- Arts and Design
Free 3D Modeling Software
Free 3D modeling programs for Windows, Mac, Linux and Browser
A list of free 3D modeling software including options for Windows, Mac, Linux and even your web browser or iPad. I've included choices for simple visual 3D modeling and 3D modeling for programers who prefer to use code to construct their 3D models.
We've recently bought a home 3D printer and I'm looking into designing 3D products to sell so I've been trying out options for creating 3D models without too much pain.
On this page I'll share my results. I'll be adding to this page as I investigate options and find the best 3D software for various uses. I've already included a couple of sample 3D objects that I've drawn.
I've included tutorial videos so you can get a feel for the various tools and see which one you fancy having a go with.
Google Sketchup is a free 3D modeling tool for Windows and Mac. There's also a commercial Google Sketchup Pro version with additional features that you can upgrade to if you need to.
People are using Google Sketchup for architectural drawings and planning the layout of their house. Google Sketchup has an active user community and there's lots of information around.
I'm a Linux user and there's no Google Sketchup for Linux. I'll probably see if I can get it running under an emulator at some point.
Google SketchUp Getting Started Video
Google Sketchup Books
You'll find a good range of books to help you get started with google Sketchup.
Autodesk 123D is a free 3D modeling package from the makers of high end commercial 3D modeling packages Maya and 3ds. Autodesk 123D is aimed at 3D modelers who want to design models for use with 3d printing services or home 3D printers.
The main Autodesk 123D software is available for PC (there may be other versions in future.) Autodesk 123D is also linked to a physical fabrication service so you can get your 3D models made.
AutoDesk 123D Overview Video
Autodesk 123D Family of Products
There's also an Autodesk 123D family of products with varying support for desktop, iPad and browser versions (and more options coming soon.)
As well as the main 3D modeling software there is also:
Autodesk 123D Catch for turning ordinary 2D photos into 3D models
Autodesk 123D Sculpt for 3D sculpting using touch gestures on the iPad (the app is currently listed as free for a limited time.)
Autodesk 123D Make for turning 3D models into 2D parts to assemble into a 3D model. I think you need to watch the video to see how this works. It's pretty cool. Currently there's a webapp preview version with Windows, Mac and iPad versions coming soon.
Autodesk 123D Make
Turn your 3D models into 2D parts that you can assemble. Very cool!
Tinkercad is a browser-based 3D modeling tool. It has a free version as well as premium options for getting more capability. Tinkercad uses the WebGL support in recent Chrome and Firefox browsers and I have been able to run it on Linux just fine.
Tinkercad is linked to online 3D printing services or you can download an STL file to print on your home 3D printer.
Tinkercad has some great online quests that you can work through to learn how to use the tool. It's fun and reasonably simple. You'll certainly be able to do something with Tinkercad pretty quickly. I found it a bit tricky to do things precisely though, but perhaps I just need to do more of those quests and get better at it.
Note that the free version of Tinkercad puts your objects on display in an online gallery for others to see and use.
My Tinkercad Attempt
I had a go with Tinkercad. Hmm. Well it's sort of easy but, not! I had trouble getting things properly lined up. It was quite a good way to try things out and prototype my design. Maybe I just need more practice, but it felt very fiddly to me.
Tinkercad Tutorial Video
3DTin is another free browser based 3D modeling tool that shares any designs that you create.
It's on my list to try out.
OpenSCAD is a programmers 3D modeling tool which is available for Windows, Mac and Linux. It's small and quick and uses a textual language to describe your 3D models. It also visualises the models for you so you get to see your creation as you work.
Some people might be put off by the programming language aspect, but I found OpenSCAD to be a really practical way to define 3D models. Now I am a programmer by background (lapsed as I got more senior) so that certainly makes a programming based tool more accessible to me.
OpenSCAD supports 3D modeling by combining basic 3D solids. And by extruding 2D drawings to add depth to elements.
My OpenSCAD Attempt - An OpenSCAD 3D Modeling Example
Here's my first attempt at an OpenSCAD model. I created a castle eggcup for my son. I haven't tweaked the dimensions yet and printed it. Once I have I'll create a tutorial from it.
OpenSCAD Video - CSG
I've collected together some useful introductory material here: OpenSCAD CSG Tutorials
Blender is free open source 3D modeling tool that supports very advanced modeling. Blender is available for Windows, Linux, FreeBSD and Mac.
You can achieve very professional results with Blender and is can be used for 3D animated movie making.
Blender probably isn't suitable as the very first 3D modeling software you try. It's what you progress to when you need more advanced capability.
Blender Very Beginner Tutorial
3D Modeling Books
3D Printing Books
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Free 3D Modeling Software