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How Do I Make A 3D Boxshot For Free

Well you know sales go better when you show potential customer a cool box for your software product. Today you can easily find tens of utilities that help you create a virtual 3D boxshot or just a DVD cover for some "small" money.

Just a few samples:

Title & link price (avg.) Comments
True BoxShot, TBS Cover Editor $44 True BoxShot needs TBS Cover Editor which is $75, to make flat box side images.
You can also buy it as a Photoshop plugin, however I doubt you couldn't make professional box shot yourself using Photoshop alone.
Just BoxShots $29.95 Thanks God it draws you a rotated textured box without upgrading to Windows Vista (sarcastic smile). Well it's rather good product because it lets you design a box from scratch, define your texts, add your images etc. and it runs on Win98 too. However it casts no shadows at all, no lighting can be applied and the camera angle can't be set freely.
EasyBoxShot free Doesn't run at all. Shows a splash screen, then exits silent (on WinXP sp2). Online boxshot maker needs a flash plug-in and seems to be broken (waiting takes forever).
SDR 3D Box Shot by Sodevrom $ unknown Site is under construction, although I've downloaded setup file, it said I have to run WinMe/NT/2000/XP etc. to install. Well I don't see why WinMe is better than W98. Fail.
Scott's Box Shot Maker free It runs even on a Win98 and this is the only its advantage. You can't design anything, can't rotate side images, can't make shadows and lights, can't place a box centered (the 'center' button just does nothing when your box is rotated) and, finally, image can't exceed 250 pixels size. Oops! and this is the 4th major version of this revolutionary product.
Cover Expert $69 Doesn't run on a P4 2.4GHz 1GB RAM Win98SE :)
Bye, dude.
3D Real Boxshot $34.95 Runs on a 98 box :) casts shadows, can make animated boxshot (rotating 3D box). It would be all nice, but it has rendered my textures (both .tga and .png files) to just black.

So I said them all, it's enough for me.

Their authors say us: bla bla bla, save your money, don't buy Photoshop for hundreds of $, pay us (prices differ from approx. $20 up to $240 - yep! ) - while there is absolutely free solution.

When I was a student, I spent some time to raytracing. This is a kind of computer graphics, you can make photorealistic 3D images from text scripts using a software ray tracer. I mean, POV-Ray or Persistence of Vision Raytracer. Please visit for more information.

This is a sample boxshot I made in less than a hour using POV-Ray. To be honest, I have already had two images for the front- and left side of the box, so the only thing I need, was building 3D box itself, and make lighting and reflections. I tried True Boxshot and TBS Cover Editor and found them extremely slooooow to load and crashing on a 256MB WinXP machine with PII-400 CPU. On a still running W98 I'm using mainly for typing - they didn't even start. Another my try was "EasyBoxShot" which is 10MB download and didn't show me anything but splash screen. No error messages, no missing .DLL's - just starts and terminates silent. I thought it's time to find a better way.    boxshot for AVIedit

To keep story short, I've found old POV-Ray 2.2 dated 1993 and tried it to render my simple scene containing a table, a box and a few lights. Well it worked fine but that version was running in MS DOS box :) and it didn't load my 2000x3000 textures :(

You may ask why don't use latest POV-Ray which runs on Win2000/XP/etc. You're right, it looks awesome but too monster for my needs :) I just wanted to fix old vanilla POV-Ray 2.2 to make it capable to load my textures. I have compiled it using Borland C++ 5.5 as a win32 console application.

Probably you didn't know but almost all current PC-related tasks one could do still using a Win98 machine. The only thing you can't do there - capture HDV video from a digital camcorder. You can edit HD video on a Win98, though. So, making a 3D boxshot for free using an outdated software became my sport, he-he.

When my boxshot was done, I thought I could help others with their similar problem :) and I wrote a simple GUI wrapper and then compiled the same old POV-Ray as a GUI for Win32. Why not, guys? Now it loads huge textures and renders exactly as good as it should do. Enjoy!

download free software 216 KB POV-Ray 2.2 win32 GUI, 98/2000/XP/etc. unofficial build by me, freeware (for licensing details visit ) 457 KB POV-Ray boxshot scene (.pov) and sample textures

To use it, download and unzip where you want, then replace two Targa images with yours, containing your box cover. Then run povx.exe and open the boxshot.pov file, click render button and wait a few seconds until rendering is complete. Now you can edit resulting .TGA file in any image editor (crop it, resize to fit your web page etc.)

Happy rendering.

Some tricky part of the article. 7 myths about 3D box shots.

  • Boxshot maker should be a commercial product.
    Wrong. You see, high price can't guarantee it even runs.
  • It should do animated boxshots as well.
    Wrong. Your visitors can't read your product title when box is flying around :)
  • Cover editor should support 13 popular image formats.
    Wrong. It's enough it supports one or two, but supports them for real. You can use a freeware image converter once you need it.
  • When a setup file of a boxshot creation software is smaller than 80 MBs it's a fake :)
    Wrong. there is nothing complex in rendering three side images to a stupid rectangular box, there is no job for OpenGL, GDI+, DirectX and fat queen Vista :)
    The binaries of plain old vanilla POV-Ray are 1/4 of Megabyte in size, do not require any specific dll's or modern hardware with 750W power supply.
  • It's important the box maker can rotate and zoom the box preview in realtime.
    Wrong. Your customers won't see whether you spent 2 or even 5 minutes to render the virtual box shot picture.
  • Using a virtual box shot creator, you save money because you won't hire a designer.
    Wrong. First of all, anyone can design a 3D box with two or three lines of text and pictures. Next, using a given template from package, you get the 'sister' box of hundreds other software developers who used the same 3D box maker software and chose the same template. Be original :)
  • Well, finally, having a brilliant virtual box and crashing real software, you still get no money...

Have a nice day.

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