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Migrating from 3ds Max to Cinema 4D

By September 9, 2011November 7th, 20173D Modeling, Animation, Tutorials

I have always been an avid user of Autodesk’s 3ds max software. With that I was always a Microsoft Windows kinda guy. All that changed when I got my first MacBook Pro. I absolutely fell in love with the operating system and hardware. I began to explore different 3D modeling packages such as Maxon’s Cinema 4D and Autodesk’s Maya. Cinema 4D has always been an easy to learn package and works great on both Windows and Mac. Since I found myself using my Mac more than my PC, I wanted to find something that worked under both Windows and Mac OS…Cinema 4D does just that.

3ds max is Limited to Windows Platform

One problem with 3ds max is that it is a Windows-Only package. After waiting almost three years for Autodesk to hopefully port it to the Mac, I decided it would probably never happen. Don’t get me wrong, I love 3ds max’s modeling tools…I think 3ds max has an edge over Cinema in this area. Cinema, however does contain a few tools I think are better than 3ds max. For example, the material editor and the physics engine inside Cinema. I’m writing this article to hopefully make it easier for people who are in the same boat as me…switching from 3ds max to Cinema 4D.

3ds max to cinema 4d

Reversed Orbit

If you’re using a version of Cinema prior to release 13, the first thing you’ll probably notice when navigating the viewport is that the orbit/navigation is reversed. To fix this, open up the Cinema’s Preferences under the Edit menu and select “Navigation” on the left. Notice the “Reverse Orbit” option. Go ahead and select that to match how you were used to moving around within the viewports in 3ds max. Please note that in release 13, it is now defaulted to deselected and works the same way as 3ds max.

Reverse Orbit Option

Cinema 4D R13 – Reverse Orbit

Keyboard Shortcuts

One of the great things about Cinema 4D is that you can customize its interface and keyboard shortcuts so that it is fairly similar to that of 3ds max. A few of the big ones I used fairly often was switching between Select, Move, Rotate and Scale. In 3ds max, it was Q, W, E and R respectively. It’s easy to set up this same functionality in Cinema 4D. In Release 13 of the top menu, go to WindowCustomizationCustomize Commands. In release 12 and earlier, go to WindowLayoutCommand Manager. Then find the functions in the list and assign a new keyboard shortcut to them and click Assign.

Under the Editable Poly modeling mode of 3ds max, I always thought it was easy to switch from Vertex, Edge, Border, Polygon and Element sub-object modes using the 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 keys. You can also set this up with matching keyboard shortcuts using the above method.

The same goes for any other tools (Extrude, Connect, Weld, Cut, etc). Find the option you’re looking for in the Command Manager and assign them new keyboard shortcuts.

Customized keyboard shortcuts are saved to a file called c4d_shortcuts.res. You’ll find this inside your Cinema 4D install directory → resourceres.

Customize Commands Dialog

Cinema 4D R13 – Customize Commands Dialog

Here are a few other keyboard shortcuts in Cinema 4D that you may find useful when switching from 3ds max:

C – Make Editable (Convert to Editable Poly)
Enter – Cycles through Sub-Objects (Points, Edges, Polygons)
K – Knife Tool (Cut Tool)
D – Extrude
O – Focus on Object
S – Frame Selected Element (Zoom Extents Selected)
H – Frame all Geometry within the Scene (Zoom Extents)

N~G – Wireframe, meaning press ‘N’ first and then ‘G’
N~B – Gouraud Shading (Lines) (Smooth + Highlights)

Modeling Tools

In Cinema 4D a few of the modeling tools work a bit differently. Here are a few of the common ones I used frequently.

Extruding Edges

In 3ds max, an easy way to create new polygons was to select an edge, hold down Shift on the keyboard and then move the transform gizmo (x,y,z) in the direction you wanted in order to form a new polygon. Unfortunately for release 12 users of Cinema, this functionality is not possible. But release 13 makes this possible using the Control key. Select an edge you want to extrude, hold down Control, then move the axis in the direction you want new geometry, and Bam! you have a new polygon.

Extrude CommandIf you’re using version 12 of Cinema, the only way to extrude edges is with the Extrude function. Make sure the offset is set to 0 in the Attributes Manager, then use the Move tool to position the edge to the desired position.

Target Weld and Weld Selected

Weld CommandAnother powerful tool in 3ds max is Target Weld. With this, you’re able to select a vertex and drag it onto an adjacent vertex and it will instantly merge the two together to create a single vertex. You can do this in Cinema as well. Select a vertex, enable the Weld tool, hold down Control, then click and drag the selected vertex to an adjacent vertex. There you have it…vertex weld.

OptimizeTo weld multiple points in Cinema 4D, use the “Optimize” command. You can adjust the tolerance, (or weld threshold/proximity) in the dialog that comes up.


If you’re familiar with the Connect tool in 3ds max, you’ll know that you can select two or more adjacent edges and click Connect in the command panel, and it will create a new edge perpendicular to the two edges.

Connect Points/EdgesIn Cinema 4D, the Connect function is identical to 3ds max. Select the edges you want to connect, then select Connect Points/Edges (release 13) under MeshCommands. If you’re using release 12 or earlier, it’s under StructureConnect.

Edge Cut CommandIf you need more fine-tuning control, you can do this using the Edge Cut tool. Select the edges you want to connect, enable the Edge Cut tool, then in the dialog make sure that Create N-gons is not selected. Click on Apply, and you’ll see a new edge is created in between the edges you selected.

Edge Cut Tool

Cinema 4D R13 – Edge Cut Tool

Constrain Vertex to Edge

Slide CommandIn 3ds max it was always nice to constrain vertices to edges so as to not mess up the flow of geometry. You could “slide” a vertex along an edge to keep it in the same position. In Cinema, you can do this as well using the…well…Slide tool. Select a Vertex, enable the Slide tool, then move it in the desired direction.

Creating a New Element from a Polygon

In 3ds max, it was easy to create a new element from the same object. You could select a polygon, hold Shift and drag one of the axis arrows. A dialog would come up asking if you wanted to make the new polygon an element (belonging to the same object) or create a new object altogether.

Split CommandCreating a new element from the same object works slightly different in Cinema. First select a polygon, then click on the Split function under MeshCommands, under release 13. You’ll see in the object manager that a new object was created. You’ll have to move the original object in order to see the new one in the viewport. If you want the new object to be part of the original object (two separate elements), select both objects in the object manager. Under the Object menu of the object manager, click on Connect Objects + Delete (release 13 only). This will make it one object. If you’re using release 12 or prior, you’ll have to click on Connect Objects under the Object menu and then manually delete the original two objects.

Selecting Elements

Select ConnectedOne thing about Cinema is that it does not have Border and Element modes. This is one thing I did like about 3ds max. Element was nice to quickly select all the polygons touching eachother within an object. In release 13 of Cinema, there is a quick way to do this. Once you enable polygon editing mode, if you have Move, Scale or Rotate enabled, just double click the polygons of the element you want to select. You can also do this by going up to SelectSelect Connected. If you’re using release 12 or prior, this is under SelectionSelect Connected.

Multi-Edge/Polygon Rotations

Normal RotateBy default, in 3ds max, multiple edges/polygons rotate on each individual axis. This is based on the “Use Pivot Point Center” option in 3ds max. In Cinema 4D, when you select multiple edges, it will create an axis to rotate around based off the midpoint of the selected edges. To get this same functionality in Cinema 4D, click on the Rotate Tool, in the Attributes Manager click on the Modeling Axis tab. Make sure Axis is set to Selected, and Orientation is set to Normal. Then check the Along Normals check box. This should emulate the way 3ds max handles multi-edge and polygon rotations.

Note that 3ds max still handles it a bit differently. For example, if you select multiple edges that are adjacent or touching each other, it treats those edges as one axis. In Cinema 4D it is somewhat the same, depending on how many edges you have selected and how far apart they are from each other.


For the time being, these are the main functions I can think of when making the transition to Cinema 4D. There are still some things I wish they’d bring to Cinema. For now however, I’m content with the workflow.

I plan on adding to this article as I discover things about Cinema that I wish was similar to 3ds max. As for now, this is what I have come up with. Feel free to leave your comments below if you can think of anything else that may be helpful to other people and I’ll be happy to add it in.



  • Akbar says:

    Hi Matt,

    I’m in the same boat in 2022, 3ds max is the only application holding me back on Windows. For rest of the things i have switched to mac. But the issues are, that i have invested a good amount of time in max scripting. If I don’t find a script for my need i create one. How is the scripting on the C4D side if there’s any ?
    I know Maya decetly, which is on Mac and also i’m getting into Blender, just dipping my toes on and off, not ready to take the plunge.
    Want to know at this point, in 2022 with all the other options, what would you suggest? thanks in advance.

    • Yeah I totally hear ya having invested so much time into 3ds max. I’m in the same boat with Cinema 4D and moving to Blender. I’ve just invested so much time and money into it.
      C4D has a script manager where you can write your own Python scripts. There’s actually several areas in the software where you’re able to input your own Python code.
      I can’t comment on Maya, as I haven’t used it much. But I’ve seen some crazy stuff come out of Blender recently. It’s really risen up quite a bit to become quite powerful, especially with its new geometry nodes. I would suggest C4D, but I can honestly say I’m unsure of its future at this point. It’s very expensive, and Maxon seems to have become extremely greedy and full of themselves. It’s difficult for me to recommend a company like that, which is quite unfortunate 🙁

  • Кадиркулов Медеу says:

    Hello Matt Ritman. in 2022, what kind of software do you offer? Cinema 4d or has your opinion changed? thank you in advance

  • DEan says:

    Hi there,

    Interesting read, I’m currently being forced to move to cinema 4D from Max, kicking and screaming I will admit.

    I am dyslexic and work very visually in MAX with object colours and groups within the viewports, I find having to work within a long jumbled list of mesh represented that way almost impossible to work with being dyslexic.

    I found groups and was really disappointed that they do not work physically in viewports. Is there a way to work that enables you to add mesh/objects into a group like arrangements that can be opened, edited or select all elements with a single click effect?

    Thanks in advance

    • Hey Dean, I really think you’ll enjoy Cinema 4D once you get the hang of it.

      So basically you want to be able to select a group of objects in the viewport by clicking on one of the objects?

    • Dean says:

      Indeed, to use the equivalent of groups in 3ds max. I have been looking into the connect modifier, but seems to lock up when working with large quantities of objects. If there another way to work like this it would help me transition.

      • Dean, Cinema 4D works a bit different in that it is very dependent on the Object Manager. If you select all the objects and make them a child of a null object, this is essentially grouping them together. You then would select the null object in the object manager if you wanted to transform everything together.

        Let me know if you have any other questions/concerns! I would be happy to help.

  • Nilkamal Sarma says:

    And I am reading this 8 years old posts in 2020, still useful for me 😉

  • Sebastian says:

    You realy helped me getting into C4D… After using Max for seven years now it wasnt too complicated to get into Cinema, Thanks Man!

  • Yivid says:

    Hi Matt, good job!
    There I have a question, I use an application to do some work. (sorry the application is Confidentially by my company)This app can read .FBX files export by 3ds Max, but it can’t read the .FBX files which export by C4D. I swear I used the same model, and I checked the export setting, totally same FBX(2010) binary, I don’t know why it doesn’t work.
    I use Mac and I like C4D, but I have to borrow my friend’s Windows to help me every time, it’s make me crazy.
    Why they are so different between C4D’s fbx and 3dsMax’s fbx, is there any way to let them be cool?
    Hopes you can give me some advice.

  • rich says:

    I’m also a 3dsmax user and currently trying to familiarise myself albeit slowly with cinema4d. Is there any way to use middle mouse button to pan around a scene in the viewports like max? Also can the Alt key be assigned to rotate around an object instead of the ‘1’ key?

    Also is there a way to customise the user interface so that the material manager panel is always closed or docked somewhere else?


    • Hey Rich! Yep, to pan around the scene, just hold the ‘alt’ key and the middle mouse button. And to rotate around an object, hold alt and press the left mouse button. In your C4D preferences, under Navigation, make sure Camera Mode is set to Object, and Point of Interest is set to Selection Axis. Yes, the user interface is extremely customizable! You can undock panels and move them anywhere you want. That’s one of the best features I love about C4D! Let me know if you need any help!

  • Bird says:

    I feel really heartbroken that I am considering leaving 3ds Max after nearly a decade with them.

    Undoubtedly the move to subscription-only by Autodesk is to blame for my potential emigration from 3ds Max.

    I can only hope that Cinema 4D will not be a bad move because I depend on perpetual licensing for a computer that is mostly offline, and also because of my budget.

    The only other option that I know of is Blender, which in my opinion is so hard to use despite being free. In any case, I really like to return to modelling old trains and motorway interchanges.

    • Matt Rittman says:

      Honestly, I don’t think Cinema 4D will disappoint. Once you start to familiarize yourself with it, you’ll wonder why you hadn’t done it sooner. Heck, if you’ve got an Adobe CC subscription, you can try out the Lite version of C4D for free. I hear the Lite version is pretty limited however when it comes to modeling. Seriously though, there are so many resources out there to learn C4D. And it’s learning curve isn’t that difficult. And if you’ve used Vray, I would also recommend checking out Corona for C4D. It’s pretty amazing, and only gets better with each release.

  • Prashanth S says:

    True, but max is nothing without plugins. I use max primarily for architectural visualization. The only thing I miss is the axis constraint snapping, but that’s almost solved with your method and the plugin. Knife tools in Cinema is so good, I can never go back to max;)

  • Prashanth S says:

    Forgot to mention, that plug-in will work only in ‘points’ mode.

    • Yeah…I will say that I think 3ds max still has a slight edge over Cinema when it comes to modeling. However, there are other areas where Cinema excels over max. For example, I love how the interface is extremely customizable. And MoGraph is very very powerful as well.

  • Prashanth S says:

    Lol;) I didn’t hear much!! Anyway I found a free plug-in for axis constraint snapping in the French C4D forum. Here is the link,

    It works well, I just tested it.

  • Prashanth S says:

    Tested it, works perfectly!! You are my hero:)

  • Prashanth S says:

    You are awesome!! I’ll try this immediately:) Thanks a ton!

  • Prashanth S says:

    Thanks again! Cinema 4D is awesome, I don’t think I’ll ever go back to max again. I just miss few tools. Let me know if you manage to find something on the axis snap. Right now I just go to ‘front’ or ‘back’ view to accomplish this. Still there are few limitations.

    • Hey! Sorry for the late reply. I think I found a solution for axis snap. It’s not “quite” as easy as it is in max, but it’s the best I could figure out. Check out this screen recording:

      There’s no audio, and I wasn’t able to get the hotkeys to show up in the video. To extend the axis as I’ve done in the video, hold CTRL then right click and drag on the axis handle. As you see I had to enable all the snapping options. For some reason the snap handle didn’t snap using just one of the options. Let me know if you run into any trouble and maybe I can do a write-up about this haha 😀

  • Prashanth S says:

    Thank you! Sorry for the late reply. Can you please take a look at this link

    Is it possible to do this in Cinema?

  • Prashanth says:


    Is there a way to ‘axis constraint snap’ like 3ds max?

    • In Cinema you can restrict XYZ to certain axis. On the main toolbar just enable the ones you want to be able to control. If you hold shift while moving your mouse, you can do incremental movements/rotations. There’s also an axis snap feature under the Axis menu on the main toolbar. Does that help answer your question?

  • Steve C says:

    Hi Matt,

    Thanks for the great post, it’s been a real help for me in making my decision to ditch 3DS Max. I’m another max user who doesn’t like the direction autodesk are going with pushing its perpetual licence holders onto subscription.

    Some mention of the availabilty of plugins for max has been made before, and being a max user you do get used to having them, especially plugins like itoo forest pro and psd manager, it just makes things very convenient.

    Is there anything comparable with forest pro for C4D ? Or is there a workaround for creating things such as grass lawned areas, forests or planted areas.

    How well do you think C4D copes with Arch Vis ? This is the main type of work i do and in 3ds max it makes it all seem very straight forward. I import .dwg plans and elevations, trace over the elevations with splines and extrude for the facades (to strip it down to basics). Could this be done in C4D ?

    Are there any other tips you can offer on transitioning from max to C4D ? I’m planning on using max for the next year or 2 whilst learning C4D at the same time. Maxon are having a 30% off sale on the 4th may, so i feel now is the time to take the plunge.

    Any advice you can offer is greatly appreciated.


  • Jez EMIN says:

    Fantastic article, thank you so much Matt – I’m a 3DS Max user since rel. 3 Dos (c1995) and when I took a break from 3d (for a good 5-7 years) and came back to 3DS Max, the first thing I noticed was how little it had changed !

    Now, with Autodesk becoming more a subscription based software (and driving us Perpetual licence holders to that direction), plus I never trust Autodesk to do anything other than buy software then kill it slowly (aka Softimage etc), I have been looking at alternatives…..

    Hence C4D.

    My very first impressions (for someone who is learning the very, very basics) is how slow 3DS Max is to start up ! C4D is like instantaneous and I love how quickly you can switch from one layout to another, almost instantly.

    It’s a shame, because I am now beginning to see how decrepit 3DS Max has become, it is almost arthritic…..

    It growns and moans as you fire her up. C4D is by contrast so much leaner and thought out.

    This is not 3DS Max’s fault – it is a lack of development over 20 years……. it has simply become bloated and too many addons needed.

    I’d rather not be so dependant on plug-ins and scripts but depend more on the developers to think their own software out and come up with elegant solutions. I do not look to Autodesk for that ! I now look to Maxon.

    A very quick question – how long did it take you to transition fully over to C4D from 3DS Max ?

    Many thanks.

    • Hey man thanks a ton for your comment! Yeah that was the big thing with me and 3ds max…it barely changed over the years. Just became more and more bloated and took longer and longer to start up. I feel like it was good for its time, but other packages seem to offer much more. For example MoGraph for Cinema 4D is just so powerful.

      I will say that Cinema 4D R15-R18 have been a little more stagnant than previous releases. They haven’t really added much in terms of useful features and have fallen behind in some areas. There are definitely some things I wish they’d update. For example, the fact that they market BodyPaint as a useful feature is beyond me. I don’t know anyone that uses this. Also their UV tools need a HUGE update. And their particle system is in need of an update. Pyrocluster hasn’t been touched in ages. And their material system needs a node-based system. And Reflectance is a mess. Okay, I will stop haha.

      But anyway, the pros of Cinema 4D still outweigh the cons. To answer your question, it probably took me a good year or so to fully transition over. It’s always hard to get used to the way things work and learning new keyboard shortcuts and all that just takes some time. But seriously, I think you’ll enjoy using Cinema over 3ds max. And the fact that it’s both Mac and PC compatible makes it easier to switch too. That was one of the reasons I switched to Cinema back in the day, was when I got my Mac, 3ds max wasn’t compatible with it. Although now it seems that the Mac is not getting the love it used to… But anyway, that’s a whole other piece of pie I don’t want to get into.

  • Jay says:

    Hi, great article.. i have been using c4d for 8+ years and at the moment learning 3Dsmax, i think 3dsmax has the advantage with plugins but c4d is so much more friendly to use

  • David j. says:

    Matt I was wondering if you know anything about importing an animated 3DsMax project into Cinema4D? I am combining real live footage with animated 3D footage using the the incredible abilities of After Effects. However, one of the animated objects has been created in 3DsMax and I need to import it to Cinema4D. Is this possible and does it import with all animation properties intact. I am a complete novice to these programmes.

    • Yep, you will need to export the object out of 3ds max as an .obj file. Then you can open the .obj in Cinema 4D. However, your textures will not be brought in. You will have to re-create these in Cinema. Can you tell me what the object is you’re trying to bring into Cinema?

  • Bill says:

    Interesting comments but you’re all going down the wrong path here. 3ds and c4d are both ridiculously stupid programs! I remember using archicad with artlantis at about 1998 and it wasn’t that bad except these are not 3d programs. Then 3ds max rolls along and I couldnt help but think why is this software so counter-intuitive and obtuse. Why not follow established conventions? Why not take the best ideas and implement them? Yes you can get things done with 3ds max assuming you didn’t get “BOGGED DOWN” in the process trying to figure out how to make polygon squares! The fact is both 3ds max and c4d despite being the leading software, are both obtuse! They have no vision and there is an obvious chasm between the user and the developer. This not to mention that 3ds max when it comes to working with materials is so ridiculous it defies description – kinda like the u.s. government that does not fix what is a genuinely insane distribution of wealth in its society.

  • X0rd says:

    Great post now I know what 3d software to use.. Thanks!

  • Mike says:

    This article is that important I’ve printed it out for a constant reference.

    After using 3ds max for a good 5 year, it’s time to move on to a more streamlined application, plus not much choice with my new iMac 🙂

    Cheers man!

    • Dude that’s awesome! It makes me happy to see so many people finding it useful 🙂 Actually yeah, that was one of the other big reasons I switched is because they never ported it to Mac. I think they really shot themselves in the foot by not doing so. Cinema 4D isn’t perfect by any means, but I’ve grown to like it much more than 3ds max.

  • Ilyas muhammadi says:

    I am max user but I love c4d coz some times I get my idea from c4d tutorials

  • Good article. Im the old user of 3ds max and new C4D user. I agree with your opinions copletely. sometimes I miss Max but C4d is more usefull and powerfull. It encourage me to improve my modelling and animation skill.

  • Jack says:

    great post, great notes about the both soft. But I have a question. now in 2015 is 3ds Max is much more better for modeling than C4D? Can I model cars or another hard surface models in C4D?

    • Thank you for your comments 🙂 It’s been a little while now since I have written that post, so I’m not real sure what 3ds max has to offer for its 2015 release as far as modeling goes. As far as modeling in C4D however, it does a fantastic job with hard surface modeling. I created the Mazda RX-8 model in my portfolio using C4D. Let me know if you have any questions!

  • Jin says:

    Hi, i am trying to migrate to c4d.
    Do you know how to change duplicate shortcut? in Max is shift + left mouse drag, while in c4d is Ctrl / cmd + Drag. But how do we change it?

  • Eulmiac says:

    Hi !
    Glad to see this amazing post still active after years ! Congrats Matt!

    Well, It’s been a while since I started thinking about using C4D (as a 3dsMax user) for motion graphix and now I would like to make this step.
    But I must admit I’m a little bite lazy and I just wanted to know if there’s a way to find a .res file online (or anything else: scripts, plugin, whatever..) that could make C4D commands the closest to 3DS ones.
    Indeed, I’ve spent quite some time to learn 3DS so I dont want to leave it behind and I would like to use C4D occasionnaly for other stuff but I’m afraid of mixing everything up in my head and then wasting time in my workflow…

    Thanks in advance !

    PS: sorry, English is not my first language ^^

    • Oh my gosh I’m so sorry I am just seeing your comment! Ahhh I feel like a jerk! To answer your question… no, unfortunately there is not a script/plugin (that I’m aware of) that will match C4D commands to to 3DS ones. Sorry man! I think it’s just something you would just have to pick up over time. Again, I’m really sorry for this late reply!

  • Loyd says:

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    Disgrace on Google ffor now noot positioning this publish higher!
    Come on over and discuss with my web site . Thanks =)

  • Stephen says:

    please can anyone feedback on render times vs quality. at the moment I use vray and although great, you really have to crank up settings to clear any light and shadow noise. results in slow render times for motion graphics, fine for arch vis single shots.

    What’s the c4d renderes like vs quality and render times.

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