3D Modeling Tools

Listed below are the most common and widely used 3D modeling softwares. There are three main categories: CAD Tools, Freeform Modeling Tools and Sculpting Tools. Whereas the tools of each category can generate models suitable for 3D printing, the way the inputs are generated are different: CAD tools are largely based on using geometrical shapes to build models while Freeform modeling tools allow more freedom by allowing you to create freeform shapes. Sculpting tools are pretty much like using digital clay that you can push, pull, pinch and grab to form your models.

For easy reference we included information on User Level and Price, such that you can pick your software of choice based on your skills and budget.

 
SoftwareDeveloperUser LevelPriceComment
CAD Tools
123D DesignAutodesk Inc.BeginnerFreemium123D Design is a powerful, yet simple 3D creation and editing tool. The free version gives you access to most features and allows you to create and use 3D models for non-commercial purposes.
3DSlash3DSlashBeginnerFree3D SLASH is a free, fun & fast 3D modeling app for non-designer people of all ages. Create your own design in no time like a modern stone-cutter. User-friendly experience with its Minecraft look & feel and great features : picture projection, import / export of STL files and more.
3DTinLagoaBeginnerFree3DTin is a free, browser-based 3D modeling tool that is both easy and intuitive to use, especially aimed at beginners. Once you have created a user account you also get access to the huge repository of Creative Commons 3D models.
CubeTeamOtherlab Inc. BeginnerFreeCubeTeam is a multiplayer 3D painting and modeling program that lets you and your friends imagine worlds out of cubes and then print them in 3D. CubeTeam is free, runs in a web browser, and has powerful editing tools that let you create in a virtually limitless environment.
Cubify Invent3D Systems Inc.Beginner to Intermediate€39 ($49)Cubify Invent is an easy-to-learn 3D modeling tool aimed at helping users to quickly create 3D printable files. The software which comes with free tutorials does only run on Windows though.
Design Spark MechanicalRS Components/Allied ElectronicsBeginner to IntermediateFreeDesignSpark Mechanical is a 3D modeling software developed by the electronics distributor RS Components/Allied Electronics. The software equips all engineers with 3D design capability and it is said to be fast and easy-to-use.
FreeCADFreeCAD CommunityIntermediateFreeFreeCAD is a parametric 3D modeler built for product design and engineering. Feature rich and with a high learning curve, FreeCAD is rather for advanced users. The software is multi-platform, and runs flawlessly on Windows and Linux/Unix and Mac OSX.
Geomagic Design3D Systems Inc.Intermediate€1799Geomagic Design is a comprehensive and robust mechanical CAD design tools, allowing ideas to go from concept to production for professional engineers, makers, students and hobbyists. Geomagic Design is available in three versions: Personal, Professional and Expert, each tailored to the needs and budgets of the respective user base.
InventorAutodesk Inc.Intermediate to professional$7295Inventor 3D CAD software offers an easy-to-use set of tools for 3D mechanical design, documentation, and product simulation.
Rhino 3DRobert McNeel & AssociatesIntermediate to professional€995Rhinoceros (aka Rhino) is a stand-alone, commercial NURBS-based 3D modeling software commonly used for industrial design, architecture, marine design, jewelry design, CAD / CAM and rapid prototyping. Rhino's popularity is based on its diversity, low learning-curve, relatively low cost, and its ability to import and export over 30 file formats, which allows it to act as a 'converter' tool between programs in a design workflow.
SketchUpTrimble Navigation Ltd.Beginner to IntermediateFree - €378SketchUp is a 3D modeling program for applications such as architectural, interior design, civil and mechanical engineering. Its powerful yet easy to use interface make it ideal for beginners in 3D modeling. A freeware version, SketchUp Make, and a paid version with additional functionality, SketchUp Pro, are available. Note that the free version does not allow you to export to *.stl for 3D printing, you'll need to install a plug-in to do so.
SolidworksDassault Systèmes Solidworks Corp.Intermediate to professional$3995SolidWorks is a 3D mechanical CAD program widely used amongst engineers and designers. The software features powerful simulation, motion, and design validation tools, advanced wire and pipe routing functionality, reverse engineering capabilities, and more.
TinkerCADAutodesk Inc.BeginnerFreemiumTinkerCAD is a browser based 3D modeling program ideal for beginners. You can save your designs online or share them with others. Export *.stl files to print with your own 3D printer or send your designs to one of popular 3D printing services.
Freeform Modeling Tools
123D CreatureAutodesk Inc.BeginnerFreemium123D Creature is an iPad app that gives anyone the ability to create amazing 3D characters. Design your creature, then sculpt detailed features before adding skin, fur or feathers as surface texture. Export your finished creature as an image, 3D model or have it 3D printed into a real sculpture!
3ds MaxAutodesk Inc.Professional$36753ds Max 3D modeling software provides a comprehensive modeling, animation, simulation, and rendering solution for games, film, and motion graphics artists.
BlenderBlender FoundationIntermediate to professionalFreeBlender is a free and open source 3D animation suite. It supports the entirety of the 3D pipeline—modeling, rigging, animation, simulation, rendering, compositing and motion tracking, even video editing and game creation
Cinema 4DMaxon Computer GmbHProfessional$3695CINEMA 4D Studio is a 3D modeling, animation and rendering application for professional 3D artists wanting to create advanced 3D graphics. The software is capable of procedural and polygonal/subd modeling, animating, lighting, texturing, rendering.
MayaAutodesk Inc.Professional$3675Maya, is 3D computer graphics software offering a comprehensive creative feature set for 3D computer animation, modeling, simulation, and rendering. It is used to create interactive 3D applications, including video games, animated film, TV series, or visual effects.
Scultping Tools
123D SculptAutodesk Inc.BeginnerFreemium123D Sculpt is a tactile modeling app for iPad. Use your fingers to push, pull, pinch and grab the material just as if you were modeling using clay.
Cubify Sculpt3D Systems Inc.Intermediate€99Cubify Sculpt is an organic modeling tool that enables sculpting with virtual clay. The software has mash-up capability and exports 3D print ready *stl files.
LeopolyLeonar3Do International Inc.BeginnerFreemiumLeopoly is a web-based, social 3D sculpting application. Each of the created and saved models are available for the entire Leopoly community for shaping them further. Note that you cannot export your 3D models unless you have a paying account.
SculptrisPixologic Inc. IntermediateFreeSculptris is a virtual sculpting software program, with a primary focus on the concept of modeling clay. Currently available for MacOS and Windows.
SculptGLStephane GinierIntermediateFreeSculptGL is a browser-based 3D sculpting application well suited for intermediate users. The application does allow you to export in *.stl format, an interesting feature for anyone who has their own 3D printer.
ZBrushPixologic Inc. Professional$795ZBrush is a digital sculpting tool that combines 3D/2.5D modeling, texturing and painting. It uses a proprietary "pixol" technology which stores lighting, color, material, and depth information for all objects on the screen.

 

Slicers & 3D Printer Hosts

This section lists all software required to prepare and execute a 3D print. The Print Preparation column indicates whether the software allows you to prepare your 3D model for printing by such actions as scaling, rotating and placing the model on the print bed. Slicing generates the G-code necessary to feed into your 3D printer.
Note: the Cross Platform Tools work with all 3D printer brands making them ideal if you own a 3D printer without any native software. The Platform Dependent Tools are limited for use with the 3D printers of the respective brands.

SoftwareDeveloperPrint PreparationSlicingComment
Cross Platform Tools
Ultimaker CuraUltimakerYesYesCura is a free slicer and host software developed by Ultimaker. As Cura is open-source, its use is not limited to Ultimaker 3D printers. Intuitive, fast and easy to use, Cura is our pick for 3D printing beginners looking for a robust yet simple to use 3D printer front end.
CraftWareCraftWareYesYesCraftWare is a free, fast, and easy-to-use slicer software that can also prepare and manage your prints. CraftWare's impressive gcode visualizer and manual support setting mode make it an excellent alternative to many of the more established 3D printer host softwares.
KISSlicerKISSlicerLimitedYesKISSlicer is a cross-platform G-code generator for 3D printers. Generates excellent slicing results albeit a somewhat dated user interface. Exists both in free and premium versions.
Repetier HostHot-World GmbH & Co. KGYesYesRepetier Host is an open-source 3D printer front-end. It uses Slic3r as default slicing engine but Skeinforge is also available.
ReplicatorGReplicatorGYesYesReplicatorG is an open-source 3D printer front-end using Skeinforge as slicer. The software will drive MakerBot, Thing-O-Matic, CupCake CNC, RepRap printers or generic CNC machines.
Simplify3DSimplify3D YesYesSimplify3D is a widely used premium slicer and 3D printer host. The software combines several powerful features allowing you to repair, prepare, preview and slice your 3D models. Its lightning fast slicer combined with advanced support generation and a feature rich preview mode make this software a very interesting option for slightly more advanced users.
Slic3rSlic3rYesYesSlic3r is a popular cross-platform slicer. This open source slicer is fast, generates good results but its settings needs some tweaking initially.
SkeinforgeSkeinforgeNoYesSkeinforge was once the slicing standard. However, the software is slow for today's standards and has begun to fall out of fashion.
3DPrinterOS3D Control Systems Ltd. YesYes3DPrinterOS is a platform that gives users the ability to search or upload 3d printable content, quickly and easily repair designs, customize settings, slice in the cloud and send files for printing anywhere in the world. 3D Printer owners and new users alike can share CAD files and multiple 3D printers all from a single cloud interface.
Platform Dependent Tools
MakerWareMakerbotYesYesMakerWare is the front-end printing software from MakerBot. Easy and intuitive to use but MakerWare is designed only for the MakerBot 3D printers. The software uses MakerBot Slicer as the default slicer.
UPBeijing TierTime Technology Co. Ltd.YesYesThe software for all UP! 3D printers.