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Best free renderer for 3ds max? (for photo realism) I just started learning 3ds max and got no idea which renderer to go with.
bump. other anon here from the maya / max thread
if you have just started learning you should focus on mastering 3d modeling first then rendering. Are you planning to go into games or cgi animation or vfx? I do 3d art for games and i use marmoset toolbag or game engine for rendering. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pu5fg5C7XHY radeon pro sofware is free! http://www.creativebloq.com/3d/top-free-rendering-software-cg-artists-91412918 hope this helps you out.
Vray is good
MentalRay comes integrated with 3dsmax, why not use that? I'm baffled why they're still setting Scanline as default.
Modeling characters, creatures and interior design. Thank you for the suggestion!

Vray isn't free though and I have the student edition of 3ds max, would like to stay within legal boundaries for once.

I heard that mental ray is really hard to learn, is it not so?

It's about as hard as any other renderer, except that the way it's integrated in Max is kinda annoying. It clashes with the default stuff a lot - things like exposure control and omni lights that are meant for use with Scanline (why the fuck have they not removed that garbage yet...). You would have to make sure you're using only MR-specific lights and render settings so that MR plays well with your scene. Having a file with a default basic scene set up for MR helps.
Btw, you can take a look here to get started:

Alright, thanks a lot!
Isn't Arnold the standard now?

Anyway, I have both 3ds max 2017 and 2018 installed. Arnold feels more logical and comfy to work with, but it has less options than Vray. Also, it is slower (for me) so that's why I'm probably sticking with (pirated, fuck it) Vray for now.
That's basically the difference between a biased (vray) and unbiased (arnold) renderer for you.

Unbiased will be 100% physically accurate but offer you less control and shortcuts, while biased will let you cut down corners in some places if you know what you're doing, although at the price of being harder to use.

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