Mac?



I’m a Mac user and use 3D Packages for various things. I learned Maya in film school back in the day, and later used it professionally (both on Mac and Windows).

My problem is that I feel like, with the recent OpenGL deprecation and lack of CUDA support on most Macs, companies are abandoning the Macintosh platform. My workflow involves Motion, Sketch, Affinity Photo, Final Cut, all of which run great on my Mac, but it’s really hard to find a 3D package. Sometimes I use Photoshop, but it also gives me the creeps because, even on a high-end Mac, it’s very slow compared to Affinity Photo when working with lots of layers.

My field is mostly computer graphics for embedded systems and I need a POSIX OS to work on that supports system-wide scripting (both shell scripts as well as higher-level scripts like apple scripts) as well as high-end Graphics support (and a platform that doesn’t throw Candy Crush into my face when I do a clean install). The only thing that comes to mind is Mac.

I work on an iMac Pro with 16 GB of video RAM driving three 5k displays and, as laughable as it seems, I’m mostly using Cheetah 3D these days, except for things that Cheetah can’t do, which I use Blender for. At Work, I sometimes also use Maya, mostly for the scripting functionality, which is very powerful, but it gets increasingly difficult to justify the Price of a Maya license if all it does is run a bunch of Python scripts.

I’ve tried Maya, Modo and Houdini. All of these feel like bad ports. Maya’s viewport doesn’t even support retina displays and looks like 1999 on 5k displays. All of those feel very slow and buggy, with the UI building up slowly, and panels flickering and being hidden off-screen. They all seem (which is probably true) like they’re not native Mac apps but built with some ancient multi-platform frameworks and then ported to Mac, ignoring all of apple’s human interface and developer guidelines and high-level UI APIs. The only other thing that feels fast and smooth on a Mac is Blender, but I only use that for things like baking maps or advanced UV editing.

I just can’t use blender for modeling. I respect people that do, but I like more visual feedback when I’m working and it feels like writing code in VI to me, versus something like Visual Studio.

Cheetah 3D is great, but it just doesn’t have all the tools I need, for example I can’t easily edit vertex properties down to the numeric level, bake normal maps, or do advanced UV unwraps. However, for 95% of my use-cases it’s actually sufficient.

It is so smooth, though! I’ve been in a management position for years and don’t spend a lot of time in those tools, but every time someone sends me a 3D model for review and I drop it into Cheetah 3D, it feels like heaven. It just feels insane that an application that costs $99 one-time can render a 5k wireframe viewport whereas an apparent “pro” software like Maya that’s $1500 per year can’t.

So here’s my question:

Does anyone know a mac-native 3D modeling application that comes closer to the power of Maya for advanced tasks than Cheetah 3D and has some more advanced features like multi-monitor support and normal map baking?


Try Maxon Cinema4D


Maybe it’s because you’re running 3 5K screens, there’s actually a pretty good number of people that work with Maya on Mac

I don’t consider Mac to be a good platform for graphics, pretty much because the cost value is very poor, but a lot of people still work on the platform just fine.


Yeah, Cinema 4D has always been pretty Mac Friendly, but you may want to consider a different Mac set-up for everything other then video editing and light image editing.

The reality is that with 3 5K displays probably between 50%-80% of your computational resources of that little iMac’s innards are hogged just to generate that resolution with a still image…while Apple applications in particular are optimized for this and I’m sure it looks cool it’s an incredble waste of resources to any power user. The resolution war is something that’s always seemed particularly unuseful for everyone but electronics manufacturers and fundamentally damaging for a lot of users like yourself.

You may want to consider diconnecting your two 5K displays for 3D work and working on the main display or picking up a 1440p display to work primarily from that.

This kind of impracticality is the main reason I mostly dropped Macs, went to Windows again and only picked up one “traschcan” Mac for my work.

I’m glad Apple is redesigning the Mac Pro and I’m hoping they’ll re-introduce Faceshift along side that as a professional comercial product family, but we’l have to wait and see.


It’s really all about the lack of GPU support from Apple, here. As others said, those 3x 5K displays are eating up that GPU you’ve got trying to push so many instances. Maya’s UI is fine at 5K otherwise and should load almost instantly.

The obvious package you should be looking into is Windows, but Win10 is a completely different “shit-show” and I don’t begrudge you for not wanting to make the jump. The difference between Win10 and Win7 is night and day, and the latter is so much faster it’s just laughable that the new one is so widely accepted. But that said, the Mac platform is outdated and Apple isn’t going to be pushing forward with it. Why are you on an iMac instead of a Mac Pro, anyway? That seems backwards.

All jibes aside, again, it’s the GPU support you need that Apple is simply not going to deliver. Have you considered going with a Hackintosh? A guy was selling a very nice one on here a few days ago, and it was far more powerful than your iMac while costing considerably less.


Ahh yes!!.. the delusional world of 4&5K


Have you tried the Blender 2.8? The interface is now very different (i.e. better) and may give you the visual feedback you’re wanting while modelling, it’s officially beta but seems as reliable as any stable release. It was my main 3D software until I ditched mac last year. Otherwise C4D is good and maybe look into Modo, which I think is really underrated.


I don’t understand why I would be delusional while a 5k display clearly looks better and sharper than a 1080p display. The fact that I cannot perceive all pixels at once is well know to me. By this logic, we should all run our desktops at roughly 80x40 resolution because that’s all we can really see.


Yes, I looked at Blender 2.8 and was surprised that there was the new mode that makes it work like every other 3D package and not like the 3D version of VI :D.

Still, it’s not really native. Saving a file in a folder on my desktop in a native macOS app, I can just drag the target folder into the “save as” window whereas Blender has a custom multi-platform file browser that doesn’t work as well.

Same with the menus. When using cross-application scripting, you can use Apple Script to automate the selection of menu items… This allows me to write cross-app scripts that use Sketch, Photoshop, Maya and others, all at the same time. However, since Blender implements its own menu bar, that doesn’t work. I can kind of do this with blender by running it headless using Python, but it’s not the same as it doesn’t allow on-the fly workflow optimization.

The best way to use Blender is basically to work in nothing else. When you boot a headless linux and then startx blender and consider the blender UI your window manager, that works pretty well. But working with other applications in the same ecosystem doesn’t work as well; for the precise reason that blender is trying to be ecosystem agnostic and thus only implements the lowest common denominator.


Glad to read this informative discussion. Thanks all.


Ok…I’m not going to go too far into it, but ultimately 4k-5k-6k-8k are charged marketing buzz terms associated with resolutions that generally don’t match the buzzword that are EXPLICITLY INTENDED FOR END USERS. You are a practitioner or a hobbyist that posed a question to other practitioners.

Most practitioners here essentially told you that YOU, as a practitioner, are responsible for the allocation of hardware resources since you are also responsible for the output of some product within pipeline within a reasonable time frame. Most practitioners also presupposed/insinuated that software is generally not optimized for your exotic set-up which is impractical and will introduce a number of problems including the ones you described. Based on past experiences and knowing that quite often even once you get an impractical arrangement Gerry-rigged to work roughly the way you want it to work it will work until it doesn’t and that breakdown generally will not happen in a time of your choosing.

Take the information and use it as you please.



I’m surprised you didn’t try Cinema 4D. It’s one of the biggest general 3D software after Maya, bigger than 3ds Max right now and it has always been very MacOS friendly.

In fact, MAXON even avoids any feature that would be Windows only.

Did you try C4D?


…for giving Blender (2.8x daylies) a spin and you don’t have too install, as well.