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SketchUp may be one of the most popular 3D modeling programs, but it may not be the right one for you. Well, there are several alternatives you can explore.
It’s not hard to figure out why 3D artists, illustrators, architects, and designers have been flocking to SketchUp. The CAD (computer-aided design) program is intuitive, easy to grasp, and produces exceptional results. That being said, it isn’t the only option out there in the market.
3D modeling programs are constantly being developed, even as you read this. Although the tool was initially used in the year 2000 for 3D rendering, its functionality has spread since then. Several other programs have been developed to emulate the look and feel of SketchUp – some have improvised on it while others have closely followed its general aesthetic.
If you’re looking for different 3D modeling programs to explore, you’ve come to the right place. Keep reading to find out about the best alternatives to SketchUp in 2021.
Best Programs Like SketchUp
We couldn’t begin the list with any other program but Blender! If you have dabbled in the 3D rendering world, you have undoubtedly come across this popular tool that’s used by people worldwide. It’s biggest selling point is that it is completely free of cost, so if you’re looking to experiment with some new tools, you should download Blender.
Although Blender isn’t as straightforward as Sketchup, it offers some excellent 3D modeling tools at par with programs like Maya and 3ds Max. The fully integrated rendering program has a slight learning curve, but once you get the hang of it, it’s a breeze.
Not to mention it provides users with all the tools they need to create stunning visualizations and projects with ease. Since it is entirely free to use as an open-source 3D computer graphics software toolset, digital artists, illustrators, and even DIY’ers can create animation, 3D models, interactive 3D applications, VR & much more.
Art of Illusion
The next Sketchup alternative that you can explore is another open-source 3D modeling software complete with built-in image rendering tools. Art of Illusion was released in 1999, just a year prior to Sketchup. Unlike Blender, this software has a fast learning curve that even new users can grasp effortlessly.
Since its conception, Art of Illusion has seen increasing popularity in the RepRap community. That being said, this 3D rendering software is an ideal option for beginners who are looking to learn the ropes.
The program primarily uses surface-based modeling tools that are intuitive and easy to understand. However, the basic package also includes advanced animation tools, texture creation software, and numerous lighting options.
Like Blender, Art of Illusion is free of cost – which is an excellent incentive to download it. Make sure to explore its “Plug-in Manager” to take advantage of the compatibility of this program with various plug-ins and scripts.
If you’re looking for yet another free of cost option that is ideal for beginners and professionals, Tinkercad might be a good option. This is a browser-based program specializing in 3D printing and those new to the CAD world.
Tinkercad is an excellent option for beginners as it eliminates most of the fuss of using advanced tools while still providing stunning graphics and 3D rendering tools. The program uses CSG to create solid models; however, you can use this to your advantage by designing more complex structures.
One of the best innovations of this program is the ability to add electronic circuits. This gives you the option to add lights and movement to your 3D objects, bringing them to life in an authentic way.
If you’re new to the 3D modeling world and are looking for some guidance, this program offers a repository known as Gallery of Things. It features thousands of models created by other users that are free to experiment on and use.
Furthermore, a unique and innovative feature is its ability to transform any 3D design into buildable bricks (think: Legos). Last but not least, users who are Minecraft fans will be ecstatic, as Tinkercad is compatible with the application, giving you the freedom to create brilliant and unusual concepts.
Sculptrip, as the name might suggest, is one of the most user-friendly software to help artists create stunning digital sculptures. This program is simple, powerful, and elegant, enabling beginners and pros to experiment with the various tools available on the platform.
If you’re dipping your toes into the 3D modeling world, you will find the tools on Sculptris incredibly intuitive and easy to follow. It allows you to learn the tricks of the trade without fussing over overly-technical tools that are more confusing than enigmatic. However, if you’re a professional 3D sculptor or experienced in CG, Sculptris will enable you to bring your concepts to reality at lightning speeds.
Unlike Sketchup, Sculptris is better suited for making organic models rather than 3D sculptures. It uses simple tools that will not overwhelm users with their slow learning curve.
Moreover, this dynamic program allows you to add volume to the surface of your creations, such as pulling the forehead of a character you created to make horns. You can use this concept to create volume and add depth to various structures. The best part? Sculptris is completely free to use for all artists who want to experiment or improve their art.
If you own a tablet or iPad and are looking for compatible software to help you render, Shapr3D is an excellent option. The program was built specifically to be used with such tablets, enabling users to take advantage of their advanced Apple Pencil or other stylus versions.
Those who have already used Sketchup will find Shapr3D easy to navigate. This software was designed for the kind of artist who likes to whip out their handy tablet on the go to create masterpieces oozing from sudden inspiration.
One of the biggest moves played by Shapr3D was making their software free for professors, students, and all educational institutions. This strategic move enabled them to enter the world of new users who are serious about learning the art of 3D rendering. In hindsight, this decisive move is the primary reason for the overflowing popularity of the program.
In fact, they were so serious about entering the educational world that they made all their Pro features completely free for educational institutions, teachers, and students alike. With in-app tutorial videos on how to better understand 3D modeling concepts and work your way around the program, this is an ideal tool for beginners and pros.
Shapr3D was developed in 2016 as the iPad Pro saw its release, making the latter the very first handheld device capable of creating semi-professional designs. Users get two free designs on this software, after which they can buy the program for $240 per annum.
Surely, you’ve heard of Autodesk? Fusion 360 is an excellent program developed by this software giant. Being a cloud-based CAD program, users can access all their design files from any computer by logging into their Autodesk account.
Coming to the program, Fusion 360 uses an innovative parametric modeling system integrated with a timeline feature. Essentially, this combination allows users to view their edit history and make changes or edit as required. This very feature makes the software very versatile and reliable to use.
If you have already used Sketchup and are looking to move on to bigger fish, Fusion 360 should be your next step. The program uses powerful modeling tools and features that are missing from Sketchup. Moreover, CAM tools, animation, and 3D rendering have a rich feel, which is largely absent from many other programs available in the market.
That being said, Fusion 360 has a steep learning curve and can take some getting used to. Once you get the hang of it, you won’t turn back. It allows artists and illustrators to build precise and bulky modeling that can be shared over devices.
Yet another program created by tech giant Autodesk – Inventor. Let’s get straight to the facts; one of the hallmarks of Sketchup is its simplicity and ease of use. Surprisingly, Autodesk was able to achieve something along similar lines with their software Inventor. Like Sketchup, Inventor is known for its minimalist nature that lures the inherent creativity out of individuals.
If you have heard of SolidWorks, you will be surprised to know that Inventor stands as its biggest competitor as of now. With 20 years of experience under its sleeve, Inventor is primarily directed towards professionals but can be used easily by novice artists as well.
Rhino is a renowned commercial 3D computer graphics and CAD software developed in the 1980s. Wondering what its Unique Selling Point is amongst other competitors? Well, it has to lie in how the software was designed to be something mid-way of artistic and engineering.
This program is ideal for artists who crave flexibility and freedom to work with shapes, structures, and organic designs. It allows users to create curves and patterns, unlike other programs – with half the hassle and effort of learning complicated programs.
Moreover, it offers various plug-ins and tools developed open-source for users to take advantage of. There is a slight learning curve to it, but it offers greater flexibility compared to other programs.
It’s natural to want to work your way up from 2D to 3D modeling. If you find yourself with few options to begin the journey of 3D modeling, you might want to consider exploring Librecad. The 2D CAD software is ideal for picking up the basics of 2D modeling and finding the right platform to practice it.
Let’s not forget; it is completely free to use and open-source, making it perfect for newcomers. With an extensive user database, you’ll never find yourself at a loss for finding like-minded artists with whom you can share models and experiences.
Sweet Home 3D
As the name suggests, Sweet Home 3D is the perfect program for interior designers to practice their skills. However, this program was created explicitly for the subsect of architectural designers and luxury home builders who are part of the visualization and 3D rendering industry.
Sweet Home 3D is super intuitive and easy to use. It uses a basic drag and drop toolset that has a fast learning curve. Furthermore, users can take advantage of pre-modeled furniture, building component models, lighting fixtures, and even tiny humans to add to their design!
Form Z Jr.
Form Z has developed their very own ‘junior’ program, rightly named Form Z Jr. Its biggest appeal has to be how easy it is to use, especially for beginners who aren’t quite ready to dip their toes into programs like Blender, Sketchup, and others.
However, if you’ve already explored Sketchup and are looking for a fun alternative – this is the one. Funnily, many users have dubbed this software as ‘Sketchup on steroids,’ which is ironic because many find it easier and more intuitive.
The world of 3D rendering, sculpting, and modeling is growing fast!
It isn’t surprising to find the majority of digital artists and illustrators desiring to learn new software that will provide them with the best 3D modeling skills they need to survive in this field.
When it comes to finding the best software to learn, the choices are plentiful. However, what you decide to use is entirely a personal preference. Fortunately, most of these programs are open-source and free of cost, making them worth exploring.
Now that you know about the best Sketchup alternatives to consider in 2021, which one will you begin with? Let us know in the comments below.
Take care, until next time!