View Full Version : Is it worth learning Lightwave in 2016? (Mainly for modelling and rendering)

08-04-2016, 07:35 AM
Hi everybody,

I know this is a question that have been asked gazillion times and that the answer depends on my needs, so let me give you some context.

I want to add 3D to my work: Information Graphics. Back in the 2000’s, Lightwave was pretty much a tour de force for many infographic designers working in journals and magazines. There are amazing pieces from Joe Zeff, Tonia Cowan (https://www.flickr.com/photos/toniacowan/13273686865/), Alberto Cuadra and Jeff Goertzen, to name a few. They’ve worked at places such Time Magazine, The Globe and Mail, USA Today, etc.

They all have impressive work made with Lightwave.

The reason I’m asking if is it worth learning Lightwave nowadays, is because it seems to me that its development seems uncertain and its learning options are rather scarce.

I studied Lightwave 10 years ago, and still have an old licence. Even if I never got really proficient, I managed to create some pieces with it. It’s the 3D software that I’m the most familiar with and I’ve always liked it. It’s simple and its UI is not convoluted.

Back to 2016 I found two other alternatives : Maya and Blender. I’ve seen excellent pieces made with both. Maya it’s the expensive power horse and Blender the ugly open source. I tried some tutorials from both. I found Blender UI really cumbersome and not intuitive. Maya seems much more stable in that regard.

Before going further with any of them, (or updating my Lightwave licence) I’d like to have some advice because I don’t have much time to invest in a steep learning curve. I still feel comfortable with Lightwave. It’s just that I don’t want to invest in a tool that it’s no longer standard. It’s development seems staled compared to others. Heck, the 2015 UI doesn’t support Retina Display yet.

As for learning options, Lightwave is almost non existent in places such as Lynda, Digital-Tutors, or Skillshare. Users from simplylightwave.com complains about the lack of activity and updates (http://simplylightwave.com/forum/showthread.php?p=46315#post46315), and even Dan Ablan, the longtime LW Guru, has stopped publishing.

I know that the community is still strong and there are a lot of video-tuts out there, but nothing arranged in form of learning flows such as CG Cookie (https://cgcookie.com/features/), which is really neat.

Finally, my technical needs. I don’t need a power horse. I would be mostly modelling and rendering static images. I will occasionally animate, but nothing too long. Some people complain about having Modeler and Layout as two separate tools, but I find that works better for my needs :)
I’m not looking to work in television or the video game industry. No complex production pipelines. I’d be the only person doing 3D at my work for the moment, but it’d be nice to learn something that it’s kind of standard, if we get more 3D illustrators someday.


Good ol’ Lightwave?
FREE Blender? (I just have to make my mind about it’s UI, god…)
Or ask for a Maya LT subscription?

Thank you all guys, I’ve been stuck with this for a while…

08-04-2016, 08:15 AM
If you are primarily modeling and rendering, i would throw Modo in the mix. With your LW experience, you will feel at home.

08-04-2016, 08:18 AM
That said, i have both Modo and LW but i prefer LW (perhaps muscle memory). All the old LW tutorials are still relevant, including Dan Ablan's on Lynda.

Kinetic Shapes
08-04-2016, 08:22 AM
Hi. Maya LT won't serve your needs as limited on rendering and is more ideal if you are working with game engines. You would need to subscribe to the full version of Maya. A new revamped version of LW is coming out sometime this year, so maybe worth waiting to see what that brings. The LW blog already gives a good glimpse of what is coming. I'm using LW 11.6 and able to do a lot of cool stuff with it. I also use Cinema 4D and would recommend that as at least in the UK, that is the industry standard for motion graphics for getting jobs. It is an expensive option if you want the full studio version and working freelance. LW is very competively priced and competent for what you pay for. Version 11.6 is a big leap from version 10. Didn't buy into LW 2015 as felt more like a point release. I would stick to LW for the moment and see how the new LW is when released and learn Blender since it's free anyway.

08-04-2016, 08:42 AM
Good question to ask on a LW forum :) You can Model just about anything in LW Modeler within reason and if you really want to beef it up check out the amazing 3rd Powers and LW Cad plugins which really distinguish LW from other software. There are loads of great tutorials on YouTube.

The present LW renderer has a very powerful interactive facility vpr which helps enormously in setting up shots. Surfacing can be as simple or complex as you need with the nodal facility.

The forthcoming LW is promising a new PBR renderer - which was showcased in the UK a few weeks ago - and faster response times if you develop into animation. Check out the blog entries.

If you need to create immensely complex scenes, the instancing facility is especially effective.

As for the future, who knows... XSI tragically disappeared... However I've found using LW equips you with all the fundamentals and transferable skills if you need / want to use other apps.

08-04-2016, 09:04 AM
Lightwave has served me well and continues to in Architecture and other related areas that need visualization. Even if it did not have a huge update looming it would serve me well for sometime to come. You have a copy upgrade now and go for it!

08-04-2016, 09:05 AM
I personally hate anything Autodesk. It might be touted as industry standard, but that company is horrible. Also, unless you work for a large studio/company, any Autodesk product doesn't make any sense financially.
On the difficulty front, I started out using Lightwave in 2009 and was able to learn Maya fairly quickly. The biggest hurdle is always navigation. LW and MODO is done with different keys + mouse. Maya is basically done with one key pressed and the mouse buttons. Or so it was back then. My point is that you can start with Lightwave, then easily learn another package.
Also, I have high hopes that with LW Next, it will be a new era for this software. Also, since you're into prints, LW's render engine as it stands right now is amazing. It's incredibly easy to get good renders even compared with MODO (Although 801 is the latest version I have). Maya (Mental Ray) could get really good renders, but you have to be very technical minded to do so. I've never used Arnold, so no opinion here.
Another plus is LW is CHEAP! Like dirt cheap compared to anything else. Only thing cheaper is Blender and the learning curve for that is too much for me.

08-04-2016, 09:08 AM
You didn't mention what your pipeline is; ie if you're working with others or working as a standalone generalist.

About the only thing going for LW now is that you can be a generalist and do a bit of everything and it's a great tool for that. Everything else tends towards specialists. ie shaders, modellers, riggers. So if you're hoping to secure work with other studios or artists, LW is not your first choice.

08-04-2016, 09:12 AM
Depends on what you want. If you are looking to get a job at one of a few places, you probably want to learn the tools they use. If you are looking for a job in an industry you probably want to learn all the top tools in that industry and a few others just to add to your tool box. If you are outputting your own product, use what ever tool you are comfortable with, that will get the job done. The animation stuff is a side job/ hobby for me. Lightwave does what I need it to do and makes me money over the costs. If I moved to Maya I would need to do a lot more work and am not sure it would give me enough extra to be worth the price. If I did this all say every day it might be different or might not. It all depends on what you are doing and what works for you, balanced against return on investment. Lightwave fits what I need and fits my business/hobby cash flow. Of all the animation programs I've used I like the feel of it best, but then I came from Amiga with it....

08-04-2016, 09:17 AM
Hi guys,

Great and prompt answers! I love to see that the community is that alive!
You're really encouraging me to stick with LW! What about learning options?

Any suggestions other than Ablan's books, Lynda, Simplylightwave, Newtek, Youtube?

I've made my homework and got a good stock of online videos and tutorials, but they're either dispersed, disorganized or old.

- - - Updated - - -

@rdolishny I'd be to only one at the office for now, a standalone generalist.

08-04-2016, 10:08 AM
I would stick to lightwave..why
1. you got an old license, though I am not sure it will get you a cheaper one.
2. lightwave you know a bit.
3. lightwave will probably be cheaper than anything else, except for blender.
4. lightwave has an excellent and fast renderer.
5. the next lightwave will have new pbr and lighting stuff, to keep up with so called industry standard.
6. lightwave“s modeler is still able to work for you for a long time ahead..even if it“s current state is a bit old, then you have to take in to consideration new improvements that may show up.

If you think of it as being able to perform for you as hobbiest, freelancer..I think lightwave should do, if you look for applying for a job at a studio, you may have to approach it differently depending on where you live and if lightwave is commonly used.

There seem to be a decline of users or community stuff, and lightwave vids..but such things can be dynamic and change very rapidly ..One a new release is out and it most likely will have a boost, that is an up and down going wave constantly.

Blender..well it took me some open and close of the software to get over the threshold, still not a fan of navigating and finding stuff in blender, but I seem to manage much more now, and right now it“s just about sculpting and trying some minor modeling sessions, also love the skin modifier which I sorely miss in lightwave, great to start off with figure base meshes in a similar way to zbrush metaspheres, but easier to extend and move and divide the skeleton branch than in zbrush.
However..If I want a scene stage and to render stuff, I would in this stage of my blender experience still go back to lightwave and do that, no other software has the same stage feeling as lightwave has.
Unless the long awaited release has been comprimized somehow, I would stick with lightwave.

08-04-2016, 10:14 AM
Well LW development is silent and often annoying at how Rob Powers seems determined not to talk to his users about development, I wouldn't call it uncertain. They're about to release the next LW with an all new PBR rendering engine, new unified geometry engine for Layout and a new volumetric solution. They don't put out a release every single year so the usual complainers can't handle that LW3DG hasn't gone the corporate route of releasing every single year primarily for the purpose of generating revenue.

Modeling wise would be the one area I would criticize LW for, they've completely let modeler slide and development has all but stalled on it. I believe the reason for that's is probably because they plan to move modeling to layout at some point so why put the effort into Modeler but that does nothing to address people who need a modern modeling toolset today. Personally, I use LW, Modo, and Zbrush and between the 3 of those, my modeling needs are covered.

08-04-2016, 11:10 AM
Depending on what your Modelling, then Modeler Luv is Plugins for Sure- Arch Vis LWCAD
& Modeler Luv is Plugins for Sure- Char Organic- £rdPowers & LWBrush

08-04-2016, 12:31 PM
I have no plugin for LW and i am enough experienced in 3dsmax and Maya and i would definitely choose LW anytime. i should also mention that i still dont know so much about node editor and some other aspects of LW but i still feel very good and happy when using LW. (sure i am not professional and my viewpoint might not be very good).

08-04-2016, 12:57 PM
LWs got the best modeller I ever came across...

08-04-2016, 01:12 PM
The future looks bright for LW with the new stuff coming in the next version. Also there is a decent amount of 3rd party renderers to choose from if LW's doesn't cut it for you. Upgrading your old license seems like a no-brainer if you ask me. For training just go to Youtube - there is tons of stuff there for free.

08-04-2016, 01:13 PM
San-LW, I switched to Modo as my main modeling app last summer. I got in just as Modo 901 was launched and have not looked back. Except for rendering. I love Modo for its modeling, but I have yet to get familiar with their shader stack. I just can't do it.. However, with Octane on the team (I own Octane both for LW and Modo) it's becoming more familiar again.

I went to a school a couple of years ago where they taught Maya. I liked it, but it still wasn't LightWave. When I tried the Modo trial, I felt at home because a lot of similarities from LightWave, but also the best bits I liked from modeling in Maya was present. I was surprised!

I can't speak much of of Modo's rigging and animation tools though, as I've barely touched it. In my daily job I model, UV, make a good looking clay render and get on with the next model in line.

All though Digital Tutors might not be the best for those above 101 levels, they have some good videos about Modo for beginners to learn the ins and outs.

If you have any questions regarding Modo, let me know.

I don't know what will make me upgrade to the next version of LW until I see it. But it must be insanely impressive.

08-05-2016, 01:35 PM
it really depends, imo LightWave is by far the best modeler when it comes to modeling SubD characters.
if you add LWcad it's one of the best modeler for CAD.

however it lacks quite many other modeling features, and no-one unfortunately knows for sure when it will be fixed.
maybe 2018... maybe 2020...

The future looks bright for LW with the new stuff coming in the next version.
on the Layout side that is... an answer i snapped up earlier from one of the programmers is that LWG will update Layout first, then Modeler*

*subject to change