Free software programs for Designers on a budget

If you are a design student or a new freelancer, you may like to go for some free programs to augment your existing design tool sets. I have compiled a list of useful programs that are free yet useful enough for design-related works.


Free 3D modelling and rendering programs. There are several 3D programs that are freely available via the internet. The undisputed champion is Blender 3D. Blender 3D is a powerful 3D modelling, rendering and animation program. It does however have a rather unconventional interface which makes initial learning a bit steep.

Blender can create very sophisticated and compelling animation as well.


For me, I often use Blender in tandem with Yafray. Yafray is a free high quality renderer that allows Global Illumination. However, increasingly, Blender’s own rendering and material creating functions have improved significant. This allows me to create photo-realistic images using Blender’s own internal renderer.

You can get blender from Yafray can be downloaded from

Free NURBS modeller

Truespace is an intuitive 3D modeller with NURBS capability. NURBS is especially suitable for industrial design 3D modelling. In the past, Truespace is a good but commercial 3D application. Truespace has now been release for free. This is an incredible news. You can get this fantastic 3D application after registration at

However there is still a problem here. The free version of Truespace does not seems to support IGES, STP or STL. This will mean that there is no way of accurately importing or exporting the NURBS models.

Free Parametric Solid Modelling CAD Program

As far as I know, there is only one free parametric solid modelling CAD Program. It is known as Alibre Express. It is similar to Solidworks and Pro-E in terms of work flow process. You can get it from its homepage at


Free graphic image editor. For obvious reasons, GIMP is a very popular open source alternative to Photoshop. There is a version of GIMP that is created to look like Photoshop. It is known as the GIMPshop. Personality, I must prefer the original GIMP.

GIMP can be downloaded from

Free Human posing programs. Sometimes, in your project rendering especially with Industrial and Interior design, you will need to include a human for scale and proportion referencing. In another word, a virtual human or mannequin lends the required scale and perspective to your product and design. There are free programs that can get the job done. The two most competent posing programs are DAZ Studio and Make Human.


Free 2D vector drawing program. Inkscape is a very popular open source alternative to commercial 2D vector drawing programs. You can get it from



From my findings, there are no free programs that can import or export CAD/CAM essential formats such as IGES, STEP and do organic NURBS modeling at the same time. The cheapest alternative is Rhino 3D, but it is not free. This is the missing link, albeit a rather crucial one. If you have found a free solution to this, please tell me. Thanks.
OK, these are the free yet effective software for freelance designers and student alike.The ones that I use extensively are Blender 3D, Yafray and GIMP.