Fashion designers no longer flip through pages of hand-drawn pencil sketches to display a design idea. Today, most garments begin life as digital images in a special 3D design software program. If you want to design or sell clothing, chances are you need to find the best 3D clothing design software to use!
Fashion designers use 3D clothing design software to create new styles and prep them for production. A 3D virtual fit option can also help customers with online shopping. Some popular 3D clothing design software options include CLO 3D, Browzwear, and Marvelous Designer.
In this article, you will learn how 3D Fashion design software works. You will discover the 17 most popular 3D fashion design tools today. Finally, you will discover how fashion designers use this software to create clothes!
What is 3D Fashion Design?
3D Fashion design uses digital clothing designs to create, produce, and market garments. This method depends on CAD software or computer-aided design software. Many design programs offer simple but layered interfacings that allow you to create even the most minute detail in a garment, like adding zippers to a dress.
The difference between 2D and 3D digital designs is that 3D designs show the depth of a garment and allow you to rotate the image. 3D designs look filled out, as if they have a body inside. This has many advantages for a designer, like showing how a garment will drape or if it needs fitting elements like pleats or darts.
So far, CAD programs typically offer both 2D and 3D design elements. The fashion world is moving rapidly toward 3D designs, but production teams still need to translate a 3D design into 2D cutting patterns for the production of the garment.
Using 3D fashion design tools saves time and money and protects the environment! Design teams can often produce a garment design from start to finish in as little as 40% of the time it takes to complete the same process traditionally.
On top of this, using digital fabric samples and creating sample products virtually cuts out a lot of fabric waste.
But the most significant environmental impact comes from the consumer end of this digital design process. Ideally, 3D clothing design ultimately leads to a virtual sale model that allows customers to order garments that fit them perfectly by tailoring the virtual model to their own shape. This will alleviate tons of fast fashion waste, as fewer ill-fitting garments will get tossed into landfills.
Even high–end clothing brands use 3D fashion design today. More than half of Hugo Boss designs come from 3D design techniques today, and other famous brands like Luis Vitton, Gucci, and Prada have a hybrid work model that uses more and more digital design tools as well.
In some cases, companies have even started creating virtual models, or avatars, to sell 3D designs. The most famous example of this technique is Fenty Beauty’s CGI model Shudu. The pandemic gave 3D fashion design a powerful kick-start because going virtual allowed clothing lines to hold fashion shows online.
Some clothing lines even use 3D design to pre-sell upcoming collections, allowing consumers to see new garments before production takes place. This is a great way to test the waters and determine how well an item will sell!
Working in the digital design world also allows for long-distance collaboration, which helps in the global fashion industry today!
While 3D fashion design is taking off like a rocket in the fashion world, it still has a ways to go. For example, only a handful of programs can currently offer realistic depictions of clothing with special linings or interior structural elements.
Another challenge digital designers face is finding programs that offer a realistic rendering of different types of fabrics. To get around this issue, some big-name brands develop their own bank of digital fabrics within their design programs.
Pretty soon, though, you may find it difficult to tell if a picture of a garment for sale on Amazon is a picture of a physical piece of clothing or a graphic rendering of a digital design!
17 Best 3D Clothing Design Software
The best 3D clothing design software offers features like excellent render quality, camera angle and lighting, and customizable elements like texture and surface relief. Of course, they also offer basics like a library of basic clothing types to choose from and alter.
Some CAD programs offer both 3D rendering of designs and 3D modeling, which is the marketing side of things to make the digital garments loo great to a consumer.
1. Adobe Substance 3D Designer
While the Adobe Illustrator suite has remained the staple of fashion design schools for decades, Adobe recently upped its game to include a new 3D design package called Adobe Substance 3D Designer. This program features 3D painting and texturing elements that work great for video game design, clothing design, and many other applications.
The program lets you upload photos of real-life materials and turn them into digital textiles or other objects. As a cool bonus, you can integrate older Adobe tools like 2D logo design programs and drop the logo onto your 3D clothing design as you work.
The only potential drawback to the program at this time is that it is not tailored just to fashion design, and you may need to switch to a third-party program or things like garment blanks if you do not want to build a design from scratch.
The subscription fee for Adobe Substance 3D can vary depending on if you already subscribe to the Illustrator Suite.
Browzwear is a Singapore-based 3D design company providing cutting-edge fashion products. Browzwear products include VStitcher, Lotta, Stylezone, and a fabric analyzer component. You can purchase the products separately or in a comprehensive design suite.
VStitcher and Lotta, in particular, have made a big splash for use on their own. But Browzwear constantly develops new products like the collaborative Stylezone program that allows all the stakeholders in garment design production to collaborate from anywhere in the world.
The fabric analyzer program may sound boring, but it performs an amazing function: it translates the thickness, texture, and stretch of a physical piece of fabric into a digital rendering of the material! This way, you can accurately depict every type of cloth in your garments, from velvet to denim.
One important thing to note about Browzwear is that this program works best for large-scale companies because you purchase access to the program per seat and prices can range up to $10,000.
3. C-Design Fashion
C-Design Fashion focuses on the collaborative production and marketing side of clothing design. It uses 3D modeling software to provide features like sizing alterations and viewing a garment in different color schemes. It also provides many back-of-house tools like data centralization and synchronized communication tools for a production team.
Big names like Zara and Maison Kitsune use this program in their design and marketing process. Despite this, pricing for the program varies and starts as low as $49/month.
4. CLO 3D
CLO 3D is probably the most famous 3D clothing design program on the market today. It offers everything from 2D to 3D sewing pattern design to intricate 3D modeling with garments that move and flow with the 3D model! The greatest strength of the program is its intuitive interface which allows you to visualize and create 3D garments in very little time.
The well-established design program offers community forums and detailed training videos or even live demos to get you started.
CLO also produces a specialty program called Marvelous Designer, which you can read more about later in this section.
Besides offering subscription plans suitable for companies with multiple employees, CLO 3D offers individual plans at $50/month and even a student plan for young fashion designers starting at $25/month!
5. EFI Optitex
Optitex specializes in providing the tools a small company needs to launch a clothing line, such as pairing with the logo design program from Adobe Illustrator and providing both 2D and 3D sewing pattern designers. It includes a fabric manager and tools to design pretty much anything that uses cloth, such as upholstery, car seats, and handbags, as well as clothing.
Besides 3D design tools, Optitex features cutting plans and other essential garment production services. You do have to contact the company for a pricing quote, though.
6. Fusion 360
Fusion 360 is the only program currently offering integrated CAD, CAM, and other programs all combined in one package. What this means in practical terms is that this fairly massive software package can do a lot more than design 3D clothes–but it offers a rich pool of resources for fashion design, as well!
Fusion 360 includes elements like 3D simulations of products. You can build 3D models using many different techniques like mesh, surface, direct, or freeform modeling. Perhaps most importantly, it offers photo-realistic renderings of things like fabrics!
That said, this massive design software comes with a massive price tag of $545 per year.
Lotta is a product produced by Browzwear, which you can purchase separately or as part of the Browzwear package. It deserves a separate mention as Lotta has made a name for itself on its own in the fashion design world because of its patternless block designs that let you digitally create new versions of any style.
You can use an existing garment type and swap out colors, trims, patterns, types of fabric, or other details to try out new garment types without wasting money on cutting out sample products or crafting 2D sewing patterns. The advanced 3D design components let you drape, structure, or shadow your 3D garments too!
The program also syncs with Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop to allow you to add logos or other details you create using a 2D design program.
8. Marvelous Designer
Marvelous Designer is an offshoot of CLO 3D, focused even more on the animation and detail of 3D models. Video game and animation designers may prefer this vivid, rich program that offers all kinds of 3D technology. But Marvelous Designer also gets a lot of well-deserved accolades for its use in the fashion design industry.
This is unsurprising since the program’s tagline is “the best realistic cloth-making program for 3D artists.” Besides garment design tools and a truly intense fabric simulation program, you can also create 2D sewing programs or program looped animations, all in this impressive software package.
If you plan to use the program for personal use, you can subscribe starting at just $280/year. If you want to design clothing to sell or use the program for your business, you will have to reach out for a company pricing quote.
Maya is the 3D design element of Autodesk, though you can purchase Maya separately. The main focus of Maya lies in crafting incredibly realistic animated or video game characters (think Pixar-level design here!). However, a wonderful byproduct of this intense 3D design program is that it gives you great tools for designing 3D garments and amazing characters to model them.
This program has a $1,785 annual subscription fee, which makes it better suited to companies than hobbyists.
Rhino is a super professional 3D design and rendering program you can use to create models of everything from cars to clothing. It does not offer the best beginner-friendly interface, as it skews toward professional designers, but it does provide a comprehensive array of tools for freeform 3D design. Besides providing many design tools, it offers compatibility with other programs like Adobe, so you can integrate elements from other programs.
In a rare switch-up from most design programs, you can make a one-time purchase of $995 instead of paying a subscription fee to purchase the software.
11. Romans CAD
Romans CAD is a cloud-based 3D design program primarily used for footwear and leatherworking products. The program offers richly detailed shoe elements from the sole to the ornaments and laces. You can render realistic materials like textured leather or plastics, too!
Plus, the other main strength of this program is that it offers a cloud-based collaborative design tool for your whole team to use together.
You can contact the company through an online contact form to ask for a price quote.
Stylezone is another Browzwear product that needs its own mention because of its focus on building a collection or clothing line in collaboration with a production team. The cloud-based platform is about cutting back on wasted time and physical products by allowing everyone to contribute and share opinions about garments in the online program.
The program also provides a heavy emphasis on marketing and providing good merchandising info to customers. For example, you can tailor sizing charts or offer garments in the collection in many different fits. This program is all about how to showcase your 3D clothing designs rather than how to create the designs from scratch.
For pricing, you can request a quote on Browzwear’s website.
Tailornova specializes in 3D clothing design, which makes it a great choice for anyone who wants plenty of design, marketing, and team-friendly tools. This cloud-based program. Besides 3D design tools, the program will translate your garments into 2D sewing patterns to get you started on garment production without wasting any physical materials.
Besides sewing patterns made to measure, the program offers true-to-life 3D models to display your designs effectively. Plus, Tailornova intentionally supports hobbyists and home sewers as well as professionals!
The program is still in beta testing but offers a discounted subscription fee of just $29/month during the testing period.
14. TUKA 3D
TUKA 3D offers it all: realistic 3D modeling, intricate rendering of clothing details, motion simulation, and CAD for turning your designs into usable patterns and data. TUKA has a strong community and features “Tuka talks” to assist users, too!
One of the most fun things about this design program is that the 3D models come from scans of real people and will move in programmed animation to display your 3D garments to the best effect! The program comes with all kinds of useful garment design features, like a library of digital fabrics and trims to incorporate into your garments.
Pricing depends on the size of your company, but you can get a subscription for as little as $99/month.
Virtuality.Fashion provides a remarkable virtual showroom to display your 3D garment designs. This app-based program offers a variety of tools like a plug-in so you can turn any of your 2D designs into a realistic 3 design in minutes. You can also create a 3D prototype from scratch.
Hi-res models and 3D garment details bring each piece to life as you work. But most importantly, you can design the showroom or the sale page your customers see when they search for your clothing. Here you can display your 3D garments in all their glory and include helpful features like virtual sizing or color changes.
Finally, you can use Virtuality Fashion to produce your garments in bulk orders. Pricing for the apps or software package can vary. The best way to get an accurate quote is to contact the company through the website.
VStitcher is the last of Browzwear’s famous design programs. This one focused on all aspects of 3D garments design from scratch. You can choose from a generous pool of 3D block designs to modify or create your own garment form. Once you have the shape of the garment, VStitcher offs a huge variety of realistically rendered fabric types, trims, and other details to incorporate into the design.
After that, you can apply pressure and tension mapping to test the fit, stretch, and drape of the garment on realistic 3D models. And since you will want to showcase the garment to stakeholders before you start selling it, you can use many design tools like animations and photo-realistic settings to market your new garment, too!
VStitcher offers a free trial but costs $1,500 per year.
Last but not least, ZBrush focuses on 3D painting and texturing for experienced designers. Created by the Pixologic design company, this digital sculpting software offers customizable painting and sculpting brushes, polygon modeling options, and many advanced illustration and digital sculpting tools.
While it has many uses for artists working in the gaming or media industries, it also offers super realistic rendering of fabrics and models perfect for advanced garment designers. Better yet, ZBrush costs just $39.95 per month.
Best Free 3D Clothing Design Software
While most professional-grade 3D clothing programs have a high price tag, you can find a few free or open-source programs that offer excellent design tools too!
- Blender promises “the freedom to create,” a promise it can back up based on its huge community of clothing designers, illustrators, and gamers! The open-source program offers digital sculpting tools, excellent rendering, and all kidneys of animating and video editing tools. While not strictly a fashion-focused tool, you will get free access to almost every type of 3D design tool.
- For the budding fashion entrepreneur, Valentina offers a free program to design clothes and turn them into sewing patterns for production.
- While not as photorealistic as some design programs, edrawmax offers a free 3D clothing design tool to teach you the basics of fashion design before investing in an expensive software package. It also focuses strictly on fashion and clothing ensign, so you will not feel overwhelmed by the huge array of design tools in this program.
Do Fashion Designers Use 3D Software?
Most fashion designers today use 3D design software to cut costs during the design and production of new clothing lines or seasonal collections. Designers look for programs that offer everything from an accurate rendering of different types of fabric to marketing tools like virtual fit models.
Many modern fashion design programs also offer features that connect teams virtually, allowing all the stakeholders in the garment production process to interact during the garment’s creation. This cloud-based style of fashion design cuts costs and can also dramatically speed up the production of the garment.
Pattern grading or translating a 3D design into 2D patterns is essential in many fashion design programs.
The bottom line here is that designers almost have to use 3D CAD tools today. For example, the Spanish clothing retailer Zara uses C-Design as part of the company’s clothing production process.
Since working virtually saves time and money and protects the environment, the future of the fashion world is clear: 3D clothing designs are here to stay!
The best 3D clothing design software programs offer a realistic rendering of garment shapes, textures, and colors. Most programs allow you to upload photos of real fabric to translate them into digital cloth samples. Many programs also offer virtual or animated models to display your 3D designs.
Clothing design programs also commonly feature sales and marketing tools like a showroom. Sometimes you can even create models that provide fit-to-size features for customers. Plus, many cloud-based programs have collaborative elements a production team can use together.
With so many 3D clothing design tools available today, do you have a favorite? What makes it stand out from the crowd? Leave a comment below to let us know!