Interested in learning how to design 3-dimensional objects but don't know where to start? We recommend TinkerCAD. This is a web-browser-based software that is free to use with sign-up that enables beginning CAD designers to get their feet wet in the design process. Using TinkerCAD is extremely easy and intuitive and is a great place to start your 3D design journey.
To begin designing, head over to tinkercad.com and sign up for an account. You will automatically be directed to their first tutorial and can follow along to learn the basics. I recommend going through the first few tutorials just to familiarize yourself with the layout and the functions that are available to you. You can always exit the lesson by selecting the "exit lesson" option at the top of the page. To get to the empty workplane showed below, choose the "start a new project" option.
For this demonstration, I will show you how you can create a custom keychain using the options provided in tinkerCAD or your own artwork.
On the left side of the page are your View options. You can zoom in and out with the "+" and "-" signs and pan around the 3D plane with the D-pad. On the right side of the page you will see a sort of tool bar that contains the functions you will use to create your object. To get your base design, select a shape after clicking on the "geometric" option (image of solid cube) and drag it into the workplane. I have chosen the cylinder.
You will notice that at the top right of your workplane there is a small box titled "Inspector." This allows you to determine whether your object is a solid (and its representative color) or if it is a hole. This will come in handy later, but for now we will keep the Inspector as it is.
I have chosen a cylinder as my first shape. The default size is 20mmx20mm but you can adjust the size of your shape along all axes by dragging the small white boxes into your desired positions as shown:
After you have chosen the dimensions of your base shape, it is time to either upload your own artwork or use the existing shape, symbol, number, or letter options that are available to you by default on tinkerCAD.
To use your own artwork, all you have to do is take a photo of or scan the art you want to become a part of your model and convert it into an SVG file using this online file converter. Please keep in mind that for the best results, you will want to use pictures that have high contrast and that are relatively simple. Using a black marker on a white paper produces great results as in the example of the flower to the right. You also have the option to use artwork that you have found on the internet by directly converting an image using its URL.
Sidenote: If you are familiar with Adobe Illustrator and work with more complex art sketches, it would be a good idea to convert your sketches into vector art format to reduce noise and then use this image to convert to the SVG file.
Once your SVG file is ready, go back to your tinkerCAD workplane and go to the "Import" section on the right toolbar. Choose your SVG file saved onto your computer (or the URL).
The larger the file is, the longer it will take to upload so I recommend sizing down your file by reducing the scale percentage - this is recommended for most scans or photos because these files are usually quite large. For my example, I have chosen a 15% scale and 10 mm height (both scale and height can be adjusted afterwards as well, so it is best to start small). After doing so, select "Import." Your image should appear in 3D on the workplane with your designated height as shown below in my project.
If you want to create a design using the shapes, symbols, numbers, or letters already available on tinkerCAD, you may directly select and drag the desired objects from the toolbar as I had already shown in the first step (when I chose the cylinder as my shape of choice) and continue with each following step.
Then you can use the D-pad on the left to change your viewpoint so you can easily drag and resize your second object into the correct position and size. Below are the views of my object from above (left) and from the side (right). I decreased the size of the flower to fit within the cylinder and reduced the height to 8mm.