The CG Artist toolkit stack 2018

#The CG Stack

Stacked ! ! !

The CG Toolkit stack you need to know for 2018. If you are a generalist wanting to pick up new skills, here is the list of tools you may need to know if you are doing jobs ranging from Modelling to Rendering.

I got this idea from a developer who was training to become a full stack developer, meaning he is required to learn many different web frameworks and programming languages.

At the moment, these are some of the tools I have been using myself or in the process of learning them to add back to my workflows. Some advantages of knowing many packages is you can help out or be able to do the whole production process.

Digital Art tools

Photo shop and the Creative Cloud

You will need these to do concept artwork or tweak your textures. Currently I use the Adobe Creative suite / Creative Cloud a lot, it has everything to put together your animations or CG images.


The other software I used a little is Storyboarder, which is a free piece of software to craft quick storyboards. It is relatively new but I have used it to plan a short sequence and you cant argue with free.

3D Software

3dsmax and Maya

Most of the jobs I have come across are projects that utilise 3dsmax and Maya. I would call these Bridge Apps, they are used to process your 3d data before output.

These CG apps have been around for a long time and there are many established workflows and solutions that you can find online and the documentation is robust.

Sidefx Houdini

Houdini is rather new to me but I listed it as you may encounter this app if you are going to do VFX heavy work like fluids and pyro simulations.

  • Maya
  • 3dsmax
  • Houdini

Model and Texturing

zbrush 2


If you need to build a character Zbrush is the standard right now. Many tutorials are available online to use this tool. I found it rather strange to use at first and if you have learned 3dsmax or Maya knowledge there does not transfer. I took about 2 months to get comfortable using Zbrush.

Substance Painter

Substance Painter is a recent edition to my toolkit. It’s good for texturing game assets and characters. But recently they are improving their tool for use with VFX and Animation type work. You can’t go wrong learning this as it has many new tools such as procedural painting to create realistic weathered effect textures for your models.

  • Zbrush
  • Substance Painter

Compositing and Lighting


Nuke has become an industry standard for composition images. Its takes a while to learn and get used to if you were using after effects like me for a long time. But the advantages is you can keep making changes to your shot when things are more fluid in the production.


I have not touched much on clarisse but it looks like a rather easy to use tool for lighting your CG models and making updates to it in real-time. The default renderer is Good too.

Other Software

Lastly I am listing some renderers which I feel will be good to know. They work with most of the 3D Software Apps Max, Maya and Houdini.

Vray for those doing Arch Viz and Renderman if you want to have realistic renders for film.

I listed Octance and Redshift as these are some renderes that utilize the GPU for making images from your DCC app. And it is fast. I have not seen much jobs yet that need you to know these, but this is the future direction of rendering which is going to be more real-time GPU Based.

  • V-Ray
  • Arnold
  • Renderman
  • Redshift
  • Octane

That is quite a long list and it will take time to learn everything. But it’s what I have discovered while trying to learn and make CG Images. I would say do pick up either Maya or 3dsmax and later Zbrush and Substance Painter. And do learn photoshop.

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