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The best free 3D apps in 2022

A screenshot from ZBrushCoreMini, one of the best free 3D apps
(Image credit: Maxon)

The best free 3D apps offer a couple of big advantages for 3D designers. For one thing, they might help you avoid the eye-watering cost of some 3D software. And some of them are web-based or available as mobile apps, meaning that you're not tied to your desktop setup, and you won't have to pay the eye-watering cost of the more serious software. While they might not offer all the functionality that you require depending on your needs, there is now a wide variety of 3D apps available that are genuinely helpful for 3D modelling.

Many of the best free 3D apps are stripped-down versions of more fully featured software and they're designed as primers for those starting out. That said, some of them have enough functionality to serve for many people's needs, and most can synch up to more serious software, so even if your workflow requires more functionality, the free web-based or mobile 3D apps might still be useful when you want to work on a tablet on the go. 

See our pick of the best 3D modelling software overall if you need more powerful tools, but below you'll find our pick of the best free 3D apps. Our contributors, many of them 3D designers themselves, have evaluated them for their features and performance (see more about how we test and review. And if you're looking for inspiration, take a look at these examples of inspiring 3D art.

01. Blender

A screenshot from Blender, one of the best free 3D apps

Blender remains one of the most powerful free 3D apps available (Image credit: Blender Foundation)
  • Operating system: Windows, MacOS, Linux

The undisputed king of best free 3D apps, Blender (opens in new tab) is an immensely powerful open-source tool for 3D creation that can handle a lot of what more expensive packages can do, from modelling and texturing through to rendering and compositing. 

Blender is available for all major operating systems, and while it's traditionally had a bit of a reputation for being just a little too open-source in its look and feel, it has transitioned to a more user-friendly and industry-standard interface. So now it has a right-click context menu, as well as keyboard shortcuts that do what you'd expect if you're used to other packages. There are plenty of helpful Blender tutorials around to help you learn the ropes too.

02. Tinkercad

A photograph of someone using Autodesk's Tinkercad, one of the best free 3D apps, on an iPad

Autodesk's Tinkercad 3D app helps you explore the basics of 3D (Image credit: Autodesk)
  • Operating system: browser-based, plus iPad app

Designed as an introduction to Autodesk's more heavyweight CAD tools such as AutoCAD and Maya, Tinkercad (opens in new tab) is one of the best free 3D apps for beginners. It's a set of free online tools to get you started not only with 3D, but also with electronics and designing with code. 

Built with teachers, kids, hobbyists and designers in mind, it's all about placing, adjusting and combining objects to create designs. With a bright drag-and-drop interface, it's accessible for those with no CAD experience, and it comes with a whole stack of tutorials to get you started. You can move, rotate and scale shapes, make them solid or “hole” and grouping them to create more intricate 3D models. When you're done you can export your work for 3D printing or export a slice as an SVG file for laser cutting.

03. Wings 3D

A screenshot from Wings 3D, one of the best free 3D apps

Wings 3D is an ideal first taste of 3D modelling (Image credit: Wings 3D)
  • Operating system: Windows, MacOS, Linux,

If 3D modelling's something you want to try, Wings 3D (opens in new tab) is a great way to dip a toe in the water. It's a pure modelling app that lets you build a basic 3D model out of polygons and then smooth it out by subdividing the mesh. 

It's a fairly basic experience with a slightly unusual customisable interface, but it's designed to be easy to use and supports lights and materials as well as having a built-in AutoUV mapping facility.

04. SculptGL

A screenshot from SculptGL, one of the best free 3D apps

Teach yourself 3D sculpting in your browser (Image credit: Stéphane Ginier)
  • Operating system: browser-based

Another basic option for beginners wanting to get a feel for sculpting in 3D is Stéphane Ginier's SculptGL (opens in new tab). It's a free digital sculpting app that runs in your browser, and it comes with plenty of features to get you started with 3D sculpting with a mouse or tablet. 

There are assorted brushes and manipulation tools to try, plus PBR vertex painting and alpha texture support, as well as multi-resolution sculpting, voxel remeshing and dynamic topology, and it'll export your work as an OBJ, PLY or STL. Ginier's no longer working on the app apart from minor fixes and has moved on to the iOS and Android app Nomad Sculpt (opens in new tab), which is free for Android but costs $14.99 for iOS. However, SculptGL is still available to work with.

04. Daz Studio

A screenshot from Daz Studiol one of the best free 3D apps:

With Daz Studio you can create in 3D without all the modelling (Image credit: Daz 3D)
  • Operating system: Windows and MacOS

3D modelling isn't for everyone, and if you can't get your head around it, there are still some great options for creating 3D art without having to deal with polygons and subdivisions. The free scene creation and rendering tool Daz Studio (opens in new tab) doesn't have any modelling tools, but it allows you to build complex 3D scenes and animation using a vast library of ready-made people, animals, props, vehicles, accessories and environments. 

For beginners, there are plenty of in-app interactive tutorials to help you get to grips with the features, so you can start learning about things like lighting, texturing and rigging, and once you've completed your 3D masterpiece, you can render it at photo-realistic quality to use however you want. Daz Studio is free with the 3D asset manager Daz Central.

05. Vectary

A screenshot from Vectary, one of the best free 3D apps

Vectary has a simple interface and good resources but the free version is limited (Image credit: Vectary)
  • Operating system: browser-based

Browser-based Vectary claims to be the “easiest online 3D and AR design tool” around, and we agree that its interface is very simple to use for mesh and parametric modelling, even if you have only very limited knowledge of design. It also offers more resources than, say, Tinkercad. With a focus on rendering it's aimed mainly at graphic design and product design, so it's focus is on rendering, but it can be put to other uses too.

You can make use of pre-rendered models, including 3D typography and web headers (most of these have a cost though). There's also the ability to collaborate on projects by creating teams, but again this feature is locked in the free version (a Pro subscription costs $12 a month, and a Business subscription to remove watermarks costs $25 a month).

06. Clara.io

A screenshot from the website of Clara.io one of the best free 3D apps

Clara.io's cloud-based system is easy to get started with (Image credit: Clara.io)
  • Operating system: browser-based

A cloud-based 3D tool that runs in your web browser, Clara.io (opens in new tab) gives you all the 3D modelling, animation and rendering tools you need to create and share 3D models and photo-realistic renders. Developed by Canada's Exocortex, it features a load of powerful modelling tools enabling you to do everything from tweaking an existing model to building your own creation, and it uses VRay cloud rendering with an enormous material library and flexible lighting setups.

While it's web-based, Clara.io's front end is modelled on traditional desktop tools, so it's easy to get started with and should leave you ready to adapt if you decide to move onto a more heavyweight app. Just note that it follows a freemium model – the free version has limitations on saving models and importing texture maps.

07. ZBrushCoreMini 

A screenshot from ZBrushCoreMini, one of the best free 3d apps

ZBrushCoreMini works as a fantastic free introduction to ZBrush's tools (Image credit: Maxon)
  • Operating system: Windows and MacOS

ZBrushCoreMini (opens in new tab) is a free, light version of Pixologic's ZBrush, designed as an introduction to 3D modelling for early education. Designed as an accessible, easy-to-use app for any type of artist, it uses dynamic tessellation with automatic subdivision to enable you get sculpting immediately, and features an intuitive, immersive interface with navigational controls similar to those in ZBrush.  

You're limited to 750,000 polygons per mesh (compared to 20 million on the full version of ZBrush), and just 12 brushes rather than 40. If you want to take your work further, it's easy to export to ZBrush for additional refinement.

09. Bforartists

A screenshot from Bforartists, one of the best free 3D apps

Bforartists is basically Blender with a friendlier interface (Image credit: Bforartists)
  • Operating system: Windows, MacOS, Linux

With Blender having adopted a more standardised look, there's possibly less of a need for Bforartists (opens in new tab), but it's definitely worth checking out this free 3D app if you're still not keen on Blender's user interface. 

It's a fork of Blender that's aimed primarily at artists, and which has been created to be much easier to use, with a much improved and intuitive graphical UI. This shouldn't come at the expense of functionality, though; the development team promises that every feature that works in Blender should also work in Bforartists.

10. Meshmixer

A screenshot from Meshmixer, one of the best 3D apps

Autodesk no longer supports Meshmixer, but the free 3D app is still available (Image credit: Autodesk)
  • Operating system: Windows

Meshmixer (opens in new tab) is another tool developed by industry-leader Autodesk. It's a lightweight Windows app based on triangle meshes, and while it's good for repairing and tweaking existing work, it has an array of modelling tools as well. It may take some getting used to for beginners but is well worth sticking with, and it's ideal for 3D printing (see our pick of the best 3D printers here). Note that Autodesk is no longer supporting Meshmixer (it's incorporated many of its functions into the paid software Fusion 360 (opens in new tab), but it says it has no plans to retire its free app.

11. Terragen

A screenshot from Terragen, one of the best free 3D apps

You can't get much better than Terragen for creating incredible landscapes (Image credit: Planetside Software)
  • Operating system: Windows and MacOS

When you're thinking big on a 3D project, you need something that can create a suitably impressive world, and Terragen (opens in new tab) fits the bill in every respect. It's a powerful tool for building and rendering realistic natural environments; if you can imagine a landscape, Terragen can make it. 

The free version is for personal use only (although you can use it commercially on a 30-day trial basis) and comes with a few limitations over the full version, but it's an ideal way to explore Terragen's stunning world-creation tools.

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Jim McCauley is a writer, performer and cat-wrangler who started writing professionally way back in 1995 on PC Format magazine, and has been covering technology-related subjects ever since, whether it's hardware, software or videogames. A chance call in 2005 led to Jim taking charge of Computer Arts' website and developing an interest in the world of graphic design, and eventually led to a move over to the freshly-launched Creative Bloq in 2012. Jim now works as a freelance writer for sites including Creative Bloq, T3 and PetsRadar, specialising in design, technology, wellness and cats, while doing the occasional pantomime and street performance in Bath and designing posters for a local drama group on the side.

With contributions from