Skip to Main Content

3D Modeling

A collection of information from methods, software and resources to get one started in creating 3D models.


Maya 3D animation software offers a comprehensive creative feature set for 3D computer animation, modeling, simulation, rendering, and compositing on a highly extensible production platform. Maya has next-generation display technology, accelerated modeling workflows, and tools for handling complex data.

3ds Max software provides a comprehensive 3D modeling, animation, rendering, and compositing solution for games, film, and motion graphics artists. 3ds Max has tools for crowd generation, particle animation, and perspective matching, as well as support for DirectX 11 shaders.

Students can create amazing designs with a modern, easy-to-use, powerful industrial and mechanical design tool like Fusion 360, and hone their skills to become tomorrow’s engineers, product designers, and industrial designers.

Ease of Use - What program should I use?

Ease of Use - What program should I use?

Here are a few resources that will guide you to what software, even those not listed above, that can help you design based on your needs.

Finding the right 3D modeling software for you, 3D program 20 Best List

The below list is put into beginner, intermediate and advanced difficulty.


  • TinkerCAD


  • Sketchup
  • Meshmixer (possibly straddles the line of Intermediate/Advanced)


  • 3DS Max
  • Maya
  • Blender
  • Fusion 360 (saves in multiple formats but .stl is achieved only through "Make" function)

Best Practices for 3D modeling

To streamline your effectiveness in 3D model creation, here are some best practices to incorporate:

  • 3D program should have the ability to save in .STL format. If you are already comfortable in a 3D program and it doesn't have the ability to save or "export as" to .STL then consider saving it in a format that can be opened up in a 3D program that can handle both your saved format and save as an .STL.
  • Considering 123D is prevalent on our Innovation Lab computers, keep in mind that working with small objects on the 3D plane could pose an issue as a small item is hard to navigate quickly. When a small object is near the (0,0) origin on the 3D grid, it has flexible viewing (zooming in) to select small surface features but if you place the object further from that point your viewing options will become less flexible. Another hint brought up in the video below is to create the dimensions of a small object (if that is what you are working with) into a multiple factor (enlarge it) to more easily adjust its features. And as you complete the object you can reduce it by the same factor to achieve the right size for your model.
  • Another helpful hint is to select your work at different "modify" points to give you an easier ability to "step back" to your model at an earlier design stage if needed. Suggest copying and pasting model in one direction and at a constant variable (75mm, 100mm, 200mm) so that you create a "path" of the design changes the model goes through. There are constraints for your abilities to change dimensions of the object, face, edge, vertice down the line of creation, so if you have these "modify" points you can choose that iteration of the model where you can effect the necessary manipulation instead of undoing tens or hundreds of steps or starting from scratch. Watch the video for a visual definition of this concept.
  • Last but certainly not least is SAVE. SAVE often so you do not lose your work.

With best practice #3, keep in mind this is beneficial in 3D software that is parametric where it is typically used by engineers and architects for its use of specific dimensions and relationships, whereas explicit 3D geometry allows changes to be made on the fly and small changes are not necessarily related to any other defined point of the geometry. So in programs like Maya, 3DS max, Cinema 4D you can follow this same best practice but the ability to transform faces, edges and vertices is very flexible at any point when creating with these programs.

Have a question? Ask a librarian! Email Call or text 386-747-9028.