Do you want to design your own 3D printable model instead of getting from somewhere else?
Are you the person who wish to expand your own imagination and not limited by other person’s design?
Or do you wish to create a custom 3D printable part for your own project?
If said yes to one or more of the above questions, you are not alone.
In fact, there are many people who would love to get into 3D design but faced with challenges when using the software.
The Need for An Easy to Use 3D Design Tool
This is because most 3D design software requires quite some amount of time to learn and not all of them are easy to learn. Even if you found a 3D design software that is easy to learn, it usually could not do much.
Did we mention about how the process of installing the software itself have made many people shy away from 3D design?
That’s a pity! Think about how much they can do when they combine their skills in 3D design and the power of 3D printing.
If you are an educator, not having 3D design skill makes it hard to integrate 3D printing into the classroom setting, and would cause you to miss out some of the benefits of integrating 3D printing in education.
3D design remains as one of the biggest hurdle to people getting involved in 3D printing.
Since 3D design is the most important step in the 3D printing process, without it, most people could not have the chance to experience the power of 3D printing (Anyway, the 3D printing community is great, you can get lots of free designs from these websites).
But times have changed, we are recommending one 3D design tool which may remove most of the challenges.
The 3D Design Tool For You
In our opinion, this is a 3D design tool great for everyone, especially for those just starting out with 3D design. This is because it is very easy to learn yet lots of imaginable shapes can be created using it.
So, what is TinkerCAD?
We do wish to introduce it ourselves, but we think the following video explains it best (not to mention the humor involved in this video haha).
We recommend you to watch this video first before reading on. Click on the picture below to watch the video.
Done with the video? How was it? Was it funny? Did you solve the “riddle”? I bet you didn’t see that coming either.
Once you are done with the video, let us get started with the complete TinkerCAD tutorial.
Table of Content
- Change Views
- Place Shapes
- Resize Shapes
- Move and Rotate Shapes
- Workplane and Ruler Tools
- Grouping Shapes
- Align Shapes
- Create Cut Out
Alright, so, why do we recommend TinkerCAD?
First of all, it is FREE.
Do we need to explain this? 🙂
Secondly, TinkerCAD is very easy to learn.
TinkerCAD is a 3D design tool based on dragging existing shapes to form other shapes, so the learning required has been greatly simplified, without the need for you to create shapes from scratch.
If you think there are limits to the shapes that can be created, think again.
Look at their gallery, there are lots of designs which you wouldn’t expect achievable using those shapes combined. In other words, there is practically NO LIMITS to the shapes that can be created.
Thirdly, TinkerCAD is a browser-based design tool.
That means, you do not need to perform any installation, awesome!
TinkerCAD runs on a browsers such as Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Safari, Microsoft Edge, etc. (The TinkerCAD team do claim that it works best on Chrome and Firefox.)
All you need is to create an Autodesk account, and you are ready to use their tool at www.tinkercad.com using a web browser.
Don’t worry, we will cover all the steps required in this article.
Last but certainly not least, designs drawn in TinkerCAD are stored in a cloud storage.
1. You do not need to prepare storage space for your designs in your computer.
2. You can access your file anywhere using any laptop/PC just by going to a web browser, and log in to your account in TinkerCAD.
Excited to know more? Awesome, we will go through the complete tutorial to getting started with TinkerCAD, from creating account, interface and designing in TinkerCAD, export model for 3D printing and laser cutting, and privacy and license settings.
Let us start with creating an Autodesk account. TinkerCAD had been bought by Autodesk, therefore you will log into TinkerCAD using an Autodesk account.
You should see this once you clicked the link. Click “Join Now” to start creating an account.
After you clicked “Join Now”, you should be led to this page where you need to fill in your country and birthday. Click “NEXT” once you are done.
After that, fill in your email and password, which you will use to log in to TinkerCAD next time (make sure to record them somewhere). Click “CREATE ACCOUNT” once you are done.
After that, you should receive this stating that your account has been created. Don’t forget to tick the box and click “DONE”.
This account can be used for all Autodesk software, where TinkerCAD in one of them.
After that, you should receive an email from Autodesk asking to verify your email address. Click “VERIFY EMAIL” to confirm the verification. All the blue boxes in the picture are just there to cover our personal information.
After that, you should be led to TinkerCAD home page where you will be required to start your tutorial.
We highly recommend you to follow through the TinkerCAD tutorial because once you have finished the tutorial, you are already pretty much familiar with most functions in TinkerCAD. Click “Let’s Go!” to get started with the TinkerCAD tutorial.
You will then start the TinkerCAD tutorial by following the instructions on the left side. From here onwards, the TinkerCAD tutorial would be enough for you to navigate and use TinkerCAD.
We will still provide our own TinkerCAD tutorial here if you wish to follow ours, but we highly recommend going through the tutorial provided by TinkerCAD.
Just to re-emphasize that there is no need for installation of TinkerCAD, because the tool works on web browser. After creating the Autodesk account, you are ready to start your 3D design.
Just before we begin our TinkerCAD tutorial on 3D designing, let us first walk through the interface of TinkerCAD.
We will walk you through the interface of TinkerCAD. First of all, if you wish to skip the tutorial, you can click on the TinkerCAD icon as shown in the picture below and you will be redirected to your dashboard. Don’t worry, you can get back to that lesson later, which we will show you how.
You will be redirected to your dashboard, which should look similar to picture below.
If you wish to get back to your tutorial, click on the “Lessons” on the panel on the left. Then you will be able to see your previous tutorial.
There are also other tabs such as the gallery and blog, but we will not go into those. Instead, we will walk you through on creating your own design.
First of all, go back to the “3D Designs” tab on the left panel and click create new design.
After that, you will be redirected to their design tool as shown in picture below. We will go through some of the tools/icons.
First of all, is the name, which is located at the top. This is the name of your 3D design, and whenever you create a new design, a random name is created for you (Yes, we did not give the name “Brilliant Kieran-Stantia”). Anyway, you can rename it just by clicking on the name and type in your desired name.
Next is the view panel, which is located on the top left corner. This view panel consists of a view cube, which is used to manipulate your view direction, along with other view buttons such as Home View, Orthographic View, Zoom In, Zoom Out, etc.
Next on the right are the shapes and the tools which are required to perform the 3D design. Since TinkerCAD is about using shapes to create other different shapes, these tools are already sufficient.
The shapes are the core element while the tools assists you to combine/orient/position the shapes in order to have a final desired shape.
Now we are done with the interface, let us now create a design, as we introduce some important mouse/touchpad gestures required in TinkerCAD.
We will try our best to follow the tutorial provided by TinkerCAD, to make sure all essential functions were taught.
Without further ado, let us get started with our TinkerCAD tutorial.
First of all, we will manipulate the views in TinkerCAD. This is because it would be easier to view your design as we teach you how to drag shapes into TinkerCAD later.
For those who are familiar with 3D design softwares, you should know that some of the software requires you to have a mouse in order to easily change your views (which is really important when it comes to designing in 3D).
With TinkerCAD, you do not need your mouse (although we still love to use a mouse).
This is because you can easily change your views using the touchpad on your laptop. Did I mention you can zoom in and out using the touchpad as well? Yes you can, amazing!
We will start with the View Cube.
When you hover your mouse over to the view cube, you should see blue box appears as you hover over the faces, edges and vertices of the view cube.
Left click on those blue boxes, and you will see your view changes.
However, this method of changing view is not as flexible and sometimes may be difficult to get to the desired view.
An alternative to changing your view using the View Cube is by holding your left mouse/touchpad button on any of the blue boxes, and drag the View Cube. You should see your view moves along as you drag the View Cube. Remember, Hold and Drag.
Alternatively, you could hold right mouse/touchpad button on the workplane and drag the workplace. You will get similar outcome as the previous method.
If you are in the midst of designing and have gotten the desired direction of view, but the view is a bit to the right/left/top/bottom of the screen, you can “Pan” the view to adjust it.
Pan works by dragging the workplane to a certain place but not changing the direction of the view.
Say for instance you are at the Home View and you are satisfy with the view, but you just wish to move the workplane slightly to the left but still remain the same direction of view.
Then you can Pan the workplace towards the left to achieve your desired outcome.
You can perform pan by holding “Shift” and then hold the right mouse/touchpad button and drag the workplane.
If you have a mouse, you could achieve the same thing by holding the mouse wheel and drag the workplane.
Next, we will look at the buttons on the View Panel.
First button is the Home View, clicking it will change the view back to its home view.
Next is Fit All In View, this changes the view to fit the entire model within the view. No changes can be seen at the moment, but it is useful if you have a large model.
Next are the Zoom In and Zoom Out buttons. Which are used to, well…, Zoom In and Zoom Out.
If you have a mouse, you could roll the mouse wheel to zoom in and zoom out.
Roll the mouse wheel upwards to zoom in, and downwards to zoom out.
Next is switching between Perspective View and Orthographic View.
Perspective View is the type of view closer to how we see things in real life, objects that are closer looks bigger than those that are further.
Orthographic View makes the scale the same despite the position of the objects.
Image below illustrates the difference between Perspective and Orthographic View.
The default view in TinkerCAD is Perspective View. However, you can click the button to toggle between Perspective and Orthographic View.
Now we are done with the views, let us start designing by putting some shapes.
Let us start by putting some shapes onto the workplane.
First of all, go to the panel on the right to search for your desired shape.
If you did not see this on the right, the menu might have been collapsed. You can easily open back the menu by clicking the arrow as shown below.
Alternatively, you could also collapse the menu if you find it obstructing the view of your model.
Alright, back to putting shapes. To select your desired shape and put it on the workplane, just click on the shape and move your mouse to the workplane. For this case, we will select a solid box.
You will see the preview of the shape move along with your mouse.
When you are satisfied with the position of the shape, click again to position it. Don’t worry, you can still change the position later.
Upon placing the shape, the change made is automatically saved to the cloud.
You should be seeing “Saving…” and “All changes saved” at the top whenever you perform any changes to the design.
Now we know how to place the shape onto the workplane, let us move in to resizing the shapes.
Upon placing the box, you will see dots and arrows on the shape together with a panel on the right which allows you to adjust the parameters of the shape.
We won’t be going through the panel in this article because the parameters differ from shape to shape. Therefore, feel free to explore it yourself.
We will go through the dots and arrows. For the dots at the bottom of the box, those are used to adjust the size of the box in the XY direction (parallel to the workplane).
The concept is similar to adjust the size of a picture, just drag the dots around to adjust the size of the box in XY direction. You will know your mouse has already snapped onto the dots when the dots turn red colour.
After adjusting the size of the box in the XY direction, you may want to adjust in the Z direction as well (perpendicular to the workplane). To adjust the size in the Z direction, drag the white dot at the top of the box as shown below.
Take note, dragging the black arrow would not resize the box. Remember to drag the white dot for resizing (white dot turns red once the mouse snaps onto it).
After knowing how to resize the shapes, we will now learn how to move the shapes around the workplane.
Moving the box in the XY plane is pretty simple, just click anywhere on the box (as long as not on any of the dots and arrows) and drag the box around.
Upon repositioning, you will see two measurements which shows the difference in the X and Y direction of initial and final position of the box. At this point, you can click on the numbers and key in your desired distance.
These measurements will be gone in a moment and will not re-appear in future repositioning. However, they are not too crucial at the moment since we can place the box anywhere without affecting my 3D design.
To move in the Z direction, click and drag the black arrow at the top of the box.
Next up, we will learn how to rotate the shape in all three axes.
Rotation of the shapes are done by dragging the curved arrows around the shape.
There are total of 3 curved arrows which allows you to rotate the box in 3 different axes.
Similarly, the box that shows the angle of rotation can be clicked to enter a desired value of rotation.
To continue the tutorial, we would like to move the box back to its original position and orientation. To do that, you can press Ctrl+Z using your keyboard or press the Undo button as shown below.
We will now go into the two tools which are the Workplane and Ruler.
Workplane is a tool used to redefine the location of the workplane based on the position of the existing shape. It is not necessary in most cases, however, it would make the work much easier.
In this case, I wish to create put a roof on top of the box. Therefore, I will create a workplace on the top of the box.
To create a new workplane, click on the workplane tool and then click on the desired location for the new workplane.
Now all the shapes will be dropped onto this new workplane. We will now drag a roof onto the new workplane. You can achieve the same result by placing the roof onto the old workplane and drag it up in the Z-direction. However, using the workplane tool would make the process faster and easier.
We will resize the roof to match the size of the previous box by keying in the value.
To do so, click on one of the corner dots to expose both the length and width of the roof.
Once the dimensions are exposed, we will then key in the value to match the length and width of the box.
Once we have both the roof and box set to the correct size, we will go on to place the roof directly on top of the box.
You can directly drag the roof to the box and match the corners, but we will be using this opportunity to teach a new tool, which is the Ruler tool.
The Ruler tool works as a reference point to allow different parts to coordinate with each another based on the same reference point.
To start off, we will click on the ruler tool and insert a reference point onto the new workplane.
After the ruler tool is inserted, it will automatically show the distance from the selected shape to that particular reference point.
The distance is currently snapped onto the Endpoint of the shape.
You can toggle between Midpoint (middle of the shape) and End Point by clicking on the button as shown below.
Now we have the reference point, we will now match both corners of the box and roof to that reference point by setting a certain distance from it.
To make it simpler, we will change all X and Y distance to 0.
First of all, click on the shape which you wish to move. To change the values, click on the numbers correspond to the distance (highlighted in green) and key in the value “0”.
Repeat the same procedure by clicking on the box to snap the box to the reference point.
Once everything is done, we can now dismiss the ruler and the new workplane.
To remove the ruler, just click on the “x” button to dismiss it.
To remove the new workplane, click on the workplane tool again and click anywhere but do not click on the shape.
At this moment, both of these shapes are not yet merged and can still move independently when dragged. Therefore, we will merge both shapes by using the “Group” function.
In order to use the group function, we need to select both the shapes. To do so you may,
1. Select one shape, then hold shift to select the other
2. Ctrl+A to select all
3. Hold left mouse/touchpad button to draw a selection box to select all components within the box
Once both shapes are selected, click on the “Group” icon as shown below and both shapes will now merge into one.
After the shapes are grouped, they will automatically change to one colour.
However, if you wish to group the shapes but remain as separate colour, you can do so by selecting the multicolour as below.
For visual purpose, we will leave it multicolour for this tutorial.
If you wish to separate them again, you can ungroup them anytime you want by clicking on the “Ungroup” icon.
The 3D design now looks similar to a house, let us create a simple door.
We will drag a round roof and use it as a door and resize it to desired size.
We will now place the door to the centre of the house. You could use the ruler tool and snap the Midpoint. However, we will introduce a new function to perform this task, and that is “Align”.
To use the tool “Align”, select both the shapes and click on the “Align” icon.
You will then see snap points to align the shapes in X, Y and Z direction.
Since I wish to align both the centre in X and Y direction, I will click on two snap points as shown below.
Once the shapes aligned, we already have all the shapes in the desired location. However, we wish to use the round roof as a cut out to simulate the door instead of a solid object.
To perform the cut out, I will change the round roof from “Solid” to “Hole”. This can be done by selecting the round roof and change it to “Hole” on the shape panel.
Once we changed the round roof to Hole, we can now group them together using the similar procedure taught previously.
Congratulations! We have created a house! Yeah, we acknowledge that it is a weird way to simulate the door.
After completing the final model, you can choose to export it for 3D printing or laser cutting.
File exported for laser cutting is in 2D, which is based on the face that is facing the workplane. If are designing simple 2D structures with certain thickness and wish to laser cut it, you can export it as SVG file for laser cutting.
For complex 3D designs, you can export it for 3D printing in OBJ file or STL file. STL files are more commonly used and accepted by more slicer software. Therefore, we recommend downloading STL file if you are planning to 3D print it.
To export your 3D design, simply click on the “Export” button and select the desired file type.
Once you have exported, your file will automatically be downloaded. You may then use this file for laser cutting or 3D printing.
Just before we end our TinkerCAD tutorial, we will go through some privacy and license settings.
After everything is completed, you can go back to your profile by clicking on the TinkerCAD icon at the top left corner.
You will then see your design in your profile as shown below.
To change the properties of your 3D design, click on the gear icon (“Options” button) as shown below and choose “Properties”.
After clicking the “Properties” button, you will be led to the design properties.
This is the place where you can change your design name, add design description and tags, as well as change the privacy settings and license of that design.
Privacy setting allows you to change that particular design to be private (only visible to you) or public (visible to everyone).
License setting allows you to change how user is able to make use of your 3D design, all designs are governed by Creative Commons License.
By default, the license is under Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0, which means anyone can download your file and make changes to the design, as long as the new license is identical (“not more restrictive”). This license also allow them to use your design for commercial purpose, as long as they credit you (the designer).
It is advisable to study the Creative Commons License if you do not wish others to make use of your design for commercial purpose, and change the license to the appropriate one.
You can also make sure your design remains private so that others could not see your design in the first place.
And that concludes our TinkerCAD tutorial.
TinkerCAD is a free, easy to use 3D design tool. It is browser-based, which means no installation of any software required and you can start designing right away.
The design files are also stored in the cloud, which means you do not need to prepare any storage in your laptop/PC for the files.
TinkerCAD is meant to be a tool for fast and easy design, there are definitely limitations to this tool as compared to other advanced 3D design software.
However, it is really suitable for beginners starting out since it is really easy to use. Even if you are experienced in 3D design, this is still a great tool to have a quick draft of your 3D design.
We have covered most of the functions involved in TinkerCAD in this article. Therefore, just by going through this article, you are ready to design in TinkerCAD.
So to say, there are still some functions that we have not go into detail which you can explore for yourself. In fact, there are lots of shapes that can be added which we have not shared.
We hope you enjoyed our TinkerCAD tutorial and learned something from it. Hopefully by now 3D design is not anymore a hurdle for you to get into 3D printing.
This is because we sincerely believe everyone should be able to make use of the power of 3D printing, including you.
If you have successfully designed something and wish to 3D print your own 3D model(s), do check out our 3D printing service.
If you find this article useful and wish to get more people involved in 3D design, please help us share this article to let more people know how easily they can get involved in 3D designing.
If any section of our TinkerCAD tutorial is not clear, feel free to leave us a comment below. We will answer your questions and clarify all your doubts.