Best 3D modeling software for 2D work?

4 years ago from , Designer at Coinbase

Hey DN, I've been meaning to get a good 3D modeling tool to make some hard geometric shapes in my illustration work. Any recommendations on a small app that fits the bill?

I've used sketchup years ago. Has the scene changed? Is there a sketch for 3D modeling?


  • Marc EdwardsMarc Edwards, 4 years ago

    Do you want flattened vector output? If so, I’m not sure what does that. Illustrator has some very basic extruding and revolving that can product 2D vectors, but I typically use Cheetah 3D for illustrations that need realistic form and shading.


    Here’s how I’ve been using it: https://bjango.com/articles/macappiconworkflow/

    6 points
    • Yitong ZhangYitong Zhang, 4 years ago

      I was hoping flattened vector, but I guess I'd be ok with a png too. Gonna look into Cheetah 3D. Thanks!

      1 point
  • Noam Almosnino, 4 years ago

    Two recent apps that might work:



    Blender is a great tool, but requires some time to get used to the ui.

    3 points
  • Matthew BlodeMatthew Blode, 4 years ago

    Cinema 4d is really nice and relatively easy to learn. Here is nice tutorial on making an App icon from Greyscale Gorilla:


    Also look into Blender which is free

    3 points
    • Bruno BarrosBruno Barros, 4 years ago

      I may be completely wrong here, but I believe the topic author wasn't looking for a 3,500 dollars software.

      Also, Blender is very, very, very complex for his needs.

      He wants something Sketch-like but for 3D modeling.

      2 points
    • Yitong ZhangYitong Zhang, 4 years ago

      Woah that is really cool. Cinema 4D is dope, but looks like a bit much for me right now. I'll give blender a shot. Thanks! How do you think it compares to sketchup?

      0 points
  • Moe AmayaMoe Amaya, 4 years ago

    If you want to get nice clean vector line output, I'd recommend Rhinoceros. They have a command called "make2d" which does as it sounds, turns a 3d object into a flattened 2D vector. My favorite part of that feature is it also creates "hidden lines" and puts them on a separate layer so when you import into illustrator you can dash them or color them differently.

    Also as an example I used Rhino to create these isometric illustrations: https://dribbble.com/shots/3242570-Isometric-Diagrams-WIP

    Finally, if you're just looking for more precision and want vector output (and don't want to spend much cash), I'd say stick with Sketchup. You can export as a .dxf file and import into Illustrator with no problems.

    2 points
    • Yitong ZhangYitong Zhang, 4 years ago

      Hey Moe, thanks! I didn't know Sketchup could do that. Neat! I think I'll just stick with sketchup then.

      Make2d sounds cool, but I don't think I'll be doing enough 3D to warrant spending money :P

      0 points
  • Stefan Rauch, 4 years ago

    http://www.sketchup.com ?

    0 points
  • Maurice SvayMaurice Svay, 4 years ago

    Non-3D graphic designers tend to prefer Cinema4D. Blender is also a good option because it's free, but has a steeper learning curve.

    0 points
  • Stuart McCoyStuart McCoy, 4 years ago

    This really depends on what you intend on using it for specifically. Strata Design 3D is a accessible 3D modeled/animator used by many illustrators. Form Z is a good option if you like Sketchup's approach to 3D modeling but want more power and control of your 3D models and rendering. Cinema 4D is an excellent option (albeit expensive) that is used primarily by motion graphics users but can be used by illustrators as well. What it ultimately comes down to is your comfort level working with 3D models. Some tools make it easier (Form Z and Sketchup) to model to exact sizes and proportions while others make it easier to simply create 3D geometry for general purpose use (Strata 3D and Cinema 4D).

    0 points
  • Joel ReleJoel Rele, 3 years ago

    SelfCAD https://www.selfcad.com

    -1 points