3DS files.

Architects, designers and engineers have used 3DS files for decades. With 3DS files, you can retrieve information on 3D graphics from any device. Find out more about the 3DS image, its common uses, and more.

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What is a 3DS file?

The 3DS file extension is short for 3D Studio, and it  stores information on the makeup of 3D vector graphics. This includes mesh data, material attributes, camera and lighting information, and more. 

 

3DS is an old binary-based file format, which means it’s restricted to descriptors rather than the actual image itself. It does, however, allow for faster retrieval of files when sharing.

History of the 3DS file.

The .3ds file extension has existed since 1990. Despite platform limitations, 3DS was renowned for its image quality and detail.

 

In the mid-1990s, the more capable .max file replaced 3DS for newer versions of the 3DS max software. Despite this, 3DS files remain widely used for 3D imaging, partly due to their relatively low file sizes. The file format is still built from binary code using chunks of data that allow programs to skip over anything they don’t recognize without crashing the rest of the display.

 

 

What are 3DS files used for?

3DS is a long-surviving file format, powering animations since the early 1990s. But what is it used for?

 

Importing and exporting.

3DS files are used to transfer 3D models between different software applications. Each file retains only the essential parts of the data around geometry, texture, and lighting which means it can easily be recreated on other computers running similar software.

 

Resource catalogues.

3DS files store assets together in one place, for easy recall and use in a project. Their small file size is what makes them so useful to animators and creatives.

 

Discover more vector files

 

 

Pros and cons of 3DS files.

There are several 3DS advantages and disadvantages to consider as you weigh up your formatting options.

 

Advantages of 3DS files.

  • 3DS files can store information on even the most complex shapes and designs using ‘chunks’ of binary code rather than text. This makes them lightweight in size and suitable for quick transfer.
     
  • Even though the 3DS format has been superseded by the .max file extension, it is still widely supported across  3D design software.

  • It’s an industry standard. As one of the oldest files capable of storing 3D graphic information, it’s one of the most-used file types for switching between different proprietary formats.

 

Disadvantages of 3DS files.

  • Directional light sources are not supported. This may not be a problem for all but the most devoted 3D sculptors, but it is a notable restriction.

  • As 3DS files first ran on DOS, the format is also limited in terms of naming conventions. There’s an eight-character limit on naming new files difficult to work with when you’re iterating on versions of the same model with only slight changes.
     
  • Compared to newer file types like MAX or PRJ, 3DS saves relatively little information about an object.

 

 

How to open a 3DS file.

You can open 3DS files on a wide number of supported programs for both Windows and macOS. Just search for the file name and double-click on it, then choose the program you wish to use from the list of options supplied by your computer.

 

Unlike many other image file types, you can’t open a 3DS file in your web browser. 

 

 

How to create and edit a 3DS file.

Follow these simple steps to create a 3DS file using Adobe Photoshop:

 

  1. Create a new image file in Photoshop and click Save As. .
     
  2. Select 3DS from the Format menu in the box that appears. 
     
  3. Save your new 3DS file to a location of your choice. 

 

 

3DS files: frequently asked questions.

What is a chunk in 3DS files?

A ‘chunk’ is the name for a small block of data that’s stored within the file. 3DS files are made up of these chunks, which consist of an identifier and the length of the data, as well as the data itself. They’re stored in such a way that a program trying to parse the data can skip anything it doesn’t recognize and open the rest, without having it crash the whole thing.

Can Photoshop open 3DS files?

You can use Photoshop to open 3DS files, as well as other 3D formats including DAE (Collada), OBJ, U3D, and KMZ (Google Earth). Just choose File > Open and select the file. To add a 3D file as a layer in an open file, choose 3D > New Layer From 3D File and then select the 3D file. The new layer reflects the dimensions of the open file and presents the 3D model over a transparent background.

Learn more about similar file types to 3DS.

STEP file image

STEP files

Find out more about STEP files and the resources they handle. 

DWF file image

DWF files

Learn more about the Drawing Web Format, typically used to share 2D and 3D designs.

DXF file image

DXF files

Discover the pros and cons of this  data file – a drafter’s favorite.

DWG vs DXF file image

DWG vs DXF

Which is best for collaboration – and does size matter? Learn everything you need to know to choose the best file type for you.

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