How To Choose The Right 3D Modeling Software

Art & Sculpture CAD
How To Choose The Right 3D Modeling Software

“Which 3D modeling software should I learn?” That’s a really tough question to answer! There are so many options, from simple to complex, free to thousands of dollars.

This article appeared in Make: Vol. 84. Subscribe for more great articles.

The best choice depends on your personal style of creation. If you break it down that way, you end up with some pretty well defined categories. There are platforms that appeal to artists first, to technical engineering gurus, and to jacks of all trades.

So which should you choose?


Artistic Sculpting

Are you most comfortable with the thought of sculpting in clay? Do you want to carve shapes out of a block and flex those artistic muscles? Do straight lines annoy you? Give ZBrushNomad Sculpt (Figure A), ForgerSculptGL, or other digital sculpting platforms a try.

3D World Building


Are polygons old friends to you? Do you want powerful rendering tools and the ability to animate? Do you think maybe you’ll expand your work beyond simply 3D printing a file, into say, gaming or animation? Then look into Blender (Figure B), Autodesk 3ds Max, and Maya.

Engineering and Manufacturing


Precision is the name of the game with this group. You’ve got serious engineering to do, and despite all the features of the other platforms, they don’t have the tools to accurately lay out items for precision manufacturing. This group of CAD programs has those design tools, and sometimes additional tools specifically designed to help in the manufacturing process. Check out SolidWorksAutodesk Fusion360 (Figure C), Autodesk InventorOpenSCAD, and FreeCAD

Discuss this article with the rest of the community on our Discord server!

I get ridiculously excited seeing people make things. I just want to revel in the creativity I see in makers. My favorite thing in the world is sharing a maker's story. find me at

View more articles by Caleb Kraft


Ready to dive into the realm of hands-on innovation? This collection serves as your passport to an exhilarating journey of cutting-edge tinkering and technological marvels, encompassing 15 indispensable books tailored for budding creators.