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3d modelingCreating 3D models and shapes is not as easy as two dimensional ones. The first time I sat in front of the industry standard 3d modeling app Autodesk 3D Max, I didn’t know what to do and where to go. The overwhelming nature of the app didn’t help my lack of imagining things in three dimensions.

Of course, the end results of 3D modeling can blow your mind away. But how do you start off with the elementary stuff and learn 3d modeling step by step? The need calls for a no sweat 3D modeling application for learning the ropes and building simple 3D models.


That need brought me to 3DVIA.com. 3DVIA has a bunch of 3D graphical apps in its stable and one of it is a totally free 3D modeling app called 3DVIA Shape v3.2.

3DVIA Shape is supported on Microsoft Windows XP SP2, Microsoft Windows Server 2003 SP2, or Windows Vista. A good internet connection and a three wheel mouse is recommended.

3DVIA Shape starts off as a small 467KB download. The installer downloads the rest of the package from the website and installs the application frontend on your system. To access 3DVIA Shape, you will need to go through a quick registration and login which creates your account on the server.

3DVIA Shape has a desktop frontend which connects you to your user account. 3D models are made using the tools on the frontend and some downloadable objects (e.g. textures) from the server. After the model is complete, you can publish it to your user account. While creating the models, you cannot locally save them on your hard drive.

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That’s a bit of a limitation but once you fire it up and start off with your first 3D idea, the uses of the software become clear. It is not meant to be a powerful 3D application but a quick 3D tool.

Let’s see some of the likeable features that make this a good 3D tool for newbies.

The Beginner’s Tutorials

learn 3d modeling

The introductory tutorial helps to understand the basic features and the ease with which you can create basic 3D shapes. A video, arrow hints and graphical guides make the first 3D house easy to finish in five minutes. For text help you can read through the documentation.

More Tutorials To Take You Through

learn 3d modeling

3DVIA Shape comes with a lot of support resources. Many more tutorials and tips ‘n tricks take you from drawing simple shapes to more advanced models like a car maybe. If you are a visual learner, you can check out the video demos.

Don’t forget to go through the Learn to Walk before You Can Run tutorial on how to move around in 3D and view a model from different angles.

Shape With Just 10 Drawing Tools

3d modeling software

Ten tools that let you create and modify basic shapes help to keep 3D modeling uncomplicated. It is the combination of basic shape tools like Rectangle or Circle with the tools that act as modifiers (Offset, Push n Pull, Deform) that creates the complex 3D shapes. Of course, the most powerful tool is your imagination.

For example, a window can be started with a simple rectangle. Using the Push n Pull tool in any direction, the simple rectangle can be made into a solid 3D shape.

Curve Shapes Into Contoured Figures

learn 3d modeling software

Usually this is the most artistic aspect of any drawing application. With something like the freeform Deform tool, and arrow guides it is easy to give clean and symmetrical curves to any object . Check out this tutorial on how to make an umbrella in five minutes.

Quickly Draw Symmetrical Objects

3d modeling software

The umbrella project also shows the ease with which one half of an object can be mirrored to create the whole.

Paint With Textures

3d models

Finish your creations using the one click Paint tool which not only has flat colors but a gallery of textures. You can also set custom colors and import textures in the form of image files (JPEG, PNG, BMP).

Create Full Scenes With Existing Models

3d models

You can reuse 3D models in the public domain on the 3DVIA.com site and combine them into a 3D scene. Just enter a keyword in the search box and search results are displayed as 3D figures in a turntable or a thumbnail mode. Clicking on insert downloads it to your 3D space.

Sharing With The 3DVIA Community & Others

The sub-forum is a great place to share your experiences and do your Q&A with other users. There are also groups formed by users around specific topics like Tips and Tricks, Houses, and of course 3DVIA Shape models.

3d models

Groups are starting points for discussions and collaborations. For instance, two or more 3DVIA users can collaborate on projects as all models are hosted on the server. 3DVIA also has a free browser plug-in for viewing 3D models from all angles.

The above features are just a sketch of the free software. Potter around with it and you will get a better idea of its uses for everyday work. As this video shows, it’s easy enough to be used as an educational tool.

That’s just the thing with 3DVIA Shape. It may lack the finesse of more feature rich 3D software, but with its quick and simple abilities it does enough to create an interest in 3D art.

Familiar with any other easy and free apps to learn 3D modeling? Share them in comments!

  1. Srivatsan Venkatesh
    September 3, 2010 at 7:41 pm

    I wish there was a version of Shape for Mac because I've got the controls down on Windows but my Mac is much faster.

  2. yuregininsesi
    June 27, 2010 at 1:26 pm

    This looks simplistic enough to model & render, but for more advanced features, I'd recommend using the open source Blender software.

  3. Vivek Parmar
    June 16, 2010 at 11:02 am

    i use photoshop for this and it is quite easy to work

  4. Î??ç???™
    June 16, 2010 at 6:09 am

    hmmm... Not bad! Modelling in Maya is very complicated! :D

  5. Darren Smart
    June 16, 2010 at 3:08 am

    "three wheel mouse is recommended"

    A three WHEEL mouse? ... you sure? lol

  6. Darren Smart
    June 16, 2010 at 1:08 am

    "three wheel mouse is recommended"

    A three WHEEL mouse? ... you sure? lol

  7. dman977
    June 15, 2010 at 9:31 pm

    Google SketchUp is easy to use as well, plus has a lot fewer limitations.

  8. Njuguz
    June 15, 2010 at 10:23 pm

    Sick

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