3D Modeling Software Guide 2017-07-02T19:50:59+00:00

3D Modeling Software Guide

This section is about choosing a 3d modeling software to learn and use.  Which one is the best one to use?  Well, there really is no correct answer.

The reality is, some software is better than producing specific types of forms than others, some software employs different 3d modeling techniques or workflows, and some may be easier to use.  Some generate form by using precise curvature and points to create surfaces.  Other programs may be more like sculpting.

Some are easy to use and others have a bit of a learning curve.  Generally speaking, there is typically a trade off.   The easier the program is to learn, the less control you may have.  Conversely, 3d modeling programs that allow more control or precision, may take more time to learn.

3D Modeling software are tools similar to art media.  Whether you are using oil paints, colored pencil, sharpie, or crayon, there isn’t a right answer – but some may be much more efficient at creating certain outcomes than others.

We’ll break down the most popular 3d modeling software used by hobbyists and professionals alike in by industry, price, advantages and disadvantages.  That way, if you want to learn to 3d model, you will have a sense of the best place to start.

3D Software for Beginners


Tinkercad is ideal for a beginner in 3D design. It is an easy to use, web based application, meaning you can access it straight from your web browser. Tinkercad aims to create a learning environment that will enable children and adults to comprehend complex digital design functions by providing tutorials, lessons, and challenges through their online community. Users are able to create a printable, finished product on this web ­based application and save them by creating a free user account.

  • Advantages: Easy to Use
  • Disadvantages: Less Control than Professional Software
  • Price: Free
  • Used by: Beginners
  • Difficulty: Easy

Morphi App

Morphi is an intuitive app that works on an iPad.  Similar to TinkerCAD, it is an ideal program to use for beginners and for young students.  The Morphi website has several lesson plans and example projects to use in a classroom

  • Advantages: Fun and intuitive
  • Disadvantages: Less control than professional software
  • Price: Free
  • Used by: Beginners and Teachers
  • Difficulty: Easy

Autodesk Fusion 360

Autodesk Fusion 360 is a great introductory software for product designers.

  • Advantages: Great starter program with impressive capabilities
  • Disadvantages: More precise modeling in other Autodesk software
  • Price: $40/ Month of $300/ Year
  • Used by: Beginners and Product Designers
  • Difficulty: Easy-Intermediate

Mesh Mixer

Meshmixer is a simple program that can make complex and cool shapes. You can import a model and turn it into a complex lattice, or combine multiple models together.

  • Advantages: Easy to make complex geometry
  • Disadvantages: Hard to model objects from scratch
  • Price: Free
  • Used by: Hobbyists
  • Difficulty: Beginner-Intermediate


Sculptris is primarily a virtual sculpting program focusing on imitating the properties of clay modeling. The program was developed in 2009, and has since then been updated frequently. Sculptris is ideal for those who wish to create and print more “organic” looking models, or character sculptures; users are able to pinch, twist, and pull virtual models to create a handmade effect.

  • Advantages: Fun to use – like sculpting/ drawing
  • Disadvantages: Difficult to make precise geometry
  • Price: Free
  • Used by: Animators
  • Difficulty: Primarily for beginners


Blender is a free, professional, open­ source animation and modeling software. This product was initially released in 1995 with the intentions of being solely for creating animated films and various visual effects, but has since grown to be one of the most popular platforms for 3D printing design. Blender is updated very frequently with new additions to create more intricate designs and more consistent files to ultimately provide better prints. Since it is open­ source, it has a very large online community of avid users and tutorials to help you get started.

  • Advantages: Very robust modeling software – best free 3d modeling software available
  • Disadvantages: not as intuitive as the other beginner software
  • Price: Free
  • Used by: Animators
  • Difficulty: For both beginners and experts

3D Software for Architects and Interior Designers


Rhino 3D is a 3D computer graphics platform that is based around the NURBS mathematical model, which focuses on creating mathematically accurate representations of curves and surfaces, which makes it unique against polygon based design platforms. Users are able to create complex shapes and objects, and export those objects without compromising its form. This program is compatible with over 21 file types without use of external plugins, making it convenient to transfer to 3D printing file types.

  • Advantages: Precise curvature
  • Disadvantages: Harder to sculpt organic forms
  • Price: $800
  • Difficulty: Intermediate-Difficult


SketchUp Make, formerly known as Google SketchUp, is a 3D modeling computer program that is used primarily for architecture design, interior design, and civil/mechanical engineering applications. It is the free version of the professional version, SketchUp Pro. The program provides an open­ sourced library that boasts as being the world’s biggest repository of free 3D models. SketchUp is unique to other design platforms due to it’s fluidity of designing models, which was meant to imitate drawing by hand.

  • Advantages: Great for visualizing interiors
  • Disadvantages: Bad for 3D Printing
  • Price:  $500
  • Used by: Architects and Interior Designers
  • Difficulty: Intermediate

3DS Max

  • Advantages: Robust modeling capabilities
  • Used by: Architects and more
  • Difficulty: Intermediate



AutoCAD is perhaps the most well known commercial design platform, primarily used for drafting engineering projects. The product is in its 30th generation, and now has a desktop, mobile, and cloud ­based options. The newest iteration of the program has new “intelligent” tools such as Smart Dimensioning, Coordination Modeling and Enhanced PDF’s.

Vector Works

3D Software for Inventors, Product Designers, and Engineers


Solidworks is a popular Microsoft Windows solid modeling platform used by over 2 million engineers. This software relies on a parametric feature­based approach to creating models, meaning the user is able to accurately create shapes of desired specifications by inputting predetermined dimensions into the program. Models in solidworks typically begin as a 2D sketch, and converted into 3D drawings.


Onshape is a 3d modeling program that was created by the founder of Solidworks.  It is a solid modeling program that allows for teams to work on a 3d model simultaneously.





3D Software for Animators and Illustrators



Maya is a professional animation and design created by Autodesk used to create interactive 3D applications such as animated film, video games or visual effects. This program requires a very strong graphics card and a minimum of 4GB ram, but recommends an 8 GB minimum. This tool is often compared to Blender, which has similar functionality and is open­ sourced.

Cinema 4D


Zbrush is a digital sculpting platform that uses a proprietary “pixol” technology that stores depth, material, lighting and color information for all the objects on screen, providing a more detailed modeling experience. However, when you export Zbrush files to different formats such as JPEG or PNG, that information is lost and the object is flattened. Zbrush is used primarily for “organic” modeling and creates high resolution models to use in animations or movies.

3D Software for Jewelry Designers


Rhino Gold