What is online 3D modeling design software?

An image representation of online 3D modeling.

Picture a place where you can make, change, and see 3D objects, like buildings or mountains, without buying expensive software or using a super-fast computer. This cool place is called online 3D modeling!

Online 3D modeling lets you use design tools right from your internet browser. It’s like a magic tool for anyone, whether you’re a professional builder, game maker, or just someone who loves creating stuff for fun. And the best part? You don’t need a fancy computer or lots of money to start.

Using online tools means you can work with friends on the same project, even if they’re far away. If your computer turns off suddenly, your work is still safe online. And some of these tools are even free or really cheap!

Disclosure: This article may contain affiliate marketing links. If you click on one of these links and make a purchase, I may receive compensation. This compensation comes at no additional cost to you and helps me earn a living. This article does not provide legal, financial, or medical advice.

Want to see how fun and easy online 3D design can be? Jump in and give online 3D modeling a try. Whether you’ve been designing for years or are just curious, there’s something cool waiting for you online.

Man working on computer with 3d model on the screen. Online CAD modeling

What is 3D Design Software for Online Modeling?

Definition and introduction to online 3D modeling

Online 3D modeling is the process of creating and editing three-dimensional objects using software that is hosted and accessed over the internet. This differs from traditional 3D modeling software, which is installed on a local computer.

Online 3D modeling software is typically offered as a subscription service, also known as software as a service (SaaS). This means that users pay a monthly or annual fee to access the software and its features.

SaaS-based 3D modeling software and how it operates

SaaS-based 3D modeling software is hosted on cloud servers, which means that it can be accessed from anywhere with an internet connection. This makes it a convenient option for users who need to access their 3D models from different devices or locations.

To use SaaS-based 3D modeling software, users simply create an account and log in through a web browser. Once logged in, users can access the software’s tools and features to create and edit 3D models.

Overall, SaaS-based 3D modeling software is a good option for users who need a convenient, affordable, and easy-to-use solution for creating and editing 3D models. However, users who need to work with complex models or who need offline access may want to consider using traditional 3D modeling software.

These software packages offer a variety of features for creating and editing 3D models, including:

  • Geometric modeling: Create and edit 3D shapes using a variety of tools, such as extrusions, revolves, and sweeps.
  • Surface modeling: Create and edit complex surfaces using NURBS (non-uniform rational B-splines) and other techniques.
  • Assembly modeling: Assemble multiple 3D models together to create complex assemblies.
  • Rendering: Create realistic images and videos of 3D models.

Online 3D modeling design software can be used for a variety of purposes, including:

  • Product design
  • Character design
  • Environmental design
  • Special effects
  • Architecture
  • Engineering
  • Education
  • Hobbying
An image of a 3D model courtesy of online CAD modeling.

Reasons You Need the Best Online 3D Design Software for Modeling

Using the best online 3D design software for modeling offers unique advantages when compared to desktop versions. While both have their merits, online tools are increasingly becoming a preferred choice for various reasons:

1. Accessibility and Portability:

  • Online: Online 3D design software can be accessed from any device with an internet connection, providing the flexibility to work from anywhere. This is especially valuable for collaborative projects, remote work, or on-the-go design tasks.
  • Desktop: Desktop software is typically tied to a specific computer, limiting your ability to work on projects when away from that device.

2. Real-Time Collaboration:

  • Online: Many online 3D design tools offer real-time collaboration features, allowing multiple users to work on the same project simultaneously. This fosters teamwork, enables instant feedback, and streamlines the design process.
  • Desktop: Desktop software may require manual file sharing and version control, which can be less efficient for collaboration.

3. Automatic Updates:

  • Online: Online tools are often updated automatically by the provider, ensuring you have access to the latest features, bug fixes, and security patches without the need for manual updates.
  • Desktop: Desktop software may require users to monitor and install updates, which can be time-consuming and may result in using outdated versions.

4. Reduced Hardware Demands:

  • Online: Browser-based 3D design software typically has lower hardware requirements, making it accessible on a wider range of devices, including older or less powerful computers.
  • Desktop: Some desktop applications may demand high-end hardware, limiting access to users with robust machines.

5. Cost-Effective Options:

  • Online: Many online 3D design tools offer free or affordable subscription pricing models, making them budget-friendly options, especially for individuals, small businesses, or hobbyists.
  • Desktop: Desktop software can be expensive both in terms of initial purchase costs and ongoing maintenance or subscription fees.

6. Cross-Platform Compatibility:

  • Online: Browser-based tools are compatible with various operating systems, including Windows, macOS, Linux, and even some mobile devices, ensuring broader accessibility.
  • Desktop: Desktop software may be limited to specific operating systems, potentially excluding users on different platforms.

7. Cloud Integration:

  • Online: Many online 3D design software platforms seamlessly integrate with cloud storage services, simplifying file storage, backup, and sharing across devices.
  • Desktop: Desktop software often relies on manual file management, which can be less convenient for cloud-based workflows.

8. Lower Learning Curve:

  • Online: Some online 3D design tools feature user-friendly interfaces and streamlined workflows, making them more approachable for beginners and reducing the learning curve.
  • Desktop: Complex desktop applications may have steeper learning curves, requiring more time and effort to master.

While online 3D design software offers numerous advantages, the choice between online and desktop versions ultimately depends on your specific needs, project complexity, and preferences. Assess your requirements and consider these factors when selecting the best tool for your modeling tasks.

A group of people operating a laptop. Online CAD modeling.

How to Collaborate in Real-Time Using Powerful Online 3D Modeling Software

There are a number of different ways to collaborate in real-time using powerful 3D modeling software. One common approach is to use a cloud-based 3D modeling platform.

Cloud-based 3D modeling platforms allow users to access their 3D models and collaborate with other users from anywhere with an internet connection.

Another approach to real-time collaboration is to use a peer-to-peer (P2P) 3D modeling application. P2P 3D modeling applications allow users to connect to each other’s computers directly and share their 3D models.

To collaborate in real-time using powerful online 3D modeling software, you can follow these steps:

Choose the right platform

There are a number of different cloud-based and P2P 3D modeling platforms available. Choose a platform that is compatible with the 3D modeling software that you are using, and that has the features that you need, such as real-time chat, screen sharing, and version control. Some popular options include:

  • Onshape
  • Fusion 360
  • Autodesk Inventor
  • SelfCAD
  • Tinkercad

Set up your project

Once you have chosen a platform, you will need to set up your project. This includes creating a new project file and sharing it with the other team members who will be working on the project.

Communicate with your team

It is important to communicate with your team members regularly, especially when collaborating in real-time. This will help to avoid conflicts and ensure that everyone is on the same page.

You can use the platform’s built-in chat tools, video conferencing, or other communication tools to stay in touch.

Use version control

Version control is a system that tracks changes to a file over time. This can be helpful for collaborating on 3D models, as it allows team members to revert to previous versions of the model if necessary.

Most online 3D modeling platforms have built-in version control systems, so make sure to use them.

Be respectful and considerate

When collaborating with others, it is important to be respectful and considerate of their time and effort.

Be mindful of the time zone differences between team members and try to schedule collaboration sessions at times that are convenient for everyone. Also, be open to feedback and be willing to compromise.

Here are some additional tips for collaborating in real-time using powerful online 3D modeling software:

  • Use a shared screen. This will allow everyone to see what the other person is working on in real time.
  • Use voice chat. This can be a more efficient way to communicate than typing, especially when working on complex models.
  • Take breaks. It is important to take breaks when working on complex 3D models. This will help to prevent eye strain and fatigue.
  • Have fun! Collaborating with others on 3D models can be a lot of fun. Enjoy the process and be creative!
An image representing the final product of online CAD modeling.

Choosing the Best 3D Modeling Software: Online CAD vs. Browser-Based 3D Software

Here is a table comparing online CAD tools with browser-based 3D software to help you choose the best one for your requirements:

Popular online CAD tools:

  • Onshape: Onshape is a powerful cloud-based 3D modeling platform that is used by professionals and hobbyists alike. It has a wide range of features, including parametric modeling, assembly tools, and rendering capabilities.
  • Fusion 360: Fusion 360 is another powerful cloud-based 3D modeling platform that is popular among professionals and hobbyists. It has a similar feature set to Onshape, but it also includes some additional features, such as CAM and simulation tools.
  • Autodesk Inventor: Autodesk Inventor is a professional-grade 3D modeling platform that is used by engineers and designers in a variety of industries. It has a wide range of features, including parametric modeling, assembly tools, and rendering capabilities.
  • SelfCAD: SelfCAD is a cloud-based 3D modeling platform that is designed for beginners and hobbyists. It is easy to use and has a variety of features, including 3D modeling, sculpting, and slicing tools.
  • Tinkercad: Tinkercad is a free cloud-based 3D modeling platform that is designed for beginners and hobbyists. It is very easy to use and has a variety of features, including basic 3D modeling, shapes, and electronics.

Popular browser-based 3D software:

  • Sketchfab: Sketchfab stands out as a platform that allows users to publish, share, and discover 3D content online and in VR. Its vibrant community and vast library of 3D models make it a favorite for both creators and consumers. It also boasts advanced features like real-time 3D editing and easy embed options.
  • Sculpteo: Specializing in online 3D printing services, Sculpteo allows users to upload, customize, and even order 3D prints of their models. Its intuitive interface is combined with a range of materials and finishes to choose from, bridging the gap between digital models and tangible products.
  • FreeCAD: FreeCAD is an open-source parametric 3D CAD modeler, tailored for a broad range of uses such as product design and mechanical engineering. Its modularity allows users to install plugins tailored to their specific needs, and its active community means continuous improvements and updates.
  • Meshmixer: Meshmixer from Autodesk is a tool designed for working with triangle meshes. It’s perfect for those looking to blend and mix existing 3D models, making it a favorite for artists and modders. Features like sculpting, mesh smoothing, and support generation for 3D printing set it apart.
  • Clara.io: Clara.io is a versatile cloud-based 3D modeling, animation, and rendering platform. Its strengths lie in its collaborative features, allowing multiple users to work on a model simultaneously. With an extensive list of tools and a user-friendly interface, Clara.io is suitable for both beginners and professionals.
An image of a hand holding a bulb to represent a product of online CAD modeling.

Key Considerations for Designing Your 3D Model Using Online 3D Design Software

Designing 3D models using online 3D design software presents a unique set of considerations when compared to traditional desktop 3D design software. While both approaches have their merits, it’s important to be aware of the distinctions between the two.

Here are key considerations specific to online 3D design software:

Key Considerations Comparison Table

Key Considerations

Online 3D Design Software

Traditional Desktop 3D Design Software


✅ Accessible from any device with an internet connection.

❌ Limited to installed devices.

Collaboration and Sharing

✅ Built-in features for real-time collaboration and seamless sharing.

❌ May require third-party tools for collaboration.

Updates and Maintenance

✅ Regularly updated by the provider without manual installations.

❌ May require manual updates.

Learning Curve

✅ User-friendly interfaces, more approachable for beginners.

❌ May have a steeper learning curve.

Cloud Storage Integration

✅ Easy to save, back up, and access projects from multiple devices.

❌ May require additional software for cloud storage.

Hardware Requirements

✅ Lower hardware requirements, accessible on a wider range of devices.

❌ May require high-end hardware for optimal performance.

Subscription Model

✅ Offers subscription-based pricing, cost-effective for limited needs.

❌ Often requires a one-time purchase, may be expensive.

Limited Offline Access

❌ Relies on an internet connection, limiting offline access.

✅ Fully functional offline.

File Compatibility

❌ May have limitations in file format compatibility.

✅ Generally supports a wide range of file formats.

Performance and Rendering

❌ May offer limited processing power and rendering capabilities.

✅ Often provides greater processing power and rendering capabilities.

Privacy and Security

❌ Consider implications when working with sensitive or proprietary designs.

✅ Generally offers robust security features.

Customization and Plugins

❌ Limited customization options and fewer third-party plugins.

✅ Extensive customization options and a wide range of third-party plugins.

Long-Term Reliability

❌ Dependent on the long-term reliability and availability of online services.

✅ Software remains functional as long as it’s compatible with your hardware.

Cost Analysis

✅ May offer a lower total cost of ownership depending on needs.

❌ May have a higher total cost of ownership, including hardware requirements.

In summary, the choice between online and desktop 3D design software should consider factors such as accessibility, collaboration needs, hardware capabilities, and long-term considerations.

Depending on your specific requirements and preferences, you may find that one approach is better suited to your design projects than the other.

An image of connected roads to represent online CAD modeling.

Advancing from Basic online 3D Design Software for Model Creation

Advancing your skills and taking your 3D design modeling endeavors to the next level, especially when using online 3D design software, involves several key steps and considerations:

1. Master the Basics:

Ensure you have a strong foundation in the fundamentals of 3D modeling, including understanding geometry, shapes, and spatial relationships. Practice basic modeling techniques until you are comfortable with them.

2. Explore Advanced Features:

Familiarize yourself with the advanced features and tools offered by your chosen online 3D design software. This may include sculpting, parametric modeling, animation, and rendering capabilities.

3. Take Online Courses and Tutorials:

Enroll in online courses, tutorials, and workshops dedicated to 3D modeling. There are many resources available on platforms like YouTube, Udemy, Coursera, and LinkedIn Learning.

4. Join Online Communities:

Become part of online 3D modeling communities and forums. These platforms offer a wealth of knowledge, advice, and feedback from experienced designers and artists.

5. Experiment and Practice:

The more you practice, the better you’ll become. Experiment with different modeling techniques, styles, and subjects. Challenge yourself with complex projects to expand your skills.

6. Learn About Texturing and Materials:

Understanding how to apply textures and materials to your models can greatly enhance their realism and visual appeal. Explore techniques for UV mapping, texture painting, and material settings.

7. Explore Rendering and Lighting:

Learn about lighting techniques and rendering options available in your software. Rendering is essential for creating realistic and visually striking 3D scenes.

8. Study Anatomy and Reference Material:

If you’re creating characters or organic models, study anatomy and use reference materials to ensure accuracy in your designs.

9. Keep Up with Industry Trends:

Stay updated with the latest trends, tools, and technologies in the 3D modeling industry. This knowledge will help you adapt to evolving demands and opportunities.

10. Network and Collaborate:

Connect with other 3D artists, designers, and professionals in the field. Collaborative projects can expand your skills and provide exposure to different styles and workflows.

11. Set Goals and Projects:

Establish specific goals for your 3D modeling journey. These goals can range from completing a portfolio to participating in design competitions. Having clear objectives will keep you motivated.

12. Learn Other Related Skills:

Consider learning complementary skills such as texturing, rigging, animation, or 3D printing, depending on your interests and career goals.

13. Build a Portfolio:

Create a portfolio showcasing your best work. A well-organized portfolio is essential for attracting clients or landing job opportunities in the 3D modeling field.

14. Seek Feedback and Critique:

Be open to constructive criticism. Share your work with peers, mentors, or online communities to receive feedback that can help you improve.

15. Stay Inspired:

Explore various forms of art and design, including architecture, photography, and traditional sculpture. Inspiration can come from diverse sources and influence your 3D modeling style.

A flow-chart to show how one can stay inspired to master online CAD modeling.

Advancing your skills in online 3D design modeling is an ongoing journey that requires dedication, practice, and a willingness to continuously learn.

By following these steps and staying committed to improvement, you can take your 3D modeling endeavors to new heights and achieve your creative and professional goals.

An image of an arrow pointing to the right.

Wrapping Up: My Insights on Online 3D Modeling Software and Summary

As we draw this exploration to a close, I must express my admiration for the rapid advancements in online 3D modeling software.

Having navigated the complex terrains of both traditional and online modeling platforms, it’s evident that the future leans heavily towards cloud-based, real-time collaboration tools.

The transformation is akin to the shift from hand-drawn sketches to computer-aided designs; it’s revolutionary and reshapes the very way we perceive modeling.

One of the most significant advantages of online software is its accessibility. No longer do artists and engineers need hefty workstation setups to craft detailed models. With a decent internet connection and a modern browser, intricate designs can unfold from anywhere in the world.

This democratization of design tools paves the way for budding artists and professionals who might have previously been inhibited by software costs and hardware requirements.

But, as with all tools, online 3D modeling platforms come with their quirks. The real-time collaboration, while immensely beneficial, also ushers in the challenges of data synchronization and version control.

It’s a delicate dance of ensuring everyone is in harmony, a balance of technology and human communication.

Furthermore, the vast ocean of available online software can be both a boon and a bane. Choices are abundant, but not all tools are cut from the same cloth.

It’s imperative for users to identify what they seek in a platform – be it user-friendly interfaces, advanced sculpting tools, or impeccable rendering engines.

In conclusion, the world of online 3D modeling is vast and continually evolving. As we steer into an era dominated by virtual realities, augmented experiences, and digital artistry, these online tools will undoubtedly be the masthead.

Embracing them, mastering them, and pushing their boundaries will be our collective responsibility and joy. Here’s to the digital tapestry we’re all weaving, one polygon at a time.

Head of Business, Content Creator, and Author at Kevin Scolaro, MBA | The Leadership Toolbox | Website | + posts

Kevin Scolaro, MBA: Navy veteran, acclaimed entrepreneur, and digital marketing maestro. With dual degrees in Business Administration (MBA) and 3D Emerging Media (BFA), Kevin blends strategic acumen with creative prowess. His decade-plus experience in digital marketing, content creation, and education has cemented his reputation as an industry luminary and thought leader.

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