A list of the best free CAD software was just asking to be compiled seeing that so many novice designers are always on the lookout for such CAD tools. There is no doubt that a computer-aided design tool greatly increases your productivity, while also enhancing the quality of your design project.
Plus, there is the added benefit of clutter-free communications that gives professionals a satisfying work life. However, such CAD tools have become pretty expensive over the years taking them out of reach of design students and freelancers.
If you’re among them, you can rest assured that you’ve come to the right place. This list has been populated by some feature-rich CAD software tools that can be yours free of cost.
10 Best Free CAD Software To Use in 2021
We have included in the list two kinds of free CAD software. One among them includes CAD programs that are completely free and open source in nature, while the other features paid CAD programs that are available free for students and hobbyists. Either way, you can download each of the 10 CAD programs listed below without as much as spending a dollar.
These versions have all the basic design functions of the paid versions, so you’ll be good to go once you download them. Do watch out for a couple of CAD software utilities that are completely browser-based, which means they can run on any platform, no matter how average your machine is.
1 – SketchUp
Among the most popular 3D modeling and design tools out there, SketchUp lets you design everything from a large building to a tiny doghouse project. It is used by professionals in a variety of fields that include architecture, interior design, landscaping, civil and mechanical engineering, film, and video game design.
SketchUp comes with its own online library of free model assemblies in a section called 3D Warehouse, to which users can contribute their own design models. The CAD software features drawing layout functionality, supports third-party plug-ins, and even enables the placement of its models within Google Earth.
This excellent free CAD software is available in various tiers, but only one among them is free – the web version. It is to be noted that it doesn’t support extensions, but it’s still an extremely useful CAD software for beginners.
Despite the fact that it works inside the browser, there is still tons of robust functionality packed into this CAD solution. In fact, it uses the same core technology that the main version of the software uses. It lets you import STL files, and export in STL as well as PNG formats.
The professional versions of SketchUp, which include its Pro, Studio, and Shop editions are available in the form of subscriptions. The Pro version has its price set at $299 per year, while the Studio version’s price is $1,199. The Shop version is the cheapest among them, due to its price of $119.
Website (Free web version)
2 – FreeCAD
One look at the diverse list of features of this free CAD software offers and you’ll be surprised at the fact that it’s available at the much-loved price of free. It’s a parametric 3D modeling program made primarily to design real-life products of any size.
If you have basic knowledge of design, learning this 2D and 3D CAD software will be a breezy experience for you. Most of its basic CAD tools are always displayed on the interface, which is also very easy to customize.
As much as it is used by designers from all fields, this free and open source 3D modeling software is particularly useful for mechanical engineers working on their design projects. And its open source nature allows its users to extend its functionality using the Python programming language, which is another brilliant FreeCAD attribute.
This CAD solution comes with an MSI installer module for Windows, which enables you to deploy it over Active Directory and Group policy. The highly respected CAD program even features macro recording and editing support. We also particularly like the parametric model capabilities of FreeCAD that allow it to automatically re-generate the model by changing some variable values.
And the fact that it is cross-platform in nature means you can work across formats from whatever PC you can find. You can download this 3D CAD software on Windows, Mac, and Linux right now.
3 – AutoCAD
As far as CAD software and drafting tools go, this one is among the finest ones available out there. It has been developed by Autodesk, which is also known for its 3ds Max and Maya programs used in film visual effects and game development. It’s a 2D and 3D CAD software that was first released way back in 1982.
Naturally then, you can expect the decades to further development to have made it one of the best design software around. AutoCAD is available in both cloud-based and on-premise deployment options.
This entry on our roster of best free CAD software supports 2D CAD drafting for creating custom dimensions for drawings, and replicates these conventions for other drawings across the same project, while there’s also support for 3D modeling, which allows users to visualize drawings using solid, surface, and mesh modeling processes.
In terms of extensions, this free CAD software supports a variety of APIs for customization and automation. These include AutoLISP, Visual LISP, VBA, .NET, and ObjectARX.
And in order to cater to a number of fields, Autodesk has created a few vertical design programs as well that you can access for gaining discipline-specific features and enhancements. An architecture student can choose AutoCAD Architecture perhaps, or a civil engineer can go for Autodesk Civil 3D.
AutoCAD is no doubt one of the best CAD software you can download right now. But it’s free only if you are a student, educator, or an educational institution.
This free version is functionally identical to the full commercial version, however, DWG files created or edited in it have an internal bit-flag set, taking away the freedom of using them for commercial purposes. Apart from Windows and Mac, AutoCAD can also be accessed from iOS and Android devices.
These mobile versions not only let you view and edit DWG files on the fly but also allow you to create new CAD drawings on the tiny screens of your smartphones.
Website (Free for students, educators, and educational institutions)
4 – LibreCAD
This next entry to our lineup of free computer aided design software is aimed at 2D designers and is available across platforms on Windows, Mac, and Linux. It is free and easy to install, while its interface is pretty similar to that of AutoCAD.
The fact that this software is open source allows the community to perform a myriad of experiments with it and trust us, this has helped the 2D software grow tremendously over the years.
LibreCAD is available in over thirty languages and supports the AutoCAD DXF file format internally for importing and saving 2D design files, though it allows you to export in many other formats.
This 2D CAD software offers a variety of drawing and altering devices that enable the digitization of topographic outlines rapidly. LibreCAD even supports interactive geometry design, ray-tracing for rendering and analysis, benchmark suite, and more.
You can employ it to create geometric 2D shapes, circuit boards, mathematical figures, and more. Its plugin support is a huge advantage giving you the ability to add advanced 2D CAD tools just by installing third-party software.
For anyone on the lookout for free CAD software for beginners, LibreCAD is the best 2D CAD program out there.
5 – OpenSCAD
Another cross-platform tool on our list of best free CAD software is OpenSCAD, a brilliantly designed script-only based modeler that uses its own description language.
Unlike most other free software for creating 3D models, this one does not focus on the artistic aspects of 3D modeling but instead on the CAD aspects, giving you a unique user experience.
It’s meant for you if your project involves creating 3D models of machine parts. It’s not an interactive modeler, but rather a 3D compiler of sorts that reads a script file describing the object and renders the 3D model from this script file.
This way, the designer gets full control over the modeling process, enabling them to easily change any step or make designs that are defined by configurable parameters.
This free CAD software lets you design with two main modeling techniques. One is constructive solid geometry (CSG) and the other, extrusion of 2D design outlines. Just like most other programs on this list, it even lets you import Autocad DXF files to your project.
Available for Windows, Linux, and Mac, OpenSCAD bears a pretty intuitive interface as well. Most noteworthy is its wheel hub that is generated so you can parametrize for various widths and diameters, and then assemble a larger object, for example, a cart.
6 – LeoCAD
Here’s a fun little addition to this compilation. This 3D CAD software allows you to build virtual designs using LEGO bricks. It’s hence suited for educational purposes and happens to be among the best design software for beginners.
Its simple interface has been specifically designed to allow new users to start creating LEGO brick models without spending too much time learning it.
Plus, it even features robust features that allow experienced users to build models by using advanced techniques. All the LEGO bricks are categorized properly, making them easy to find.
Once dropped into place, these bricks can be moved and rotated, while you can also move them up, down, or sideways.
LeoCAD is free, open source, and cross-platform in nature. It happens to be fully compatible with LDraw Standard and related tools, whereas it reads and writes LDR and MPD files so that you can share and download models from the Internet.
LeoCAD uses the LDraw parts library as well, which is populated with more than 10,000 different parts and continues to receive updates.
You can download this 2D and 3D CAD software for Windows, Linux, and Mac machines through its official website.
7 – Tinkercad
Tinkercad is a web-based 3D modeling program that you can run from your browser. It was launched in 2011 and has since become a beloved CAD tool for those who wish to quickly engineer 3D printing models.
It’s also used to teach entry-level constructive solid geometry in schools. Users of this 3D crafter are treated to a simplified constructive solid geometry method of constructing models.
Your designs are made up of primitive shapes that are either ‘solid’ or ‘hole.’ You can create new shapes by combining solids and holes together and the resultant object can be assigned the property of sold or hole.
Three formats are supported as far as imports are concerned – STL and OBJ for 3D, and 2-dimensional SVG shapes for extruding into 3D shapes. And as for exports, Tinkercad allows you to save your models in STL or OBJ formats, allowing easy 3D printing of your article.
Among the many features of this 3D printing tool is one that is quite fascinating – its ability to let you export 3D models to Minecraft Java Edition.
Tinkercad even comes with a gallery where 3D printing designs made by other users are shared. That said, it’s not a very robust program and is hence something that only beginners will enjoy.
You can access all its features completely free through your browser irrespective of what operating system you’re on. This flexibility is one of the major reasons why so many people we meet love using this program for serving their 3D printing needs.
8 – Onshape
Onshape is a brilliant choice for those looking for free computer aided design software as it’s a cloud-based program delivered using the Software as a Service (SAAS) model.
That means you can easily access its features not just through your desktop browser but also through your Android and iOS devices. Having 3D CAD software that you can use to alter your designs using your smartphone is really quite convenient.
Its cloud-based nature also makes it easy for others to collaborate with you on your design project. Multiple designers can work together editing a shared document on this software.
Onshape is aimed mainly at mechanical CAD (MCAD) but is also extensively used in the product development process and machinery design across many industries, including consumer electronics, medical devices, 3D modeling and printing, mechanical machinery, machine parts, and industrial equipment.
Looking at it one would wonder how software this advanced is offered for free. The fact is, it isn’t. However, if you happen to be a student, an educator, a hobbyist, or intend to use it for non-commercial purposes, you can definitely claim the free version, which comes equipped with a wide range of features.
Onshape is simply a flawless CAD tool that’s made great by its ability to work on Android and iOS devices.
Website (Free for students, educators, and hobbyists)
9 – nanoCAD
nanoCAD is a lightweight 2D and 3D design software that’s very similar to AutoCAD. In fact, it features similar commands and even an identical working method. nanoCAD also resembles AutoCAD in the interface department, which is why it is widely regarded as one of the best free CAD software to download right now.
Its free version bears a similar interface to that of AutoCAD’s pre-2009 editions, whereas the paid version goes for the design of AutoCAD 2022.
That makes the transition from AutoCAD to nanoCAD or vice versa a seamless experience as you’d already know all the features to exploit.
This CAD software provides a full suite of basic and advanced CAD features that one would need to create 3D models in DWG-compatible CAD files.
These include tool palettes that allow quick and easy access to your favorite commands and blocks. Another is Dynamic Input, which grants you a command-line interface for inputs like the length of a line or the radius of a circle, thus simplifying the product design process.
Another important nanoCAD feature is Sheet Sets that allows you to control hundreds of drawings and views from different drawing files from a single source.
What’s more, this software brings with it several end-user APIs that can be harnessed for automating complex CAD designs.
This is particularly useful for companies that regularly create similar products without going through the difficult CAD drafting phase.
nanoCAD is offered as a free trial but you can keep using its freeware version however long you want. If you wish to use it for educational and evaluation purposes, you can use it without registering and activating it again your email address.
But if you do wish to use it for commercial purposes, you will need to register and activate it.
Website (Free for educational purposes)
10 – Fusion 360
Fusion 360 is another among the many CAD tools made by Autodesk that you can use for free. Thanks to its tailored CAD features, it is extensively used in the manufacturing industry to create 3D models.
The main appeal of this option in our roster of best free CAD sofwatre is that it’s cloud storage-based allowing it to seamlessly run on any system irrespective of the hardware. Fusion 360 is a great learning tool as it’s focused on building concepts first.
It’s a one-stop-shop for satisfying all your 3D design needs. Not only does it let you create desired 3D model designs, but also enables the rendering of complicated mechanical structures, the designing of a custom toolpath, or the running of simulations.
This cloud-based product even facilitates easy collaboration between team members. Its all-encompassing dashboard features a broad view of all the design aspects you need to look at and even a set of CAD tools meant to make collaboration a seamless process.
For everyone who uses it, Fusion 360 can lead to faster solving of any design challenges they face. They can simultaneously generate multiple options of their 3D design while consolidating parts, reducing weight, and improving overall product performance.
They can even test their designs to ensure that they will survive real-world conditions using one model.
Using Fusion 360 is a costly affair for professionals or enterprises, however, students and hobbyists can use it for free. This free version does come with limited features though.
You don’t get 3+2 milling, 4 and 5-axis milling, mill turning, setup probing, and automatic tool change, among other things.
Website (Free for students and hobbyists)
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. Is there a free AutoCAD program?
AutoCAD is a CAD and drafting tool sold by Autodesk. This is the CAD tool that has been setting benchmarks for computer aided design software since way back in the 1980s. Naturally then, it’s not available for free if you wish to use it for commercial purposes.
However, if you happen to be a student, an educator, or an educational institute, you can easily download and use the software, provided there’s no commercial use. Alternatively, you can choose from any other completely free CAD applications available out there, like FreeCAD, LibreCAD, OpenSCAD, and more.
Q. Is FreeCAD any good?
FreeCAD is the first recommendation that any designer will give you if you ask them what the best free CAD software is. You can use it as a parametric 3D computer-aided design (CAD) modeler and a building information modeling (BIM) software, while it also supports the finite element method (FEM). FreeCAD features a plethora of CAD tools and supports a range of file formats.
Moreover, this 3D crafter is open source in nature, allowing the community to develop extended functionalities for it using the Python programming language. If you ask us, FreeCAD is the most complete CAD tool among those that are available free of cost.
Q. Is FreeCAD easy to use?
Any software will take some time to learn if you’re not familiar with how CAD tools work. But if you have used similar tools before, you can rest assured that using FreeCAD will be a piece of cake.
All its basic CAD functions are always displayed on the interface, while it also provides a detailed view of your designs from various dimensions.
You can rest assured that you can start your 3D modeling journey with FreeCAD without any worries.
Q. What is the easiest CAD program to learn?
We would suggest that beginners opt for AutoCAD. It’s a very user-friendly software that doesn’t take much time to have you creating 3D model drawings using your computer.
Its selection process might prove to be somewhat challenging to beginners, but once you get hold of the interface, even that will be a simple task.
SketchUp is also a great free option for beginners. Its extensive set of modeling tools coupled with its easy-to-understand user interface make this CAD software really easy for beginners to pick up.