Computer-Aided Design (commonly referred to as CAD) has become an integral factor that moves the world forward. CAD lets you design everything from tiny pieces of electronic equipment to large buildings, dams, and more. Naturally, CAD programs have become expensive as most professionals use them to design things. And if you are a student or a freelancer, buying expensive CAD software becomes a distant dream. But there is nothing to worry about as we have curated a list of the top 10 free CAD software which are as good as the paid ones. So without any delay, let’s check out the best free CAD software in 2022.
Best Free CAD Software (2022)
Here, we have compiled a list of the top 10 free CAD software you can use in 2022. The list includes two kinds of software – the free ones and the Student’s edition of premium software. The latter will be useful when your institution uses a particular tool, and you need to use that too.
Table of Contents
FreeCAD, as the name suggests, is a free and open-source CAD software, and it’s a top choice among both beginners and professionals. If you are well-versed with CAD modeling basics, then this software would be the best pick for you. An educator or programmer can also get the best out of FreeCAD, given its multi-purpose behavior and intuitive interface.
Despite being a free tool, the UI of FreeCAD is almost on par with professional CAD software. It also packs in a ton of features. Probably the most significant feature of FreeCAD is the Parametric Model. It lets you go back and edit your actions so that you get the best results. The software also has a modular architecture, enabling you to install plug-ins for additional features you need.
In addition, from an advanced user’s perspective,its ability to be implemented into an app throughPython modules makes it quite useful. Additional features of FreeCAD include the Robot Simulation module that helps you study the movement of robots, a rendering module for exporting your project into external renderers, and more. To sum up, if you are looking for free CAD software for beginners, then FreeCAD is an excellent choice. I would say, even professionals can use it given the tools and features it packs.
|Completely free||Can be a little unintuitive|
|Offers a plentiful selection of tools|
Visit Website (Free)
Suppose you’re at your friend’s home and get a call to design a simple 3D Model. Now, your friend’s PC does not have any CAD software installed in it, but you do have a powerful internet connection at hand. In such cases, you have a solution in Tinkercad. It is an online solution for 3D Digital Designs. The best thing about Tinkercad is that it does not require any previous experience, and it’s free to use.
The program is not as feature-packed as other CAD software. But, if you want a simple platform to design models, especially for 3D printing, then Tinkercard is the best solution out there. Also, Tinkercard is part of the Autodesk family, so you get all kinds of integration and file format support.
The thing I love the most about Tinkercad is that it entices youngsters into learning CAD. It might not seem like a compelling prospect to young audiences, but the lectures are fun-filled. There’s a lot to learn here. You can learn 3D design, electronics design, code blocks, and more. There are even tutorials on how to create Minecraft models.
There’s a gallery where you can find what other users are designing and sharing. Some other features of Tinkercad are integration with 3D Printing services, support for HTML5, and a powerful geometry library. Tinkercad is a great online platform to start learning CAD, and it is the perfect CAD software for 3D printing. More so, when the service does not cost you a dime.
|Free||Doesn’t support 2D to 3D modelling|
|Easy to use even for relative beginners|
Visit Website (Free)
Unlike other CAD software in this list, LibreCAD is a 2D modeling software for Windows, macOS, and Linux. It is an open-source and free CAD software that you can use for both personal and commercial use. LibreCAD uses some of the libraries from another CAD program called BRL-CAD.
It offers interactive geometry design, ray-tracing for rendering and analysis, benchmark suite, and more. You can create geometric 2D designs, circuit boards, mathematical figures, etc., in a highly customizable interface, which is nice. Further, it supports both DWG and DWF file formats, so you can easily import your saved projects from AutoCAD or other CAD applications.
Moreover, you can export your 2D design in DXF, SVG, and PDF formats. LibreCAD has support for plugins as well, so you can add advanced tools just by installing a third-party plugin. If you are looking for free CAD software for beginners interested in 2D modeling, LibreCAD is the best program out there.
Pros Cons Completely free Can be a little unintuitive Offers a plentiful selection of tools
Visit Website (Free)
If you are okay with using a textual description language to create 3D CAD Objects, you may find OpenSCAD to be an effective free CAD Software. There are several scenarios where you might need such an interface, especially when you are in a professional field. You will have to be as specific as you can when you model things, and you can find how useful OpenSCAD is in such cases.
The software comes with an extensive document that tells you about the parameters to be kept in mind when you give descriptions. It offers an impressive level of documentation that will help in the long run, especially if you are just starting out.
The user interface is developer-centric, so you can go with OpenSCAD if you are okay with it. OpenSCAD is available for Windows, Linux, and macOS devices. Developers say that they find OpenSCAD excellent for designing, as they don’t have to deal with menus or shortcuts, but pure code. However, this means that the software is not for beginners. If you are just starting with CAD, this is not for you.
Pros Cons Open source Can be a little unintuitive Great for people from a programming background Challenging to design complex shapes
Visit Website (Free)
5. ZBrushCoreMini (Earlier Sculptris)
ZBrushCoreMini is another free CAD Software that focuses on 3D Sculpting & 3D Modelling. It is made by one of the industry leaders named Pixologic. The tool has a professional User Interface and can be learned by anyone in a lesser time-period, given that you know the basics of creative designing.
There are several features here that are very helpful when it comes to designing. For instance, there is support for both ZBrush navigation & standard-level navigation.
ZBrushCoreMini even offers support for plug-ins, using which you can extend features and productivity. Plus, there are some sculpting and designing-oriented features, which you can find on the official site. This CAD software is available for macOS and Windows with a system requirement of 1 GB of RAM or more.
Other noteworthy features of Sculptris include the GoZ button, which lets you transfer your mesh to ZBrush, Dynamic Tessellation, Immersive Interface, Projection Painting, and more. To sum up, if you are on the lookout for free CAD software for beginners, then ZBrushCoreMini is a great pick. Also, it can do 3D printing pretty well.
Pros Cons Great for high-poly, detailed work Steep learning curve Customisable brushes Zbrush’s perspective view isn’t the easiest to use Features like noise sculpting, sculpting layers, etc.
Visit Website (Free)
SketchUp is a professional-grade software used for 3D Modelling in several industries such as interior design, architecture, engineering, video game design development, etc. As you may have guessed, SketchUp is a paid tool, but it offers a free tier for personal users and students. The free service, however, is only available on its web platform.
You can design 3D models, render them and save your project in DWG format. One of the noticeable additions of SketchUp includes its open-source library of model assemblies and 3D Warehouse, a large-enough collection of 3D models uploaded by other users.
Also, as it’s a tool developed using Ruby, there’s support for extensions as well. The Extension Warehouse of SketchUp is an essential feature for those who need enhanced productivity. Further, if you want to use its native app, you can check out SketchUp Pro, available for a 30-day trial. So, there’s plenty of time to check it out before you buy it.
Overall, the free web version of SketchUp is an excellent tool for both beginners and professionals. If Tinkercard turns out to be too rudimentary for your needs, then Sketchup would be the perfect alternative as it offers advanced tools without many limitations on the web.
Pros Cons Relatively easy to use Doesn’t offer as many features as pro-grade tools You can directly download 3D models from the 3D Warehouse Can be used to create 3D walkthroughs
Visit Website (Free for personal use, Paid plans start at $119/year)
7. Fusion 360
For the unaware, Fusion 360 is a CAD software developed by Autodesk. It is available free of charge to make computer-aided designing accessible to students, creators, and even hobbyists. As such, it’s one of the best apps for students as well. Fusion 360 stresses on building the concepts first, making it an excellent tool for learning. You will have to go through all the basics of 3D Design & Modeling, Simulation, Generative Design, and more.
The best part about Fusion 360 is that you can do everything in one place. You can create 3D designs, render complicated mechanical structures, design custom toolpath, run simulations, collaborate through the cloud, and more.
In addition, if you expand your project in the future, you can move it to CAM or CAE software seamlessly. That’s awesome, right? Apart from that, you can also unify design elements from different projects, create a prototype, and even manufacture on a single platform.
That’s the best part about a program powered by Autodesk. All in all, Fusion 360 is one of the best free CAD software, and if you are a beginner in this field, then this tool is going to be your trailblazer.
Pros Cons Easy to learn and use The user interface isn’t the best Supports transferring updated geometry to existing geometries
VisitWebsite (Free for personal use, Paid plans start at $495/year)
When it comes to 3D Modelling, AutoCAD does not need much introduction since it has been an industry standard for many years. It’s a premium program, but you can get this CAD software for free through a one-year student license. If you did not know, AutoCAD is also part of the Autodesk family, and it is super expensive, such that no student can afford it. However, the company also knows that if students cannot use AutoCAD, they won’t learn it. And that will hurt the sales in the future when those students become graduates and professionals.
In its student version, you get all the features of AutoCAD. When compared to the $200-per-month plan of AutoCAD, this student version is indeed superb. You can create complex assemblies, a variety of metal designs and simulate them within the program. The range of advanced tools and pallets on AutoCAD is unbelievable.
Further, AutoCAD has a wide-enough range of documentation made available, which you can use to know the basic & advanced features of the tool. So if you are a student, I would highly recommend you go for AutoCAD as it’s free and brings tons of features.
Visit Website (Free for students, Paid plans start at $1690/year)
Pros Cons User friendly software Very expensive Pretty much the industry standard for CAD work Steep learning curve
Onshape is modern-age CAD software that is known for its excellent design repository and assemblies. Unlike other software programs that are standalone desktop applications, Onshape is a cloud-based design platform. You can create complex solid and surface models just from a browser and without any fear of losing your design progress.
As Onshape is a web-based platform, all your actions save to the cloud instantly, thus, safeguarding you against data loss. In computer-aided design systems, the loss of design progress is a big concern as your project expands over time. Other than that, Onshape comes with three main design tools: parts, assemblies, and drawings.
You can create highly structured and detailed assemblies from its unique databased of architecture design. And for drawing purposes, you can easily import DWG, DW, or DXF files if you were working on Autodesk before.
Now, you must be thinking that Onshape is a premium software and an expensive one at that, so why are we recommending it? The software is available to students, educators, and hobbyists at absolutely no cost. So, what more do you want? A capable cloud-based software with all the modern tools for your design needs. In a way, Onshape is one of the best free CAD software right now.
Pros Cons Portable software since it runs on the cloud Difficult to use for large (specially architectural) projects Supports multiple file types
Visit Website (Free for students, Paid plans start at $1500/year)
While nanoCAD is not entirely free, it is a lot cheaper than its competitors. And that is why I have included it in this list. It is an inexpensive CAD software, which offers advanced tools for drawing and creating 2D and 3D designs.
It does not matter which industry you belong to– architecture, manufacturing, or mechanical engineering– this tool offers you all the drafting and drawing extensions. The best part about nanoCAD is that it’s completely compatible with the DWG file format. So in case, if you want to move your project elsewhere in the future, this feature will have your back.
Further, nanoCAD brings several end-user APIs, which you can use to automate complex CAD designs. It can help those companies who regularly create similar products without going through the grinding drafting phase.
Also, nanoCAD is an offline application. So those who like working on a desktop program will appreciate its appearance and classic toolbar design. To sum it up, if you are willing to pay a one-time fee of $180 instead of paying a monthly or yearly subscription, then nanoCAD is an excellent option.
Pros Cons Comparatively more affordable Only available on Windows APIs can be used to automate complex designs
Visit Website (Free trial for 14 days, Premium software available at a one-time fee of $180)
Frequently Asked Questions
Is there a free AutoCAD program?
There are a lot of free CAD software out there, as you can see on this list. Moreover, if you’re looking specifically at AutoCAD, even that is available to students for free. So, if you have a student email ID, you can get started with using AutoCAD completely free right away.
Is FreeCAD really free?
Yes, FreeCAD is a completely free CAD software that’s really powerful and feature rich, which is why it’s our top pick for this list as well. The software brings support for plugins and more, all for free.
Is there a cheaper alternative to AutoCAD?
AutoCAD is the industry standard for CAD software, but it’s very expensive at $200 per month. However, there are a lot of affordable and even free AutoCAD alternatives that we have covered on this list such as FreeCAD, among others. Moreover, AutoCAD can be used for free by students.
Use These Free CAD Apps to Create 3D Masterpieces
These are the free CAD software that you can use to create your 2D or 3D parametric models. I have tried to include both easy-to-use and approachable CAD software along with some pro tools that might need a bit of learning. A number of these software offer inexpensive student versions, which should come as a boon for learners. That said, if you think we missed out on any good CAD software, let us know in the comments below.
Fusion 360 is the only tool that connects the entire product development process into a single CAD/CAM/CAE platform. Fast, free for education, and powerful—with an unparalleled breadth of functionality on a modern UI that is easy to learn, teach, and use.Is there a free version of CAD? ›
Draft it Version 4 is the best free CAD Software in the industry, it's faster and more powerful than previous versions whilst retaining its acclaimed ease of use. It is a 2D CAD software suitable for all users, in the office or at home. You can create, print and save your own drawings and designs.What is better than FreeCAD? ›
There are more than 50 alternatives to FreeCAD for a variety of platforms, including Windows, Mac, Linux, Online / Web-based and iPad. The best alternative is SketchUp, which is free. Other great apps like FreeCAD are LibreCAD, Autodesk AutoCAD, OpenSCAD and SOLIDWORKS.Is FreeCAD better than AutoCAD? ›
AutoCAD has 2711 reviews and a rating of 4.65 / 5 stars vs FreeCAD which has 121 reviews and a rating of 4.31 / 5 stars. Compare the similarities and differences between software options with real user reviews focused on features, ease of use, customer service, and value for money. Reviews are generated by real users.Is FreeCAD totally free? ›
Is FreeCAD completely free? FreeCAD is free. This open-source software is available for free for Linux, macOS and Windows.Is AutoCAD free or paid? ›
Can I use AutoCAD for free? Yes. Students and educators can get free one-year educational access to Autodesk products and services, renewable for as long as you remain eligible. Learn more.Does Google have a CAD program? ›
AutoCAD web app - Google Workspace Marketplace. Edit, create, and view CAD drawings in the AutoCAD web app anytime, anywhere.How much does FreeCAD cost? ›
This program is free; you can download a version for your operating system from the vendor's website. FreeCAD is an open-source 3D modeling software that enables you to create detailed technical drawings, as well as efficient CAM processes. Could your organization benefit from these features?What is better FreeCAD or LibreCAD? ›
With an average rating of 4.3 out of 5 stars from its reviewers, FreeCAD is better rated than LibreCAD's average of 4.1 stars from 42 reviews. Both receive higher scores than the category average of 2.7 stars.Which FreeCAD is most like AutoCAD? ›
- LibreCAD (2D)
- QCAD (2D)
- Draft It (By Cadlogic)
AutoCAD. One of the oldest and most used CAD software for 2D / 3D drafting & design. It has the ability to create blueprints, equipment layouts, section planes, model documentation, and more.Does FreeCAD work like AutoCAD? ›
FreeCAD is a free software, but unfortunately it is not a substitute for AutoCAD software. AutoCAD is mainly used to design 2D, 3D drawings, drafts and concepts. FreeCAD is a general-purpose 3D parametric modeler for anyone who needs to review and create 3D models and does not own a commercially available solution.Which is better FreeCAD or Solidworks? ›
FreeCAD is one of the most popular alternatives to Solidworks. It is open-source parametric software with a great community working on improving its features and helping other users. This CAD software gives you the most popular 3D modeling tools such as booleans, extrude, etc.What are the limitations of FreeCAD? ›
There are two main disadvantages to FreeCAD. First, being open source, it's less stable than Fusion 360 and not as powerful. When working with heavy assemblies or operations, the program becomes inefficient and laggy. The second issue is that it's less aesthetically pleasing than Fusion 360.Is FreeCAD hard to learn? ›
Disadvantages of FreeCAD
It has a complex interface which makes it difficult for beginners. It has a problem of freezing when importing large files. Performance is low as compared to AutoCAD and CATIA.
NASA uses several CAD software packages. They use CATIA, Unigraphics and CADDS.Is SketchUp better than CAD? ›
AutoCAD is comparatively better than SketchUp when it comes to rendering the details. Models in AutoCAD can effectively replicate shadows under various lighting conditions. Designs in SketchUp are not as detailed compared to AutoCAD, and one can tell looking at the design it is software work.Can FreeCAD do 2D drawings? ›
FreeCAD is free and open-source modeling software. Among its capabilities, you can do traditional 2D drafting.Is LibreCAD really free? ›
LibreCAD is a free Open Source CAD application for Windows, Apple and Linux. Support and documentation are free from our large, dedicated community of users, contributors and developers.Does FreeCAD have virus? ›
No. FreeCAD does not contain any ransomware. It is free software.
SketchUp Free is the simplest free 3D modeling software on the web — no strings attached.Can I buy AutoCAD for lifetime? ›
Autodesk software is available with a subscription only. We no longer sell perpetual licenses.Is AutoCAD free for student? ›
Students and educators can get free one-year educational access to Autodesk products and services, which is renewable as long as you remain eligible. If you are a student or educator, you can access free AutoCAD software with an Autodesk Education plan.Can I use Autodesk for free? ›
How long is Fusion 360 free for hobbyists or for personal use? Fusion 360 for personal use is free for 3 years for qualifying non-commercial users. A hobbyist user must generate less than $1,000 USD in annual revenue, using Fusion 360 for home-based, non-commercial design, manufacturing, and fabrication projects.How can I teach myself CAD? ›
- Find blogs and tutorials specific to your field of work. ...
- Search for exercises that will help you to memorize various commands by practice. ...
- Start by learning how to use 2D drawing tools and applying what you learn to 2D drawings. ...
- Practice, practice and then practice some more.
I Am IRON MAN: Elon Musk uses Siemens NX and Leap Motion to Design like Tony Stark. In case you've been living under an “Apple IIe” for the past 15 years, Elon Musk is the founder of PayPal, Tesla Motors and SpaceX.What is CAD called now? ›
CAD is also sometimes called “computer-aided design and drafting” (CADD). Using computer-based software to assist in design processes is known as computer-aided design.What CAD software does the military use? ›
Initiated more than 35 years ago at the U.S. Army's Ballistic Research Laboratory, BRL-CAD is the primary tri-service cross-platform solid modeling Computer-Aided Design system used by the military to support analyses of military assets and their environments.How old is FreeCAD? ›
|Screenshots from FreeCAD version 0.19|
|Initial release||29 October 2002|
|Stable release||0.20.1 / 10 August 2022|
|Written in||C++, Python|
FreeCAD is organized in Workbenches, which provide different layouts of tools depending on the task at hand. This means you can do a lot with the same program, such as drafting, modeling, or assembling. In this tutorial, we'll model a simple storage chest, which can be 3D printed later on or left as a model.
In FreeCAD, the workbench responsible for making such drawings is the Drawing Workbench. The Drawing Workbench allows you to create sheets, which can be blank or use a pre-made template containing pre-drawn items on the sheet, such as borders and title block.What is the easiest 2D CAD software to use? ›
LibreCAD is a perfect free CAD software if you are a beginner looking for a program to start creating your 2D project and CAD drafting. It is an open-source CAD software available with Mac Windows and Linux. It is an easy program to get started with 2D design as it doesn't require any subscriptions or license costs.What is FreeCAD similar to? ›
- Fusion 360.
- Solid Edge.
- Creo Parametric.
FreeCAD has a steeper learning curve, whereas Fusion 360 is relatively user-friendly and intuitive. FreeCAD is still in development, whereas Fusion 360 is a complete product. FreeCAD is free to extend, whereas Fusion 360's extensions and plugins are of an additional cost.Is AutoCAD easier to use than FreeCAD? ›
You can make animations in FreeCAD and AutoCAD alike. However, it's much easier in AutoCAD. This program has everything an architecture professional needs to create a walkthrough video for their design presentation.Is LibreCAD the same as AutoCAD? ›
Comparison between LibreCAD vs AutoCAD
LibraCAD is designed for creating 2D drafting of different components of CAD related field and sectors. AutoCAD can use for development of 2D design and drafting of number of elements of engineering sector as well as other industries.
FreeCAD is built from scratch to be totally controlled by Python scripts. Almost all parts of FreeCAD, such as the interface, the scene contents, and even the representation of this content in the 3D views, are accessible from the built-in Python interpreter or from your own scripts.Which version of CAD is best? ›
Some people prefer the older versions of AutoCAD because they are more user-friendly. Others prefer the newer versions because they have more features and are easier to use. Ultimately, it depends on your personal preferences and what you need the software for. There is no one "best" AutoCAD version.What are 3 types of CAD? ›
- Types of CAD Software.
- 2 Dimensional CAD (2D CAD) ...
- 3 Dimensional CAD (3D CAD) ...
- Single-file-mode systems - This type of CAD software allows only a single user to work on a single file at a time.
FreeCAD is an open-source parametric 3D modeler made primarily to design real-life objects of any size. Parametric modeling allows you to easily modify your design by going back into your model history and changing its parameters.
Automatically. If the files are not already installed, go to the menu Edit → Preferences → Import-Export → DXF and enable the option Allow FreeCAD to automatically download and update the DXF libraries to make FreeCAD automatically download and install them.Which CAD software is easiest? ›
- 3D Builder.
- 3D Slash.
Main Differences Between FreeCAD vs Fusion 360
FreeCAD has a steeper learning curve, whereas Fusion 360 is relatively user-friendly and intuitive. FreeCAD is still in development, whereas Fusion 360 is a complete product.
Is FreeCAD completely free? FreeCAD is free. This open-source software is available for free for Linux, macOS and Windows.Which is the most used CAD software? ›
AutoCAD. One of the oldest and most used CAD software for 2D / 3D drafting & design. It has the ability to create blueprints, equipment layouts, section planes, model documentation, and more.What is the most popular CAD format? ›
STEP (File Extension: *.
STEP files are the most widely used & accepted neutral CAD format today, therefore, making it a standard across multiple industries.
- LibreCAD (2D)
- QCAD (2D)
- Draft It (By Cadlogic)
FreeCAD is one of the most popular alternatives to Solidworks. It is open-source parametric software with a great community working on improving its features and helping other users. This CAD software gives you the most popular 3D modeling tools such as booleans, extrude, etc.Is DXF or DWG better? ›
DWG files are more compact than DXF files, and can also store a greater variety of files. DWG files use the zeroes and ones of binary code, while DXF files use text-based coding (ASCII). Binary code is more compact and DWG files tend to be about 25% smaller.Which version of AutoCAD is best for beginners? ›
AutoCAD LT is a good option if you only need basic 2D drawing capabilities, while AutoCAD 2016 or 2017 may be a better choice if you need more features and functionality.
FreeCAD is also preferred for large collaborative projects where file compatibility is required because it is accessible to everyone/ open-source. Fusion 360 is primarily used for small-scale mechanical design, computer-aided manufacturing, and woodworking. It's also famous for its product and collaborative design.Is Fusion 360 or Sketchup better? ›
Sketchup comes with many extra tools for more complex modelling and better usability. Fusion 360 looks more like a traditional CAD layout while Sketchup's layout is a lot simpler. Sketchup is focused on 3D design, which it makes seriously simple.