3D design could take you months or even years to learn. And we aren’t just talking about the fundamentals of design—we’re talking about the software as well.
A lot of the 3D design software on the market today is, well, complicated. Either that, or they’re priced for professionals, or they don’t have every element you need to go from an initial 3D design all the way to print.
To our eyes, SelfCAD is one of the only solutions on the market that lets you do exactly that. Even if you haven’t yet heard of this 3D software, it has a whole slew of easy-to-learn and easy-to-use features ready to impress you. Plus, it could save you a whole lot of time in the process.
SelfCAD: The Good and the Bad
Let’s just get this out of the way: SelfCAD might have a bit of an identity crisis going on at the moment. The software descriptions on its website vary from targeting a beginner-friendly crowd and those just starting out with 3D design, to being software made for professional designers.
Personally, we feel it’s more of the former. SelfCAD would be better off if it focused on what it is so great at—being an educational tool to teach beginners how to do 3D design. That’s it. And it is very, very good at that.
What SelfCAD is Good At
Beginner-friendly with interactive tutorials: As beginners ourselves in the world of 3D modeling, we were blown away by the incredibly thorough and well-designed interactive tutorials in SelfCAD. These hands-on lessons make picking up 3D design skills approachable even for total novices like us. It made it easy to dive in within minutes of signing up.
Once inside SelfCAD’s live editor, the step-by-step tutorials guide you through the actions that must be completed properly to progress—only after correctly finishing a step does the next one appear. This structure left no guessing as to what to do or whether we had done it right. Plus, smart in-app messaging shows you how to access tools or resolve errors, optimizing the learning process.
Beyond the excellent existing library, new tutorials are added weekly. Sorting by criteria like newest, level, tools used, and tags make it a breeze to find relevant tutorials. It’s also easy to search for tutorials ranging from beginner basics to advanced techniques, finding the perfect match for your experience and interests.
We appreciated learning by doing instead of passively watching videos. SelfCAD’s interactive approach allowed us to gain skills rapidly by actively completing tutorials and designing immediately. This hands-on method kept us engaged and helped us retain knowledge.
Built with learning in mind: SelfCAD’s foundation for teaching 3D modeling enthralled as fans of educational technology. Their philosophy aims to prepare students for the future through design-oriented lessons that help build spatial skills and creative confidence.
While still being beginner-friendly, SelfCAD takes the principle of “built for learning” further by catering to STEM educators’ specific needs. Built-in features assist teachers in creating a captivating curriculum and empowering students’ hands-on learning.
For example, instructors can effortlessly generate step-by-step tutorials by recording design workflows in the editor. SelfCAD automatically generates instructions and student-ready guides with notes for the more technical elements as you design your prototype. Afterward, a team member at SelfCAD will review the tutorial and recommend improvements if needed—this way, teachers always nail the lessons.
In-software tooltips provide video walkthroughs of features so students visually learn modeling techniques while practicing them. These tooltips exist for every step, every process, and every feature and tool throughout the SelfCAD editor.
Intuitive right out of the box: From the moment you open SelfCAD, its intuitive UI and tool design stand out.
The tool panel arranges features in order from simple to more complex. You start with essentials like 3D sketching and basic shapes, then graduate to advanced techniques as you build expertise.
Drag-and-drop shapes let you begin directly from the panel to build models rapidly. Freehand sketching and animation options are very flexible, and easy transform tools let you precisely scale and move objects.
As a “selection-first” app, SelfCAD dynamically adapts based on what you click on in the editor. For example, combining objects requires multi-selecting first, so that feature won’t be accessible until you’ve selected several design elements. This context-awareness makes the modeling process smooth and smart.
Automation features like pattern generation and the impressive ImageTo3D functions that turn photos into detailed models can help boost your efficiency. We loved toying around with these tools.
Innovative sculpting, slicing, and rendering tools: SelfCAD comes with all the advanced tools you need to complete your 3D design workflows in one app, allowing you to avoid constant switching between platforms while creating your project. Some of the most innovative tools we tested are listed below:
- The sculpting feature enables precision editing of curves, textures, and organic shapes, bringing your models to life.
- Photorealistic rendering generates gallery-worthy visualizations of your 3D models with stunning lighting effects.
- Built-in STL slicing produces customized G-codes to streamline 3D printing prep.
- Hassle-free exporting optimizes the printing process with support for hundreds of printers and the most common 3D file formats, making output compatibility effortless.
Whether your goal is artistic 3D sculpture, presentations, or printable prototypes, SelfCAD allows you to streamline your workflow without ever leaving the software.
Versatile online and desktop versions: SelfCAD’s 3D modeling software works seamlessly on both the online and desktop versions, freeing you to choose the experience that fits your needs.
The online version can be used from any browser on any device. An internet connection is only needed periodically to load SelfCAD’s editor and save your progress.
For offline freedom, install the desktop app to your computer. You can easily store projects locally to work on planes, trains, or anywhere inspiration strikes—no web connection needed to model.
A hybrid approach syncs online and offline projects seamlessly, so you can begin designs on one platform then pick up right where you left off on the other. Switching environments at will gives you maximum flexibility.
With two interfaces available, SelfCAD adapts to you. Prefer owning software locally? Go desktop. Need lightweight mobility? Use the online browser version. Mix and match to suit the situation.
Not for advanced designers: Depending on your 3D design skill level, SelfCAD’s simplicity could make it less-than-ideal for highly advanced designers. Its intuitive “built for learning” flow caters more for beginners and STEM learners versus professionals and engineers needing complex modeling.
Experienced users can certainly create intricate 3D models in SelfCAD. However, they may find the streamlined toolset and design guidance too restrictive coming from a more robust, feature-rich CAD software.
For extremely complex industrial or architectural projects, more fully-featured options exist from free open-source toolsets.
SelfCAD shines for hobbyists, students, and entrepreneurs with straightforward needs thanks to the guided tutorials and user-friendly tools. But the simplicity that makes it so approachable does impose some creative limitations on advanced users.
Numerous limitations: In our testing, the rendering toolset only worked from the desktop app and not directly in the web browser version, so downloading the app is required to generate renderings.
Despite excellent tutorials, expect a learning curve as 3D modeling itself has intricacies. SelfCAD simplifies the process but still involves complex skills. Don’t expect to master industrial 3D modeling or professional CAD suites right away.
The streamlined interface and workflows mean SelfCAD packs fewer features than top-tier CAD platforms. Extremely complex industrial or architectural projects may push the boundaries of its capabilities.
All the same, SelfCAD provides more than enough capability for the target audience of individuals, hobbyists, and startups. Ease-of-use trumps advanced functionality.
Minimum PC requirements: To run smoothly, SelfCAD demands that you meet certain minimum PC specifications—especially for RAM, processor speed, and your graphics card. Performance can suffer on underpowered machines.
During testing, we noticed occasional slowdowns on an older laptop equipped with the bare minimum 2GHz processor and 4GB RAM. Complex 3D rendering was a strain.
SelfCAD recommends at least a 2.8GHz processor and 8GB RAM for ideal performance. Your graphics card needs to include a minimum of 512MB of video memory and WebGL support. Discrete cards are better than basic integrated graphics.
Without enough RAM or video memory, the intensive design workflows will bottleneck. Outdated CPUs also slow down manipulation of complex models.
While lightweight enough for basic laptops, don’t expect buttery smooth interactions on very old or low-end systems. SelfCAD needs some horsepower to wield its full capabilities lag-free, so use a moderately powerful Windows PC or Mac for the best experience.
SelfCAD Plans and Pricing
SelfCAD’s pricing is laid out very nicely considering what the software provides. First, it has a Free plan with some excellent features to have you up and designing in no time.
The SelfCAD Pro plan is affordable by any standards in the realm of 3D printing. Lifetime access is a steal if you are serious about STEM education or 3D design and printing for your company or institution. It also offers a generous discount for schools and educators after you fill out a contact form.
SelfCAD offers a fully-featured Free plan making 3D design accessible for students and hobbyists. After a 10-day Pro trial, you can continue using free tools indefinitely.
The Free account provides SelfCAD’s full sketching and drawing toolsets for building 3D models. You also get access to basic modifiers and transformations for shaping creations.
With unlimited projects, hobbyists can take on any 3D endeavor imaginable. The inclusive tutorials library equips you with diverse modeling skills and allows you to create lessons.
To prepare physical versions of designs, the Free plan includes an in-app STL slicer for 3D printing prep. Generate printer-ready files at no cost.
While advanced tools like sculpting require a paid plan, the Free version packs impressive capability. Students and casual users get all the basics for modeling, customizing, and outputting 3D artwork and prototypes.
For $11.99 per month billed annually (or $14.99 billed month-by-month), SelfCAD’s Pro plan unlocks the full suite of modeling tools for solopreneurs, freelancers, and small businesses.
The Pro plan includes all mesh modeling, sculpting, sketching, and drawing capabilities. Advanced deformation tools provide fine control over shaping designs.
Robust importing and exporting enables using 3D files from other sources and programs. An integrated slicer prepares files for smooth 3D printing.
SelfCAD’s entire interactive tutorial library comes with the Pro plan to advance your modeling skills. The ImageTo3D feature generates models from simple photographs.
For entrepreneurs and freelancers looking to step up from hobbyist toolsets, the Pro plan delivers complete workflows. The reasonable monthly price makes professional-grade 3D modeling very attainable.
SelfCAD Perpetual License
For one $599 payment, SelfCAD’s Perpetual License grants unlimited lifelong access to the full software suite. It’s ideal for dedicated 3D modeling educators, professionals, and businesses.
Product designers, 3D print shops, manufacturers, and other intensive users get unlimited use of SelfCAD’s mesh modeling, sculpting, sketching, and more with unlimited workflows. Schools can purchase the Perpetual License to teach 3D design across curriculums and grade levels.
While pricier upfront, the perpetual license pays for itself long-term versus monthly Pro plan fees. It removes usage limits for unbridled creation.
SelfCAD stands out to us because of its generous educational discounts which make their 3D design platform accessible for schools and teachers on tight budgets.
Discounts for educational use start at a whopping 65% off normal rates. This makes purchasing class sets of SelfCAD licenses extremely affordable compared to standard software.
SelfCAD also invites schools to contact them regarding their specific pricing needs and constraints. Whether you’re interested in purchasing school labs, individual student licenses, curriculum bundles, or more, SelfCAD lives up to its mission of empowering the next generation with 3D design skills.
SelfCAD is the perfect learning tool for beginners. The interactive tutorials are a blast—engaging but also rewarding. The intuitive interface, guided learning tools, and affordable pricing make SelfCAD an excellent choice for novices to start developing 3D modeling and 3D printing skills without the complexity of professional CAD software.
While advanced engineers may desire more robust features, SelfCAD hits the sweet spot for individuals just getting started with 3D design like hobbyists, students, teachers, and casual business users.
We recommend signing up for the 10-day Pro trial and sticking around for the Free forever plan until you feel ready for an upgrade. Its simplicity doesn’t compromise capability—it just provides an easier on-ramp to exploring creativity through 3D.