10 Best Free 3D Design Software in 2023

May 24, 2023

Free 3D Design Software

We have come a long way from sketching on notepads.

Designing has since evolved to change how people express their ideas. While you still may not be able to bring your creations to life, you can certainly add a new dimension to them. Close enough.

3D design software enables artists and designers to create 3D models with incredible precision and a touch of realism. From product prototypes to architectural renderings to video game characters, the software offers an exciting way to explore your idea's full potential.

Whether you are a seasoned designer or just starting with your 3D donut tutorial (I see you, Blender Guru), we have something for everyone in our best free 3D design software list for 2023.

Best free 3D design software

In the 3D design space, you have 3D modeling software for creating basic three-dimensional digital models, 3D painting software for adding texture and color, and 3D rendering software for creating realistic images and animation.

3D design software can also be industry-specific, like architectural rendering for the architecture and planning industry and product and machine design software for the mechanical and manufacturing industry.

The free 3D design software list below contains real user reviews. It's important to note that vendors offering a free trial are also considered free in this list's context. To be included in the 3D design software list, a product must have some of these features:

  • Offer two-dimensional technical drawing functions
  • Provide tools for three-dimensional modeling, painting, or rendering
  • Allow storing and sharing of final 3D models
  • Allow uploading of 2D and 3D models for rendering or animation 
  • Generate 3D printable instructions 
  • Support and manipulate STL, 3MF, or OBJ files
  • Provide structural, numerical, or thermodynamic analysis 
  • Have rendering features such as shading, texture editing, and lighting

* This data was pulled from G2 in May 2023, and the 3D design software list is ranked in alphabetical order. Some reviews may be edited for clarity.

1. 3D Slash

Category: 3D Modeling Software

Offers: Free and paid plans

3D Slash enables users to create and edit 3D models using a unique and intuitive interface. It is a perfect tool for beginners. The software offers both online and offline versions. Besides 3D modeling, sculpting, animating, and rendering, some other features of 3D Slash include an expansive color palette for painting models, VR mode for viewing projects, real-time collaboration, and social media sharing.

What users like best:

“3D Slash software is easy to use and learn. It provides tutorials with examples so new users can easily understand how to use different components of the software. The best part about the 3D Slash software is that it’s available for Windows, Linux, and Mac. You can easily create good 3D models and save them in the STL library.”

- 3D Slash Review, Leonard R.

What users dislike:

“3D Slash is mostly for beginners. Trying a different software would be better if you're an advanced modeler.”

- 3D Slash Review, Oral T.

2. Blender

Category: Architectural Rendering Software

Offers: Free download

Blender is a truly free open-source 3D creation software available for Linux, Windows, and Mac. It’s a versatile platform offering toolsets for modeling, VFX, animation, rigging, rendering, texturing, compositing, and more. The software has a global community of users and developers constantly contributing to building the software, website, and documentation for increased functionality and reach. Blender also supports Python scripting, allowing advanced users to customize the application and write specialized tools, often released as future updates. 

What users like best:

It's very lightweight (around 300MB) and versatile. Within that 300 MB, it provides a complete package, modeling, texturing, animation, compositing, simulation, FX, lighting, rendering, and even sculpting. Being open source, it's easy to find plugins that enhance your experience and make Blender very easy to use. I can't imagine using a blender without plugins. It's best for solo and Indie devs.”

- Blender Review, Dheeraj B.

What users dislike:

The complex interface and steep learning curve of Blender can be a challenge for new users. Also, the lack of professional support options may be a drawback for some people.”

- Blender Review, Ismael M.

3. FreeCAD

Category: General-Purpose CAD Software

Offers: Free download

FreeCAD is another free-to-download open-source parametric 3D modeler used for creating and editing 2D and full-precision 3D models for printing or CNC machining. The application caters to a wide range of use cases, from mechanical engineering to product design to architecture. It allows users to create real-life objects of any size by adjusting parameters as desired. FreeCAD is available on Mac, Windows, and Linux, and supports multiple open file formats like STL, SVG, DXF, OBJ, DAE, and STEP.

What users like best:

“It is an effective tool for engineering and construction drawings creation. Perfect for 3D modeling, architectural design management, and engineering drawings. Its CAD capability is excellent, and rendering large 3D designs is also quick.

- FreeCAD Review, Kelvin C.

What users dislike:

Adding more robustness to the part modeling workspace and unifying the assembly workspace are, in my opinion, two ways to have a better user experience.”

- FreeCAD Review, Luis Enrique T.

4. Fusion 360

Category: Computer-Aided Manufacturing (CAM) Software

Offers: Free access for startups and personal and educational use, along with a 30-day free trial and paid plans 

Fusion 360 is Autodesk’s integrated cloud CAD, CAM, CAE, and PCB software for 3D modeling. Popular in the manufacturing and product design space, the application enables designers to create complex designs, digitally simulate, and test them for manufacturing. Some features of Fusion 360 include flexible 3D modeling, photo-realistic rendering, topology and shape optimization with machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI), and real-time cloud collaboration. 

What users like best:

“Fusion 360 has a very intuitive UI with many great features. It took only a few hours before I could start modeling complex geometries that were accurate to real life.

- Fusion 360 Review, Shannon W.

What users dislike:

It's a little buggy. Some problems require researching the forums to find a workaround until a patch is pushed. Some issues persist for quite a while, while others are fixed instantly.”

- Fusion 360 Review, Anthony W.

5. MeshLab

Category: 3D Printing Software

Offers: Free download

MeshLab is an open-source software, with a primary focus on editing and processing 3D triangular meshes. It is available for free download on Mac, Windows, and Linux. While the other 3D design software like Blender or FreeCAD are more comprehensive and cater to a wide range of applications, MeshLab is mainly used for mesh processing tasks like cleaning, reconstruction, simplification, and color and texture mapping for refined 3D printing. 

What users like best:

I really like MeshLab because it is a simple tool that helps me repair and modify STL files so I can print them with 3D printers. Using this software is great because I constantly work with 3D printers and usually download 3D objects to modify them. I like being able to use this software on any low-income computer since it is a very light program that can run on almost all operating systems. The tools are very simple to use and are incredibly useful with all three-dimensional object formats.”

- MeshLab Review, Ehilemar A.

What users dislike:

The lack of an easy-to-access view orientation is annoying. If polygonal files could be aligned to a coordinate system based on native or imported surfaces, it would be helpful.”

- MeshLab Review, Casey S.

6. Meshmixer

Category: 3D Printing Software

Offers: Free download for Windows

Meshmixer is a free 3D mesh-processing application, developed by Autodesk. It provides a range of helpful features like drag-and-drop mesh mixing, 3D sculpting, mesh simplification and smoothing, precise 3D positioning, and automatic surface alignment. The software is popular in the design industry for optimizing parts for printing. Meshmixer also finds its use in the health sector due to its ability to create complex meshes from 3D scans, allowing medical modeling to scale the manufacturing of custom prosthetic sockets. 

What users like best:

The fact that you can convert any kind of mesh into “solid” is one of the best features of this software. It really helps you out in 3D printing applications. Also, the possibility to auto-orient the model on the build plate in order to optimize supports (and we're talking of tree branches-like supports) is extremely useful!”

- Meshmixer Review, Mirko C.

What users dislike:

It takes some practice to get used to where everything is and how it works. It really requires some time watching videos or reading how to use it properly to use it to its full potential.”

- Meshmixer Review, Evan C.

7. Onshape

Category: Product and Machine Design Software

Offers: Free and paid plans

Onshape is a cloud-native CAD and product development software, that is easily accessible through desktop and mobile devices. Some features of Onshape that make it competitive in the 3D design industry include PCB studio, real-time data management, built-in interactive simulation, collaborative space, workflow automation, activity dashboard, enhanced security, API integration, and more. The application’s cloud-based nature and real-time CAD collaboration feature make it a good tool for accelerating a product’s time to market.

What users like best:

Onshape's browser-based CAD/CAM solution is very nice for users who don't have access to the necessary hardware to run most applications locally. It is also great for cloud-based collaboration on teams, where applicable. Features are constantly being added to make this great product even better.”

- Onshape Review, John A.

What users dislike:

“The downside I deal with is that Onshape is still new and lacks some of the more mature CAD software functionality. This is especially true in the sheet metal side of modeling and documentation. I experienced this same situation about 20 years ago with traditional CAD software. Back in 2000, when I started using 3D CAD, it seemed sheet metal enhancements were always few and far between. I am optimistic that Onshape, having enhancements added every 3 weeks, will break this trend in the CAD industry.

- Onshape Review, Bryan L.

8. OpenSCAD

Category: General-Purpose CAD Software

Offers: Free download

OpenSCAD is a free tool for creating solid 3D computer-aided design models. It differs from other free CAD platforms like Blender in its approach to designing 3D models. OpenSCAD is not an interactive modeler and does not use the traditional graphical UI or artistic aspect of 3D modeling. Instead, any model is created by reading and rendering the object describing the script or code. The tool is commonly used by engineers and technical designers to create complex and custom parts using mathematical relationships and precise dimensions.

What users like best:

“As an engineer, I always thought AutoCAD was great but cumbersome. When I started with the world of 3D printing and rapid prototyping, I was introduced to OpenScad and never went back to regular CAD software. For me, it is intuitive after many years of programming in various languages. It was so much easier, and the fact that it is free is the icing on the cake. Also, the ability to make components as modules you can use elsewhere or parametrically size pieces so the same code works for all sizes by importing the code as a module is epic.

I highly recommend this product.

- OpenSCAD Review, Maritza R.

What users dislike:

There is only one major hurdle: the slowness of the rendering or compiling engine for generating STL geometry output files. Designs of roughly a thousand lines of code take seven hours to run for us. Even getting the fastest CPU and GPU doesn't accelerate it much as it is single-threaded.”

- OpenSCAD Review, Dr. Robert B.

9. SketchUp

Category: General-Purpose CAD Software

Offers: Free and paid plans

SketchUp is a web-based 3D modeling software. It has a user-friendly interface and an assortment of tools to edit and create 3D models, which can be exported in DWG, DXF, STL, OBJ, and other file formats. Its unique and patented push-and-pull feature allows users to manipulate designs and extend 2D flat surfaces into 3D shapes. SketchUp finds its use in home design, wireframes creation, prototype design, 3D printing, and more. 

What users like best:

“SketchUp is the one tool that most fully recreates the experience of working with cardboard massing models, but in a much more efficient and fluid way. Our office has been using SketchUp for 12+ years now, and our design process uses SketchUp to explore dozens of initial massing iterations and then develops a final model with BIM-like characteristics for construction documentation. The ease of use allows us to share our models with builders, which greatly eases the burden of explaining things in written RFI's and 2D details during construction.

- SketchUp Review, Eugene S.

What users dislike:

Does not have parametric and data-driven features (BIM). Not a solids-based modeler, so issues can occur with reversed faces if not modeled carefully. If using for conceptual design, over-modeling makes the transition into Revit for BIM difficult (Vertical faces become walls, horizontal faces become floors or roofs, etc.).”

- SketchUp Review, Eric B.

10. Tinkercad

Category:  3D Printing Software

Offers: Free web application

Tinkercad is another of Autodesk’s products. It is a free 3D designing software that features a simple drag-and-drop interface, making it popular among hobbyists, teachers, and beginners. The software offers a variety of basic tools and advanced features to create and manipulate 3D models. Users can employ the in-build basic shapes and objects like cylinders, spheres, and gears or import a 2D image to build a model. Tinkercad also supports file formats such as STL, OBJ, and SVG, making it 3D printing friendly.

What users like best:

“Super accessible, easy-to-use software. Simple enough to use for absolute beginners but flexible enough to make rapid prototype designs to test for minimum viable products. I highly recommend the tutorials, even if they seem too easy for you, they're a great way to get started FAST with Tinkercad.

- Tinkercad Review, Adrienne H.

What users dislike:

“Although it is very helpful and easy to use for beginners and start-ups, it could use more advanced features in the future that are currently missing to rival more design-oriented professional 3D software.

- Tinkercad Review, Omar M.

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Give your design some shape

Jump on the 3D bandwagon and start shaping your ideas with 3D design software. To start with 3D designing, all you need is software that works for you, an eye for design, and a passion for art.

If you know your way around 3D designing, check out how 3D printing converts your ideas to objects and puts new life into them.

3D modeling software
Venture into the z-axis

Transform your ideas into reality and create stunning detailed 3D models and designs with 3D modeling software.

3D modeling software
Venture into the z-axis

Transform your ideas into reality and create stunning detailed 3D models and designs with 3D modeling software.

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