NewTek has released a free version of its LightWave visual-effects and 3D-animation application for students learning 3D design.

LightWave Free Discovery Edition has all the functionality of the full-blown application, but with limited saving and watermarked rendering. The company has also announced a heavily discounted, fully featured educational version of LightWave 3D for $395.

The move follows Alias|Wavefront’s release of Maya Personal Learning Edition earlier this year. This is a fully featured version of Maya with limited saving features and watermarked images to prevent against commercial use of the product.

Giving students a leg-up “LightWave 3D has helped more people break into the world of 3D-graphics and visual-effects than any other 3D package. These new options for students will help create a new generation of visual-effects artists, filmmakers, illustrators, and animators,” said Jim Plant, CEO of NewTek.

“In our community, there are dozens of examples of people who used LightWave to help them break into Hollywood and go on to win Emmy awards and Oscar nominations. We expect the LightWave class of 2002 to help entertain and inform us for years to come.”

LightWave 7 is available for Mac OS 9.x and OS X, as well as for a variety of Windows operating systems.