The Best CAD Software for 2024

The Best CAD Software for 2024

Computer-aided design (CAD) tools are used in mechanical engineering, product development, architecture, and even interior design. They allow everyone from students and hobbyists to skilled drafters to turn ideas into realistic 3D prototypes—and are often a key early stage of producing cars, boats, consumer goods, and many other products.

In this guide, we’re taking a closer look at 10 of the best CAD software options available right now. Whether you’re just starting out and in need of a free CAD program or you’re an experienced pro interested in working independently, you’ll find a helpful tool on this list:

  1. Tinkercad
  2. SketchUp
  3. Fusion 360
  4. Solidworks
  5. Blender
  6. AutoCAD
  7. FreeCAD
  8. Rhinoceros 3D
  9. PTC Creo
  10. CATIA

1. Tinkercad

Tinkercad

Tinkercad is a free modeling program from Autodesk, the maker of several professional-grade CAD programs. It contains tools for entry-level digital design, and you can use it to explore:

  • 3D design
  • Circuit design
  • Coding
  • Simulation development

Anyone can use Tinkercad, but it has a particularly student-friendly user interface—as well as built-in tools to facilitate group classroom use. Whether you're teaching yourself CAD or leading instruction on the topic, Tinkercad's tools are a good way to get started without being overwhelmed.

Best for: Learning the basics of CAD and 3D modeling

Experience level: Students and hobbyists

Compatible with: All operating systems (through the browser)

Price: Free

2. SketchUp

Sketchup

SketchUp is a free CAD software tool for designing everything from small consumer goods to skyscrapers. SketchUp supports the creation of 2D reports as well as 3D designs, and you can view models in several ways, including via:

  • Desktop and laptop computers
  • iPads
  • Chromebooks
  • Experience reality (XR) headsets

SketchUp is considered to be one of the more user-friendly CAD software options on the market. Its browser-based free version makes the tool great for hobbyists or early-career professionals. That said, if you like SketchUp and want to unlock more advanced CAD features, varying subscription plans are available.

Best for: General-purpose 3D modeling

Experience level: Hobbyist to experienced professional

Compatible with: ChromeOS, MacOS, Windows

Price: $0 to $749 per year

3. Fusion 360

Autodesk fusion

Fusion 360, made by Autodesk, is a CAD and computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) tool for manufacturing, electronics, and engineering teams. The Fusion platform connects to a variety of other tools that may be used in the fabrication and production process. Multiple users can work on Fusion files at the same time. You can use the platform to design products for:

  • CNC machining
  • Sheet-based fabrication
  • Injection molding

Because Fusion 360 is focused on enhancing collaboration, it's a paid and cloud-based tool—not open-source like some others on this list. Still, the ease that it brings may be well worth the cost if you're working on a mid- to large-sized team of engineers and designers.

Best for: Product design and manufacturing

Experience level: Beginner to experienced professional

Compatible with: MacOS, Windows

Price: $85 per month for one user seat

4. SolidWorks

Solidworks

SolidWorks from Dassault Systèmes is a suite of on-premises and cloud-based professional CAD/CAM solutions. The core Solidworks application supports 2D drawings and 3D models for:

  • Manufacturing
  • Mold development
  • Design analysis
  • Sheet metal fabrication
  • Welding

Interestingly, you can also sign up for a SolidWorks training subscription that includes live technical support, an online resource and tutorial library, and regular product upgrades. This makes SolidWorks a nice choice for new CAD users or teams with varying levels of experience. SoliWorks also offers special product packages for students and independent artists in need of a CAD solution.

Best for: 3D and 2D manufacturing design

Experience level: Beginner to experienced professional

Compatible with: Windows

Price: $48 per year and up

5. Blender

Blender

Blender is open-source design software used to create 3D computer graphics. While it's not a traditional CAD tool like SketchUp or Fusion 360, Blender can be useful for:

  • Visualizing concepts
  • Testing design ideas
  • Mocking up product displays

You can use Blender with traditional CAD tools, too. Some designers like to start visualizing their ideas in Blender and then export designs into a file format compatible with their 3D CAD software tool of choice. Others prefer to do their initial modeling work in a CAD program and then import it into Blender for final rendering.

Best for: 3D rendering and computer generated graphics

Experience level: Beginner to experienced professional

Compatible with: Linux, MacOS, Windows

Price: Free

6. AutoCAD

Autocad

Autodesk’s AutoCAD is an architectural CAD and landscape design software application for 2D or 3D use. It's commonly used by architects, landscape designers, and construction engineers thanks to its included toolsets for:

  • Designing buildings
  • Planning HVAC systems
  • Developing manufacturing plant layouts
  • Preparing electrical schematics

These built-in tool sets include a library of symbols and elements that you can use, which speeds up the design and rendering process. And like Autodesk Fusion, the AutoCAD product is suitable for use by teams. The tool keeps a log of recent changes and lets you roll back design history easily, so you can always see what others have done—and revert to an earlier version if needed.

Best for: Construction and landscaping design

Experience level: Beginner to experienced professional

Compatible with: MacOS, Windows

Price: $2,030 per single user license, per year for unlimited use

7. FreeCAD

FreeCAD

FreeCAD is open-source parametric 3D modeling software. When using a parametric modeler, you establish a set of rules that define your design's features and constraints. This makes it easy to speed up the process of making slight changes to your design. As a result, parametric tools like FreeCAD are great for designing real-world products that you then manufacture with:

  • 3D printers
  • CNC machines
  • Injection molding equipment

By tweaking your established rules, you can more quickly develop an entire product line or key variations on a part. If you're developing a line of similar or related products, FreeCAD is a nice choice.

Best for: Product design and manufacturing

Experience level: Intermediate to experienced professional

Compatible with: Linux, MacOS, Windows

Price: Free

8. Rhinoceros 3D

Rhino

Rhinoceros, also known as Rhino, is a CAD and 3D design tool. It enables designers in a variety of industries to quickly model their ideas and concepts—and then import or export files from tools including:

  • AutoCAD
  • SolidWorks
  • Adobe Creative Cloud

Its compatibility with Adobe software as well as Mac computers makes Rhino a favorite choice of many artists, architects, and designers in non-STEM fields. Rhino also includes a "ShrinkWrap" feature that makes it easy to form a mesh around any object and prepare designs for 3D printing.

Best for: 3D printing and product design

Experience level: Intermediate to experienced professional

Compatible with: MacOS, Windows

Price: $995 for one user (a one-time payment)

9. PTC Creo

PTC Creo

PTC Creo, formerly known as Pro/ENGINEER, is a professional CAD software platform. You can use it for parametric design as well as:

  • Direct modeling
  • Additive manufacturing
  • Internet of Things (IoT) system design
  • Model-based definition (MBD) and annotation
  • Augmented reality design review

PTC Creo even supports AI-powered generative design—just specify your design requirements and goals, and Creo will produce a file that's ready for manufacturing. This can speed up design time and makes PTC Creo an interesting choice for both independent professionals and teams working in high-volume production environments.

Best for: Systems design and manufacturing

Experience level: Experienced professional

Compatible with: Windows

Price: Upon request

10. CATIA

Catia

CATIA, also made by Dassault Systèmes, is a cognitive augmented design tool that features high geometric accuracy. It allows you to model and simulate systems in one spot and can be relied upon when developing complex systems related to:

  • Commercial ships
  • Airplanes
  • Industrial plants
  • Military defense
  • Vehicle powertrains

You can use the tool to design for a variety of production methods, too, including injection molding, tooling, stamping, and sheet metal fabrication. If you have a lot of complex, interconnected, and mechanical components to create, CATIA's a good choice.

Best for: Aerospace, automotive, marine, and industrial product design

Experience level: Experienced professional

Compatible with: Windows

Price: Upon request

Compare the best CAD software side-by-side

Platform Best for
Tinkercad Best for: Education
Works with: All operating systems
Price: Free
SketchUp Best for: General purpose 3D modeling
Works with: ChromeOS, MacOS, Windows
Price: $0 to $749 per year
Fusion 360 Best for: Product design, manufacturing
Works with: MacOS, Windows
Price: $85 per month, per user
Solidworks Best for: 3D and 2D manufacturing design
Works with: Windows
Price: $48 per year and up
Blender Best for: 3D rendering
Works with: Linux, MacOS, Windows
Price: Free
AutoCAD Best for: Construction, landscaping design
Works with: MacOS, Windows
Price: $2,030 per year, per user
FreeCAD Best for: Product design, manufacturing
Works with: Linux, MacOS, Windows
Price: Free
Rhinoceros 3D Best for: 3D printing product design
Works with: MacOS, Windows
Price: $995 per user (one-time fee)
PTC Creo Best for: Systems design
Works with: Windows
Price: Upon request
CATIA Best for: Aerospace, automotive, marine, and industrial design
Works with: Windows
Price: Upon request

Find CAD jobs on Upwork

Whether you’re an electrical engineer, a mechanical designer, an architect, or an artist, you’ll find that CAD skills are in demand. Upwork makes it easy to connect with clients in need of your design and rendering services across a wide range of industries. All you need to get started is a free account. Log in or sign up today to begin browsing available CAD jobs on Upwork.

If you’re a client with design needs, find the best CAD experts on our Upwork Talent Marketplace™.

Upwork is not affiliated with and does not sponsor or endorse any of the tools or services discussed in this article. These tools and services are provided only as potential options, and each reader and company should take the time needed to adequately analyze and determine the tools or services that would best fit their specific needs and situation. Prices are current at the time of writing and may change over time based on each service’s offerings.

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The Best CAD Software for 2024
Emily Gertenbach
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Emily Gertenbach is a B2B writer who creates SEO content for humans, not just algorithms. As a former news correspondent, she loves digging into research and breaking down technical topics. She specializes in helping independent marketing professionals and martech SaaS companies connect with their ideal business clients through organic search.

The Best CAD Software for 2024
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