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    22 Tips for Designing Faster in Tinkercad

    Donald Bell
    Published on - August 31, 2021 by Donald Bell

    Tips & Tricks

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    Everyone knows that Tinkercad is the easiest way to get started in 3D design. Once you get the hang of it, you realize that it’s one of the fastest design tools available. With no software to launch or complex menus to navigate, experienced designers can bring their ideas to life at a dizzying speed.

    Tinkercad allows you to go from mind to design in minutes. Here are the top 22 tips so you can learn to do the same.

    ⚠️ Warning: The following tips will increase your creativity and productivity in Tinkercad to superhuman levels. Friends may find your new skills intimidating. Teachers will be suspicious of how quickly you finish your design work. Your 3D printer could buckle under the burden of your creative output. Proceed with caution!


    Tip 1: D is for Drop

    With an object selected, pressing the D key will instantly drop it to the surface of the workplane. This same trick also works for dropping objects onto any temporary workplanes you’ve added (see next example).

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    Tip 2: Add a Workplane

    By pressing the the W key in Tinkercad (or selecting the workplane icon), you can define a new workplane on the surface of an object. It's a handy way to add objects flush against the surface of your design (shapes, text, holes).

    This is a necessary technique for placing objects on irregular or curving shapes, but it also makes quick work of stacking common shapes. To reset the workplane back to its default location, simply drag a new workplane back to the original location. 

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    Tip 3: Copy/Paste Between Tabs

    Do you have multiple designs that you want to combine together? Just open them up in different tabs, select one of the models and use the copy command. Next, click over to the model in your other tab and use the paste command.

    Now all your designs can play together!

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    Tip 4: R is for Ruler

    Press the R key and click anywhere on the workplane to place a ruler. With the ruler placed, click an object and you’ll see all of its dimensions displayed, as well as its relative position to the ruler.

    Where the two axis meet on the ruler, you’ll find an “x” to remove it from the workplane, as well as an option to measure relative distance from the midpoint of any selected object, instead of its endpoint.

    ruler-1

    To take the ruler further, this video by DIY 3D Tech will show you how to snap it to the edge of your design so that you can accurately place other objects (or holes). 

     

    Tip 5: Align to Reference

    To align to reference, select two or more objects to be aligned, press the align icon (or use the L key), then select the object you’d like to use as a reference. You’ll see that the alignment nodes now only appear around the reference object, which stays in place while the other objects align to it.

    To align two objects together, select them both, press the align icon (or use the L key) and you’ll be able to choose the nodes the two objects can mutually align to. Clicking on one of these nodes will move both of the selected objects to a new, aligned location. 

    But what if you don't want both of your objects to move? Fortunately, it's also possible to move one object into alignment with an object that remains stationary. This is called aligning to a reference, and it requires just one extra step. 

    align-1

    To align to reference, select two or more objects to be aligned, press the align icon (or use the L key), then select the object you’d like to use as a reference. You’ll see that the alignment nodes now only appear around the reference object, which stays in place while the other objects align to it.

    The following video by Rob Morrill outlines these two techniques.

     

    Tip 6: M is for Mirror

    By using the M key on your keyboard or selecting the Mirror feature from the top bar, you can flip your design around in multiple directions. This is often used for creating stamp designs, reversing text on objects intended to be 3D printed face-down on a print bed, or a quick way to design objects (especially creatures or vehicles) with symmetry. 

    mirror-1

     

    Tip 7: Make Quick Copies by Holding Alt

    Basic copy and paste commands are an intuitive way to clone elements of your design. But to work even faster, simply hold the alt key down while dragging an object you want to clone. Not only will you save keystrokes, but you’ll be able to quickly place your newly cloned object precisely where you want it.

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    Tip 8: Duplicate & Repeat

    Duplicate is one of the most powerful, least understood features of Tinkercad. Don’t think of it as a way of duplicating objects (copy and paste can take care of that). Instead, the Duplicate and Repeat feature can recall and repeat a series of actions. It takes some time to master, but once you do, you’ll feel like a pro.

    For example, by duplicating and repeating size, workplane, and height adjustments, you can create a pyramid in seconds.

    dupepyramid-1

     

    Or, duplicate and repeat angle adjustments to quickly create a ring pattern. 

    duperotate_ring

     

    Duplicate and repeat a sequence of height, size, and angle adjustments to create and organically curving monster tentacle. 

    duperepeatfibo-1

     

    The following video by LinkedIn Learning demonstrates the process step-by-step, along with a variation using Tinkercad's mirror tool.

     

    Tip 9: Proportional Scale

    In Tinkercad, you can resize an object in any direction you like by dragging its corners. Unfortunately, you’ll also disrupt its proportions (your perfect circle is now an oval). 

    By holding the shift key as you drag, the object will hold its proportions as it scales up and down in the direction you pull it. 

    Alternately, by holding both shift and the alt key together while you drag, the object will proportionally scale in all directions, regardless of which direction you drag.

    Finally, holding the shift+alt key combination while dragging an object’s top handle will proportionally scale the object in every direction from its center.

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    Here's one of our own TinkerTip videos to help showcase the different options you have while scaling objects.

     

    Tip 10: Draw Shapes Using Scribble

    The Scribble shape is one of the latest features added to the Tinkercad Basic Shapes menu. By dragging it on to your workplane, you’ll be given a new view that allows you draw shapes with your mouse pointer (or fingertip, if you’re using a touch screen). Be sure to check out some of drawing options across the bottom. 

    Once you’re finished, click Done, and your hand-drawn object will appear on the workplane. From here, you can further shape, extrude, reposition and resize your object until you’re happy with it. Or, switch your scribbled object’s mode from Solid to Hole and emboss your hand-drawn design onto another object.

    scribleflowers-1

     

    Tip 11: Rotating (inner ring vs. outer ring)

    If you’ve rotated an object in Tinkercad, you may have noticed that two distinct rings appear around your object -- an outer ring with many fine markings, and an inner ring with just a few larger markings. 

    By keeping your cursor over one of the two rings while you rotate your object, you can modify the precision of the rotation. Use the inner ring to rotate in increments of 22.5 degrees, or use the outer ring for rotating one degree at a time. 

    It’s also possible to snap your rotation to convenient 45-degree increments by holding down the shift key as you rotate. This way, you can take an object laying flat on the workplane and quickly orient it into a perpendicular 90-degree angle.

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    Tip 12: Parameters on Basic Shapes

    Looking for a quick way to round the edge off that box you made? Many of Tinkercad’s shapes include a panel of options for modifying your design. The Box shape is particularly flexible, with sliders to adjust the radius of curvature used to smooth its edges, the number of steps (or facets) used to create that curvature, along with sliders to control the box’s length, width, and height.

    What other shapes have options like these? Explore them all.

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    Tip 13: Shape Generators

    When you unfold the Shapes dropdown menu, you’ll find an option called Shape Generators. Select it, and you’ll find multiple pages of exotic, specialty shapes, many contributed by the Tinkercad community. 

    These shapes in particular often have a number of customization features on their options panel, so be sure to make adjustments to test their potential.

    ezgif.com-optimize (7)-4

     

    Tip 14: Edit Grouped Objects with Double-Click

    The Group command (Ctrl + G) is an essential way to combine objects together and create more complex designs. But let’s say you just grouped two things together and realized that one of the objects you just grouped needs to be adjusted.

    Instead of hitting Undo or using the Ungroup command (Ctrl + Shift + G) you can simply double-click on the object you just grouped and it will temporarily ungroup, allowing you to make adjustments until you click away from it.

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    Tip 15: Hole vs. Transparent

    In order to see through an object, beginners will often change the object from a solid (S) to a hole (H). While this effectively makes the object look transparent, it can lead to accidental gaps in your design.

    A better way to make a see-through (yet solid) object is use the transparency command (T), which can also be found as a checkbox in the color menu. Not only is it a useful way to quickly see into or through an object while you're designing, it’s also a perfect way to create designs that look like glass or water.

    ezgif.com-optimize (7)-Aug-26-2021-12-05-00-24-AM

     

    Tip 16: Lock it Up!

    Objects can be locked to the workplane by clicking the lock icon on the shape’s menu or hitting Ctrl + L while an object is selected. 

    Once an object is locked, it can’t be moved, scaled, or altered in any way. Use it on objects whose dimensions need to be preserved (screw threads, fitted product cases) or for foundational elements of group projects that should remain unaltered (state map designs, puzzle pieces).  

    ezgif.com-optimize (7)-Aug-26-2021-12-05-52-60-AM

     

    Tip 17: Hide vs. Delete

    Designing can be messy. To keep old designs from cluttering up your workplane without deleting them, try hiding them using Ctrl + H. You can accomplish the same effect using the lightbulb icon in the Shape menu for a selected object. 

    To make all your hidden objects reappear, tap the lightbulb icon on the top menu bar (next to the Group icon) or hit Shift + Ctrl + H. 

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    Tip 18: Grid Size and Snap

    The Edit Grid button in the bottom right corner of your workplane view allows you to change the units of measurement between inches, millimeters, and stackable toy bricks. Here, you can also define the size of your workplane, or pull up a preset 3D printer print bed size. 

    Below the Edit Grid button you’ll find a Snap Grid menu. The setting here determines how objects on your workplane will automatically move to the nearest measurement on the grid. By setting this low (or off), advanced users can get extremely precise with their designs. Higher settings can help beginners create designs that conform to easily measurable units, and tend to align more easily. 

    ezgif.com-optimize (7)-Aug-26-2021-12-07-27-12-AM

     

    Tip 19: Perspective vs. Orthogonal View

    There’s a button in Tinkercad that can change the 3D view of your design to a flatter “orthogonal” view. Compared to the default 3D-like appearance of the “perspective” view, orthogonal offers a more natural, birds-eye look at your model. To return to the default view, simply press the button again to toggle back. 

    When viewing a design directly from the top, the orthogonal view provides a blueprint-like layout of your design, useful for troubleshooting size and alignment issues that can sometimes be obscured in the default “perspective” view.

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    Tip 20: Stash Your Favorites

    To quickly access the shapes you use most often, find the shape in the menu, hover your cursor over it, and click the star icon. Shapes that have been marked with a star will appear in the Favorites menu. With so many options for shapes, text, and generators, the ability to bookmark your favorites is a handy trick.

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    Tip 21: Create Your Own Part

    Did you create something in Tinkercad that you think you’ll be reusing frequently in other designs (a logo, a toy brick connector, a screw thread)? By saving the design as a Part, you can easily find and add your custom object to any future Tinkercad designs.

    To create a part, create or open the design you want to save, select the object, then open the Part Collection from the Shapes menu. At the top of the Part Collection menu you’ll see the option to “Create Part”. Give it a click, and your selected object will be added to your Part Collection for future use.

    createpart

     

    Tip 22: Keyboard Shortcuts Reference

    The key to becoming a Tinkercad guru is to become familiar with its many mouse and keyboard shortcuts. This handy reference (also a downloadable PDF) runs through everything you need to know. 

    Please visit tinkercad.com/learn for more tips, step-by-step tutorials, and easy projects. Happy Tinkering!

    tinkercadkeyboardshortcuts