Use The Tools Cinema 4D Pros Use Everyday

When you launch Cinema 4D is there a particular tool you always go straight to because you know it gets the job done? It depends on the type of project, right?  Cinema 4D has tools for motion graphics, character animation, visual effects, and architecture.

A 3D sculptor is going to use different tools than a motion graphics artist. Somebody who does product renders will never touch the character tools. A technical director is going to use Xpresso more than an artist who uses Cinema 4D to build and previz sets. "Despite being designed for advanced 3D, the extra tools found in CINEMA 4D Studio are still designed to be user-friendly and intuitive",  as posted at

This poses the question; what are the most used tools in Cinema 4D?

I really love having Cinema 4D in my bag of tricks because it’s incredibly versatile and somewhat easy to manage and navigate. It allows me to get quick results on impending timelines which are very common in the field that I work in. I particularly like playing with the Cloner Object along with the Atom Array, both of these features allow me to create complex and interesting information that would take hours in other programs.
— Ash Thorp, Designer and Illustrator

I really tend not to think about my tools very often. It’s a bit like asking a piano player “What keys do you use most?”... The answer is that it depends entirely on what you’re trying to play. I know that’s probably not a really good response, but it’s how I think. I try to always focus on the creative goal, and not the tools I’m using to get there.
— Rob Garrott, Freelance Motion Designer and Instructor

I’m always trying to find the most efficient and productive way to use the tools so that I can focus on the creative ideas rather than searching through menus for what I want to do. For that reason, the things that I am always using are shortcuts to speed up my workflow, such as customizing the fly out menu, adding custom buttons on the top, project settings such as overdub, and keeping reused assets handy in the content browser.
— Sean Frangella, Freelance Motion Designer

Lorcan O'Shanahan, a freelance designer who has worked on projects such as Enders Game and Continuum, relies on XPresso in his workflow. He is currently developing a car rig using XPresso. You can check out his Cineversity demo HERE.

XPresso is Cinema 4D's node based expression system. It links different objects together through materials and objects parameters. Many Cinema 4D artists use it to make projects more procedural.

Probably one of the most important tools in C4D for me would have to be XPresso, specifically the ‘Range Mapper’ node within it and understanding how to use it and what that means for designing more procedural animation setups will change the way you approach all future projects.
— Lorcan O'Shanahan, Freelance Designer

Lorcan O'Shanahan's XPresso Car Rig. Currently in Beta. Keep checking for release updates.

Lorcan O'Shanahan's XPresso Car Rig. Currently in Beta. Keep checking for release updates.

Cinema 4D has a versatile toolset that supports multiple industries and subsets in each. You will probably never get the same answer in a room full of Cinema 4D users. If you are a Generalist, then you will probably be using a wide array of Cinema 4D's tools everyday, unlike someone who gets lost in the Sculpting toolset all day to create their next creature.

I use GreyscaleGorilla’s Light Kit Pro on a daily basis and find it invaluable to my workflow; as someone pretty new to 3D in general, it’s been a great, simple way to get a grasp on lighting in Cinema 4D and also produce consistent results for a broad number of similar projects. It’s flexible, simple to pick up and use, and helps to maintain a uniform look and feel for each render.
— Caitlin Cadieux, Freelance Motion Designer

GreyscaleGorilla's Light Kit Pro is a popular lighting tool for Cinema 4D users. Nick Campbell helped make lighting more accessible to beginners.

GreyscaleGorilla's Light Kit Pro is a popular lighting tool for Cinema 4D users. Nick Campbell helped make lighting more accessible to beginners.

Cinema 4D’s ease of use has allowed other professionals in the TV/Film industry to pick up and use it in their work. I actually make most of my living as a broadcast editor and picked up Cinema 4D years ago to add some 3D text to make shots more dynamic. To this day I use MoText or the Extrude generator a lot. Clients love seeing their logo in 3D.

I actually make most of my living as a broadcast editor and picked up Cinema 4D years ago to add some 3D text to make shots more dynamic. I’ve learned a lot since then but to this day I use MoText or the Extrude generator a lot. Clients always love seeing their logo in 3D. CV-ArtSmart has made importing logos faster.
— Dan Conrad, Broadcast Editor and Cinema 4D User

Sure there are ways to create 3D text in After Effects and NLE's with plugins, but the simple tools, easy lighting, and fast rendering of Cinema 4D always seems to give the best results in my opinion. This comes in handy if you work in a fast paced environment like TV News or Reality Television. Look at the demo reels of some of the top motion graphics design firms and you will see a graphics reel for some TV show.

I use Cinema 4D mostly for titles when I really want them to look good so I use the 3D text tools a lot. In reality television most people don’t know what type of “visual effects” they want, so you have to show them what they want. Integrating them into live action is easy now using Cinema 4D’s Motion Tracker.
— Brady Betzel, Editor at Bunim/Murray Productions

The more I asked Cinema 4D users about what tools they use most, the more I was surprised by the not so obvious tools. Of course you would think the most common answer might be the MoGraph module; and of course Cinema 4D guru Tim Clapham responded as such. The Mograph Module is probably the number one tool that has driven users to Cinema 4D in the past five years. It's ease of use and short learning curve make it the perfect entry point for any wannabe Cinema 4D user.

MoGraph is without doubt my most used toolset in Cinema 4D. It is so versatile, you can use it for everything from modeling and rigging through to animation. Easily accessible, facilitating the creation of wonderful concoctions in seconds
— Tim Clapham, Cinema 4D Guru and

I always seem to find a reason to use the MoGraph Cloner in every job. And not only for motion graphics: I use it for modeling in conjunction with the Connect Object. This gives me some degree of procedural freedom when building complex geometry. It’s Cinema 4D’s swiss army knife.
— Pingo van der Brinkloev, Founder

I depend more on learning the techniques with tools already available than trying to find a tool that is for a highly specific purpose. Of course I’m also biased toward Text Edge Pro as I developed that tool out of a need that I always have and I probably use it most.
— EJ Hassenfratz, Developer of Text Edge Pro

EJ Hassenfratz, Cinema 4D Developer and Instructor, praises the Mograph Module for the very same reasons. "One of the best tools is the Mograph Module in Cinema 4D, if you consider it a “tool”. It has evolutionized the way I work in 3D and I keep finding myself wishing for something that works as intuitively and easily as it inside of After Effects. But the best tool overall is just your creativity and willingness to keep learning", EJ said.

EJ, like many other Cinema 4D users, have learned how to code and create tools in Cinema 4D to meet the demands of their jobs. Anything that slows down the creative process is just not acceptable when usually technology is waiting on you to press a button.

You might expect an artist like Ryan Summers, of the studio Imaginary Forces, would respond with something cool like particle systems or dynamics, but his response was more about being organized than the cool factor. If you are working on big projects, with teams, and a short production timeline you better be organized.

The Layer Manager. Seems like a weird thing to mention but I live and die by it, and with the addition of Donovan Keith’s CV-Layer Sets tool, it’s completely changed the way I work. Organize, structure, and optimize your scene by using it. And from my experience, LOTS of C4D artists don’t even know it exists.
— Ryan Summers, Motion Graphics and 3D Artist

Cinema 4D Layer Manager, an often forgotten tool in Cinema 4D.

Cinema 4D Layer Manager, an often forgotten tool in Cinema 4D.

When you actually sit down and think about it, you probably use a tool or function in Cinema 4D more than you think you actually do. Think about how many times you click “D” on the keyboard for the Extrude tool or, M~S to call up the Bevel Tool. One of my most popular articles on this website is, Top 10 Cinema 4D Shortcuts For Beginners. There is no doubt you probably use those all day long. As with anything in life, the more you use the tool the easier your job gets, leaving you more time for iteration and design.

I swear by the CenterAxisTo tool, once I learned it’s much easier for an object’s axis to stay centered, animation has been a lot easier.
— Josiah Taylor, CG Artist at Charlie Company

Alan Bell
I would say I most often use the Pen tool. It’s so fast and easy to polygon model now!
— Alan Bell, Cinema 4D User and Feature Film Editor // The Hungar Games Mockingjay Part 1 and The Amazing Spider-man

Mograph is the go-to tool I use everyday because it’s easy, it’s simple. I use the bevel tool because every edge could use a little bevelin’. I do mostly abstract stuff in C4D, so bevels help accent my abstract renders and models. And I use X-Particles because it’s one of the few plugins I own for C4D, it completely dominates everything particle related in C4D, and it behaves very similar to my beloved mograph tools.
— VinhSon Nguyen,

I’ve been doing a lot of modeling lately so the Knife and Dissolve tools are getting a solid workout!
— John Dickinson,

Magic Solo is something I use every day. Their (Cinema 4D) Solo thing they added to R16 is ok but I still like Magic Solo better.
— Mike Winkelmann aka Beeple

Each version of Cinema 4D gets better and better. It's more than a motion graphics toolset. It can be used in your Visual Effects workflow just as well. New editions to Cinema 4D such as the Reflectance Channel and the Motion Tracker make photorealistic VFX more possible than ever. And 3rd Party plugins such as Turbulance FD and X-Particles allows artists to achieve a very high level of VFX without going to another program.

Generally speaking when working on live action VFX shots I use Projection Man a lot for setting up camera mapping and the camera calibrator tool. I use the modeling toolset a lot and tools like the new polygon pen tool have been a huge help when setting up proxy geometry for VFX integration. The most important thing C4D lets me do is not focus on a specific tool but instead it lets me use a variety of tools to get the job done.
— Josh Johnson, VFX Artist and

Josh Johnson uses Cinema 4D's Projection Man in his VFX workflow. He builds proxy geometry and projects the footage back onto to it with camera mapping.

Josh Johnson uses Cinema 4D's Projection Man in his VFX workflow. He builds proxy geometry and projects the footage back onto to it with camera mapping.

If you want to learn more about Projection Man, watch my Cinema 4D White House tutorial below. Full post can be found HERE.

Whoa, wait one minute. What about the one aspect of Cinema 4D that would make all this C4D coolness meaningless? The powerful Cinema 4D render engine. Easy to use. Countless options to fiddle with. Makes pixels beautiful.

Art Director Peter Quinn of the studio Blink pointed out, "It really doesn't matter if your animation is drop dead gorgeous if its not ready on time." Optimizing a scene for renders is of paramount importance for his team. 

"With the advent of the physical renderer, it’s a whole new, exciting kettle of fish. The depth of field and motion blur is far superior to the standard renderer, but with hefty render times, so you’ve got to tread carefully. As motion graphic folk, we’re bracing ourselves for 4k.  Even on my 2013 MacPro beast, it’s going to be hard to start outputting content at that size", Peter said.

In a busy studio with tiny timelines, more often than not, I find myself endlessly tweaking render settings to find a look that’ll suit the job, and render on time. Toying with GI, AO and Antialiasing settings is so important to get right. It can mean hitting a deadline or not. It really doesn’t matter if your animation is drop dead gorgeous if it’s not ready on time.
— Peter Quinn, Art Director and Home Brewmaster

When I asked all the artists what their favorite tool was in Cinema 4D, I knew it was almost impossible to answer. Whether you are a Generalist or Specialist, there is not one tool you are probably going to use more often. You will probably end up focusing on different toolsets within the program for a specific project, but since Cinema 4D is an easy program to learn, you are never more than a hour away from figuring out a tool you have never used before.

"The number one Cinema 4D tool is the Cinema 4D community." - Anonymous

Follow me on Twitter at @mographcandy

Copyright 2014, Dan Conrad, Please do not republish without written consent. This article would not have been possible without the help of all the artists who participated.

Other Posts You Might Like: