This is an ongoing listing of many on-line sites and resources that I have found helpful or interesting.

I have compiled this to share with others but also because I wanted this type of webpage for MY use.

Images and Files

There are many free image websites. Even legally free. But beyond this legal issue, most free web images are not suitable for high quality printouts.

1. has the best hi resolution photographs with the most lenient copyrights. (Hi res means they work well for printed output and can be resampled down for web use).

3d Models Available to be 3d Printed by You

Like the free photos sites, there are many free 3d models sites. Here again lies the same problem: many 3d models/designs are not meant to live off of a screen. Below are some sites that have 3d models (some free, some not) that are designed to be printed out on a 3d printer.

1. Thingiverse is a very popular site created by the well known Makerbot company where 3d model files can be downloaded freely, even without logging into the site. This is where you go if you want to download the 3d model and print it out yourself.

I have found these Thingiverse files to be hovering on the side of awesomeness:

  • Ironman Faceplate Ring – cause my son is into Ironman and I’d like to learn more about creating rings because we wear them on our bodies. Maybe I can design a ring for my 70 year old mother that attaches to her cell phone so she can “wear” her phone on her and never lose it? My idea of a wearable + assistive + gerontechnological device.
  • A bottle opener for plastic bottles – which looks like it could be helpful for people who have trouble with twisting the tops off of plastic bottles
  • A bottle opener for glass bottles – if you are often w/o the use of one of your hands, say- you are like me and your toddler insists that you constantly hold her- this bottle opener works for glass bottle caps and you only need one hand to use it.
  • Dragonfly wings – seem to be a very easy first build. This interest was sparked by a combination of my children watching Wild Kratts and us living in a forest with an abundant crop of hungry eating mosquitoes. So we say “hurrah” to dragonflies! (Warning, though, this file takes forever to slice because of the complexity of the wing designs!)

2. What seems to be somewhat of a competition to Thingiverse is Pinshape. Makers/designers upload their 3d models and people visiting the site can either download these files for free or pay for them. Pinshape also allows users to streaming services that allow the designers to slice their STL files, for those designers who don’t want to give away their designs for free. This might help designers with the intellectual property aspect of their designs (meaning, it would be harder for users to steal and re-print these designs). Information on this service is here. I have not done this because I live in a rural area, and streaming anything can be difficult for me (see my blog post entitled, “Rural living means slower Internet connection speeds“).

I have found these Pinshape files to be gliding over the fields of amazingness:

  • Mashrabiya Bracelet – be sure to read the write-up from the designer, it’s thoughtful as well as educational. I don’t know exactly how to print this but I’ll let you know when I find out.

2. Spyder 3d World has a mix of free and not free 3d model files. Again, no log-in is necessary to download.

Ways to Make Money if You Design 3d Models

How can you make money if you design 3d models?

1. Sell your digital 3d files to Shapeways. This is a site that has beautiful and amazing designs of 3d models. For makers/designers, you can upload your 3d file and Shapeways will sell your design. They make the actual product and then ship it to the customers.  The jewelry section is hugely popular here.

2. Run a service where you print other peoples 3d model files and then list yourself on 3d Hubs. This site allows customers to upload their own 3d model files and then search on this site to find a local place that will 3d print the file for them. If you are someone who has a 3d printer, you are basically doing a service similar to Uber here. Kinda cool. It’s also helpful to see how other places are setting their prices for how much to charge to print a 3d model. It ain’t cheap (remember, customized products are the best for 3d printing right now).


I have used all of these softwares so my comments are based upon my experiences with each.

Raster imaging software

1. The  industry leader is Adobe Photoshop. Licensing and payments to use the software are now on a monthly  basis. The positive is that the software can be considered more affordable for solos. The negative is that once the license expires, the software won’t work on your computer any longer.

2. Gimp is a free Photoshop knock off. Thanks to the overseas developers (U.S. companies are less of this mindset), this free software is pretty robust in its features. You have to download it and install it on your computer. I’m in a rural location so that’s the type of software I want, not ones that are based in the cloud (because I don’t have the internet connection speed for that).

3. Pixlr is a free editor that is based in the cloud. It’s easy to use but really is only for web/digital images. So if you want to have a hi res image for print, look elsewhere.

2d Vector Imaging Software

1. Adobe Illustrator is the leader here. Same set up as Photoshop in terms of pricing. Learn how to use the pen tool and you will be considered an advnced user of this software.

2. Inkscape is the free Illustrator equivalent. Rather box-y interface. But a better image tracer than Illustrator, hands down. It can be downloaded here.

Software for 3d Models that will be 3d Printed:

1. TinkerCAD is a free, cloud-based 3d modeling software by Autodesk. It is best to be connected to the Internet on a very fast connection. If you have no fast Internet connection, like if you live in a rural area like I do, do not use this software.

2. 123D Design is another free 3d modeling software from Autodesk. This is what I use because either I do not like to be connected to the Internet and use cloud-based products at work (there is often a lag time between what you model and what appears on the screen) or because I can’t be connected to the Internet when I am on my computer at home. So the main difference between 123D Design and TinkerCAD is that 123D Design installs on your computer.

3. Meshmixer is yet another free software from Autodesk. But this is more about taking your already built 3d model and applying interesting textures and effects to it. For example, Vornoi patterns can be applied to the model if you follow this helpful tutorial by Protobuilds.