Maya vs Houdini: Identify which software biggie works best for you

Are you familiar with the terms Maya and Houdini? Have you come across the wonders that these softwares can do?

Wed Nov 16, 2022

Maya and Houdini are two software biggies in the 3D fraternity. These two animation softwares enable you access to a plethora of tools. Maya 3D is a dynamic software that entails the creation of designs through modelling, visual effects, animations, and rendering solutions. Houdini is a power-packed animation software that facilitates purposes like animation, rigging, modelling, VFX, lighting, and rendering.

The procedural systems of Maya and Houdini enable you in achieving optimal results through the development of creative and unique designs. From animated videos and compelling visual effects to architectural designs and intriguing 3D models, there is a lot that you can curate using these software applications.

While these two softwares are among the best options in a sea of animation softwares, choosing one could be a task. You can enhance your designs and concepts by opting for the one that suits your purpose. Therefore, we at Futurly, have compiled a comprehensive comparison for you to make the right choice and delve into a better understanding of their differences.

Maya VS Houdini

maya vs houdini 3d_maya 3d

Source: ©Mumin Kesar-Instructor Houdini at Futurly

1. User Interface

Maya: Maya entails varied user interfaces for different versions. It encompasses a workflow that inculcates options like hard body and soft body settings, fabric simulations, modelling, and animation tools. These settings can be adjusted by the design process.

Houdini: Houdini inculcates a more configurable user interface as compared to Maya. You can either choose from the shelf tools or curate nodes in the network editor as per the complexity of your design. 

2. Tools Offered

Maya: Maya has an excellent variety of tools for purposes such as modelling, texturing, and rigging. It helps in attaining a better result in a shorter span.
Houdini: Houdini inculcates tools that work wonderfully in the aspects of simulation and visual effects. You can create complication simulations including fire, smoke, explosion, and more. 

3. Rendering Engine

Maya: Maya encompasses Arnold as its built-in rendering engine. However, it also supports third-party renderers that open up a myriad of options for you to choose from.
Houdini: Houdini entails the power-packed Mantra as a built-in renderer. It also facilitates you to choose from a plethora of third-party rendering engines. 

Source: ©Mumin Kesar-Instructor Houdini at Futurly

4. Customised Solutions

Maya: Maya is a great option to go with if you are looking for customised solutions. From the user interface to the hotkeys, there is a lot that can be customised as per the design and workflow.
Houdini: Houdini has limited options for tailored solutions for the user. These can be accessed through its node-based approach.

5. Coding Language

Maya: Maya is based on MEL or Maya Embedded Language. It also incorporates Renderman Shading Language (RSL) for its users.
Houdini: Houdini inculcates a myriad of coding languages such as HScript, VEX, VOPs, Wrangle, Python, openCL, and C++ for its users.

6. Complexity 

Maya: Maya is a comparatively easier platform to get your hands on. This is because it allows you to create, animate and render your 3D scenes.
Houdini: Houdini is a bit more complex since it requires you to be a little well-versed in technical knowledge. For a better understanding of this software, you should possess some learning of programming and mathematics. Take a look at Houdini for Architects, a course by Futurly exclusively curated for beginners in computational design. 

7. Simulation

Maya: Maya is a great option for modelling, texturing, and rigging. It entails great tools that can carry out these purposes in an excellent way that too in a short span.
Houdini: Houdini’s strengths lie in simulations and visual effects. These purposes are embedded in the core of its functionality. Therefore, it helps you in achieving a more refined and better result in this aspect.

Source: ©Zaha Hadid Architects

8. Learning Process

Maya: Maya is easier to learn when compared to Houdini. If you avail of workshops from platforms such as Futurly, it becomes way easier to get a hang of this software.
Houdini: Houdini entails a steeper learning curve in comparison to Maya. It requires a little more time and effort to get acquainted with its handling, functionality, and acronyms.

9. Community Support

Maya: Maya has been supported by the Autodesk community ever since it was acquired by them.
Houdini: Houdini, on the other hand, is supported by both the SideFx and OdForce communities.

10. Workflow

Maya: Maya inculcates a traditional workflow. It translates into a system that stores alterations in a user's history. Therefore, this makes it a tad bit difficult for you to go back to a previous version of your work.
Houdini: Houdini incorporates a procedural workflow based on a node-oriented approach. This means you can delve into a plethora of iterations so that you can make changes and evolve your design accordingly.houdini vs maya_maya3dSource: ©Irfan Bharani-Instructor Maya at Futurly

11. Visual Effects

Maya: Maya lacks a lot of visual effects that can be downloaded from external sources.
Houdini: Houdini encompasses a compelling range of all sorts of visual effects. You do not need to tune into external softwares to get these.

Houdini for Architects 3.0 Recursive Growth | Futurly

Top 5 Unconventional Industries you can get into with the Software Skills of Maya and Houdini

1. Set Design

Source: Set Design Theatre ©Vanessa Actif

This field of architectural design includes the creation of imaginative or creative spaces where a plethora of artistic performances or events take place. Set designing inculcates the formation of intricate and appealing structural elements. These can be designed by putting Maya and Houdini to use.

2. Production Design

Production design entails the putting together of various design elements to create a unified and creative interpretation of the environment. This creativity can be infused with the help of dynamic tools provided by Maya and Houdini.

3. Digital Fabrication Digital Fabrication and Computational Design_Archdaily


Digital Fabrication translates into a manufacturing process that puts technological devices such as computers to use. These technological elements control the entire procedure, thereby, providing a refined and accurate output. Houdini and Maya facilitate the carrying out of such designs.

4. Computational Design


Computational Design incorporates a design process that amalgamates the use of algorithms and parameters to solve the complexity of design problems. This is enabled by the use of computational technologies such as Maya and Houdini.

5. Project Management

Project Management compiles technical knowledge, a streamlined workflow, and management skills to facilitate the seamless carrying out of a design process. This can be taken a notch higher with a better understanding of softwares such as Maya and Houdini.

Pick the Software well-suited for your Purpose…

As you might have observed, both Maya and Houdini are power-packed with amazing tools and can be put to use for different purposes. Maya has better modelling options for you to work in analog. On the other hand, Houdini is an overall faster and more-efficient platform. It also ensures you a stable workflow since, in case of a crash or something of that sort, the system prepares a backup for you. Owing to their excellence for different purposes, one of them cannot be termed better than the other.

Futurly helps you in learning these complex softwares with its workshops. It breakdowns the difficulties of their functionality into more refined and easier-to-learn modules. With all this knowledge from experts in the fraternity, you can have a better learning experience pertaining to both Maya and Houdini.

Futurly Plus Maya Core

FAQ’s: Maya vs Houdini

1. What is Houdini?

Houdini is a power-packed animation software that facilitates purposes like animation, rigging, modelling, VFX, lighting, and rendering.

2. What is Maya?

Maya is a dynamic 3D software that entails the creation of designs through modelling, visual effects, animations, and rendering solutions. 

3. What are the uses of Houdini?

The following are the uses of Houdini:

  • Modelling
  • Animation
  • Visual Effects
  • Character Effects
  • Lighting
  • Composting

4. What are the uses of Maya?

The following are the uses of Houdini:

  • Animation
  • Modelling
  • Visual Effects
  • Rendering

5. Which software is better for architectural purposes?

Based on what aspect of your architectural projects you are focusing on, you can opt for any software such as Blender, Maya, and Houdini.

6. What are the disadvantages of using Maya?

The following are the disadvantages of using Maya:

  • Traditional workflow
  • Compatibility issues
  • Lack of umpteen visual effects
  • Steep learning curve
  • Complex to use

7. How much does Houdini software cost?

The Houdini software comes in different pricing options. Houdini Indie starts at approximately $269/year while Houdini core can be accessed at $1995. You can avail of Houdini FX at a pricing of around 4495 USD and Houdini Engine at 499 USD. 

8.How much does Maya software cost?

As stated by Autodesk, you can avail of the Maya software at $1,785 for one year’s subscription.

Saili Sawantt_Architectural Journalist

Saili Sawantt
An Architect + Writer, Saili has worked as an Architectural writer & brand storyteller where she has collaborated with firms, studios, organizations, luxury brands, events & educational institutions to communicate in the real estate & travel industry. Her recent initiatives include curating an online workshop on communication and networking within the AEC industry. She is a commentator on the design industry’s upkeep through her social handles while also being an avid reader and traveler.