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 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. Here we present you with a list of 3D software and tools we think anyone without prior knowledge should be able to use with a little practice. Best of all, they’re free to use!
Tinkercad is an online free 3D modeling software created by Autodesk.
It has a friendly interface and that’s because it was designed for educational purposes, specifically for kids and people with no experience in 3D.
Tinkercad is probably is the most accessible 3D modeling software because 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 or spheres.
It also has a connection with different 3D printer services and with some practice, you can make your first 3D model very quickly.
Vectary claims to be the easiest 3D design tool and it has very good reasons to think this.
Firstly, it’s 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, product and game design, as well as for 3d printing, but it can be used by anyone interested in 3D modeling.
Vectary doesn’t require previous experience, just a basic knowledge of the concepts. It works with a drag and drop interface, making it not just easy, but very fun to use. It’s a great and powerful tool for beginners to learn. It also has a free version, which you can access by registering on their website.
SketchUp, considered by many as the easiest and most flexible 3D app available, has been around since 2000. It has two versions: free and pro.
We’ll focus on the free version since it’s more accessible and everyone can use it by simply registering an account on the website. The free version is now a web-based software and it’s a great choice to start with, due to its easy learning curve, clear and intuitive tools and a very friendly user interface.
But don’t get confused: Sketchup is very powerful and that’s because it was originally created for architects, designers and filmmakers. That means that you should be able to design complex and large objects too. In fact, in the pro version, you can add plugins or tools to enhance the productivity and capabilities of the software.
MatterControl is a free, open-source software you can download from the MatterHackers website.
It’s geared toward the maker community, specifically for 3D printing. It’s very intuitive and it has a design toolset that allows you to create something from scratch or customize existing models.
MatterControl also has a slicer function for your models to get them ready for the 3D printer. It may be suitable for beginners to start manipulating their models and get familiar with some terms.
Meshmixer is a pretty simple software developed by Autodesk and created to manipulate and modify any 3D object. In a few words, it’s like Adobe Photoshop for 3D models.
That makes it a great beginner software, especially for 3D printing hobbyists because Meshmixer has the capacity to edit, repair and optimize any model. It has some sculpting tools for volumes and surfaces which everyone can learn by playing around a bit. And, of course, it’s completely free.
Onshape, a modeling software specially oriented to design technical and spare parts, was the first full-cloud 3D software created.
It’s a good option for beginners because it has a free version for uncommercial and educational use available by registering on their website. Users will be able to sketch basic geometry, extrude objects and combine them very easily. It also has a clean user interface and is compatible with mobile devices like tablets and Android and iOS smartphones, so users can update their designs everywhere they go.
Also developed by Autodesk, Fusion 360 is a powerful and accurate software that allows users to do parametric modeling, extrude shapes or create free forms.
It’s a professional software used in disciplines like industrial design, so it’s a little more complex to use, but we consider it to be a good choice for beginners because, once you have practiced with an easier 3D modeling software like those above and you have understood the basic concepts, it becomes very easy to use.
Fusion 360 also has a pro version and a free one for students and hobbyists.
FreeCAD is an open source parametric 3D software launched in 2002 that has become an alternative to other expensive software like AutoCAD.
As the name implies, it’s completely free. It has a complete set of design tools that allow users to create more detailed and complex models.
It may not be the easiest software for beginners to start with, but the learning curve allows you to learn more and more with every use. The best part of this software is that being open source, it allows the users and the developers to add new modules and tools over the years.
It’s probably the best option for beginners who want to get fully involved in the world of CAD.
Sculptris is a 3D software focused on digital sculpting. It can be considered as an introduction to learn a more professional software like Z-Brush.
Sculptris allows users to edit any mesh with a variety of brush strokes, as well as map or paint textures for 3D models. The software is still available for free in the Pixologic website, but it’s no longer in development, so they warn you that it may not run in newer operating systems. However, if you’re interested in digital sculpture it’s worth giving it a try.
Finally, we know Blender may not be an easy-to-use 3D software for beginners, but it makes this list because it’s completely open source and free.
Even if you’re not familiar with 3D modeling, you can play around with some features like the Modifiers menu to give your models a different appearance. For example, users can use the “Decimate” tool to get a “low poly” effect or the “Remesh” tool to get a voxelized shape, or maybe the “Solidify” tool to give some thickness to the walls of the model for 3D printing. You can also use the Subdivision surface tool to give your model a smoother shape.
It has a lot of features and modeling styles and is a very powerful software, but even for beginners, there are some things they can do to start learning how it works.
As you can see, the range of 3D software available is huge, but when you know exactly for what are you going to use it for, the choice becomes easier.
You have to feel passion for what you’re doing in order to make the learning process more enjoyable and faster. As a beginner, the only way to know if a 3D software is the right one for you or not is by trying it out until you feel comfortable.
When you master one, you’ll be able to use and learn others in less time. So, go ahead, we encourage you to experiment and practice to achieve your goals and make your own projects. With the list of options we have provided here, you have a lot to choose from.
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.