Practical Magic: Tinker, Maker, Creator

We dove into 3D design right before the end of last year, playing around with MakerBot’s Printshop iPad app and getting you guys thinking in 3D.  Printshop is great, but it is a little limited if you had something in mind beyond a bracelet, a vase, a medal or a ring.

Enter Tinkercad, a great tool for 3D design newbies and more experienced pros alike.  Here at the library, we imported the wonderful Wayne of New Heights to teach a three week course on Tinkercad to not only our patrons but two of our librarians as well.  (Big thanks, Wayne!)  If you missed out on this 3D design course, never fear, it won’t be the last—keep an eye on our calendar of events for upcoming classes and demos.

While a short blog post can’t compete with four and a half hours of teaching, I’ve found that Tinkercad is not only a useful tool, it’s fun to use and a great starting place for those interested in 3D design but overwhelmed by the number of software options out there (hello, yes, I have been there).  So, without further ado, a brief introduction to the wonders of Tinkercad.

For Beginners:

One of the best things offered by Tinkercad (and the first thing you run into after creating your account) are their tutorials, which cover everything from using your mouse to navigate in 3D, changing your view of the object you’re working on, to using Tinkercad’s various tools to create objects from scratch.  As you work your way through the lessons, you build on the skills learned in previous tutorials, so that by the time you’ve worked your way through the basics, you are ready to tackle their more advanced lessons or strike out on your own.  Best of all, Tinkercad includes a list of all available keyboard shortcuts, so you’ll be selecting, pasting, dropping and duplicating in no time.

Tinkercad lessons
Just the beginning

For the More Advanced:

Once you’ve mastered (or in my case, are able to flounder through designing) the basics, Tinkercad also has video tutorials covering more advanced material (preparing prints for dual extrusion, anyone?), and many shorter videos with quick “Tinker Tips” to keep you going.  Need more?  The Tinkercad community and forums are an excellent resource for any sticky issues or nagging questions you might have.

And because Tinkercad is web-based, it is really useful for on the fly design or taking a second to look more closely at an object found elsewhere online—making small tweaks can make a big difference in printability.  Customizing and personalizing objects is easy-peasy too, provided those objects are under a Creative Commons license, and most are (this lovely license allows makers of all sorts to tinker with others’ designs).  Making something your own, or making something of your own—bringing something to life—is pretty darn satisfying.

It might be a very simple, web-based program, but Tinkercad gives users the tools to start designing on their own, to think and design in a new dimension, and the foundation to move on to bigger projects and more robust software.  Because we all start somewhere, right?

Tinkercad key
Made from scratch, no less!

Want to learn more about 3D printing and 3D design?  Check our events calendar and Facebook events page for details on upcoming workshops!


Gutenberg enjoys humming, getting crafty, and causing mischief around the library. Ada enjoys reading up on the latest 3D printing technology and researching tips and tricks to make life easier. Gute and Ada’s people enjoy tinkering, making, and discovering ingenious solutions to everyday problems. If you have questions or suggestions for future Practical Magic posts, please feel free to email us at

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