Just in time for the Siggraph animation trade show next week, Autodesk has launched the Mudbox 2009 software for 3D modellers and texture artists working on entertainment and design projects. The company says that Mudbox combines an intuitive user interface with a powerful toolset for creating highly-detailed 3D models -- and that the software gives artists the freedom to create without worrying about technical details. Mudbox has shaped characters in blockbuster movies and games, including Journey to the Center of the Earth, The Mist and Mass Effect.

New features Autodesk Mudbox 2009 include texture Painting tools. The new toolset makes it easy for artists to paint multiple diffuse, bump, specular, and reflection textures across multiple high-resolution maps on their models. Users can paint directly on 3D models to add detail precisely where it's required, regardless of UV distortion or surface complexity. Reference images can be painted onto a model from screen space using the new Projection brush.

Users can also paint multiple maps on multiple UV tiles simultaneously and assign multiple UV tiles on a single mesh.

Autodesk says that the latest version of Mudbox offers greater interactivity while working on high-resolution meshes. In particular, camera manipulation and brush speed have been improved, enabling artists to work interactively with 3D models that are fully subdivided into tens of millions of polygons across the entire mesh.

Mudbox 2009 includes a host of rendering technologies that leverage the power of the OpenGL application programming interface (API) and today's powerful graphics cards. The software offers an accurate, on-target environment for real-time evaluation as the digital asset is manipulated, as well as for enhanced interactive presentations to clients and art directors.

Mudbox 2009 provides enhanced interoperability with Autodesk Maya and Autodesk 3ds Max software through improved matching of normal and displacement maps produced by Maya and 3ds Max.

Autodesk expect that Mudbox 2009 will be available in October 2008. It runs under Windows XP/Vista and costs £450, €630 or US$745.