When it comes to 3D modeling, topology is the distribution of geometric shapes that make up your mesh and is one of the most important factors in creating an accurate, animation-ready, and stunning model. Without clean topology, you will find that:
- Any lights in a scene or an engine will react in unnatural ways
- Editing your model down the line is more difficult
- Rigging and animating are also more difficult and may produce visual glitches or undesirable artifacts
- UV unwrapping and texturing your model is not as clean if it is even possible to do them
Retopology is the act of going through and creating a new topology for your mesh and making sure that, as much as possible, everything is a quad (a square or rectangle) or a tri (any kind of triangle) so everything interacts with the model properly.
Retopology software can help you if you know what you’re doing, making your life that much easier when you have the tools.
If you want to know what the best retopology software is, including some frequently asked questions about retopology and 3D models, keep reading.
What Is the Best Retopology Software?
Good retopology software can make your life so much easier but it doesn’t matter how powerful it is if the learning curve is too steep or comes at an exorbitant price. That’s why it can largely come down to preference or what software you have access to.
Check out this tutorial on Retopology if you want to learn more about the process – Link Here
That being said, some of the highest-rated retopology software include:
In this article, we will examine four retopology software from the above list, as they are typically considered the best by the widest range of users.
Topogun is a software designed for retopologizing and map baking. It was created by the company PixelMachine SRL. It is created with top-of-the-line retopology tools in mind, allowing you to easily create meshes that are ready to be used in production. Even very high-res meshes are supported.
This isn’t some general tool for design. It was created specifically with retopologizing and map baking in mind.
This means that it doesn’t have a lot of useless tools you will never use. While some people may not enjoy having tools specific for one or two tasks, it can be helpful for others to have streamlined software that does exactly what you need it to.
Topogun Key Features:
- Available on Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X
- Low-res versions can follow any poses on high-res versions
- Specific for retopologizing and map baking
- Products can easily be carried over to other programs and software like Photoshop
- Utilizes multi-threading, up to 256 CPU cores supported
Topogun User Experience:
Topogun has a sleek user interface right out of the box with many classic icons for the various tools it supports. Hovering over any of these will give you a quick tooltip and keyboard shortcuts for commands that can be located pretty easily.
However, there are two main issues that people typically bring up when using Topogun. The first is, that you cannot customize as much of the interface as some people would like. This is a relatively minor issue and comes down to how personalized people like their digital workspaces to be.
The second is that Topogun can experience some bugs that slow down your workflow. While the flaws aren’t going to crash your entire computer or anything, any delays in your work can be frustrating but with the release of Topogun 3 Beta, it seems that they tackled a lot of those problems.
A big reason that many people might be curious about Topogun is its cost. Coming in at just $100 for an individual license and $250 for a floating license, Topogun is certainly one of the more affordable options in the 3D modeling space.
That number may seem very high for some, however. Thankfully, you can use a demo mode to try and get a better understanding of the software before you purchase it for good. This is especially great if you aren’t sure whether such a specialized tool fits into your work pipeline.
What We Like/Dislike About Topogun:
- Licenses can be easily moved from one operating software to another
- Lightweight and fast
- Tubes tool for cylindrical objects retopology
- Low entry cost
- Intuitive tools and workflow
- Very specific in its usage
- Updates are very few and far between
In terms of just retopology, especially auto-retopology, Topogun is hard to beat which is why it gets a 9 out of 10. When it works, it can make your life a lot easier without too much extra effort from importing and exporting models.
We recognize that some people want a full suite of 3D tools as opposed to something that focuses on a small subset of purposes.
People know 3D-Coat as an advanced option for sculpting and texturing models but it also has some powerful retopology features that make it a solid competitor.
Pilgway, the company that developed and published the software, says that it is aimed at those who want high-end sculpting but is also great for its UV map design and retopology tools all in a single package deal.
Retopology will always have a place in 3D workflows but if you can reduce the need for it by using 3D-Coat’s intuitive sculpting and UV editing tools, it can make retopologizing simpler down the road.
Just late in 2022, 3D-Coat introduced the updated auto-repo tools and commands to make artists’ lives even easier and reduce the laborious man-hours of manual retopology. T
Check out this course on getting started with 3D Coat – Link Here
The robust Autopo command has parameters to fine-tune your topology without even lifting a finger, and most importantly you don’t need to leave the application to get it done.
3D-Coat Key Features:
- No constraints with regard to your topology
- Able to reference imported meshes for retopologizing
- Quick, user-friendly manual retopology tools
- Retopology tools grouped by color palette for a clear and understandable interface
- Advanced dialog when using baking settings
- Autoretopo feature
3D-Coat User Experience:
3D-Coat can definitely eat up a lot of your computer’s resources, so you’ll want to close out of most everything else when you’re using 3D-Coat.
This is even more true if you are working with a high-resolution mesh with many, many polygons. That being said, once you learn what you’re doing in the program, the only real limitation is your imagination.
The program is pretty stable and responsive on Windows, which is always great, but some Mac users encounter crashes somewhat frequently.
Some minor changes to the interface would also make a number of people happy but this could come down to personal preference more than anything else. The Pilgway team releases major updates about twice a year and patches for bugs are always being worked on though.
More payment options are always a plus and Pilgway provides several for you to choose from. You can obtain a permanent license, rent (through a software-as-a-service model), or rent to own as an individual for 21,48 USD per month. There are also discounts or offers specifically for larger companies and educational institutes.
If you get a permanent license, the program is yours to use in an unlimited capacity, in most cases, you can even use it for commercial purposes. You also get the industry standard of 12 months of free updates.
One thing to keep in mind, though, is that the prices listed on the Pilgway website are listed in euros, so you’ll need to do a quick conversion to see a more accurate estimate of what you’re paying (value-added tax isn’t included which is why it’s still an estimate).
What We Like/Dislike About 3D-Coat:
- Retopology can easily be weaved into a PBR workflow
- Sculpting and texture painting by hand work well
- Quick, smart UV wrapping experience
- Relatively inexpensive compared to some competitors
- 30-day trial for those on the fence
- Pretty processor-heavy, so you might need a better computer to fully utilize
- Different layouts and processes to other programs can be a problematic learning curve
- User interface can be clunky at times
We are happy to give 3D-Coat an 8 out of 10. If you know that you want to focus on sculpting, texturing, and retopology, 3D-Coat is an excellent choice.
Even if you’re just taking it up as a new hobby, a permanent license for 3D-Coat isn’t so expensive that you need to break the bank or make monthly payments. You’d be hard-pressed to find another program as powerful as 3D-Coat without a bunch of expensive or annoying strings attached.
It’s hard to discuss any aspect of 3D modeling without someone bringing up Blender. They do so for good reason though, the open-source project puts the power of creation in the people’s hands and it just keeps getting better.
If you really take the time to learn Blender, you won’t necessarily need any other 3D software for any task. (here is an article I wrote on the best blender tutorials to get you started)
Blender has some topology features built-in but they have some limitations like how the automatic Remesh feature only works on your original geometry and doesn’t change anything that has been generated by modifiers like mirrors.
Bsurfaces is an add-on that comes in the default Blender package and can also be used in retopology workflows.
If you want the best Blender has to offer, you actually need to visit places like the Blender Market for plugins that do a much better job of retopology. Retopoflow is the premier option, with easy-to-use and powerful tools to make quick work of any model.
I have written a guide on retopology in blender you can find it here.
Blender Key Features:
- Has many other 3D modeling features, not just retopology tools
- Robust support with frequent updates and improvements
- The interactive community provides plugins to fill in the gaps in the default program
- Extensive Python API can use scripts and be customized to benefit your retopology if you have the coding knowledge
Blender User Experience:
Blender is often touted as “the beginner-friendly” 3D software but it still requires some dedicated time to learn the things that will get you into a streamlined workflow.
If you want to learn Blender this is one of the best courses out there for beginners – Link Here
Even so, most people agree that the interface is easy to understand. The customization options are also a plus for people coming from other programs or those who know exactly what they want.
Because Blender is open-source, it is completely FREE to use for any user (do I need to say more really). The caveat is that some plugins and add-ons may need to be bought through online marketplaces to make your retopology work easier.
For example, Retopoflow has 4 different product versions available depending on how many people plan to use it. The personal license comes in at just $86 which is even cheaper than the standalone program, Topogun.
What We Like/Dislike About Blender:
- A complete 3D suite of tools
- Lots of resources and tutorials for retopology and other topics from community members
- Not the strongest default retopology features
- Updates are not always focused on retopology or tools you want to be overhauled
- Not an industry standard (though it slowly becoming one)
Blender is so much more than just a retopology tool but if we only consider the features it comes with for that specific task, it can only be a 7 out of 10 at most.
It has the potential to get much better, as we can see with plugins like Retopoflow, but it leaves a fair amount to be desired if you want good retopology work with minimal effort.
Similar to Blender, Maya is a leading product in the 3D modeling, animation, and visual effects industry with the capability to do so much more than just retopology.
In fact, the company that offers Maya, Autodesk, also has several other software available like 3ds Max. Some are slightly more niche but most people, especially professionals, come back to Maya time and again.
Check out this Course in case you want to start learning Maya – Link Here
Maya Key Features:
- Quaddraw commands make quick, clean work of meshes
- Adaptive retopology when sculpting
- Bifrost and other add-ons can be used to determine the quality of a model’s topology through simulations
- OpenSubdiv support to maintain a high-speed workflow with meshes in the viewport
Maya User Experience:
Maya is an accessible platform for users with versions available on Windows, Mac, and Linux, all of which run with few issues if any. Users are welcome to customize many aspects of Maya’s screens and tools to create a personalized digital workspace which many people approve of.
The main problem Maya has had throughout the years is the intense learning curve associated with the program. People just getting into the 3D art landscape are constantly told that it can be a hassle to learn the deeper mechanics that make the program so powerful.
Even so, those who dedicate themselves to the learning requirement often find that they prefer Maya over alternatives like Blender and would find it difficult to make a transition.
Unfortunately, because of Maya’s prestige as an industry leader, there is a heavy price tag attached to this software. Autodesk offers some educational discounts and a free trial, but keep in mind that when it comes time to pay you will be shelling out about $150 a month or more.
This is because Maya has a software-as-a-service business model with a subscription fee – in other words, you can’t purchase a permanent copy of Maya. If you’re serious about 3D modeling and retopology, though, any studio or company that hires will likely eat that cost for you.
What We Like/Dislike About Maya:
- A powerful suite of tools for more than just retopology
- Plenty of tutorials and support documentation on Maya’s tools and commands, even for retopology
- Industry Standard
- High barrier of entry through its cost
- Difficult learning curve
Maya has a lot going for it. This is particularly true when it comes to the number of users within a professional setting that prefer Maya over other options. However, we give Maya a 6.5 out of 10 rating for only Retopology.
This mostly comes down to the outrageous subscription prices Autodesk expects indie artists and animators to pay and the fact that a couple more plugins are needed to make the best of Maya’s retopology work.
Unless you can get an education discount, the out-of-pocket cost is likely too much for hobbyists or anyone who wants to become a professional through a self-taught approach.
Best Retopology Software FAQS
What Is the Best Retopology Software?
As far as just performing retopology, Topogun is one of the best tools out there. It is a little dated but they are working on a new version (3.0) that promises to build upon what made Topogun so great before.
The intuitive and user-friendly interface as well as how the tools work makes it a great choice, including for those on a relatively tight budget.
What Is the Best Free Retopology Tool for Blender?
Bsurfaces used to be a separate add-on for Blender but was eventually incorporated into the default program. If the Bsurfaces and other retopology tools provided in Blender aren’t cutting it for you, you can try the Instant Meshes add-on from GitHub.
This is the best free tool you will get for retopology but if you can afford to spend a little money, other good options include Tessalator, DynRemesh, and, of course, Retopoflow.
Do Professional Animators Use the Software Above?
The short answer is, yes, they certainly do! Because Maya is an industry standard, you can often find a variety of examples that Autodesk proudly displays on its website.
For example, if you are looking at the prices of Maya, you will be greeted by the face of Rocket Raccoon from Marvel Studios’ Avengers: Endgame movie. Amazon Studios used some Autodesk products for the new series The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.
Companies like Ubisoft Entertainment use 3D-Coat in the production of some of their games and Blender is slowly turning heads as a professional tool.
It is hard to find examples of people using Topogun, or at least crediting it, since most people simply import a model and then export a cleaner version of the same model to their main application like Maya.
What Are Some Automatic Retopology Tools?
Most, if not all, of the software discussed here, have automatic retopology tools as part of their suite. The name of the tools as well as the mileage you get from them can vary pretty dramatically though.
If you’ve hit your budget for 3D modeling and retopology work, you can stick with the included tools, just look for commands with names like Remesh, Retopologize, or Automatic Retopology. Otherwise, you can make use of the automatic retopology tools in standalone applications like Autoremesher.
So there you have it, the top four retopology tools for digital artists and animators. What did you think of them?
There is a lot to consider when it comes to retopology, especially if you already have an established pipeline. We advise taking some time to look deeper at the pros and cons and get your hands on the trial versions of each program that offers one.
If you still aren’t sure or haven’t figured out how to streamline your work, we recommend starting with Blender. You’ll have access to much more than just some retopology tools so you can focus on learning a single program instead of mixing and matching many options.
If you feel that the included tools don’t do a good enough job after a while, you can pay for add-ons like Retopoflow which are often cheaper than other alternatives like Maya.
But if you ask me what tools I use and prefer it’s Topogun all the way.