3D design software is often called “Computer Aided Design” or CAD software. There is a lot of good CAD software for creating 3D models. At MakerHub we like and use Tinkercad from AutoDesk. It is free, accessible to a beginner, and has an open community of designs. We also like it because it is cloud based so the files can be accessed anywhere. The files are constantly autosaved so no worries about losing your work.

Learning Tinkercad

Start by joining Tinkercad.  You can set up your own (free) account, or join a class if a professor has given you a sign-in code.

Once you have signed in to your Tinkercad account,  follow these lessons to learn to use the software: 

“Let’s Learn Tinkercad”: Five brief lessons providing an introduction to the software controls

Introduction to Primitive Shapes: A lesson in the building blocks of 3D models

How to Create a Spaceship: Yes, a spaceship. You can use this guide to do it step by step but you may prefer to do it on your own. Try to use the basic shapes to create your own version. Experimenting is how you learn!

That was fun! How can I learn more?

Tinkercad provides lots of tools to help you learn. We like the specific skills that Tinkercad Lessons provides. We also like the way that Tinkercad Projects combines skills together to make neat stuff. You can also find lots of video tutorials on the web. For beginners, we really like this tutorial from All3DP and these videos from Rob Morrill.

Advanced TinkerCad Techniques

You can import SVG files from software such as Adobe Illustrator. In order to make an SVG from Illustrator you can use this guide and you can find a lot of SVG files online. Here is a tutorial to import SVGs, which includes 3D printing. This will create a raised flat image that you can edit further.

With the Duplicate tool you can make simple patterns and complex geometry in three dimensions. Here is a simple explanation of how it works, and a video with a penguin.

Try to create a Coral Reef!

Design Challenge

Now that you know the basics of 3D design of Tinkercad, we challenge you to create a Tinkercad model of a favorite toy you remember from childhood. Have fun with it! And remember, Tinkercad saves your files in the cloud, so as long as you have internet access you can get to your files later.

Lesson One: 3D Modeling
Lesson Two: Tinkercad
Lesson Three: Sketchfab
Lesson Four: Intro to 3D Printing
Lesson Five: More 3D Printing
Lesson Six: 3D Printing Pro Tips
Further Resources