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KeyShot 11 – Everything You Need to Know

Last Updated: February 14, 2022 • 14 min read

Each year Luxion releases a new version of KeyShot. Which brings us to KeyShot 11. It’s always fun to see what Luxion decides to add to KeyShot’s existing toolset. In this article, I want to run through the changes and additions you’ll experience in KeyShot 11. I’m also going to share my thoughts on these changes which might help you understand if upgrading is the right choice for you.

First, we’ll look at all the new features and what they do for you as a KeyShot user. Then, I’ll share my own personal experience and thoughts on KeyShot 11 as a whole. Finally, I’ll round out this article with a look at the new subscription model Luxion is moving to.

KeyShot 11 New Features

3D Paint Tool

Starting off the list of new features is 3D Paint. It’s a KeyShot Pro feature that lets you paint directly onto your 3D model. This applies to bump textures, colors, roughness, specularity, refractivity and opacity.

Rather than dealing with the tedious process of customizing textures for a specific model, you can just brush features onto a model as needed. 

To use the 3D Paint Tool, add a 3D Paint node in the material graph and click the paint brush icon.

Textures can be used to drive the color and or brush shape, which will probably be most handy when brushing some organic worn textures onto specific regions of your model. It looks like Luxion has included some brush textures as well to help get you started. 

3D Paint also includes an eraser mode, only draw on plane mode, as well as layers which behave similarly to layers in Photoshop with blending modes.

Check out this introductory video Luxion made about 3D Paint

KeyShot Tutorial - 3D Paint Overview
Luxion demonstrates 3D paint in KeyShot 11

CMF 1.0

Next up is CMF 1.0, which would imply there are planned updates to this new Color, Materials, Finish documentation tool. Lots of designers use KeyShot to list and describe the colors, materials and finishes of the different materials a product is made of.

Luxion created the CMF Tool to streamline the process of creating what are often referred to as Tech Packs. As a result, you can attach custom metadata to each material, and KeyShot can output a new form of media called CMF.

A CMF rendering will include callouts with numbers that correspond to different materials or parts within the assembly. A table will also be created displaying the metadata entered for each material.

The purpose of this tool is to save designers from having to manually create tech packs that are used in the production process of a product. 

Check out this introductory video Luxion made about CMF

KeyShot Tutorial - CMF Documentation Tool
Luxion demonstrates CMF tool in KeyShot 11

Physics Simulation Animation

Also new for KeyShot 11 Pro is the Physics Animation tool. The Settle and Collision Detection tools in KeyShot 10 helped streamline the process of placing oddly-shaped objects on a flat surface, as well as making piles of things.

KeyShot 11 takes this a step further. As a result, you can animate objects colliding with other objects within the scene.

To create a Physics Simulation, open the simulation tool. Select the objects in your scene to be simulated. Set the quality, gravity, friction and bounciness settings and then begin the simulation.

Once the simulation is complete, there will be an animation bar in the animation timeline.

The Physics Simulation Tool will help produce simple collisions but will not make use of constraints, pivots, reverse kinematics, deformations, rigs or forces, keyframe or other existing animations.

Check out this introductory video Luxion made about Physics Simulation

KeyShot Tutorial - Physics Simulation Overview
Luxion demonstrates Physics simulation in KeyShot 11

Headless Rendering

Another feature, new to KeyShot 11 is headless rendering. If you weren’t aware of it, KeyShot supports scripting in the language of Python. This is useful for some high-volume jobs that require automation. Headless rendering extends the functionality of the scripting console by running KeyShot without a user interface.

I personally have never tried to perform scripting in KeyShot since I don’t know how to write python. However, for companies that need to produce thousands of images or configurations, this could be a great asset. Check out this quick-start guide to learn more about scripting in KeyShot.

Web Viewer

When you switch over to the subscription model of KeyShot, you’ll have the option to pay for KeyShotWEB for $468 per year. Therefore, the web viewer is essentially a ‘subscription only’ feature. Then, you can upload KeyShot files to the KeyShot Web Viewer to interact and share scenes with others from any device, anywhere.

To use this, just choose ‘Upload to KeyShot Web Viewer’ from the file menu. KeyShot then generates an easy-to-share URL.

The visual fidelity of models shared on the Web Viewer will be similar to KeyVR using rasterization and OpenGL instead of Ray Tracing you experience in KeyShot’s real-time view.

It sounds like those who’ve already paid the $1000 to add KeyShotWEB to their node-locked license may be offered some sort of deal/discount on a KeyShotWEB upgrade for their KeyShot 11 subscription licenses.

Watch this introductory video Luxion made about the Web Viewer

KeyShot Tutorial - Web Viewer
Luxion demonstrates the KeyShot Web Viewer in KeyShot 11

Subscription-Based KeyShot Licenses

Luxion doesn’t list subscription-based licenses as a feature of KeyShot 11, but I wanted to mention it here. When you buy KeyShot 11 online, your license will automatically become subscription-based.

If you are using a node-locked license of an earlier version of KeyShot you are still able to renew maintenance on those licenses for the time being for $500/yr.

On the subscription FAQ page one of the first benefits Luxion cites is ‘reduced upfront cost to a pay-as-you-go model. So, naturally, you’d think you now get to pay monthly for your license. But at the very bottom of the page, they say ‘All pricing plans are set to an annual payment’.

The annual payment will be $1,188/yr as opposed to the historically $1,995 for KeyShot Pro, followed by the $400 annual maintenance.

Also, Luxion is introducing KeyShot Personal, a subscription-only license that replaces KeyShot HD.


Alongside the handful of new features in KeyShot 11, Luxion lists the following enhancements:

While Luxion lists the FBX and Alembic efficiencies as an enhancement, I want to point out that this is the first time KeyShot users have been able to import deformable mesh animations as an FBX file. Users of CLO, VStitcher and Maya will benefit from this.

Additionally, rigged character animations often use FBX files. As a result, of the new importers, FBX will now import correctly into KeyShot 11. Check out the impressive chart below of greatly-reduced file size, import time and memory usage associated with these improvements.

File TypeFile SizeImport TimeMemory Usage
FBX – original file1.56 GBN/A
FBX – old .bip14.9 GB47 seconds31. GB
FBX – new .bip2.34 GB5 seconds12.6 GB
Alembic – original file757 MBN/AN/A
Alembic – old .bip1.04 GB5 seconds15.9 GB
Alembic – new .bip259 MB1 second14.5 GB
Data Source: Luxion – Comparison highlighting new, efficient KeyShot 11 importers

My Journey with KeyShot

KeyShot launched in 2010, and I graduated college in 2011. Since then, I’ve enjoyed seeing KeyShot’s feature set grow in parallel to my career. In the beginning, I used KeyShot to make CAD models of my designs more presentable. 

Later on, around 2012 & 2013, I used KeyShot to create visuals for documents at a bicycle company.

In 2014-2016, I began freelancing and using KeyShot to create product visuals for my clients.

From 2016-2019 I worked as the Global Training Specialist at Luxion teaching design teams how to create better renderings with KeyShot.

During 2019-2021, I used KeyShot to create product launch animations and visuals for my own private clients.

My First Impressions

So, what do I think about KeyShot 11? With each new release of KeyShot, there’s generally some new features that allow me to produce better-looking renderings and animations.

For the first time in a while, I’m not sure I can say that’s the case with KeyShot 11. Now, I know that sounds harsh, but let me explain.

3D Paint

With any new release, it can take some time to adopt new features and for them to become fully-developed. However, I don’t see myself using the 3D paint feature very often. This is because most of the client work I’ve done requires products to be free of organic wear, dust or other imperfections. And since I don’t do any organic characters, architectural rendering or entertainment-design related content, I’m not sure if or when I’d use the new 3D paint feature. To me, this sounds like something for users of Zbrush and artists focused on environments or other organic products. I think I could achieve the look I want more quickly using the existing material graph features than I could by painting textures by hand.

CMF Tool

For those of you working in companies who need to make tech packs, CMF is a welcome addition. I’m looking at you, apparel designers! Anything that saves you time and streamlines your workflow is great. It probably should support vector output as that’s the standard in existing processes though. Perhaps that will come. But for someone like me who’s focused purely on renderings, this isn’t something I see myself using.

Physics Simulation

The Physics Simulation Animation tool got me excited! I admit I was interested to test this tool, especially as I focused purely on animation over the past couple of years. After exploring KeyShot 11 for a while I did bump up against some limitations of this tool that made it difficult to bring some of my ideas to life.

Initial tests lead to unnatural and unpredictable motion paths. Simply put, I couldn’t easily control how a piece of geometry moved. And without custom curves, there’s no way to produce a slow-motion bounce or collision either unfortunately. Because of that, the use-cases are severely limited.

Yellow path indicates the motion path KeyShot created when I tried making a coin spin around the inside of the funnel

With limited control over friction, bounciness and mass, I found the most practical use case for this tool is pouring lots of small parts into a pile or filling a container. However, the collision tool in KeyShot 10 allowed us to do this. Now, we get to add motion to those collisions in 11. Until we get more realistic motion paths and accurate collisions, I think this tool has a pretty limited use case for me.

Headless Rendering

Since I don’t use scripting in KeyShot, the headless rendering isn’t so relevant to me. But, if you’re using KeyShot to create a catalog of thousands of images, then this may be a life saver. That said, I’m willing to bet less than 1% of KeyShot users have ever opened the scripting console.

Web Viewer

The web viewer will probably be nice for sharing KeyShot files, but with the limitations of web-based rendering, the models won’t appear the same as they do in the KeyShot real-time viewer. To me, this seems problematic and I’d rather just send a handful of rendered images to my collaborators. Then again, I don’t work in a collaborative environment. So this may not be a feature for me. 

What about the enhancements? I’m a bit more excited about these. Updated importers, more deformable animation file formats, searching subfolders for missing textures and environment brightness animation are all great. They’re certainly welcome and probably a bit more meaningful to my workflow than some of the aforementioned flagship features. 

Is KeyShot 11 Worth it?

Whether KeyShot 11 is worth upgrading to you will largely depend on your specific relationship with the software and what your day-to-day needs are. In some cases, a single feature is all I need to pull the trigger, especially if it’ll save me time or improve the user experience for me as a daily KeyShot user. 

Since I’m in the business of teaching product visualization, I will be upgrading to KeyShot 11. That said, I would have liked Luxion to focus on some of the features more relevant to my own needs. This list includes:

However, I realize that I’m not necessarily the ‘average’ KeyShot user and thus my needs might not align with those of the many. 

KeyShot rendering roadmap
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KeyShot 11 Subscription Cost

The move to subscription is a bit interesting, because it will allow users to activate and deactivate machines. This means you’ll be able to move your KeyShot license from one computer to another without the help of Luxion support. But not having a monthly payment option seems a bit odd.

Subscription Cost Comparison

Before the introduction of subscription, there was maintenance. Because of this, after paying the initial $1,995 price tag for KeyShot pro, customers have paid $400/yr to maintain a KeyShot pro license. So users got an upgrade each year for $400. Here’s a comparison of the old node-locked and new subscription-based cost models over a 5-year period. 

ModelYear 1Year 2Year 3Year 4Year 5
Cost of (old) maintenance model vs. new subscription model

You’ll see that over 5 years, on the new subscription-based model, you’ll pay an extra $2,345 for a single KeyShot Pro license. Not an insubstantial amount. However, it’s worth pointing out that Luxion hasn’t raised the price of KeyShot for nearly an entire decade, so it was only a matter of time.

Price difference aside, I do think it makes sense for Luxion to offer a subscription-based plan if for no other reason than to allow users to manage their own account and license with an online portal.

It seems like for now, owners of a node-locked license will be able to continue to pay an annual maintenance fee on that license, but at a price of $500/yr instead of $400/yr. While no official word yet, it seems like this option will only be available for the next year possibly as Luxion pushes to move all customers to subscription.

Subscription Pros and Cons

While I expect a lot of people will have strong opinions about subscription pricing, I want to address something I think most people will overlook. 

As I see it, the primary benefit of subscription-based pricing is that Luxion will no longer have to try to pick a handful of features each year to focus on developing in order to entice customers to upgrade.

For those of us who use KeyShot daily, we prioritize usability, stability and a consistent and rich feature set.

Historically, Luxion has been incentivized to develop some new, progressive features each year to entice customers to upgrade. Rushing to complete a feature can lead to releasing it before it’s polished. On the other hand, if they only focus on small, incremental improvements or bug fixes, it’s pretty hard to convince an existing customer to upgrade.

However, what if all your customers are on a subscription? I only assume the development team would focus on fleshing out all of the existing tools rather than on glossy new features. Or at least, I hope that would be the case.

Final Thoughts

Am I uprgading to KeyShot 11? Yes.

KeyShot has played a massive role in my life as a designer, hobbyist and business owner. It’s opened many doors for me and been a fun way to grow and learn as a creative. Because of this, I’ve been allowed to design a lifestyle I’m proud of thanks to this software.

If you read this entire post, it’ll be clear that KeyShot 11 has been a bit of a letdown for me personally.

I blame growing pains.

Luxion is a small team with limited resources. So, they need to make changes that allow them to grow as a business. The healthier their business is, the easier it is to develop great software.

So, for the time being, I’m here for KeyShot. I’ll continue using it, creating content around it and being part of the KeyShot community.

I’m also eager to see what happens over the coming releases. Hopefully there will be some attention paid to those boring features and improvements that us long-time users keep holding our breath for.

Will Gibbons
Will Gibbons is an industrial designer-turned rendering specialist. He's trained and worked with some of today's most recognizable brands and now is focused on creating the best product visualization content on the internet.
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