Which CAD program to buy?

I have been looking into a CAD program for a while now. I have 30 years behind the bench as a custom jeweler but now I want to learn CAD. I know a lot of you are proficient in this area and will suggest Rhino. I am really just looking at 3Design and Jewelry Cad Dream. Both seem fairly intuitive - though 3Design maybe more so…Does anyone here have experience with either that you can share some pros and cons?

…when you design…are you more of a push pull kinda free thinker…or more of a bust out the t-square and protractor kinda thinker (me)…(this is just my way of thinking about it…generally…not meant to be limiting…)

i will say…

one piece of advise my brother gave me that held true was “pick the one with the biggest user base, online community, and educational support as you will need it…

i know you did not ask about matrix, but i will add my personal opinions and comments about it here, in case anyone else reading may be interested…

I ended up with matrix…it works the same way my mind works…

matrix up to version 9, with rhino6
as well as matrixGold which is a totally new build from Matrix, and which has parameteric (think 3design) as well as clayoo (think tsplines- sub-D push pull)

MatrixGold is in beta with Rhino7, and rhino7 has powerful new sub-D…overall MatrixGold is, and Rhino7 will be game changing in my opinion…

MatricGold is very stable…

(the way i describe it is…) some history enabled functions are rhino based, and some are rhino based/ matrix bundled parametric…meaning combined behind the scenes for ease…just my way of describing it!)

rhino inproves, matrix improves

matrix has 2 online academies…that can dramatically help reduce the learning curve…i swear by the two academies…hands down…no doubts…i have viewed almost every single video and there are alot)

the first academy launched right after my initial purchase…and after i had read the manuals cover to cover…(so i can compare and comment on learning thru manuals and occassional tech support and youtube…versus access to the online academy and its massive library of training videos)…it can be kinda like going to school 8 hours a day if you want

the older matrix academy has videos created on progressively newer versions… the fundamentals of rhino and surface modeling remain the same while improving and are still relevant today, even though the matrix interface changes…

the newer matrix gold academy focuses on the interface and tools and the new parametric history, and building key categories of jewelry more, but less (so far…videos are added constantly) on surface modeling…which is where you might build more intricate designs…the old academy might confuse new users starting with matrixgold, but i cannot help touting it!

matrixgold has some distinct changes to matrix workflow so it does take some getting used to thinking and planning differently for certain things (hard to explain)

in summary, the availability of training is key…

(…i miss the old matrix forum…🥲)

my comments are mainly based on what i wish i knew when i was looking into purchasing CAD, but did not really know what it could do…so i did not even know what to look for or what to ask about…

on another note, it can be costly…for a smaller budget, rhino and a gem library would be good too…


hi again,

i should have added at the bottom…my biggest question was “i want to learn CAD…but, am i going to be able to learn this?…it is a bit pricey if i am unable to figure it out…

i initially tried the free 30 day trial of rhino…and my brain exploded…for some reason i found their tutorials to be difficult to wrap my arms around…thus my fear of failure…but the matrix academy videos are great.


Ah. Ok. Thank you. I tried Rhino too…I think my brain exploded too!! One of the things that are important to me is importing a jpeg as grayscale and having that become 3d. Matrix, like other programs, has a builder aspect to it, you build the image over the photo… but I don’t want that.

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ah! ok, i see…like “emboss”(?)…
interested to hear what you learn!

if i recall correctly, back in the day, jewelcad(?) was touted as the most robust(?) in terms of “embossing”
…(think a coin medallion…lions head…)

not sure what is the best for that…i seem to recall Z-brush mentioned in relation to sculpting…i played with it…my head exploded again…weirdly i totally “get” rhino…even though my head exploded with their tutorials…the skill of a good teacher is precious!


Yes, emboss. I am looking at Jewelry Cad Dream now. It does look like this is an easy thing to do with their program. I also really like the ‘look and feel’ of 3Design. Just seems very intuitive…but having a hard time finding out about the embossing.

have you checked out this link?

i looked at it back in the day
it gets updated often
it helped me decide…precision was key for me…
softwares different
needs different etc
mi think there is a part 2 link or some such…

oh wait! artcam jewelsmith…succeeded by carveco…)

more on artcam jewelsmith and other similar…

embossing…sculpting…bas relief…some height limitations…?


So, one could create a ring, make the ‘stone’ the size I would want the embossed area to be and then with CarveCo create the embossed part. I suppose cast separately and the solder together. Hummm…very interesting.


i know nothing about emboss, sculpt, bas relief…although i have the software…i am just piggy backing on your journey!:grin:



what is one example of what you want to emboss…?


Thank you for the topic. The only way I have ever used for design is my pencil and some 1/4" grid paper. Where do I start to even learn the words (jargon) you each have been using? I am good at pencil rendering so my caster can make items for me, but I would like to kick that up several notches. I need a simple software to start. Which ones should I look at?


check out the first link i posted.

he gives an overview and discusses the different types of 3D CAD, as well as 2D drawing software.

if you would like a program for drawing and designing, he mentions a few…also google 2D drawing/ design software.

also search “free 2D drawing/ design software

if you would like to learn to create 3D CAD models, to get 3D printed, and then cast, and or molded and mass produced, or merely to check form, fit, and function, then you would be looking at 3D software…

i think your choice will depend on what you would like to do with it…

for me, i was looking for the ability to design multi stone and intricate models, to scale…

if you were to draw ten 1.5mm melees side by side in a line…and then lay out ten 1.5mm melees girdle to girdle…the drawn line of stones would be longer…due to the thickness of the pencil lead…it makes a big difference to reality…in CAD, a line has no thickness…until it is used to create a solid…

i did a dragon signet ring…eons ago…dragon and border were raised…background was enameled…the spaces between the fangs, and curled talons were .30mm…i could not carve that detail in wax (i tried)…

leann currently wants to do embossing, bas relief, sculpting…which is a totally different focus…so point-cloud he mentioned

for some people, the ability to modify and resize important styles is critical, and focuses on parametric functions…

for others, they are creating spectacular one of a kind models thru nurbs surface modeling, and dont really use the all of the “builders”…

for others still, surface texture is important, so sculpting, etc…

for others, the ability to push/ pull the model and create like with clay, sub-D is desired

for others, precision, fit, is important…so nurbs.,.

oh, and like he mentions…combining and using more than one software

oh, and what type of files the software works in

so…an important thing to discern might be what you dream of creating…

forgive the ramble


I would love to see your dragon signet ring! And you did this in Matrix?

yes, matrix. it is not emboss though…it is a flat top.

i basically did the outlines, and then extruded straight up.

he is in shape sections, like puzzle pieces that don’t quite touch.

the difficulty was in maintaining manufacturing guidelines for spaces, and fileting (rounding) all the 90 degree junctions

and then enameling (for the first time) a (too) heavy, thick heat sink of a ring and cooling it without cracking.

i will look for pics…i made a few…for my husband!


re continuing expense and proprietary CAD software…

speaking about my personal experience, one needs to consider the:

initial cost of the software(s)

then there sometimes free “point” upgrades…ie: if you have version 6… the upgrade to version 6.5 might be free, but the upgrade to version 7 will cost

same for related software…like in my case rhino…ie: version 6…to version 7 will cost

you dont have to upgrade…but you cannot skip a few upgrades, and then upgrade a few versions higher for the upgrade price…you will have to buy a new full version price

so these costs roll around every few years…

and then the educational academies are annual subscription based cost…same for some tech support.

re: computer equipment

software may require dedicated graphics cards,
and enough HD and RAM space, and watts(!) and processor speed…and cores…

some is more related to rendering realistic models…which i do not do…but! imagine the power of an unlimited and perhaps customizable virtual inventory…without paying for the materials…rendering can have its own intense skillset and equipment needs…

CAD software interfaces can be screen intensive…so you might want a bigger screen…i like 27” currently

so…look into all of that as well, so you can plan accordingly…

you might want to call CAD printing/ casting companies and find out general costs to print/ cast/ mold, etc…so you have an idea of those associated costs as well

printers are a whole nother universe…different ones better at different things

i prefer to send out rather than dive into printing and keeping up with tech…the really high redolution(?) printers required for some jewelry applications can run in the 5 and 6 digits…and printing is a whole nother skillset…like everything in jewelry…

just a few rambles…,



maybe post an example of what you are looking to get into…it might help others to suggest software…?


wldlzrd1, Thank you for all your comments. I will follow up.

I would be happy to demonstrate the “embossing” for you.

Bob Claborne

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