Good free 3D apps

  • On November 6, 2010 ·
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Lately I’ve been researching/trying out some 3D software. I’m primarily a 2D kinda guy since I like drawing and it’s a little more instant than modeling. Of course I like to keep informed about creative stuff and sometimes something you learn in one discipline can be used for another. So today I’m going to share some links for a couple programs I like and a couple cool things in conjunction with them.

Google Sketchup

Sketchup is Google’s modeling app. There’s a pro version with some added features but the free version (Sketchup 8 as of this writing) is very accessible and usable for folks starting out with 3D. It’s very easy to draw some lines and get pushing/pulling shapes into dimension.

Video Tutorials

Google has some good guides both here and on their youtube channel. There’s also the videos from Sketchup for Dummies and Go-2-School which has the Sketchup Show. A growing resource is also this thread at SketchUcation.

Downloads – Models

The great thing about Sketchup is that Google has a 3D Warehouse for users to upload models for others to download and work from. There’s also support for importing various other types of models.

Downloads – Plugins/Styles/Renderers

Sketchup is expandable through scripting and other plugins. Probably some of the most useful plugins lists can be found at CAD Addict and Sketchup Plugin Reviews. You can download different styles for your models, some free and some not so free.  Renderers can go a step further and make your scenes look photorealistic. Some cost and some like Kerkythea are free.


Sculptris is a fun digital sculpting program. Unlike Sketchup, which is more of a drawing/design/architectural app, (though some folks do model characters with it) Sculptris is more organic and designed to make you feel like you’re modeling clay. If you’ve ever used Mudbox or Zbrush you’ll know what I’m talking about. In fact, the folks behind Zbrush bought Sculptris so you know it’s going to have a good development. There are two really good points to keep in mind here. Sculptris is lighter, trimmer, and loads from the application file so there’s no heavy install. Also, at least in it’s alpha form, Sculprtis is free.

Yes, it’s supposedly Windows-only for now but I’m on a Mac and I got it to load in my old copy of Crossover very quickly. It runs surprisingly well and I imagine a copy of Darwine could have it running just as easily.


Blender is probably the most traditional 3D app on this list and honestly the one  have the least experience with. It’s also probably the oldest with the most resources available online. I’m interested in it for it’s full feature set after looking at these other apps that are more towards the modeling side. Particularly it’s rigging abilities. (The part where you give your model bones so you can pose/animate them like a puppet) Here’s a video showing some excellent facial rigging, for example.

The fellow who made that video even has another example available on his site for download and study. I think that’s pretty neat. It’s not hard for me to imagine a workflow of modeling sets in Sketchup, characters with Sculptris, and then putting things together with rigging and texturing in Blender.