best way to learn Solidworks

I’m new to product design because my background is in architecture. I’ve decided to apply to school for id and have been taking design sketching and model making classes, as I piece my portfolio together.
What’s the best way to learn solidworks? Is there a book that you recommend?
My other option is to take a class at a community college for 6 hours a week geared toward mechanical drafting/engineering…not really sure how to learn it since I don’t have any experience…

Pick up a copy of the student version. Go through all of the tutorials and then model everything sitting on your desk or in your kitchen or whatever. In my experience, the best way to learn the program was to actively engage myself in using the program and learn by doing.

For things beyond the basic stuff you can work through some of the books authored by Matt Lombard:

Start with the Solidworks Part Bible and move to the Surfacing book and if you want to get into master modeling techniques and assembly management, you can go through the Assemblies book as well.

Besides what is covered in the books, anything that you are not able to readily figure out from the tutorials or the help section can also usually be found online in the form of a forum posting or maybe a free tutorial PDF.

I also used a tutorial series from this company:

It went through how to do use each command, which was somewhat helpful. The videos were a click-by-click sort of thing that was pretty dry. The content had a wide breadth but some parts were lacking in depth or in explanation of the meaning behind WHY you were clicking on things in a certain way or order.

Best of luck in your studies.

I’ll second Sprockets.I feel like I’ve had to learn Solidworks the hard way so hopefully I can help.

Learn the basics from tutorials in the Help section and then push yourself to try more and more advanced things. Have a plan for building a model before you start it. I found it really helpful to literally write down my plan, feature-by-feature. You can save yourself a lot of headaches this way.

One of the best suggestions I have for a beginner is that if you wish there was a tool for a job, there most likely is. Solidworks sort of buries all of these tools. If you are stumped go to Tools>Customize> and flip through the Toolbars and Commands Tabs. In Commands hover over the tool’s icons. You can literally click and drag these icons into your feature manager/toolbar. Use the customization section to help learn by trial. To me, half the battle was learning what tools were available to you.

There are a lot of good tutorials. If you can watch someone experienced work all the better, ask questions.

I found Matt Lombard’s Advanced Surfacing really helpful, and occasionally I still go back to the book as a reference.

I’ve seen novices come out of the Solidworks courses looking professional. If you can get an employer (even part-time) to pay for this, it’s well worth it.

Great advice above.

Acquire a copy somehow.
Learn the basic tools, watch a few online tutorials that look decent.
Develop a design you are really excited about, WITHOUT going into CAD, based on sketches and foam models.
Try to recreate your design as perfectly as possible. If you have trouble, ask Solidworks veterans (or modeling veterans in general) for advice on what functions to use to the surfaces you want.

Once you’ve tried this a few times, the next time before going into CAD you should review mentally or even write down the chronology of the easiest, simplest way to get what you want, and go from there.

Hehe, sounds like you have not used an older version of ProE. Even the later releases of Wildfire have an interface that will make you cry trying to find what you want in a 4 deep series of menus.

I have a counter set up on my workstation that logs how many times I click the mouse (any of the three buttons counts as one click). On a Solidworks heavy day I average around 8000 clicks in a day. When I am cranking on ProE I average around 11500 clicks in a day (more like 14000 if I am detailing a weldment or creating drawings). Even though I know where things are, it still takes something like 18 or 20 clicks to add a simple cosmetic fillet weld.

Nerds of the world, unite! I have that, too…

I learned by tutorials, etc. But I was also sent to classes through the VAR of my employer. Pretty basic stuff, but it teaches you some best practices which can really help you when you start getting into complicated assemblies, etc.

It makes me cry even watching tutorials for those programs. I have my own cynical theory that the clicks and convolutions are built to provide dependence on the software, and a tutorial and maintenance ecosystem around the software. 11,500 clicks a day is a literal physical investment.

Joseph, you have asked a clear question about learning Solidworks, you have some good clear answers above. My own gentle advice is to be wary and aware of the structures that programs like Solidworks bring to the design process. There is a very specific, rigid approach that is inherent in all software methods of interpreting reality. Starting in design benefits from freedom to explore and express without constraints.

You learn by doing, so:

  1. Buy a vernier caliper;
  2. Get something small (clothes peg, BIC pen, LEGO minifig);
  3. Measure it up with the caliper and then try and model it yourself using your dimensions and notes;
  4. When you get stuck, use a SolidWorks model resource like and find something similar and see how that feature was solved;

Actually modelling LEGO is good because you can use one part to learn about configurations and design tables, and then when ‘constructing’ with the LEGO you’ve made, you’ll learn about assemblies. Plastic parts are easy to render- by that I mean you can quickly get something photorealistic:

I’d recommend get comfortable constructing with solids before moving onto surfaces- same difference mostly but I found ‘thinking’ in solids easier at first.

That said, don’t design in cad- learn to sketch first. I’d recommend any time spent before your course would be better spent drawing than in any PC program. This is great advice as to why (from the Pratt ID curriculum):

Why is drawing so important TO YOUR FUTURE AS A DESIGNER?

_DRAWING IS THE SKILL MOST ASKED FOR BY EMPLOYERS. When it comes to hiring industrial designers, employers are demanding an arsenal of skills. Computer skills, verbal communication skills, the ability to come up with innovative ideas, knowledge of current market trends, styles and colors—are highly desirable skills that are sought by many employers. But even with a heavy focus on computer skills, the ability to convey ideas through hand sketching is essential. Here’s why:

  1. Drawing is the fastest way to communicate your ideas—to clients, your employer and to your fellow designers. As is often the case, a sketch provides the impetus for further dialog and brainstorming, which are essential for innovation. It is the language of designers.
  2. DRAWING IS A POWERFUL IDEATION TOOL. Throughout your education and your career, you will use drawing to come up with ideas, work out design problems, or expand one idea into DOZENS of ideas. The more ideas, the better chance you have of one of them being a great idea, which is what you’re being paid for.
  3. a hand sketch shows excitement and passion in a way that a computer rendering cannot. Computer renderings are too perfect, often stale, and lack creative expression. A human touch makes your ideas come alive, bringing excitement to your creative vision.
  4. The ability to sketch by hand SHOWS YOU HAVE TALENT! Look at the design portfolios at Which ones impress you the most? Regardless of ones ability to come up with innovative ideas, a well-executed sketch declares,

    “I have talent!”

    Any designer—with enough patience and training—can do a computer rendering with realistic lighting and reflections. But do a quick, 10-second sketch at a brainstorming session, and others will regard you as being highly creative—and an essential part of the design effort. In addition, you can sketch anywhere—on a blackboard in a meeting, or during your daily commute. You are not a slave to a computer and subject to technological mishaps, hard drive crashes, or power failures.

    drawing skills can be learned whether you have a natural talent for drawing, or you struggle with it, However, developing these skills does not happen simply by watching your instructor do demos in class. It requires a lot of hard work, dedication and practice. Those students who make this class a priority, walk away with a sense of empowerment and self-confidence they will build upon throughout their design career.

    make drawing your number one priority, developing your skills so that you can spend your time actively DESIGNING instead of staring passively at a computer screen as you wait for it to render one idea at a time._

Thank you for all the great comments, suggestions, and insights. It feels as though I have an arduous task ahead of me.

@sanjyoo9- Thank you for that blurb from PrattID. Have never seen that before. I actually just completed 2 semesters of design sketching and hand rendering classes, so I believe I have a great foundation.

For starters, I recommend the simple tutorials that come with the student version of SolidWorks then tackle the tutorials on cadjunkie. com.

Once you’re done with those or as your going through the material at cadjunkie start modeling things you have around you, or better yet, model your own design ideas.

after you’ve gone through the tutorials and tried to model something, these are two really good resources

First, They have thousands of videos to watch about any and every aspect of the program.

Second, EACH model is a tutorial. This is not to say that you would model the same way that each individual person did as much as it gives a ton of insight as to how different tools/features can be used.

Above all else to remember is that “There is no Spoon”…

Thanks for the discussion, I am on my way looking for a good method to learn solidworks as well. I will defiantly try some online videos.

Once you get past the basics, I found the thing that helped me the most for getting to the next level was to take a part of someone who’s been doing it forever and roll back their feature tree, looking at how each feature was done and how it contributed to the whole. Did that for a few parts and asked questions about why they did certain things and I’m probably 10 times more efficient now than before that exercise.

It just takes a lot of time and effort, and swearing at your screen.

Start simple. Get in the habit of using planes, relations and defining your sketches. I always try to make sure I use the front plane for the front view, top for the top view and right for the right view. Sounds simple, but it becomes a massive headache if you don’t do this.

Also, centre your sketches, try to make your right/front plane in the middle of a cylinder or down the centre of your object so when you make an assembly it’s easy to locate things.

The solidworks forums are great. Matt Lombard’s bibles are ok but I spent 95% of the time I needed help on the forums instead.

One good thing about Lombard’s bibles is his section on customising the settings. If you make the letter ‘o’ open the options dialogue, drag all the exotic tools into your toolbar etc… you’ll be making crazy surfaces in no time.

Good luck.

learn surfacing as fast as you can. Nothing beats being pushed by a passionate instructor that preps you even in the first week to utilize surfaces.