13 best free 3D modeling software for beginners

Updated on November 11, 2023 | By Jaiprakash Pandey | Category Uncategorized | min reading time

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If you want to make your first 3D design then there are plenty of great and free 3D modeling software available to help you do the work with minimal effort with the best results.

But with the availability of so many software in the industry, it can easily become overwhelming to find the right one that you need for your specific requirement.

So, to help you with this we have compiled a list of the 13 best 3D modelling software for beginners that you can start using right now.

How we selected the software for this list?

Our first criterion for this list was its free availability.

So, the only software that is absolutely free or offers a free tier is included in this list and we have NOT included software where free access is limited to the trial period.

The second criterion was the ease of use for a beginner and how steep the learning curve is.

And the final criteria are the practical applications of the software in additive manufacturing, design, game and education.

So, let’s start our list with Autodesk which is undoubtedly the market leader in CAD software.

Fusion 360

Fusion 360 is a lot more than a simple 3D modelling software and it has powerful features that go beyond simple 3D modelling.

Despite the rich feature set, it’s still great software for beginners who want to tinker with basic 3D modelling with precise control over the shape and dimensions of the product.

You can design parts for manufacturing, 3D printing and even for machining using Fusion 360.

The user interface is very basic and intuitive and this makes it very easy to use Fusion 360 as the ribbon area is not crowded and has minimal tools and commands there.

Fusion 360 is the go-to software for makers like 3D printing enthusiasts, woodworkers and even machinists.

So, if you want to get started with 3D modelling then this can be your best choice as after learning the basics you can easily move to the advanced parts of Fusion 360.

The free version of Fusion 360 is available with Student and personal licenses and you can even use a free startup license if you are a new manufacturing startup that wants to explore 3D modelling and manufacturing with Fusion 360.

We also have a free Fusion 360 tutorial series that will help you get started in no time.

For more comprehensive learning, you can also check Fusion 360 courses.

Feature

Description

Online or Offline

Offline

Operating system

Windows and MacOS

Supported filetypes

F3D, IPT, 3MF, OBJ, SKP, FBX, STL, DXF, DWG and a lot more

Primarily known for

3D modelling and manufacturing

Recommended for

First-time 3D modellers and pro users

How to get it

Autodesk Tinkercad

Autodesk Tinkercad is a free online browser-based 3D software which is very fun and easy to learn with an extensive 3D shape library that one can start with.

This software is perfect for beginners who are just starting in the world of 3D design.

The user interface is very basic and intuitive and this makes it very easy to use Tinkercad even if you have never used this kind of software before.

TinkeCAD has three main “workspaces” called 3D design, Circuits and Codeblocks.

“3D Design” is the workspace where users can design and build their own 3D parts in the software and also they can export the files as STL to a 3D printer.

“Circuits” is the workspace where users can create and test their circuits in the circuit simulator.

This helps the user to understand the basics of circuiting and also helps to cross-check various options before actually building the circuit.

Autodesk Tinkercad has dedicated libraries that consist of various electronic components that you can use in your circuit diagram.

“Codeblocks” is the workspace where users can use OpenSCAD to make 3D models.

Basically here you will be making 3D models using code and the block-based code helps the user to easily create parametric, dynamic, and adaptive designs that are not easy to build using simple tools.

Tinkercad is an ideal choice for first-time 3D modellers.

You can also start with Tinkercad if you don’t want to spend time learning a new 3D tool as this has probably the easiest learning curve with lots of reference materials in Tinkercad documentation.

Feature

Description

Online or Offline

Online

Operating system

Windows, MacOS, Linux, Android Browser

Supported filetypes

OBJ, SVG, STL, PART

Primarily known for

Basic 3D modelling and circuit design

Recommended for

First-time 3D modelers

How to get it

Shapr 3D

Shapr 3D is a freemium software with a free tier available with all 3D modeling tools and export limited to 2 files but if you are a student or educator then this software is completely free for you without any restrictions.

You can download its offline installer on your PC, Mac, or mobile device like an iPad.

Its user interface is very intuitive and all the navigation tools like zoom, pan, and orbit work like other software.

3D modeling in Shapr 3D starts with 2D sketches and then you can convert them into 3D using 3D modeling tools.

Other than 3D modeling you can use it for visualization and for creating product demos.

You can also use it for prototyping and manufacturing and you can validate your design ideas by making 3D print-ready parts using Shapr 3D.

It is made on top of Siemens Parasolid engine so you can be sure of drawing accuracy and precision.

It has a dedicated YouTube channel with a large library of tutorial videos and learning content is LAO available on its website.

When you launch the software the first time it will also guide you through a series of tutorials that will help you become familiar with the user interface and the basic tools.

Feature

Description

Online or Offline

Offline

Operating system

Windows, MacOS, iPad

Supported filetypes

OBJ, STL, DWG, 3MF, Parasolid, STEP, DXF, SVG, IGES, PDF, PNG, JPG and more

Primarily known for

3D modeling and visualization

Recommended for

Beginners and seasoned users who want a simple 3D modeling and visualization tool

How to get it

SculptGL

ScultpGl is free and open-source online browser-based free 3D sculpting software.

It has an offline version as well that you can download and install and you can also get its Android and ios applications (the ios app is paid but Android is free).

Its user interface is very intuitive and finding the tools you need is quite easy.

Just like a standard sculpting tool here you can start with a sphere primitive and use the brushes to model it.

You can also import other primitives like cylinders and cuboids into the interface and work on it with standard tools like Brush, Smooth, Twist, and Drag.

SculptGL also supports multiresolution sculpting, Voxel remeshing, Dynamic topology and more.

It has a dedicated YouTube channel with learning content but more or less sculpting tools that work on other software will work exactly the same here as well.

Feature

Description

Online or Offline

Online and offline

Operating system

Windows, MacOS, Linux, Android Browser

Supported filetypes

OBJ, PLY, STL

Primarily known for

Basic sculpting

Recommended for

First-time artists who want to use sculpting tools to create 3D models

How to get it

SelfCAD

SelfCAD is free online browser-based free 3D modelling, sculpting, animation and rendering software.

Its user interface is very intuitive and finding the tools you need can never get easier.

You can start 3D modeling by importing 3D primitive shapes like cuboids, and cylinders and you can also create 2D sketches and use them to create 3D shapes.

With the free version, you can also create a part for 3D printing and export it directly to your 3D printer.

SelfCAD has an inbuilt 3D slicer with default settings inbuilt for your 3D printer but you can still tweak settings like materials, infill percentage, print speed, temperature settings and more.

You can also create animations to create a compelling presentation with your 3D models directly in the software.

Some features like sculpting and rendering are available only on paid plans but the paid plans are very affordable.

It has a tutorial library directly built into the software and you can use it to learn almost everything about the software.

Feature

Description

Online or Offline

Online

Operating system

Windows, MacOS, Linux, Android Browser

Supported filetypes

OBJ, STL, FBX, 3DS, 3MF, BLEND, STP and a lot more

Primarily known for

Basic 3D modelling and 3D printing

Recommended for

New 3D modelers and hobbyists

How to get it

SketchUp Free

SketchUp Free is an online browser-based free 3D modeling software which is the minimal version of its popular desktop software.

This is CAD software that you can use to make accurate 3D models using sketches and 2D shapes.

You can create and save your 3D drawings in the Sketchup cloud which gives a 10GB of storage with your free account.

As this is cloud-based you can save your files online and then access them anywhere from any device simply by logging into your account.

It also has a dedicated mobile application named Sketchup Viewer which can be used on mobile phones or tablets.

This web application supports SKP , JPG, PNG file types to import and SKP, PNG and STL file types to Export.

The user also has limited access to a 3D warehouse which is an online library where you can find user and manufacturer-produced 3D models.

You can use these objects from the library in your own designs saving quite a bit of time.

SketchUp Free is recommended for users who are okay with a little bit of a learning curve and want freedom when it comes to file access.

There are a few beginner-friendly Sketchup courses as well that will help you get started in no time.

Feature

Description

Online or Offline

Online

Operating system

Windows, MacOS, Linux, Android Browser

Supported filetypes

SKP, PNG, JPG, STL

Primarily known for

3D modelling

Recommended for

Beginner 3D modelers who need cloud storage

How to get it

Blender

Blender needs no introduction, it’s an industry leader in 3D character modelling, sculpting, and animation.

It’s completely free and open source and it rivals big players in the industry like Maya and 3Ds Max.

Blender has a steep learning curve and there is quite a lot of learning involved before you start to work with this software.

Blender is the go-to software for digital artists, 3D designers, Visualizers, VFX Engineers, and many more.

Blender has already set its benchmark in the industry.

Blender not only has sculpting, 3D modelling, and animation but also a realistic rendering engine and all of this for absolutely zero cost.

Though the user interface of Blender may look a bit intimidating to first-time users still it is quite flexible and you can customize it as per your workflow.

Perhaps one of the strongest features of Blender is its large and robust community of users and artists where you can collaborate on projects and get help in no time.

Feature

Description

Online or Offline

Offline

Operating system

Windows, MacOS, Linux

Supported filetypes

DAE, ABC, USDC, SVG, PDF, BVH, PLY, STL, FBX, GLB, OBJ, X3D

Primarily known for

Sculpting, Mesh Modeling, Designing, Rendering, VFX, and Animation

Recommended for

New and seasoned 3D artists

How to get it

Autodesk Meshmixer

Autodesk Meshmixer is one of the oldest free 3D modeling software that is mostly known for its 3D print optimization capabilities.

It’s a relatively lightweight software with just a 100MB download size.

As this is lightweight software it does not need crazy hardware specifications to run smoothly.

Even though the software is lightweight it has a steep learning curve but Autodesk has created robust documentation that will help you learn Meshmixer in no time.

Meshmixer is known mostly for sculpting capabilities but you can use it for 3D modelling as well.

Mostly it is used by professionals for optimizing their 3D models for 3D printing including generating supports and adding infills.

Recently Autodesk announced that they have stopped enhancing the software as they have already incorporated most of the features of Meshmixer into Autodesk Fusion360 which is a cloud-based paid software.

But the good news is they have also declared that they have no plans to retire Meshmixer any time soon, so it will remain one of the best 3D modelling software in the foreseeable future.

Feature

Description

Online or Offline

Offline

Operating system

Windows, MacOS (unofficial)

Supported filetypes

OBJ, STL, 3MF, AMF, DAE, PLY, WRL, SMES

Primarily known for

Modelling, Sculpting

Recommended for

3D printing professionals and new users

How to get it

Wings 3D

Wings3D is a free and open-source mesh modeller also called Subdivison modeller where you can make 3D designs using polygonal meshes.

It is a very lightweight software which is easy on the processing side as well.

The software interface may not be very intuitive but it’s easy enough for a newbie to get a hang of the software workflow in no time.

It’s tools are context sensitive which means you need to right-click on the area you want to modify and based on your click the tools will show up that you can use.

So essentially, all the drawing tools are available in the right-click menu and the key to exit or to execute a command is the space bar, which is slightly unconventional in this industry.

But Wings 3D has hotkeys that you can use to speed up your 3D modelling workflow.

You can also create models for 3D printing and export them in STL or OBJ formats.

Feature

Description

Online or Offline

Offline

Operating system

Windows, MacOS, Linux

Supported filetypes

NDO, 3DS, BZW, DAE, GLB, EPS, SVG, JSCAD, IWO, IXO, OBJ, RWX, STL, WRL, X

Primarily known for

Mesh modeling

Recommended for

Beginner 3D modellers who prefer mesh modeling

How to get it

3D Builder

3D Builder is a completely free 3D modeling software from Microsoft which is integrated directly into the windows operating system.

It is a very lightweight software which has crazy hardware requirements.

The software interface is very intuitive and it is divided into logical categories like insert, object, edit and paint.

So essentially toola for making stuff is in the Object panel, for modifying 3D you will get tools in the edit panel and for visualization, you will get tools in paint.

You can save your files in STL and OBJ formats for 3D printing and if you have a 3D printer driver installed on your PC it will detect it automatically and you can send your files directly to your 3D printer from the 3D builder.

This software is recommended for users who are absolutely new to 3D modeling and don’t want to use any third-party tool.

Especially for students, this is a great software to begin learning 3D modeling.

Feature

Description

Online or Offline

Offline

Operating system

Windows

Supported filetypes

3MF, STL, OBJ, PLY, GLTF, GLB

Primarily known for

Basic 3D modeling

Recommended for

Beginner 3D modellers

How to get it

Vectary

If you want 3D modelling software which is made for creating great presentations of 3D objects then Vectary is for you.

Vectary is a browser-based application that has a very intuitive user interface.

If you are an interface designer using Figma then you can connect Vectary directly with it and share your 3D models directly in your mockups.

You can also create completely free shareable links to your projects for your collaborators.

Vectary supports more than 60 file formats including OBJ, STL, JPG, PNG, FBX, SVG, DXF, STEP and IGES.

The user can start creating instantly by building their own 3D models right from scratch or they can use blocks available in the 3D asset library of the software.

With Vectary you can enhance your designs with AR technology by using virtual environments for your 3D designs and see the product “in context” with the environment it is supposed to be in.

Feature

Description

Online or Offline

Online

Operating system

Windows, MacOS, Linux, Android Browser

Supported filetypes

OBJ, STL, JPG, PNG, FBX, SVG, DXF, STEP, IGES and more

Primarily known for

3D modelling, Presentation and AR

Recommended for

New and seasoned product designers

How to get it

3D Slash

Just like the name this 3D modelling software allows the shaping of parts by chiseling away cubes one by one.

It’s like sculpting a rock with a chisel or hammer where you give shape by removing cuboidal blocks one by one.

The interface is simple and you can select different tools like a chisel, hammer and trowel to remove or add materials to shape your 3D part.

You can also add color and texture to your parts and export them in STL for 3D printing or directly send it to print-on-demand services with integrated apps.

Apart from 3D chisel tools, you can also import logos and images and it will automatically convert them into 3D cuboidal shapes which you can further refine using the 3D tools.

This 3D modeling software is especially useful for school students and new users who are completely new to the software as it needs no training for working with this software.

Feature

Description

Online or Offline

Online and offline

Operating system

Windows, MacOS, Linux, Raspberry Pi

Supported filetypes

3DSLASH, OBJ, STL, DAE, FBX, GLB

Primarily known for

Simple 3D modeling

Recommended for

School students new to 3D modeling

How to get it

BlocksCAD

BlocksCAD is the easy mode of OpenSCAD 3D modeling where instead of using a script to generate 3D models we use script blocks to generate and render 3D models.

Think of it as the code block workspace of TinkerCAD where you can use blocks of code to generate 3D models.

This software is great for school students to help them visualize their scripts in real-time with the script blocks.

As BlocksCAD is based on OpenSCAD its modeling is more inclined towards the CAD side rather than the artistic aspect of it.

So, if you want to create 3D models with precise parameters and geometry control then this is the software for you.

As this is a beginner-friendly software it has a small knowledgebase and not many tutorials are available on the internet related to BlocksCAD.

If you want someone to develop an interest in logical coding, mathematics and analytical thinking then is the software.

Once you get familiar with the way BlocksCAD works you can then create your own conditional logic to create patterns and even create a library of shapes that you can use later in any model.

You can directly export a file in STL for 3D printing from BlcoskCAD with no additional tweaks.

Other file formats are available too with a BlocksCAD to OpenSCAD workaround.

So, essentially you can use the scripts generated in BlocksCAD and render them in OpenSCAD to generate files in DXF, SVG, 3MF and other formats supported by OpenSCAD.

Feature

Description

Online or Offline

Online

Operating system

Windows, MacOS, Linux, Android Browser

Supported filetypes

XML, SCAD (Other formats like STL, DXF, SVG, 3MF and more are available via OpenSCAD)

Primarily known for

3D CAD modelling with scripting

Recommended for

Programming beginners and school students

How to get it

Before we wrap this article here are some questions that our readers have asked frequently:

Which is the best 3D modeling software for beginners?

TinkerCAD and SelfCAD are the best 3D modelling software for a beginner with the easiest learning curve.

Which is the best sculpting software for beginners?

If you are completely new to Sculpting then SculptGL is the easiest to learn and if you know the basics of sculpting then Blender is the best software for you.

Which is the best 3D printing software for beginners?

Autodesk Meshmixer is the best overall software for creating and optimizing (especially optimizing) 3D models for 3D printing.

Conclusion

So, that was our list of best 3D modelling software for beginners.

Which software you are planning to use or currently using for learning 3D modeling? let us know in the comments below.


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About the Author

Jaiprakash Pandey is the published author of “Practical AutoCAD book” by Packt publication he is also an Autodesk AutoCAD certified professional and Autodesk expert elite community. He has been delivering CAD training to corporate clients for more than 8 years and his clients include Steel, Power, Automobile industries and also government organizations, fortune 500 companies and the military.

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