Does anybody do product design in the free software Blender?

Does anybody do product design in the free software Blender?

This might sound like a cheesy program but with the problems of trying to get the company you work for to buy into the expensive softwares, it seems blender makes sense on a budget stance. I just don’t want to get into learning it if there is nothing redeeming about it. I noodled around with it and it seems it has potential. Can anybody tell me if it is any good?

There is no functionality in blender besides maybe rendering that lends itself to any professional ID work.

You can break ID software down into several main areas. Not every company will use all of these tools, but generally some will get through some:

Conceptualization: Sketching tools like Alias Sketchbook, Painter, Photoshop or Illustrator. Everyone uses at least 1 if not several for refined 2D concepts.

Surfacing: Alias or Rhino - useful if you combine them with a solid modeller below, or if you are only creating designs for renderings and to hand off to engineering. (You CAN build watertight geometry for rapid prototyping with each, but the tediousness of it means you’ll typically jump to a more appropriate tool)

Solid/parametric modellers: Solidworks/Pro E/Catia, while these offer most of the functionality above they also mean you can build solid, watertight parts with draft, screw bosses and other features, and build them into assembled products.

Visualization tools: This is where blender would come in. These are more traditional rendering tools like 3D Studio Max, Maya, or some of the new more ID focused visualization tools like Hypershot or Showcase. These tools are for making your designs LOOK good, but thats it.

Ultimately blender really doesn’t offer the professional design studio any value that they couldn’t easily aquire from a copy of Rhino and a license of VRay, or Solidworks and Maxwell, or Pro E and Hypershot.

Most of those combinations I just mentioned can be purchased for under $5k this is a professional business and NO business owner should expect a design firm to be able to float by on free software.

If you learn blender you’ll ultimately be wasting your time. Every kid coming out of college knows how to use Alias/Solidworks/Rhino - Blender will never be an applications schools start teaching because it’s not appropriate for design work.

Thanks for breaking it down to me. Seeing it from that point of view makes a lot of sense. I’m a good drafter and I’m trying to find a way to learn these programs to put my designs over the top but its hard to get access to the programs. I tried to get my company to buy solidworks and they weren’t having it. I’m starting to resort to the free stuff because that is all I can get my paws on. I guess I’ll have to figure something else out.

Does Rhino transition nicely to engineers or is in mostly to make the product look good for presentation? I need something that will look good for presentations and then transition nicely to production. What would work best?

If you want to be able to basic 3D modeling with a similar feel to $olidworks (I joke), you should try Alibre Design. They have an Xpress version (read, free) that is decent. If you can do some good stuff using that, maybe you can talk the higher-ups into the Solidworks purchase. Good luck!

I agree with the post that say no professional work should be done with free software. If the boss/clients don’t want to pay 1 K$ for a software they aren’t serious about design. 1K is nothing compared with, say, your annual salary.
Would they refuse to buy you a PC ? It’s the same. You need a PC to work on, and you need a specific software because your job is specific. Period.

So I would advise you to research which one of the 3 recommended (Studio/Rhino/SW) suits you best. Then download a demo version and self learn. The more “expensive” part is that one : the time you spend learning. Keep quiet about your learning. When you’re confident enough make a demo. A prepared demo, like doing some stuff then switching to a final render. Making sure they understand there was a shortcut and you don’t model something in 5 minutes !

For the money part just say that it will eventually make the way you work more efficient and they will earn more.
Like trying to find who does the modeling now and how much it cost. In one project you’re going to pay Rhino for itself and in one year AliasStudio.

Oh and ask for a class ! Even if you self learned explain you need a class. That will ease some of the 3D induced stress when you can’t figure out how to model or render this or that.

It’s really worth it. I would never go back to Illustrator rendering. I regret, when a student, that my school was so confused about teaching software.They kept switching from a wrong choice to another one.

And I also had to convince my former employee, years ago, to buy a 3D software and it took forever. They don’t necessarily trust the young designer about knowing what’s best but they themselves don’t have a clue about what’s needed ! So to avoid showing their lack of knowledge they just refuse.
When they finally decided I had already left !

Good luck. And one last thing : find a proof your competitors are using 3D software. This will usually convince them.

Are you sure your company needs it? I’d be pretty surprised that they would if they don’t have anything now. Or maybe you are just wanting to do 3d to make shiny renders like so many others…

If it’s not necessary (and most likely isn’t if the don’t have it now), I don’t think asking for it is a good idea. Makes you look like you don’t know their business or understand $.

just my 0.02$ worth. Maybe if you could further explain what you do or what the company makes it might help on giving further comments.


I’ve done some rendering of SolidWorks assemblies with the Indigo plug-in in Blender and was very impressed with the accidental results that I got by just playing around. For actual modeling though… not a good idea as has been mentioned. If anyone else would need to use them or use the file for actual solid modeling data you are asking for trouble.

I disagree with the comment that states “if we don’t already have we don’t need it”. I feel we don’t know what we are missing. I feel it is a small price to pay inorder to better compete with the competition. We make it work with 2d renderings but buyers are narrow minded. If they see a 3d rendering of a idea vs a 2d rendering, the 3d amost always look nicer and will have a better chance at getting the multi million dollar deal. If the idea transitions nicely to production, that is just gravy and saved time. I work in the fast paced toy industry and store shelves can be bought off of renderings and models. I feel we just don’t know what we are missing. I could be wrong, but presentation is everything and the more professional a idea looks the better chance it has of being taken seriously. That’s just what I think and I just have to get that idea to the guy who signs the checks. Tell me what you think of my comment here, I could be way off base.

Im in the toy industry. I probably am so adimant about getting it because I mostly want to learn it for me but also help the company in combination. It can’t hurt, right?

I don’t really know much about the toy industry and you haven’t been too specific about what sector (vinyl urban toys, board games, dolls, transformers, baby stuff, etc?), but still stand by my point in principle. I’ve found it pretty rare that some young designer knows more about the biz than the other people working there. Sales, management, etc…

If it’s all about presentation, what could be quicker (in the fast paced toy market you mention) than doing a nice presentation sketch rendering?

3D cad is a tool, and one that is often overplayed in terms of importance. If you are talking about production stuff, have you looked into if your suppliers can even use 3d geometry? what software they use? how your competitors present/deliver products for sales/production?

The reason I ask is that I made a similar mistake in trying to push 3d CAD stuff when I was young and foolish, straight out of school (man, I’m sounding like Zippy here)… I figured that CAD would be so great to do footwear in, as I could easily apply different textures, spin around fancy models for sales to better understand, etc. I learned very quickly that not only was it a colossal waste of time (time I wasted on my own time after work trying to develop something to show the boss), but also that the efforts were futile. Production ftys still wanted 2d lineart to create patterns from… I came to this realization on my own and never did present anything to anyone else.

Not to say, BTW that there isn’t always some room for improvement in a company’s workflow or processes and that a fresh mind to the problem can’t have valuable insight. I’ve streamlined many things in various corporate departments where I’ve worked over the years, putting in place new systems, software, ways of working that (to my knowledge) are still in place years later.

I’m just saying, in summary, that in this case it sounds like you are chasing your tail for no real benefit, only one that is perceived from your point of view, and/or it’s a common case of young designers falling in love with CAD to make shiny renderings. (not to mention you’ve just admitted you want to learn it for your own interest, not the company’s…still curious why they won’t buy in? just re-read your own previous reply)

If you can offer more info about what you do, how you do it, by all means do so. I’d be happy to reverse my position if it is indeed the case.


I disagree. Renderings should be saved for design development and not used in product concepting.

First, a buyer would be foolish to throw money at a rendering–they should be buying the underlying concept. (That said, I’m sure many are foolish…)

Second, a photorealistic rendering (2D or 3D) “ends conversations” where a sketch encourages conversations. It’s very possible that you’ll get FEWER deals with a rendering! This is pretty well known in the design community, and many designers who prefer to work in CAD with “sketch up” their renderings to give them a less finished look.

Third, it’s time consuming. You should be going for quantity when pitching ideas UNLESS you’ve followed a rigorous iterative process that proves your one concept is a winner. …And if you’ve done that, you don’t need a rendering!

These are all really good points. Thanks for the advice, it definately gives me some perspective that I did not have before. I very well could be being silly about trying to bring 3d into my company. I’m not completely confident with my stance yet. I do like the idea of the shiny renderings and I feel my drafting abilities could be nicely suited for 3d. Nice 3d renderings impress me so I want to impress by being able to do it. Sorry I was so vague in my previous responses, I was trying to get all my thoughts out in the 5 minutes that I had to respond before my wife took the computer for some facebook (I know my role for the most part LOL). I’ll go through my process and let me know if it still seems like a bad idea to bring it up.

I work in Consumer Electronics mostly for teen demographic but we basically work on a broad range of products from photo frames to blue tooth headsets to plug n play games to toy projectors to a wide range of electronic toys. We mostly target younger demographics, like kids and teens. We also do alot of plug and play games and are dabbling in RC. Most all the designs are done inhouse, including product id, light engineering, and the basic concepts of how it works. When we come up with the concepts, I then do a illustration style rendering of the concept in a three quarter view for the customers/presentations (in 2d of course). If the concept makes the cut I then draft the top, front, side, side, and back in 2d so that we can get a sample / finalize the product. We can have a final product shipped (if all the stars align) in as little as 2 -4 months. I felt that I could internally get the 3 quarter sketch approved and then create the rendering in 3d and then stream line the process in the production stage by avoiding the time consuming 5 sided 2d rendered turnarounds. Does this sound like it might make more sense or does it still have holes. I want it for presentations as well as production. I would appreciate any imput on the idea with this so that I can address them with my boss or not address them if the idea is too outlandish (especially for a rough economy).

P.S Even though I really want to learn 3d (which I’m in process of doing at home anyways and would like to have something to show before I would present the idea) I still hope this is a good idea for my company. I like my company and I work my ass off to help it succeed and I want it to try give it better tools to get there and also pump us some 3d skills at the same time.

Hey rkuchinsky,

I also checked out your site you had attached in your footer and I really like your shoe designs. I take my shoes very seriosly and you have some cool stuff. I particularly like 38, 39, 44, and 45. Good stuff.

OK, this makes much more sense. So you are designing the actual toy housings, injected molded parts, but currently they don’t use any CAD? I can’t hardly believe that! Are you serious, or am I misunderstanding something? What apps do you use? AutoCAD or something, or just illustrator, or (gasp) pen drafting?


Yeah you are correct, I illustrate all the sides in illustrator and send them to the factory in China for them to interpret. I give it my darndest to try and spell everything out to avoid time wasting. Sometimes the factory makes a CAD drawing of my drawings and sometime they go straight into the molding process based on a sculture they make based on my drawings. There are always alot of revistions on their designs and I feel that it might be because every thing is drafted in 2d. I feel alot of the time we end up settling on a design we don’t like because of a deadline.

I was hired as a package designer to this company and they found out I could draft good on paper so thats how this process came about. We had all in house package (4 people) designers not engineers so in this fairly new company, we didn’t really know any better. Now we are a roughly 65 million dollar company using this same process. Any thoughts with this in mind?

I’d go for it. If anything, just to have the option of using whatever the best process that may be needed for that particular occasion. Sometimes 2-d is better and quicker, sometimes 3-d is.

I’ve always been big on the 2-d renderings, one of the biggest things I offered as a freelancer. Then I worked with a guy who was skilled in 3-d. What I noticed was that although I was faster with the first 2 or so views of one product, once he caught up his speed and efficiency increased exponentially for the rest of the renderings needed.

It takes longer to set up first, but once you do, your multiple side top, 3/4 views become faster in 3D (of course depending on the actual product, in no way would I propose wasting time modeling a shoe or backpack!) 2-d will win out if you have lots of 1 shot renderings of very different concepts or very organic shapes that would require a lot of intensive surfacing in 3-d. 3-d wins for multiple views and details of one design and slight variations on that design. But especially if you’re then going to have to spend the time to accurately draft the various 2-d views for them to use for manufacture. You might as well do it in 3-d and get the benefits of the photo-real presentation for the time you’re already spending drafting it in 2-d. Sometimes it’s almost just as fast/ just as much work to go ahead and model it in 3-d as it is to manually draft the different views you need.

Try learning something on your own and take an old project you’ve done and model and render it. Keep track of the time and compare it to how long it would take for you to do your multiple view 2-d renderings in addition to the drafting views. Or if you don’t have the time to learn on your own, find someone who is already good at it and give them a benchmark test. Time yourself doing the same using your current process and use that info to help sell your goal of integrating 3-d (assuming of course that the benchmark does indeed favor 3-d). If it doesn’t, then you’ve helped prove to yourself that it’s unnecessary for your work (although you may still want to learn on your own for fun). Good luck.

That makes sense and is informative. I can use that in my argument.