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The 6 Best Alternatives to SketchUp for Ubuntu

While SketchUp is a popular choice for 3D modeling, Ubuntu users have several powerful alternatives that cater to various design needs. This article explores the top 6 SketchUp alternatives available for Ubuntu, highlighting their features, usability, and how they compare in supporting creative projects.

by John Horan
sketchup alternatives for ubuntu

As an advocate for open-source software, finding alternatives to popular proprietary software like SketchUp for 3D modeling on Ubuntu has been both a challenge and an adventure. SketchUp is widely used for architectural designs, interior design, video game design, and more, but its limited compatibility with Linux systems drives us to explore other options. Here, I’ll share the six best alternatives to SketchUp for Ubuntu, diving into their features, installation processes, and why they made it to my list. Let’s explore the world of 3D modeling on Linux together!

The 6 Best Alternatives to SketchUp for Ubuntu

1. Blender

Features: Blender is a powerhouse in the world of 3D modeling, animation, rendering, and even video editing. It supports the entirety of the 3D pipeline—modeling, rigging, animation, simulation, rendering, compositing, and motion tracking, even video editing, and game creation. Advanced users can create custom tools and interfaces with Blender’s API.


Installation: To install Blender on Ubuntu, you can use the following command in your terminal:

sudo apt install blender

Why it’s on the list: Blender makes the top of my list for its versatility and robust feature set. It’s incredibly powerful for professional projects but can be daunting for beginners. Despite the steep learning curve, the community and resources available make it a fantastic alternative to SketchUp.

2. FreeCAD

Features: FreeCAD is an open-source parametric 3D modeler made primarily to design real-life objects of any size. Parametric modeling allows for easy adjustments and customizations of your designs. It’s great for more technical projects that require precise dimensions and can be used in engineering and architecture.


Installation: To install FreeCAD on Ubuntu, enter the following command:

sudo apt install freecad

Why it’s on the list: I appreciate FreeCAD for its focus on precision and parametric modeling, making it a go-to for engineering projects. It’s less intuitive for artistic projects but excellent for technical work.

3. LibreCAD

Features: LibreCAD is a free Open Source CAD application for Windows, Apple, and Linux. Focus on 2D CAD, it’s perfect for creating detailed plans and drawings. While it doesn’t support 3D modeling, it’s an excellent tool for architects and engineers who work primarily in 2D.


Installation: To install LibreCAD on Ubuntu, use:

sudo apt install librecad

Why it’s on the list: Its simplicity and effectiveness for 2D design are why LibreCAD is included. For users who primarily work in 2D, it’s a lightweight and powerful alternative.


Features: BRL-CAD is one of the oldest open-source cross-platform CAD packages, focusing on modeling for engineering and scientific applications. It’s known for its performance in generating complex models and has a suite of tools for analysis and rendering.

brl cad

Installation: BRL-CAD can be a bit more complex to install, so I recommend following the official documentation on their website.

Why it’s on the list: I admire BRL-CAD for its precision and robustness, particularly in scientific and engineering contexts. It’s not the most user-friendly on the list, but its capabilities are immense.

5. Sweet Home 3D

Features: Sweet Home 3D is a fantastic interior design application that lets you draw floor plans, arrange furniture on them, and visit the results in 3D. It’s user-friendly and ideal for quick conceptual designs.

sweet home 3d

Installation: You can install Sweet Home 3D with the following command:

sudo apt install sweethome3d

Why it’s on the list: For those interested in interior design, Sweet Home 3D is a simple yet powerful tool. Its ease of use and specific focus make it a great alternative for those projects.

6. Wings 3D

Features: Wings 3D is a powerful and intuitive subdivision modeler, which is perfect for creating detailed 3D models. While it doesn’t support animations or game development directly, it’s excellent for modeling and texturing.

wings 3d

Installation: Wings 3D can be installed by following the instructions on their official website, as it requires downloading the application directly.

Why it’s on the list: Wings 3D strikes a balance between simplicity and functionality. It’s particularly appealing for users who want to dive into 3D modeling without the complexity of Blender.

Personal Notes

Choosing the right 3D modeling software often depends on the project at hand and personal preference. While I lean towards Blender for its all-encompassing features, newcomers might find Sweet Home 3D or LibreCAD more approachable. The beauty of the Linux community is the vast range of open-source options available, catering to different needs and skill levels. Each of the tools listed above has its place in the toolbox of a Linux user, depending on the task at hand.

Additional Thoughts and Tips

  • Extensions and Plugins: Many of these applications support extensions or plugins, which can dramatically extend their functionality. For instance, Blender’s add-on ecosystem allows for customization that can tailor the software to your exact needs, from architectural modeling to character animation.
  • Compatibility and Integration: Consider how well the tool integrates with other software you might be using. For example, if you’re working on a project that involves both 2D and 3D design, you might want to choose tools that can easily exchange files or have compatible formats.
  • Hardware Requirements: 3D modeling and rendering can be resource-intensive. Blender, for example, offers GPU rendering which can significantly speed up the process but requires a compatible graphics card. Assess your hardware capabilities when choosing the most suitable software.

FAQ: Alternatives to SketchUp for Ubuntu

1. Can I use these tools for commercial projects?

Yes, most of these tools are open-source and free to use for both personal and commercial projects. However, it’s always a good idea to check the specific licensing agreement of each tool to ensure compliance.

2. Do these alternatives offer support for 3D printing?

Yes, several of these tools, like Blender and FreeCAD, support formats compatible with 3D printing. They allow you to design and export your models in formats such as STL or OBJ, which are widely used in 3D printing.

3. Are there any cloud-based alternatives to SketchUp that work well on Ubuntu?

While this list focuses on software that can be installed directly on Ubuntu, cloud-based alternatives like Onshape can be accessed through a web browser on any operating system, including Ubuntu.

4. Can I import SketchUp files into these programs?

Some programs, like Blender, have add-ons or built-in features that allow you to import SketchUp files (.SKP). However, compatibility may vary, and it’s a good idea to check the documentation for the specific tool you’re using.

5. What’s the best tool for beginners?

Sweet Home 3D and LibreCAD are great starting points for beginners due to their intuitive interfaces and straightforward functionality, especially for those focused on interior design or 2D drafting.

6. How can I improve rendering speeds in these applications?

Improving rendering speeds can often be achieved by upgrading your hardware (especially the GPU for software like Blender), optimizing your project settings, or using external rendering engines that may be more efficient.

7. Is it possible to collaborate with others using these tools?

Collaboration can vary by tool. Some software, like FreeCAD, allows for version-controlled collaboration through external plugins. Cloud-based tools offer the easiest collaboration, but local software may require more manual coordination.

8. Do I need to know how to code to use these tools effectively?

No, you don’t need to know how to code to use these tools effectively. However, knowledge of scripting (like Python for Blender) can enhance your ability to customize and automate tasks within the software.

9. Can these alternatives run on older hardware?

Yes, many of these alternatives can run on older hardware, but performance will vary depending on the software’s requirements and the complexity of your projects. Tools like LibreCAD and Sweet Home 3D are generally less demanding than more comprehensive 3D modeling software like Blender.

Wrapping Up

In conclusion, transitioning from SketchUp to an alternative on Ubuntu opens up a world of possibilities for 3D modeling, each with its own set of features, strengths, and communities. From the all-encompassing capabilities of Blender to the precision of FreeCAD and the simplicity of Sweet Home 3D, there’s a tool out there to meet every designer’s needs.

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1 comment

Charly Moriaud March 29, 2024 - 4:26 AM

Thanks for this article.
I would love an article how to install Fusion360 on Linux.
Cheers from France 😉


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