Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Introduction to 3D Modeling & Design

A guide to using Tinkercad.

Dimensions in 3D Space

All 3D models will have three measurements to them: height, width, and depth. These correspond to the Z, X, and Y axes.

These axes indicate both the measurement of the model and the direction in which it may move in 3D space. For example a model can be 15mm wide, and also move 15mm along the X axis.

3D modeling software can use many different units of measurement, but it is suggested to work in millimeters (mm) when possible.

A 3D model of a cat marked with the three different axes of the workplane: Z, X, and Y.

Moving and Resizing

You will need to keep all of your dimensions in mind when editing, especially if you want your object to remain proportional. Resizing one dimension without resizing the others, will result in a model that is skewed and deformed.

Keep in mind the menus and tool names may be different between software products but the effects should be the same.

Animated gif of a 3D model of a cat being moved on a 3D workplaneYou can move a model anywhere along a workplane. In this gif you can see the distance it is being moved (in millimeters).

Animated gif of a 3D model of a cat being resized on a 3D workplaneUsing the resize tool will allow you to resize your model. Make sure you have universal scaling on so all the sides will be resized equally.

Digital vs Physical

Remember when designing that you can make anything on a digital canvas, but not every design can be translated to a 3D printable object.

A few rules of thumb to keep in mind when designing are:

  • The more detailed a model, the longer it will take to print.
  • Prints require a certain amount of thickness and rigidity to hold their shape. Very thin or delicate parts may not be printable.
  • Models with complex geometry may not be printable. 3D prints are built by laying layers of plastic one on top of the other. Material cannot be printed in thin air, so models with lots of steep angles, wide arches, or overhangs, may be very difficult to print.

A 3D model of a sitting dragon with it's head raised and wings held upward

A complex 3D model of a dragon standing up with it's wings held outward