Last updated: January 3, 2023

Overview: the best free CAD software for beginners

Number 1: FreeCAD


FreeCAD is a popular option for both novices and experts since, as its name suggests, it is a free and open-source CAD programme. This software would be the right choice for you if you are familiar with the fundamentals of CAD modelling. FreeCAD’s versatile behaviour and user-friendly interface make it ideal for educators and programmers alike.

Despite being a free product, FreeCAD’s user interface is almost identical to that of expensive CAD programmes. Additionally, it has a tonne of features. The Parametric Model is arguably FreeCAD’s most important feature. It enables you to go back and change what you did to achieve the best outcomes.

Completely FreeCan be a little unintuitive
Offers a plentiful selection of toolsNo tutorials available
It contains many capabilities that can be used to create 2D drawings or plans, 3D models, or even BIM in your workflow.Controls can be confusing

Number 2: Tinkercad


It is a 3D digital design solution available online. The best thing about Tinkercad is that it can be used by anyone and doesn’t require any prior knowledge.

The software does not have as many features as other CAD programmes. However, Tinkercard is the ideal option if you’re looking for a straightforward platform to create models, particularly for 3D printing. Additionally, because Tinkercard is a member of the Autodesk family, it offers a variety of integration options and file format support.

You can learn about code blocks, 3D design, and other topics. Even tutorials on how to build models in Minecraft exist.

FreeDoes not support 2D to 3D modelling
Easy to use for relative beginnersNot much professional
Easy to import and modify existing modelsNo free trial available

Number 3: LibreCAD


LibreCAD is a 2D modelling application for Windows, macOS, and Linux, in contrast to the other CAD programmes on this list. You can use this open-source, free CAD programme for both personal and professional purposes. Some of the libraries from BRL-CAD, another CAD programme, are used by LibreCAD.

It provides ray-tracing for rendering and analysis, a benchmark suite, interactive geometry creation, and more. The interface is very customisable, which is nice for creating geometric 2D designs, circuit boards, mathematical figures, etc. Additionally, you may effortlessly import your saved projects from AutoCAD or other CAD software because it supports both the DWG and DWF file formats.

Completely freeCan be a little unintuitive
Offers a plentiful selection of toolsDoes not have 3D modelling capabilities as compared with AutoCAD
Available on all OSLags

Number 4: OpenSCAD


There are many situations when you would want such an interface, particularly if you work in a profession. When modelling objects, you must be as specific as you can, and this is where OpenSCAD comes in handy.

The software comes with a comprehensive guide that explains the considerations to be made while providing descriptions of the parameters. In particular if you are just starting off, it gives an outstanding degree of documentation that will be beneficial in the long term.

Open SourceUnintuitive CAD Interface
Great for people with programming backgroundComplex shapes can be challenging
Fostering communityTime consuming

Number 5: ZBrush Core Mini

ProductZBrush Core Mini

Another free CAD programme that emphasises 3D modelling and sculpture is ZBrushCoreMini. It is produced by Pixologic, one of the top companies in the sector. Given that you are familiar with the fundamentals of creative creating, anyone may learn how to use the tool in a shorter amount of time and with a professional User Interface.

When it comes to designing, there are a number of features included. For instance, both standard-level navigation and ZBrush navigation are supported.

Great for high poly detailed workSteep learning curve
Customisable brushesPerspective view isn’t easy to use
Features like noise sculpting, sculpting,layers,etcLimited to only 8 brushes

Number 6: SketchUp


SketchUp is a 3D modelling programme of the highest calibre utilised in a variety of fields, including interior design, architecture, engineering, video game creation, etc.

3D model creation, rendering, and project saving in DWG format are all possible. The 3D Warehouse, a sizable collection of 3D models submitted by other users, and SketchUp’s open-source library of model assemblies are two notable contributions.

Additionally, because it was a Ruby-developed utility, extensions are supported as well. For individuals that require increased efficiency, SketchUp’s Extension Warehouse is a crucial tool.

Relatively easy to useDoes not offer as many features as pro-grade tools
Directly download 3D models from 3D warehouseMoving objects can be little difficult to toggle
Can be used to create 3D walkthroughsLibrary needs to be upgraded

Number 7: Fusion 360

ProductFusion 360

For those who don’t know, Fusion 360 is a CAD programme created by Autodesk. Students, artists, and even hobbyists can use computer-aided designing because it is freely available.

The best feature of Fusion 360 is that everything can be done in one location. The cloud allows you to collaborate, develop bespoke toolpaths, perform simulations, simulate intricate mechanical constructions, and create 3D designs.

Additionally, you can simply transfer your project to CAM or CAE software if it grows in the future. In addition, you may combine design components from many projects, make a prototype, and even manufacture on one platform.

Easy to learn and useLimited to 10 active and editable documents
Supports transferring updated geometry to existing geometriesLacks support
Faster file transfer and computingJoints are sometimes limiting for assembly environments

Number 8: AutoCAD


AutoCAD doesn’t need much of an introduction when it comes to 3D modelling because it has long been the industry standard. Despite being a pricey package, a one-year student licence allows you to use this CAD software for free. If you didn’t know, AutoCAD belongs to the Autodesk family as well, and because it is so pricey, no student can afford it. The business is aware that students won’t learn AutoCAD if they can’t utilise it. And when those students graduate and enter the workforce as professionals, it will impact future sales.

User friendly softwareVery expensive
Pretty much the industry standard for CAD workSteep learning curve
CompatibilityNon parametric

Number 9: Onshape


Onshape is a cutting-edge CAD programme renowned for its outstanding design library and assemblies. Onshape is a cloud-based design platform, as opposed to other software solutions that are independent desktop applications. Without having to leave your browser and without worrying about losing your design progress, you can easily develop complex solid and surface models.

Since Onshape is a web-based platform, all of your actions instantaneously save to the cloud, protecting you from data loss. The loss of design progress in computer-aided design systems is a major worry as your project grows over time. Onshape also includes the three primary design tools of parts, assemblies, and drawings.

Portable software since it runs on the cloudDifficult to use for large projects
Supports multiple file typesInternet connection is required
Great for collaborationIndustrial design type is not really strong

Number 10: nanoCAD


Although nanoCAD is not fully free, it is far less expensive than its rivals. And for that reason, I’ve incorporated it into this list. It is a low-cost CAD programme that provides cutting-edge tools for sketching and making 2D and 3D designs.

Whether you work in architecture, manufacturing, or mechanical engineering, this tool has all the drafting and drawing extensions you could ever need. The fact that nanoCAD is 100 percent compatible with the DWG file format is its strongest feature. Therefore, this feature will support you if you decide to relocate your project in the future.

Easy to useOnly available on WIndows
Opens CAD files from other softwareFree trial only for 14 days
No setup fee


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