Introduction: How to Do Recursive-like Modeling in Tinkercad

About: Artist in Residence at Instructables. I'm a hardware hacker, artist, illustrator, and cartoonist. I make things with whatever tools I can. I design and build interactive art pieces, from museums all the way up…

I really love the look of recursive math-y things, but as of now I can't program (or math) nearly well enough. But I still want to make cool, fractally-weird stuff.

Duuuuude. Fractals.

Step 1: So You Think Recursive Models Are Neat But Can't Code Worth a Lick

I really love the look of recursive math-y things, but as of now I can't program (or math) nearly well enough. But I still want to make cool stuff! WHAT IS A GIRL TO DO

Enter Tinkercad! I love it. I use it all the time. You can make weird stuff that is recursion-esque by using some of it's functions.

Functions you'll need to know:


I have no idea what Tinkercad calls this function, but when you hit CTRL-D the first time, it flashes yellow and starts 'recording' actions; which are then repeaded when you hit CTRL-D subsequent times. It does not work if you hit CTRL-Z during the 'recording'.


Like illustrator, if you hold down ALT while you move a shape, you make a copy of it.

Step 2: Open TinkerCad, Choose Yo' Shapes

You like shapes? Of course you do. Shapes are awesome. That other instructable- the one that I'm very, very gently ribbing- is all bubble-spherish. So I'm going to go with that as well.

First you have to make your 'base' shape. I chose three spheres in a triangle-bubble sort of arrangement.

Group this new base-shape. It'll make it a lot easier to move around.

Then- the magic- hit CTRL-D. You'll see the outline of your shape flash yellow; that indicates that you've just hit 'record'.

Now, make a copy of your foundation shape, and arrange it with the first one so that it intersects. Your aim is to make the first 'step' in a recursive pattern, which will then repeat. For example, if you move it up 1mm and reduce it's size by 10%, the next step will be up the same amount and reduced another 10%- 19% from the original. I've found moving it slightly up, changing the size a tiny bit, and adding a touch of rotation makes a nice effect. Think about the angles of a spiral staircase.


Hit that. Over and over. See what happens!

In this case, it made a sort of tall..thing.

Now, group THAT, shape, and repeat the last step. Keep doing this until you have something you like- make a group, CTRL-D, move a bit, stamp stamp stamp. It helps if you make the subsequent groups smaller than the first- like branches off a tree.

Step 4: Go Nuts

You can see here how far I went with this. This was maybe..5 iterations.

Play around, try doing recursion with different shapes, holes, anything.

Now go make you some strange.