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Round-Up of Online 3D Modeling Classes for Prototyping and 3D Printing

Having access to fabrication spaces filled with CNC machines is exciting… but before to use machines, you need to know how to 3D model. I’m myself a newbie regarding 3D modeling and I’m looking for classes in order to start prototyping projects.

So far, I download models online and 3D print them on my Printrbot Jr. 3D printer, but I want to start 3D printing my own projects.


My glorious rocket eggcup made from joo’s design on Thingiverse.

Before to enroll in a class, you need to choose which 3D modeling software you want to learn. I decided to start with Sketchup as it’s free, good for 3D printing and is used by a large community. Blender would be my second choice but the steep learning curve scares me a little.

Software name Difficulty level Price Good for 3D printing
TinkerCAD easy free yes
Autodesk 123D easy free yes
Sketchup easy free yes
FreeCAD hard free yes
OpenSCAD hard free yes
Blender hard free yes
Solidworks hard expensive yes
Catia hard expensive no
3DS Max hard expensive no
Maya hard expensive no
ZBrush hard expensive no
Note that these criteria are based on a newbie on a budget. Also, all 3D software can be used for 3D printing, but some are better designed for it than others.
Here is my round-up of online 3D modeling classes, let me know if you know more of them in the comments:

General 3D and CAD Modeling Classes



Lynda has a great reputation and a rich catalog of 60 CAD software training videos, from AutoDesk to SolidWorks, Rhino AutoCAD or Sketchup classes. Montly membership costs $25 for unlimited hours of videos. A good point for me is that you can watch the video whenever you want.



For $35 per month (count at least 6 weeks of program, so preferred the 3 months membership), you can follow a complete 3D modeling course on Blender, 3DS Max, Maya or ZBrush. Full list of classes available here.



DigitalTutors offers classes about 3D (Maya, 3DS Max, ZBrush, Modo…) and CAD software (Inventor, SolidWorks, Revit), for beginners and advanced users. Monthly plan starts at $45.



FabAcademy is a full online program about digital fabrication provided by the MIT to learn how to become a FabLab manager and make “almost anything”. A good thing is that it doesn’t focus only on 3D printing. Diploma costs about $5000, individual certificates about $500. Students will learn online and in a local lab. Classes schedule 2014 is from January to May.


3D Modeling for 3D Printing



MakerMuse is a new online course focusing exclusively on 3D printing for advanced CAD software users. The 12-part online course is free and designers are invited to showcase their creations on MakerMuse. Great strategy to launch a new 3D printing marketplace! I might try it once I’ll know more about 3D modeling.

Shapeways Skillshare School


Online 3D printing service Shapeways offers a variety of online classes for beginners on Skillshare. Some classes are very general (“Intro to design for 3D printing with Shapeways), others are very specific (“How to design your own ring and 3D print it with Shapeways”). No classes seem to be held at the moment so I can’t find a price. Also, I would prefer an independent class in order to avoid too much Shapeways advertising.

Blender for 3D Printing DVD


Blender Foundation launched a DVD (downloadable too) covering the use of Blender and specificities for 3D printing. It seems very interesting, and pricing is pretty reasonable: $36.

Surprisingly, I didn’t find any 3D modeling or industrial design classes on Khan Academy, Stanford Online or Coursera.

Many local spaces offer 3D modeling classes – such as Techshop or MetaSpace. It might be the best option if online learning is not your thing.

To sum up the online 3D modeling courses I found:

Name Type Price Length
Lynda Video $25 hours
3DBuzz Program $35 days
DigitalTutors Video $45 hours
FabAcademy Class $500 months
MakerMuse Video free hours
Shapeways School Class unknown hours
Blender for 3D Printing Video $36 hours


Regarding my needs, I decided to go for the Lynda videos. I’ll be able to try different software, watch videos whenever I want and I won’t need to attend a class at certain date. That’s what I need.

Only thing is that I won’t get the help of other students nor meet anyone doing the program, but I plan on going to my nearest (and coolest) hackerspace Noisebridge to practice with others. Excited!

And you, have you ever followed an online 3D modeling course and which one would you recommend?



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