When it comes to free 3D modeling software, the market is overflowing with tools. And it’s easy to understand why a novice 3D enthusiast could find it challenging to make a choice.
But we’re here to help. Keep reading to discover a roundup of the best free 3D modeling software!
Most advanced 3D modeling software applications are incredibly expensive, so they’re not affordable for beginners. Besides, they require monthly or yearly subscription plans, making them even more unappealing.
Let’s face it: you’re probably not eager to spend a small fortune on a 3D modeling tool that you might not even get to use to its full potential before the subscription plan ends.
Thankfully, there are some great 3D modeling software solutions that are entirely free. And that’s what we’re going to discuss today.
Let’s get started by understanding what 3D modeling software is and how it works.
What is 3D Modeling Software?
3D modeling software is software used to create virtual models that can be rendered into images or animations, providing an accurate representation of what you’re trying to design.
How 3D Modeling Software Works
The following describes how 3D modeling software works:
- The process of creating free 3D models often begins with using modeling software tools to import different objects and shapes, which are also known as primitive objects.
- Primitive objects are used as the base for more complex free 3D models, which can be created by combining several basic shapes.
- Once you have your free 3D model, the next step is applying textures and materials.
- Next, you export the 3D model to a format compatible with rendering software like Blender or Maya.
- Finally, you render your free object into an image or animation.
In the next section, find out if free 3D modeling software is worth your time and patience.
Are Free 3D Modeling Software Apps Worth It?
Yes, free 3D modeling software apps are definitely worth it.
We’re taught from a very young age that free means bad. However, free 3D modeling software actually provides a fantastic value, comparable to some of the most expensive commercial options available.
Free software tools are not perfect and definitely have their caveats. For instance, they don’t usually have as many features as their commercial counterparts. So they’re more suitable for simple tasks like creating concept sketches or low polygon models.
Another downside of free software programs is the steep learning curve since they often lack video tutorials and comprehensive documentation.
If you’re willing to invest time in free 3D modeling software, though, you’ll find that it offers all the essential features needed to create your own models. But it can be challenging to pick the right tool for the job, so we’re here to help.
In the next section, discover the top free 3D modeling software tools for novices.
20 Best Free 3D Modeling Software for Rookies
We created a list of our favorite free 3D modeling software applications for beginners. You will find programs for CAD and engineering, architecture and interior design, video games and animations, free-form modeling, organic sculpting, and so on.
Here’s a rundown: TinkerCAD, 3D Slash, FreeCAD, SketchUp, Blender, Meshmixer, Fusion 360, Vectary, SelfCAD, BlocksCAD, OpenSCAD, and Wings 3D.
Let’s start with TinkerCAD.
As one of the best free 3D modeling software options, TinkerCAD is quite popular among those just getting started. It has a great online community, and it’s free to use as you please.
TinkerCAD is not suited for creating sophisticated 3D models. Still, it provides beginners with intuitive tools that make it incredibly easy to create basic 3D designs without reaching into your pocket.
There are free 3D models available on the website that you can import into TinkerCAD to use as a base for your own free 3D models. And there are also free tutorials for those who wish to learn how to create free 3D models with it.
TinkerCAD is great for 3D modeling software novices. But its capabilities are quite limited in comparison to paid alternatives.
Bear in mind, though, that TinkerCAD lacks advanced features like modifiers or complex boolean operations, which makes certain projects more difficult to complete with free modeling software.
Built On the Boolean Design Principle
To clarify, TinkerCAD may not be as advanced as other 3D modeling software tools, but it’s built on the principle of Boolean design. Although you won’t find many confusing terms while you’re operating it, this tool is still quite powerful.
The best thing about TinkerCAD is its clean interface, suitable for users of all skill levels. It also has an extensive tutorial section that allows you to get started quickly.
TinkerCAD is available for free on virtually any operating system, considering that it’s actually a web app. Therefore, you can access this free 3D modeling tool from any device that has a compatible browser, including your smartphone or tablet.
That being said, free 3D modeling software options are judged not only by their feature sets but rather by how easy it is to use them, and TinkerCAD is definitely featuring one of the friendliest free user interfaces around.
In the next section, let’s check out 3D Slash.
2. 3D Slash
3D Slash is free 3D modeling software for beginners – one of the best free CAD alternatives. It was produced by Sylvain Huet and relies on preassembled Cuboids as an operating concept.
If you ever played Minecraft, you probably know that you can create simple but also intricate 3D models using only cubes in the virtual world. Although that would be over-simplifying things, that’s sort of how 3D Slash works, so if you’re a beginner, we’ll just leave it at that.
Aside from its innate simplicity, what makes 3D Slash truly stand out is that this free 3D modeling software was developed to help users design 3D printable objects.
To serve that purpose, it provides you with a bunch of intuitive, almost self-explanatory tools that are extremely easy to understand, turning 3D modeling into a game-like activity.
These tools include:
- Hammer – removes single cuboids
- Trowel – lets you add a single cuboid
- Chisel – removes cuboid slices
- Brush – paints cuboids
- Wood Filler – lets you add cuboid slices
- Milling Machine – removes adjacent cuboids volume
- Cuboid Picture Projection Tool – cuts your object out according to the shape of the picture
Despite the fact that many 3D modeling enthusiasts are in favor of having an offline program they could download and use to their heart’s content on their personal devices (PC, laptops), 3D Slash is not available for offline usage.
Much like TinkerCAD that we’ve already mentioned, 3D Slash is available online as a web application. Therefore, you need to have a stable Internet connection if you want to use it, as well as a device that has a compatible web browser.
Furthermore, you could even take it on the go if you have a smartphone that has an appropriate web browser installed.
However, if you register, it also lets you download an app that you can install on your Windows, Mac, Linux, or Raspberry Pi device and associate with your account.
3D Slash Offline App
According to the official website of the project, the 3D Slash local app is more powerful than the browser version, considering that web browsers are generally more limited and are not as fit as an environment for an app to run in.
Using 3D modeling software web apps is definitely a much better option, in our opinion, because it allows you to access your design projects from anywhere in the world without having to carry heavy computers with you.
However, if you care about power, you should stick with the downloadable 3D Slash app. Last but not least, 3D Slash is generally free, but it also offers a Premium plan ($2) that has extra features and a Professionals plan ($20) that also comprises Team Management and Commercial Usage features.
In the next section, let’s check out FreeCAD.
FreeCAD is free 3D modeling software for professionals, and it’s currently one of the best free CAD tools that you can use to design 3D models. It was released in October 2002 by Jürgen Riegel, Werner Mayer, and Yorik van Havre.
FreeCAD is not only free for any user but also open-source. If you’re not familiar with the term, it means that the source of the program is publicly available for everyone, which generally translates into greater support in terms of updates, patches, and hotfixes. But enough about that, you’re here to learn about FreeCAD.
As the concept of free 3D CAD software entails, this tool is free of charge and free to use for any individual or business entity. Like most free modeling programs you see these days, FreeCAD comes with a heavy focus on parametric models.
That means that even if you modify your design, the change will automatically propagate throughout all the other aspects where it has been applied. For instance, modifying one side of a room would update all its walls in real-time accordingly.
Native DXF Support
Another cool thing about FreeCAD is that it supports DXF files natively – this free 3D CAD software can work with 2D objects too! You can organize them hierarchically in order to create complex assemblies easily.
If you want, you can also switch to 3D modeling. This can be done in just a few clicks, so you don’t have to waste precious time searching around.
FreeCAD is relatively easy to use, even if you’re using it for the first time – you won’t have any problems with understanding how it works and what’s where. The downside about free 3D modeling software like this, though, is that there isn’t much support in terms of official video tutorials or text documents.
When dealing with free CAD software, you usually need to learn everything yourself by trial and error.
But don’t get discouraged – it will be worth your time! If you are willing to invest some effort into finding free tutorials on YouTube or elsewhere online, then FreeCAD could be the best free CAD software for you.
In the next section, let’s check out SketchUp.
SketchUp is a free 3D modeling software suite that was made by Google. It’s used for making 3D models visually (you don’t need to code or use any advanced tools like with most other 3D programs).
According to many users on the world wide web, SketchUp is a fast, easy way to create architecture models, interior design projects, craft designs, and more.
Based on our experience with it so far, this definition does have some truth behind it. Of course, you shouldn’t expect professional-level results – if you want these, you’d probably have to pay money.
With SketchUp, you can import DWG files from AutoCAD, which is a very useful feature because many architects are using this program. However, SketchUp isn’t very suitable for creating precise drawings.
SketchUp is one of the free 3D modeling programs that are usually used for conceptual rather than production-oriented projects. At least the free version of SketchUp is.
Supports STL Files
You can use it for making scale models, and you’ll also be able to print your design in real life, thanks to the native STL file export feature (one of the most common formats for 3D slicing software). You just create your model, then use the side menu to download it as an STL file on your computer.
Once you’ve done that, you can easily feed the STL file to a slicing software tool such as PrusaSlicer or Cura and create a file that’s compatible with your 3D printer (usually GCode).
As far as the interface goes, SketchUp features an intuitive design that’s not hard to learn. It comes with a set of basic tools (move, erase, etc.) which can be expanded by getting access plugins (which are free).
SketchUp is intended for novice users mostly. Still, even if you’re using it for the first time – it will be quite straightforward for you to get your bearings because this free CAD software has a user-friendly interface.
Also, if you’ve used AutoCAD before or have previous experience with older versions of SketchUp – it won’t take you very long to get up to speed. This free 3D CAD software is pretty similar to Google’s previous version on this matter, although there are some differences as well.
The bottom line about SketchUp is that it’s one of the best free CAD modeling software programs for beginners, although it may also be a solution for more advanced users who are looking for simple tools which they can use without too much hassle.
In the next section, let’s check out Blender.
Blender is probably the best free 3D modeling software when you are willing to invest some time into learning it. If you are willing to spend hours in front of your computer screen, googling stuff like “Blender keyboard shortcuts,” then this tool is the one that will help you with creating designs quickly and efficiently.
On average, though, Blender takes quite a while to learn – sometimes people say they’ve spent over 100 hours teaching themselves how to use it properly! That’s why it isn’t recommended for beginners who don’t have any previous experience with CAD software.
No matter if you are interested in making video games or movies (with this free 3D modeling program), architectural, industrial design projects, animating, or sculpting – you’ll need a large amount of time to explore Blender’s features and workflows.
Blender is written in C++, Python, and a lightweight HTML-like markup language – Cycles. It has its own built-in game engine with a set of physical simulation tools that can be used for creating games.
Although the best free 3D software isn’t as fast as some OpenGL-accelerated commercial programs from big companies such as Autodesk, it still offers some interesting things not found in most other free modeling tools.
Works Great for Animations
For example, making an animation with Blender is rather simple because it has special effects which can be added on top of your design (smoke flames, etc.).
This free CAD software is also integrated with a multiresolution modifier which enables you to have both a high level of details and low polygon count models.
Blender comes packed with a large library of ready-to-use materials for different kinds of surface types so that you can easily use them in your designs. You’ll also be able to create your own textures if needed.
Tutorials are available online, so it’s not too hard to find one suitable for beginners who want to download Blender and start learning how to operate it right away – although the time required to become proficient at this free 3D modeling program probably won’t pay off until after months or even years!
This free 3D printing design tool may be useful for intermediate users who want to keep practicing their CAD skills, although it’s not an ideal solution for beginners.
In the next section, let’s check out Meshmixer.
Meshmixer is a free 3D software program that was originally meant for making 3D printing objects sturdier. The model repairing tool allows you to fix flawed geometry, make hollow models by cutting them, or modify their shape without ruining any of the existing details.
As far as the interface goes, it’s not too complicated and almost resembles a standard image editing software such as Photoshop. It also has hotkeys for enabling you to use its tools quickly without having to look them up in the menu every time.
Meshmixer can be used to combine different models into one or even fix geometry problems that may occur when converting one file type into another (e.g., fixing holes in STL files).
Sculpting tools are also featured in this free 3D printing software together with other useful features like support generation and importing/exporting various file types (like OBJ and PLY).
Convenient for Creating Sculpts
As an example, using MeshMixer can be pretty convenient when you’re creating sculpts because you can use it to divide your design into smaller parts before exporting each one separately. If your creation consists of more than just one piece – this free 3D printing program will definitely come in handy!
Meshmixer is not recommended for beginners because it doesn’t feature many tutorials – at least any which would cover all of the advanced features of the app.
The bottom line about this CAD modeling program is that Meshmixer has some interesting features, but they are not used very often because other programs offer better solutions for completing similar tasks.
Since it’s free, give Meshmixer a try and see if you like it – especially if you’re not afraid to spend some time learning how to use something new!
In the next section, let’s check out Fusion 360.
7. Fusion 360
Created by Autodesk, Fusion 360 is a comprehensive piece of software that allows you to not only design 3D models but also analyze and optimize your workflow.
This is one of the best free CAD software for makers because it features a built-in CAM engine that can be used for generating GCode from designs.
Fusion 360 is free for students and reasonably priced for entrepreneurs, but it’s still not cheap even when purchased at discounted rates.
Fusion 360 can be used with Windows 7 or higher, Linux-based operating systems, Apple OS X 10.9 or newer, and Chrome OS. You’ll also need a 64-bit browser in order to make the most out of this software release!
As far as compatibility goes, Fusion 360 supports STL file formats that are compatible with 3D printers, making them the perfect solution for starting out in CAD modeling without spending too much money on specialized software – even though they might only work well, only 3D printing applications are
It is said to have been designed with the goal of being very beginner-friendly, so it might be an interesting solution if you’re looking for a way to get into making things with 3D printing – although many consider that Tinkercad offers a more user-friendly experience.
Create Mechanical Items
Since Fusion 360 can be used for creating mechanical items, expect to find tools such as gear generators and mating constraints within a mesh. Fusion 360 also features a set of wireframe tools so it’s possible to use this program for creating almost any kind of design.
As one would expect from CAD modeling software, you can create curves and organic shapes in Fusion 360 without too much hassle – but keep in mind that this is not meant to be an industrial 3D printing solution since there are other programs out there that focus on manufacturing rather than creativity!
Fusion 360, like other programs on this list of 3D modeling software for PC, offers a wide range of features.
For example, it has tools for creating 2.5D shapes but also ones for adding threading or modifying spline paths so that you can get the desired result even if you’re not an experienced user. All things considered, this is one of the best 3D modeling software tools out there!
In the next section, let’s check out Vectary.
Although CAD software for PC like Fusion 360 is great, it’s not the only solution available to 3D print enthusiasts.
If you don’t want to commit to a 2D/3D combo pack that offers tools both for modeling and printing, then you should check out Vectary. This free online 3D modeling program allows users to create their own designs without having much prior knowledge of CAD programs.
What’s truly impressive about this tool is that it can be used by absolutely anyone because there are no complicated shortcuts or hidden features – even though this might come as a drawback if you’re looking for powerful functions.
Vectary features plenty of tutorials that will help you understand how everything works in case you don’t know exactly how and where to get started.
Vectary also comprises tools that help users generate molds (which is great if you’re planning on focusing on this particular aspect of 3D printing).
You can use Vectary for creating 2.5D shapes since there’s a tool available for extruding surfaces; however, keep in mind that any complex shape will require some time before it’s finished.
Another thing worth mentioning is that this program offers direct support – which means that you’ll need to place supports manually after generating the mesh!
Fortunately, both the keyboard and 3D manipulator can be used in order to make it easier for you to create designs and add supports.
Vectary is one of the most impressive free 3D modeling programs available right now – especially since it doesn’t require any prior experience when using this type of software. It’s perfect for anyone who wants to spend more time creating designs instead of playing around with shortcuts!
In the next section, let’s check out SelfCAD.
Although there are plenty of 3D modeling programs for PC, many of them don’t work that well when you’re trying to print your model.
The sad truth is that most free 3D modeling software doesn’t include tools that let people create models meant for manufacturing – which can be a problem if you want to take advantage of all the amazing things 3D printing has to offer.
SelfCAD, on the other hand, solves all these problems thanks to its powerful features and easy-to-use interface! One of the main reasons why this program is so good is because it offers a wide range of possibilities: from simple geometric shapes (cubes and spheres) to complex ones (such as screws and bolts).
Another important thing to mention about SelfCAD is that it doesn’t require any coding – so if you don’t want to deal with programming, this free 3D modeling program is a must-try.
No Coding Required
Another advantage of using this tool is the size of objects being created: basically, they can be as small or large as you want them to be! Moreover, there are plenty of tools available in order to give users more control over models.
In case you’re wondering how difficult it is to use this software for creating designs meant for 3D printing, the answer is simple: beginners should have no problem when starting since there’s a pretty good support system available.
SelfCAD also works well in combination with other programs such as Meshmixer in order to help you combine models, fix them and make any changes that are necessary.
To summarize, SelfCAD is one of the best 3D modeling programs that offer plenty of features for PC users – especially since it doesn’t require any previous knowledge or skills. Beginners will love how easy it is to use this software, thanks to its intuitive interface!
In the next section, let’s check out BlocksCAD.
BlocksCAD is an excellent choice for those who want to take 3D modeling with AutoCAD to the next level.
One of the most significant advantages of this application is that it’s explicitly designed with CAD users in mind – which means that people will find all kinds of tools and shortcuts they’re already familiar with.
Another advantage of using BlocksCAD is the fact that it doesn’t require any previous knowledge or skills from non-AutoCAD users. In other words, if you have some experience when it comes to modeling things, you should have no problems getting used to this program!
To offer versatility, BlocksCAD has features such as procedural generation, recursion, and macros. Procedural generation creates by changing just one line of code. Meanwhile, recursion creates objects using other objects. And macros let you create repetitive tasks.
BlocksCAD also features an API that’s perfect for giving power users more control over the program itself – which is great news for those who are looking to tinker with it or change something if they feel that this would improve their work process.
Fit for Beginners and Advanced Users
Thanks to its intuitive interface, BlocksCAD can be used by both beginners and advanced users. But you need patience since there are plenty of tutorials available online.
All things considered, BlocksCAD is one of the best free 3D modeling programs because it offers stability as well as a significant number of tools for CAD users. So it’s perfect for those that have experience using AutoCAD.
In the next section, let’s check out OpenSCAD.
One of the most important benefits of using OpenSCAD is that it’s a 3D modeling software designed to be accessible for everyone – regardless if you have experience with this type of program or not.
In other words, even though simple objects can be created in no time thanks to OpenSCAD’s intuitive interface, power users will still find useful functionalities such as variables, recursion, and modules.
Talking about this software’s interface, one of the most interesting features is the so-called programming language.
This feature allows users to create objects through code – which can be achieved by typing text! However, don’t worry if you’re not familiar with coding since there are lots of resources available in order to help you understand the basics.
This tool is usually linked with its specific approach to 3D modeling (programmers, designers, etc.).
Create Objects Using Code
Since it can literally be used as a code generator for creating objects of different shapes and sizes, OpenSCAD differentiates between the model itself (an algorithm) and its representation (how you see it on screen).
OpenSCAD features a great number of basic tools that can be combined in order to create more complex objects. For example, you can use simple primitives (such as spheres and cubes) to create functional models for various applications such as 3D printing.
OpenSCAD is not the most accessible program on this list to learn, and it’s really intended for more advanced CAD users – which means that if you don’t have any previous experience, your learning curve will be quite steep.
All things considered, OpenSCAD is one of the best free 3D modeling programs because it’s simple and user-friendly – which means that both beginners and advanced users can benefit from its features. However, keep in mind that coding is required if you want to make the most out of this software.
In the next section, let’s check out Wings 3D.
12. Wings 3D
Wings 3D is compatible with Mac OS X, Linux, and Windows, and it’s one of the most intuitive tools for beginners.
The first time you launch this software, Wings 3D will ask if you want to check out some tutorials in order to get used to its interface.
Even though there isn’t a lot of documentation available for this program, it still manages to offer powerful functionalities such as a great number of tools and the ability to import .dae 3D models.
To create new objects, you must use a set of basic primitives, such as cubes and cylinders. It’s a good thing since this will help you grasp the basics without being too overwhelming.
The one downside of using Wings 3D is that it’s not suited for creating complex objects due to its limited number of tools.
However, it’s not problematic since you can combine different primitives to create simple models.
Much like OpenSCAD, Wings 3D differentiates between the model and its representation (how you see it on screen). This difference might sound confusing. But when using this program for a while, you’ll notice that it helps the software keep things simpler.
As far as the interface of the tool goes, it’s worth mentioning that Wings 3D features an intuitive layout with all tools grouped together. So if you know where to look for any specific tool, you’ll be able to learn everything fast.
The learning curve is quite smooth, and in a matter of minutes, you’ll be able to start creating models with ease!
All things considered, Wings 3D is one of the best free 3D modeling programs. It’s simple and intuitive, so both beginners and advanced users can benefit from its features.
In the next section, find out more about free 3D modeling software.
Free 3D Modeling Software (FAQ)
This section gives you simple answers to common questions about free 3D modeling software.
What is the best free software for 3D modeling?
Some of the best free software for 3D modeling are TinkerCAD, 3D Slash, FreeCAD, SketchUp, Blender, Meshmixer, Fusion 360, Vectary, SelfCAD, BlocksCAD, OpenSCAD, and Wings 3D.
Is FreeCAD free to use?
Yes, FreeCAD is completely free to use.
Is Blender 3D free?
Yes, Blender 3D is free to use.
The next and final section summarizes the entire article on free 3D modeling software.
Free 3D Modeling Software (Conclusion)
We created this list of free 3D software programs to help those who don’t want to pay for professional design solutions but still need something more than what they can get from the built-in tools in common image editors (such as GIMP or Photoshop).
When looking for a CAD solution, consider everything before making a decision. In time, most free modeling tools turn out to be just as good as their paid counterparts. Sometimes they’re even better because open-source programs tend to receive more community support and more updates.
To create models for movies, games, or real-time 3D visualization, you’re better off with a commercial tool. However, to create simple models and export them to static images (3DS/DXF/OBJ), give these free tools a shot.
Alongside solid CAD tools like FreeCAD, Gazebo, and Appleseed, this list features web apps (such as SketchUp) which can come in handy for creating quick concepts in the absence of your preferred graphic editor.
What’s your favorite free 3D modeling software? Let us know in the comments below!