- Tinkercad – A free browser-based CAD software. We recommend this for beginners who want to learn the basics of geometric modeling. For resources specific to learning Tinkercad, see our Tinkercad tutorials.
- Leopoly – A free browser-based 3D sculpting software. We recommend this for beginners who want to learn the basics of organic modeling.
- 3D Slash – A free browser-based CAD software that is very easy to learn and surprisingly complex. We recommend using this if you want to quickly make a design (and have fun making it), but those interested in learning advanced CAD software should start with Tinkercad, SketchUp or FreeCAD instead.
- FreeCAD – A free to download parametric modeling software. While not as easy to learn as Tinkercad, FreeCAD allows you to do more and is an excellent choice in learning the fundamentals of 3D modeling. Learn FreeCAD tutorials.
- Sketchup Free – A free browser-based CAD software. A simple, easy to learn interface makes getting started less intimidating than FreeCAD. A good beginner to intermediate software.
- Fusion 360 Professional 3D CAD software that offers a free 3 year educational license. Learning this complex software will take time but may be worth it if you plan on making professional quality designs.
- Blender – A free to download 3D modeling software. An incredibly complex and versatile software that can also be used to make animations and video games. Not for beginners, but worth learning if you want to learn professional 3D modeling, animation or game design.
- List of Free 3D Modeling Software – A detailed list of free 3D modeling software ranked from beginner to advanced.
3D Modeling Concepts
- Geometric Modeling Overview – This approach to 3D modeling uses basic shapes, called primitives, to create objects. You combine simple shapes to create more complex shapes. From the book 3D Printing Projects (pages 6-9), this chapter explains how to combine primitives to make different shapes. Examples of geometric modeling software are: Tinkercad, SketchUp and FreeCAD.
- Organic Modeling Overview – In this approach to 3D modeling you pinch and pull the surface of your model to make complex shapes, similar to digital clay. From the book 3D Printing Projects (pages 10-11) this chapter gives a nice overview of techniques for organic modeling. Examples of organic modeling software are: Leopoly and Blender.
- 3D Modeling Fundamentals – 10 min. How to start modeling any object in 3D. This video uses Blender but the concepts work for all CAD software.
- Blocking Models Using Primitives – Video 3:24 min. We often start designing a 3D model with simple shapes, called primitives. Examples of primitive shapes are cubes, spheres and cylinders. These primitive shapes can be added, subtracted and combined with one another to create almost anything. This video gives examples of using primitives to build complex shapes.
- How to Convert Images (PNG/JPG) to STL – If you have a 2D image, such as a PNG or JPG file, you can convert it into a 3D object.
- How to Design Parts for 3D Printing – When designing objects for 3D printing, you want to keep certain limitations in mind, such as tolerances, supports, overhangs, orientation and more. This article gives a nice summary of what to consider and how to approach each problem.
- Optimising Your Design for 3D Printing -Another great resource for what to think about when designing objects for 3D printing. From the Book Fusion 360 for Makers (pages 131-143).
Download 3D Object Files
- 3D Printing Layer Height: How Much Does it Matter? – This article gives a short summary of how layer height affects the resolution or smoothness of your 3D printed object.
- How to Get Stronger 3D Prints – This article describes how layer height can impact the strength of your 3D print. While layer height does impact strength, the type of materials, infill, temperature and extrusion also impact strength.