3D Design Software Lifehacks: Basic 3D Printing Features Every Designer Should Know About (Part 2)

For all who are new to 3D Printing, Rapid Prototyping and Additive Fabrication in general
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Subdivide (i.e. “Smoothing”)

With the bush of a button, subdivide tools automatically smoothen models by multiplying the number of squares, triangles, and/or vertices a design has.

When building or sculpting a 3D design, it’s best to start with simple shapes. Specifically, shapes that contain as few vertices, polygons, or squares as possible. The more of these you add, the harder your model becomes to work with. When you start out, don’t add extra vertices just to make your model look smooth. Instead, start with a “blocky” model, and smooth it out during its final stage by using subdivide tools.

In Blender, there is a sophisticated “Subdivision Surface Modifier” you can use to smooth out a rough model. To use the Subdivision Surface modifier:

  • 1. Create or Import your model

  • 2. Right click on it

  • 3. Click on the “Modifier” wrench in the bottom right menu.

  • 4. Click “Subdivision surface” on the “Modifier” drop down menu. This creates a subdivided preview of how your model looks “smoothed out.”

  • 5. In “Object Mode,” click “Apply.”

Mirror, mirror on the wall… can I really make a whole model from just one half? YES.


Nearly all sculpting software, from Meshmixer to Blender to 123D Sculpt, contains symmetry features. These are usually in the form of a button on the main menu.

In Blender, the most commonly used one is the “Mirror” modifier button (located in the “Modifier” drop down menu.)

Meshmixer is another free software to consider, since it contains four main symmetry options: one under the “Select” button, one under the Sculpt Button, and one in the Sculpt button’s paint mode (i.e. Vertice Paint.) This means that you can select surfaces symmetrically (i.e. selecting both nostrils at the same time), and sculpt symmetrically (i.e. if smoothen one nostril, you also smoothen the other. Live!) The third symmetry option is called “Mirror,” and it “mirrors” one side of your existing mesh to match the other side. For more on Meshmixer, go see our previous Tutorial Thursday feature.

On 123D Sculpt, the symmetry button is located on the top menu, five buttons from the left. It looks like a sideways M.

3D sculpting can be a way to “nudge,” drag, and pull your model into how you want it to look…

Created by Roxy in i.materialise.com

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