Before that idea can come to fruition through the nozzle of your 3D printer, it must first be designed by someone on 3D modeling software. This digital workspace allows you to create, meld, and refine 3D shapes into whatever object you can imagine.
Perhaps you’re tired of depending on 3D model repositories or a beginner who simply wants to learn how to create designs from your own mind. To do so, you’ll need to pick and get acquainted with one of the many 3D modeling programs available on the internet.
3D modeling for beginners, or those who are not familiar with the world of CAD, can be confusing and maybe a little frustrating at first, but knowing your options and learning the basic concepts is the best way to start.
3D modeling is a necessary skill when you want to create or design your own objects. As a beginner in this topic and with the actual offer of 3D modeling software out there, it can be difficult to select one that fits your needs, but don’t worry.
In no particular order, here’s a list of the top 10 3D modeling software for beginners. Even if you have no experience, you should be able to use the following programs with a little patience and practice. Best of all, they’re all free (and relatively easy) to use!
|TinkerCAD||OBJ, SVG, STL, PART||Browser|
|Vectary||OBJ, DAE, USDZ, GLB, gITF, STL||Browser|
|SketchUp Free||SKP, STL, PNG||Browser|
|Meshmixer||AMF, MIX, OBJ, OFF, STL, 3MF||Windows, Mac, Linux|
|FreeCAD||STEP, IGES, OBJ, STL, DXF, SVG, DAE, More||Windows, Mac, and Linux|
|Sculptris||OBJ, GOZ||Windows and Mac|
|3DSlash||3dslash, OBJ, STL, FBX, Collada, gITF||Windows, Mac, Linux, Raspberry Pi or Browser|
|Wings 3D||3DS, FBX, OBJ, DAE, LWO, WRL, RWX, STL, XML||Windows, Mac, Linux|
|BlocksCAD||DXF, OFF, STL||Browser|
TinkerCAD is an easy-to-use and free 3D modeling software created by Autodesk.
With a friendly interface and plenty of educational resources, TinkerCAD was designed for educational purposes, specifically for kids and people with no experience with 3D modeling software. As one of the most accessible 3D modeling software around, this online CAD tool can be accessed through your browser.
It teaches all the basic concepts of 3D, allowing you to convert an idea into a CAD model by simply dropping and dragging primitive shapes, such as cubes, cylinders, and spheres. From here, you can move, rotate, scale each shape, and then group them together to create the intricate 3D model you had in mind.
TinkerCAD also provides users with the ability to design, program, and simulate electronic assemblies, as well as a feature called Codeblocks, which uses lines of code to create 3D objects.
This free 3D modeling software also has a direct connection with different 3D printer services. All in all, with a little bit of practice, beginners can make their first 3D model on TinkerCAD very quickly.
What’s this free 3D modeling software good for? Entry-level students and people with no experience using 3D modeling software.
Where can I find this free 3D design software? TinkerCAD’s website
Vectary claims to be the “easiest online 3D and AR design tool,” and it has a very good argument in favor of that.
First off, Vectary is an online-based software with the capacity to 3D model and render images in real-time. It was created for designers and makers focused in graphic design, product design, game design, as well as for 3D printing, but it can be used by anyone interested in 2D and 3D modeling.
This free 3D modeling program doesn’t require previous experience, just a basic knowledge of the design concepts. It works with a drag and drop interface where you can utilize 3D objects from the extensive library. Beginners can also leverage an assortment of pre-rendered 3D typography, web headers, package design, and more.
In addition to the easy-to-navigate interface, Vectary also comes with sharing and collaboration tools, making it not just fun to use, but also easy to connect with others.
While there is a free version available, there’s a limit to the number of projects you can create and also slaps a watermark onto your creations. Nonetheless, it’s a great and powerful tool for beginners to learn. If you decide you like Vectary and want access to the premium version, it’ll cost you $12 per month.
What’s this free 3D modeling software good for? Beginners looking to learn more about the world of product design, video game design, graphic design, or 3D printing.
Where can I find this free 3D design software? Vectary’s website
SketchUp, considered by many as the easiest and most flexible 3D app available, has been around since 2000. It has several versions available, one of them being completely free to use.
We’ll focus on the Free version since it’s the most accessible to beginners. Anyone can use SketchUp Free by simply creating an account on the website. The free version is a browser-based software and it’s a great choice to start with, due to its easy learning curve, clear and intuitive tools, and an incredibly user-friendly interface.
It may not have the full buffet of features that Premium and Studio offer, but don’t get it confused, even SketchUp Free is a very powerful tool. You’ll still have access to a terrific core 3D modeler, so you can design large and complex objects without limitation. It also comes with an endless array of user-generated models you can adopt, as well as 10GB of cloud storage.
Originally created for architects, designers, and filmmakers, SketchUp is a great 3D modeling software for beginners and advanced users alike. If you do decide to move on to the Premium version, you can even add plugins or tools to enhance the productivity and capabilities of the software.
What’s this free 3D modeling software good for? Beginners looking to hone their 3D modeling skills on a navigatable interface without too many limitations.
Where can I find this free 3D design software? SketchUp’s website
Meshmixer is a pretty simple 3D modeling software developed by Autodesk, created to help users manipulate, add to, splice, and merge 3D models with ease. Put simply, it’s like Adobe Photoshop for 3D models or, as the software’s website puts it, a “Swiss Army Knife” for 3D meshes.
That makes it a terrific program for beginners, especially for those curious about 3D printing. Why? Well, Meshmixer has features that are tailor-made for 3D printing escapades. You can add support structures, orient the model on your print bed, and utilize the convert-to-solid feature to prepare your design for the 3D printer.
It’s also ideal for people using 3D scanning who want to clean up and repair their freshly captured model. Looking at it from the standpoint of a basic 3D modeling tool, Meshmixer has the capacity to edit, repair and optimize any model. It also has various sculpting tools for volumes and surfaces, mesh repair, automatic surface alignments, as well as various ways to analyze and optimize your model.
There may be a slight learning curve to get the most out of this program, but a little time and patience will have you going from beginner to expert. Best of all, it’s completely free for all to use.
What’s this free 3D modeling software good for? Beginners who want to prep an STL file or 3D scan for 3D printing.
Where can I find this free 3D design software? Meshmixer’s website
Launched in 2002, FreeCAD is an open-source parametric 3D software that has become an alternative to other expensive software like AutoCAD. It enables users to easily modify 3D designs, saving all of your changes and allowing you to go back to any point in the model’s history.
As the name implies, it’s completely free to use. It has a complete set of design tools that allow users to create more detailed and complex models. Features include a modular architecture that allows plugins to be mounted to the core application, a Sketcher for 2D shapes, robotic simulation, as well as a Path module dedicated to mechanical machining like milling (CAM).
Now, this 3D modeling software may not be the easiest software for beginners to start with, but putting in the effort to master this program will truly open your world to 3D design. This software is that being open source, allowing users and the developers to add new modules and tools over the years.
What’s this free 3D modeling software good for? This is probably the best option for beginners who want to get fully involved in the world of CAD, not for the faint of heart.
Where can I find this free 3D design software? FreeCAD’s website
Sculptris is a 3D software focused on digital sculpting. It can be considered as an introductory to the more professional software like Z-Brush, as both programs were developed by Pixologic.
Designed for beginners looking to enter the realm of 3D design, Sculptris is easy to learn for those who have little experience.
This unique sculpting program allows users to edit any mesh with a variety of brush strokes. It basically sets up users with a lump of clay, which can then be meticulously carved using several tools. You can also shape the internal structure of this so-called “clay,” and also map and paint textures after you’re done shaping your sculpture.
The software is still available for free on the Pixologic website, but it’s no longer in development, so they warn you that it may not work properly on newer operating systems. However, if you’re interested in learning how to create digital sculptures, it’s worth giving it a try.
What’s this free 3D modeling software good for? Beginners who are more interested in learning digital sculpting instead of traditional 3D CAD modeling.
Where can I find this free 3D design software? Pixologic’s website
3D Slash is a free browser-based 3D modeling software that is designed around a building-block workflow, similar to the popular game Minecraft. Users can modify individual cubes with a vast array of tools that you’ll find in your very own workshop, such as a hammer, trowel, chisel, pulpwood, and drill.
3D Slash’s distinct approach to 3D modeling provides a real-world feel to the digital world of design. Tailored for both beginners and experts, this program is easy to master and will have you creating 3D printable models in no time.
It offers an intuitive and hands-on approach to 3D modeling. If you don’t have your own 3D printer, you can send models directly to an online 3D printing service from the platform and have it sent right to your front door.
Despite its simple interface, the developers of 3DSlash continue to update and improve the software. The newest feature, for instance, allows users to map pictures and text directly onto your model, as well as an engraving tool. With 3DSlash, you don’t need too much experience or training, making it an enticing option for students and entry-level makers.
There is also a paid version of 3DSlash available, which provides access to an expanded feature set including higher resolution, a wider color palette, and project management tools.
What’s this free 3D modeling software good for? Beginners looking for a fun and easy-to-learn program that will streamline the transition between 3D modeling to 3D printing.
Where can I find this free 3D design software? 3DSlash’s website
A community-driven project launched back in 2001, Wings 3D manages to offer a full suite of useful tools without scaring off beginners.
Presenting a simplified introduction to 3D modeling, Wings 3D uses a context-sensitive user interface that only showcases relevant options according to the tool that is selected. This interface is what makes this loaded program so digestible for beginners. You can even obtain a description of every menu item just by hovering over it.
Wings 3D is equipped with a medley of advanced features that are surprisingly intuitive, including AutoUV, a feature that allows users to easily map images and textures onto the 3D model. Of course, it also comes with simple tools like move, scale, rotate, extrude, bevel, and weld, as well as the ability to sculpt, mirror, bend, employ magnetic masking, and much more.
Last but not least, there’s an expansive community backing up this 3D modeling software. This makes it easy to learn the program, connect with others, and ultimately keep up-to-date with new developments.
What’s this free 3D modeling software good for? Beginners looking for a large selection of tools and an interface that’s easy to navigate.
Where can I find this free 3D design software? Wings 3D’s website
Another option that is more of a 3D sculpting tool than a CAD program, Leopoly is a free browser-based platform created by ZSpace. It’s perfect for beginners and students looking to learn the art of creating, customizing, and 3D printing their own models.
Leopoloy is extraordinarily easy to learn and operate, equipped with a simple interface and accessible tools. Users can start off with a ball of clay or other basic shapes and create their own designs through sculpting, painting, embossing, and more.
From there, newly created models can be prepared for 3D printing and sent directly your machine. Leopoloy users are also granted access to a fully integrated library packed with existing projects that can be built upon, as well as various customizers that make it easy to personalize 3D creations.
Design by ZSpace for educational purposes, there’s also a curriculum that guides students and beginners through the basics of 3D modeling. Outside of the Leopoly Maker tool, the company also offers a product configurator, the ShapeLab VR modeling tool, and other solutions that put the complex world of 3D into your hands.
What’s this free 3D modeling software good for? Students and beginners looking for a 3D modeling tool that is highly accessible and is primed for 3D printing.
Where can I find this free 3D design software? Leopoly’s website
We all have fond childhood memories involving LEGO bricks, but what if you could bring these age-old building blocks into the digital world? BlocksCAD is a free 3D modeling tool that simplifies the intense nature of OpenSCAD by combining colorful bricks with code.
Developed to ease kids into the craft of 3D modeling through script-only coding, BlocksCAD is a great educational tool for those looking to take a more advanced approach to CAD. In BlocksCAD, all of the commands are represented by colorful blocks that are stacked together like LEGOs. Once you are satisfied with your work, you can render the 3D model to inspect it. The finished design can be saved in the OpenSCAD or STL format.
While BlocksCAD is designed for students and beginners, it’s still a bit trickier than some of the other 3D modeling tools on our list. You have to combine the code blocks in a cohesive way in order to create a sound 3D object.
However, once you acquire basic knowledge of the language through BlocksCAD, you’ll eventually be able to translate these skills into OpenSCAD. BlocksCAD is simplified to know which code blocks are compatible with each other, helping users understand how certain changes to the code affect the outcome of the 3D model.
What’s this free 3D modeling software good for? Students and beginners looking to use OpenSCAD, but must first learn how to use coding to create 3D models.
Where can I find this free 3D design software? BlocksCAD’s website
License: The text of "Top 10 Free 3D Modeling Software for Beginners" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.