Introduction: Introduction to 3D Primitive Shapes

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Project Description

Taking an idea from your mind to the real world can begin with a design, and that design can start with a set of primitive shapes.
Simple primitive shapes can be combined in different ways to sculpt or build a more complex shape. In this project you will explore primitive 3D shapes (like boxes, tubes and cylinders) and learn to identify those shapes in a larger project.

Check out more projects like this on Tinkercad.

Step 1: Welcome to the World of Design!

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Look around you for a moment. Look at the chair you are sitting in, the desk you work at, the school you are sitting in or the vehicle that brought you to school. All of those things started out as designs and now you are beginning the journey to learn how to design and make things of your own.

The starting point of 3D design is a primitive shape. These shapes can be added, subtracted, and combined with one another to build just about anything. The action of adding, subtracting, or combining primitive shapes is called a Boolean operation.

Here are some common 3D primitive shapes:

  • Cube
  • Cylinder
  • Tube
  • Sphere
  • Torus
  • Cone

Step 2: How Many Cubes (boxes)?

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The exciting thing about design, other than making your ideas real, is there are many different ways to combine shapes to make more complex things like this chair.

Since there are many ways to design, there is no 'right' way to do it. It's up to the designer to figure out:

  1. the best shapes to use.
  2. the best way to arrange the shapes.
  3. the best order to group the shapes to create the thing.

See if you can count the number of cubes (boxes) used to build the chair below.


    1. How many did you count?
    2. Was it 5?
    3. Was it 6?
    4. Was it 240 Minecraft blocks?
    5. All of these answers (and many more) are correct. It all depends on the materials you have and your needs for a specific design.
    6. Each of these groups, when combined into a single object, make the same chair shape.


    In the "Let's Learn Tinkercad!" lesson you will learn how to use a shape to subtract (or remove) material from another shape.

Step 3: Locate the Primitive Shapes

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This time, let's take a look at something a bit more complex. Below is a rocket you learn how to make in the "Build your own Space Station" Tinkercad project.

Can you identify the primitive shapes that make up the rocket?

Have a look, take your time.


  1. Can you find the sphere shape(s)?
  2. Can you find the cylinder shape(s)?
  3. Can you find the cone shape(s)?
  4. Think you found them all?
  5. Continue to the next step to find out!

Step 4: How Did You Do?

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There are many different steps to creating this rocket shape. Were you able to identify the shapes that were used?

Are these the shapes you would have used?


  1. Does this view help? Below you can see all the shapes separated so you can see them a bit more clearly.
  2. Continue to the next step.

Step 5: Why Is 3D Design Important?

At this point, you may think this is a lot of fun or a lot of hard work, perhaps both.

There is no question, designing things can be a challenge. It takes lots of practice, but when you learn how to to turn your ideas into something real the possibilities are endless.

Who knows, someday you may be a car designer, architect, interior designer, or even a movie maker.

Check out this video to see how 3D design was used to make Star Wars: The Force Awakens!

Step 6: Congratulations

Congratulations, you have completed this project! Check out other great projects on Tinkercad.


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