Designing with Tinkercad
If you’re completely new to 3D printing, then one of the best ways to get started is with Tinkercad, a free 3D modeling program that runs right in your web browser. The Tinkercad user interface is extremely intuitive — just drag, drop, modify, and combine 3D shapes to create a 3D design which can be exported for 3D printing.
Step 1: Log in to a Tinkercad account
To use Tinkercad, you’ll have to set up an Autodesk account, which is free for students and teachers and only takes a minute. Go to www.tinkercad.com and sign up now before reading any further, so you can play along.
OK, let’s get started!
Step 2: Follow the Lessons (or not)
When you log into Tinkercad for the first time, you’ll start inside the Learning the Moves Lesson. If you’re an absolute beginner, then we recommend working through this and other Tinkercad Lessons to learn the basics. Click on the step arrows in the upper left for instructions within each Lesson, and to move ahead to the next Lesson.
There are a LOT of Tinkercad Lessons, and some are more technical than others. Don’t feel like you have to complete them all right now. When you’re ready to exit the lessons and make your own design, click on the multicolored Tinkercad logo to go to your main Designs page, and click on “Create New Design.”
Step 3: Design something!
To jump in right away, simply drag objects from the right sidebar in Tinkercad onto the blue Workplane, then use the “handle dots” on your objects to change their size or shape. Try it, it’s easy! And if you don’t like something, you can always “Undo”.
For a comprehensive one-stop-shop introduction to Tinkercad, including videos, project, and links to 3D models, check out the Tinkercad Jumpstart resource page on Thingiverse. While you’re there, be sure to learn about the key Tinkercad tools Align, Ruler, Workplane, Group, and Hole — they are the secret to creating interesting Tinkercad designs.
Step 4: Explore the Tinkercad Beta features
For detailed instructions and tips, watch Tinkercad’s beginner-friendly video Introduction to Tinkercad Beta.
Tinkercad switched to a new ground-up redeveloped Beta version last year, and there are lots of new features that make designing in Tinkercad even easier than it was before. If you’re already a Tinkercad pro and just want to know what’s different in the new Beta that came out this year, check out the Tinkercad video Updates: TinkerTour and Tinkercad Beta or the Tinkercad Beta Participant Guide. If you’re completely new to Tinkercad, the video Tinkercad Beta – New Features: Shape Controls is a good place to get started learning about the powerful new Beta features.
Good luck and have fun with Tinkercad!
Portions of this tutorial also appear by the same author in her "Tutorial Tuesday" column at the Shapeways blog.