CAD or Computer Aided Design is a great way to accurately plan out your woodworking project, Electronics PCB, or even just to help you visualize how to rearrange your living room!

So many people seem to think that CAD is "Too expensive for me" or "That's way to complicated to learn".  I'm going to show you a 2D and a 3D cad program that you can learn in just 1 hour and cost nothing to get started!

First lets talk about the 2 primary types of CAD and when you might use one or the other.

2 Dimensional CAD
  • Slightly easier to learn
  • Great for making floor plans or wood working templates / plans
  • Easy to import data from outside source such as a CSV file.
  • Perfect for 3 Axis CNC machines.
  • Usually less expensive

3 Dimensional CAD
  •  Slightly longer learning curve
  • Great for people trying to visualize a 3D object
  • Required for 3D printing and CNC Machines with more than 3 Axis
  • Normally more expensive.

Getting started

Lets start out with a simple 2D cad program.  DeltaCAD is a great 2D CAD that has many great features at a very little cost.

  DeltaCAD is available for MAC or PC for $50.  It can import and export from the standard file types and even allow you to import from a CSV file of points.  Furthermore, you can generate Macros in DeltaCAD to animate your drawings.

DeltaCAD has a free 30 day trial (only available on PC) and does not require any Credit card or other information.  

DeltaCAD was very easy to learn thanks to their included Tutorials.  In the included DeltaCAD manual there is a tutorial that walks you through drawing a calculator.  This is a perfect object because of the repetition of the drawing.  It teaches you several ways to accomplish the same thing and covers a majority of the everyday features.

Visit to download the trial and get started.

Lets add a dimension

For most uses 2D will everything you need, but there are times where that 3rd dimension is required.  Working with a 4 or 5 axis CNC machine, 3D printing, and visualization of Architecture require this third dimension.

A 3D CAD program used by machine shops and large corporations cost in the thousands and sometimes even the tens of thousands of dollars.

Why the big cost difference?  CAM. (Computer Aided Machining).  A CAD/CAM product enables you to draw a 3D object, then on another layer, draw where you want the CNC machines cutting bit to go.  This is called the "Tool Path".  Programs like Google Sketch Up do not have a CAM component built in, however, the drawing can be imported into a separate CAM program to produce the tool path.  This is normal Hobby or DIY 3D printing.

Google Sketch Up is available for MAC or PC and is free.  Google has also created the "3D Warehouse" which is full of objects you can include in your drawings such as IKEA furniture, cars, buildings, and bridges.  

The following 3D building took about 30 minutes while following the tutorial.

Download Google Sketch Up now at and watch the tutorials at