Background: I recently upgraded my Mac, and it happens to have a pretty nice graphics card (not that my old one wasn't nice ... in 2006). While I didn't upgrade my Mac for this purpose, it has occurred to me that my life might be a tiny bit more efficient if I used some of this amazing graphics power that I now possess (and perhaps my old Wacom tablet) for sketching 3D designs, rather than my current method*.

So I hopped on over to the Mac App Store, typed in "3d modeling" (and every synonym I could think of), and was disappointed to see a pretty slim selection of apps.

Is there a good basic app for creating 3D objects? Free is good, cheap is also good -- I don't mind paying but "3D modeling" frequently seems to mean "here's a $10,000 program that lets you make Lord of the Rings", and I'm sure it's amazing for that, but I don't need that.

I need: ability to create simple objects, mostly square or circular, including CSG, and to move them around and look at them from different angles.

I don't need: any particular file formats, or textures, or animation, or smooth organic surfaces like human faces.

If you think "designing a chest of drawers", that's about the level of sophistication that I'm looking for. What TextEdit.app is for words, I want for 3D objects.

SketchUp is almost what I'm looking for, except it's kind of awkward and not entirely Mac-like, and to do any CSG you need the $500 "Pro" version (which I might get eventually, but it seems like there could well be something better and cheaper).

I'd almost be happy with something like POVRAY: the CSG is nice, the price can't be beat, but unfortunately it lacks any interactivity.

* (It involves whiteboards, paperboard and glue, and listening to old Yes albums while trying to visualize how things will fit together in space.)

10 Answers 10


Have you tried Blender?

  • 1
    I'd just like to point out that Blender is extremely polished for an open-source app! It is quite nice to use, once you get used to it, and it has the best trackpad support of any cross-platform app I've ever seen. (:
    – SilverWolf
    Jan 10, 2019 at 16:41

My personal favourite is Maxon Cinema 4D. It has a nice learning curve, is fairly respected in the industry and does what you require very well (simple objects). It has a slightly Adobe-like feel to it. I found that for complex organic modelling you'd need to start looking at Maya or 3DS Max (PC on Bootcamp).

However, these options cost quite a lot - though C4D is less than many applications and is modular.

A cheaper ($99) option is Cheetah, available through the app store. Basic but nice.

As Nix said, Blender is a fantastic, free option. I just found the learning curve is a little more tricky than C4D.


AutoDesk makes a Mac version of Maya. I'm partial to Maya as I learned 3D on it. If you're a student, you can get an educational discount, which is how I got it about 4 years ago. http://www.autodesk.com/products/autodesk-maya/free-trial

As others mentioned, there is also Blender which is free. I tried it but it there is a bit of a learning curve as matt_w mentioned.

  • 1
    I would add that Maya is free for students through the AutoDesk web site.
    – Dave
    Aug 29, 2013 at 1:52

Here's a pretty big list, with, presumably, all the info you might need. A description, the price, the requirements, and links to the Downloads page.


A few years ago (2009) I compared the input and output formats available on a few 3D model apps. Here is my list:

opens: byu, jvx, obj
exports: byu, fe, {jvd, jvx}, mgs, mpl, obj, off, stl, wrl

opens: wrl {including ver 1}, 3ds, obj, 3dmf
exports: 3dmf

opens: fbx
exports: dxf, obj, 3ds

opens: x3d, wrl

Instant Player
opens: x3d, wrl, [Instant Player Engine], [OpenSG Scene]

opens: mpl
exports: x3d, dae, pov, dxf


I think you should have another look at SketchUp.

It's 'Mac-like' quality (on the Mac platform) has improved a bit and, I'm not sure I understand your CSG needs, but I would guess the increasing number of plug-ins now available makes it one of the best tools around. I can't think of anything better and cheaper.

I teach architecture and many of my students use the free SketchUp version in combination with Render[in], Artlantis or the new Maxwell Render for SketchUp plugin.


Take a look at Shade 3D. You can get Shade 3D for Unity for free, and Shade 3D Basic is only $99. It has modeling, rendering and a lot of features you may not need now, but may decide you want later. Plus, its easy to get started with.


I would recommend 'Hexagon' from Daz3D, which they offer for free and it meets all your requirements.


My personal recomendation is SCULPTRIS


Free, simple, easy but powerfull.

ONLY use it for modeling ORGANIC models, i doesn's work with geometric or square models, remember, only organic. Later its perfect complement is ZBRUSH for amazing modeling from sculptris and great painting tools.


I would recommend Verto Studio 3D. It is on the Mac App Store

  • 2
    Can you explain why you recommend it? What does it do well? What are its limitations?
    – Daniel
    Aug 29, 2013 at 2:00

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