Printing Perfect Picks: Sketching Made Simple in Fusion 360




Introduction: Printing Perfect Picks: Sketching Made Simple in Fusion 360

About: I do all the things

Hello makers, and welcome to my first ible as a long time lurker, first time poster. My goal here is two-fold. Yes I do want to help you design your perfect guitar pick, but I'm also going to use that to teach you the basics of sketching in Fusion 360. There are plenty of other 3D design applications available if you're already familiar with them, but as a long time Blender user I've found that switching to Fusion for this type of design lets me create accurate prints very easily. As I've personally only been using this software for a couple weeks now, I will do my best to be as accurate as possible in my descriptions. I will also be as thorough as I can for anybody who has no experience at all with this type of stuff.

Now before we get started, you may be thinking, 'hey, I don't have a guitar, or a 3D printer I can't do anything with this information'. Well the good news is that as 3D Printing has become more and more common, 3D printers have been starting to show up in public libraries all over the place. Even if you still don't have access to a 3D printer there are services like where you can have your designs printed in an assortment of materials and mailed to you. As for the guitar, go get a cheap one and learn how to play it! Playing music can be very therapeutic! Ok, seriously though, use the pick to learn some basic skills and then print something REALLY cool!

So, let's get started!

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Step 1: Where Am I Printing These?

So before you get started with any 3D Printing project, it's important to first have the ability to 3D Print. If you already have this part sorted feel free to skip to the next step right now!


As I mentioned in the intro, a lot of local libraries are now offering 3D Printing services for free, or at a low cost. My local offers the first 3 hours free, and since it took me about 10 minutes to print out a handful of these picks at home you would be able to print many for nothing.


Also mentioned in the intro was but they're just one of the services available. There are also services like that aims to allow you find 3D Printers in your area. These two are probably the biggest and most reputable and having never used any of these services myself they're the only two that I feel comfortable recommending. As always, Google is your friend.


Seriously, consider this an option. Not just for your own guitar picks of course! You might find once you've started learning to design 3D objects that you can come up with many more ways to use this skill. There's never been a better time to get into 3D Printing. You can get a perfectly serviceable machine for under $500 in many places, especially if you're willing to buy second hand. I purchased my Malyan M150 from a local Kijiji ad, it's been great and I saved a fortune compared to buying a brand new one. There are also VERY cheap build your own printer kits like the Anet A8 but unless you're well versed in electronics you may want to steer clear as the lowest of the low do require a good amount of extra work to get good quality prints. That said, you absolutely CAN get good quality prints from them, it just takes work and if you don't know what you're in for it might not be the best first impression of 3D printing.


Ok maybe you're just not sure about 3D Printing yet. Maybe you think it seems beyond your grasp, and you don't think you could ever really design anything. Well I promise you it's easier than you probably think! Once you learn some basic sketching techniques here you'll be able to design all sorts of different things. Other custom guitar parts, or new knobs for your amps, or just handy household objects like coat hooks or child proof latches. You can design replacements for broken things, impossible to find parts, or just flawed designs. So try this instructable out just for fun, who knows what you'll design next!

Once you've figured out where, how or if you're printing, it's time to get the software we'll be using.

Step 2: Download Fusion 360

DOWNLOAD Fusion 360 from

Just visit the page above and follow the instructions to download and install Fusion 360 for your platform. You will have to sign up for an Autodesk account, but this actually becomes very handy as they have so many different apps and allow you to access your projects on the cloud. So for example I was working on my PC designing something, and then I was ready to print it so I took it down to my basement on an SD card. Once I started printing I noticed that I forgot to change a few print settings, so I simply opened the file back up on my Mac and made the changes without having to go back upstairs to my PC.

You may notice that you start with a 30 day trial of Fusion 360, but you can apply for a free license and renew it every year. I have yet to do this but I do plan on it. NO I don't work for them haha! I've been using Blender for a long time so when I first got my 3D printer I tried designing with it but I found it somewhat cumbersome for this purpose in many ways. After looking around at the options for more CAD style programs I found many of them to be too basic for my liking, or much too complex to easily get into. So far I've found that Fusion strikes a good balance between functionality and ease of use, so it's my new go-to for any 3D design that I plan to print.

Before moving on to the next step I'd like to recommend you use at least a 3-button mouse (with the scroll wheel being the third button) if you aren't already. Using a trackpad for input is possible but personally I find it less than ideal. So if you're installed and ready to go, move on to the next step!

Step 3: Fusion Basics - Navigation

When Fusion opens and you start your first new project you'll see a grid across your X and Y axes in the main screen window. You may also have your data pane open, which we will not be using for this. You can go ahead and close that by clicking on the little 3x3 grid icon in the top left corner of the screen (fig. 1) You can then use this icon again later if you wish to open the data pane for any reason. In the future, that will be for navigating through your different projects and individual creations.

Now let's get used to adjusting your 3D view. First notice the top right corner of the screen. You should see a cube representing your workspace and the angle you're viewing from (fig. 2) This will allow you to navigate easily to a particular orientation, to ensure that your view is perfectly aligned. Try working your way around the cube, clicking each side and pay attention to how your view changes.

Next we're going to get used to adjusting our view manually. This is the part where it REALLY helps to have a proper mouse with a scroll wheel. First just use the scroll wheel to zoom in and out, that part's pretty straight forward. Now if you click in the mouse wheel and hold it, you'll be able to drag the view around, from left to right, up and down. Again, pretty straight forward. Finally hold down the shift key, and then click and hold the mouse wheel again and you will now be able to orbit your view. start by slowly moving the mouse up, then down, then left, and right. You may find this movement to be counter-intuitive at first but you'll get the hang of it.

I wasn't kidding, that's the absolute BASICS, there's a lot more that you could learn but for now this is all that we need to get you started sketching. Use the orientation cube to select the TOP view for your workspace and we're ready to start sketching our first pick.

Step 4: Fusion Basics - Starting Your Sketch

Before we can start sketching, we need to select the plane on which we will be doing it. Start by clicking the Sketch icon in the top left, and selecting your xy plane. This is the flat plane on the bottom, blue in the picture. When you do this your window will reorient to the top down view, and we're ready to start our first sketch.

Step 5: Sketch Your Rough Shape

This is why we're here, on the quest for our perfect guitar pick. Here you have the opportunity to either try to replicate your usual pick, or do something different. For this, all we really need is a triangle to start. What we are trying to do is sketch one side of the pick, as if you cut it right down the middle. You can make the dimensions whatever you like, but I recommend at MINIMUM 30mm long and 13-14mm wide.

To do this, you should start your first point on the origin where the axes meet by clicking there, and then drag your mouse upwards along the y axis. You will notice that it tells you the length of your line, and this is what you want to be 30mm. It's very important to ensure that your first line stays straight along the axes, and as you should have grip snapping on by default that shouldn't be a problem. Once you hit your desired height you can click and move on to the next point. Again you will have a measurement for reference, this is where you will have between 13-14mm. You can use whatever angle you like here, it really doesn't matter since it will all be adjustable after. It certainly doesn't hurt to start where you think you'd like After you've set your second point simply go back to your first point and click to close your sketch. If at any point you don't like what's going on, just hit ctrl+Z to undo whatever you just did and try again.

At this point it's probably hard to imagine this triangle turning into anything resembling a usable guitar pick, but in just about a minute you'll see it take shape. First stop on that train is the fillet tool in our next step.

Step 6: Using 'Fillet' on Your Sketch

What's great about sketching is that it allows you to start with a VERY rough outline and then refine it as you go. One of the tools that helps with that is the fillet tool. We're going to use the fillet tool, as shown in the menu to round off our sharp corner. As you see in Fig. 1, there's a red line indicating how the fillet will look at first. My screen grab doesn't show it, but your mouse pointer should be on the intersection at the corner to make that appear. If you don't see this red line, you may have to manually select the two sides for it to fillet the corner. Once you've selected the corner to fillet it will now have the blue arrow in Fig.2 and you may now adjust the fillet by dragging the arrow forward and backward. In my example in Fig. 3 we see a radius of 7mm, and this should give us a nice rounded corner, but you can use whatever you like.

Remember that if you used different dimensions than I did these numbers won't necessarily be the same, and that's fine as long as it looks the way you expect. If it doesn't, once again just hit ctrl+Z to undo your last action. Once you have a shape that looks like it will be comfortable, or just cool you can move to the next stage. Don't fillet the other corners yet though, first we have to mirror our shape in the next step.

Step 7: Using the Mirror Tool

Now that we're about to mirror our sketch you will see why it's so important that your first line be straight on the y axis. Technically it would still work the same way no matter where you put it, but when you're working on a symmetrical item such as this having a defined axis as a reference point is very helpful.

First you're going to select the mirror tool from the Sketch menu as shown. You may notice that a box has popped up on your screen with options for the mirror. In that box you will see that "Objects" is currently highlighted, and you may already have one selected. We will be clicking on "Mirror Line" and once it's highlighted blue, you will click on your center line, the one along the y axis. Now you should have something that looks like Fig. 1

If you already had your objects selected, you might now have something like Fig. 2 and that's fine. Now we can switch back to 'Object' selection and add the remaining parts of the curve until we see something more like Fig. 3. You might be wondering why it's three objects to make that line. Remember before we used fillet when that curve was just two lines with a sharp angle? Each of those lines was considered an object, and when we used fillet the curve became the third. Now that we've used the mirror tool it will be 6 objects not including the center line.

Speaking of the center line, it has served it's purpose. You may now simply select the center line and hit the delete key. It's starting to look a little more familiar now isn't it? Next we'll add some finishing touches and turn it into a three dimensional object.

Step 8: Make It 3D With Extrude

This is where your sketch becomes more than a sketch. If you want to use the fillet tool again to round out the tip or broad edge now is a good time to do it. This is also where you decide how heavy your pick will be. Personally I like a heavy pick so I actually did my first run of picks starting at 1mm, along with a 1.2 and a 1.4. For the sake of simplicity you will see that I am using a nice round 1mm here.

You can either select your sketch first and hit E or click the extrude button shown in the toolbar, and then select your sketch. Either way you should be looking at something like Fig. 1. There's that blue arrow again, and again we'll be using it the same way. As you see in Fig. 2 it has moved in a full 1.00mm increment, which is exactly where I want it to be. If you wanted it to be thinner you can manually type in a number like .6 or .8. Due to the nature of 3D printing I wouldn't recommend going past one decimal place as it's ideal for your design to match up with your layer height when you print. For those of you who already know what your layer height will be when you print, you will want to keep that in mind when selecting your exact height. If you have no idea what layer height means, you should get a chance to specify it whenever you have your picks printed for you, and if you work in multiples of 0.2 you'll almost certainly be safe.

So in case you hadn't noticed, you're basically done! You've just learned how to sketch, fillet, mirror and extrude in Fusion 360 and these skills will allow you to do some amazing things all on their own. But we don't have to stop here, let's personalize these a little bit.

Step 9: Adding Text(ure)

If you plan on printing multiple different sizes of pick, you might want to label them. For one thing this will allow you to tell them apart at a glance, and for another it will add some grip. You can also simply use what you've learned to sketch a design, or maybe features like a thick ridge near the back, or whatever you like. For our purposes though, we'll be using text.

First of course you'll select the text tool from the sketch menu, and then you'll select roughly where you want the text to be. It may ask you again which plane you would like to sketch on and you will again be selecting the xy plane. Keep in mind, once the text is sketched it will be sitting flat on that plane, below the pick. In the image you will see that I have written '1mm', with a height of 5mm to fit properly on the pick. I have also used Comic Sans simply to annoy people. Because it is under the pick, you may find that you have to orbit the camera to the underside in order to select it. You can also click the little light bulb next to 'Bodies' on the left side of the screen, which will toggle visibility of your pick or any other extruded body you may have in the future. Just remember to turn it back on!

In my example I have made the extrusion 1.2mm, and set it to Join. This gives me writing on the pick that will be .2mm thick. If you change the 'Operation' to cut instead you'll actually cut the writing out of the pick entirely, which can be a problem with letters like O or B. Also try to be realistic with your designs. Remember that we're talking about fractions of a millimeter here and not every printer will be able to produce very fine details. Once again, we could call it complete, but maybe you don't want the hard edges around your pick. That's fine, we have options in the next step.

Step 10: Applying Fillet or Chamfer to Your 3D Object

Now that you're more familiar with Fusion, let's take a look at another menu. Modify gives you options that will allow you to make drastic changes with minimal effort. You'll notice that once again we can use fillet, but now it will have a much greater effect as it works in three dimensions. As with all the other tools you simply select the edge you want to fillet, and set your parameters. Here I used half the height of the pick, so that I can do the same thing on the bottom and meet in the middle. If you want a sharper edge, not rounded, you can use chamfer the same way.

By now, you should basically be looking at exactly the guitar pick you've been dreaming of for your entire life. You're welcome, but it gets better. Pretty soon you'll be holding it in your hand. If you want to do anything else to it now's the time. Next, we're ready to create the file that we will print our pick from.

Step 11: Export Your Design and Print

Before you can print your pick you're going to have to create an STL file. This turns our object into what's called a mesh. You can see in the composite image I've made that this mesh will be highlighted in blue. All you have to do is hit the Make button, then select your object and hit OK. This will bring up a prompt where you can name your file and decide where to save it. After that, it's done, you're ready to go! This is the file you will upload to a service, or bring to your library. If you are using your own printer, and you're already familiar with slicing objects you can choose to send it to your slicer by checking the box to send to 3D print utility.

So that's about it, by now if you've done your homework you should be uploading your file to shapeways, emailing/bringing it to your library, or printing it yourself. Maybe you even did a few more designs, to try different shapes and thicknesses. You can easily print many different sizes and shapes at the same time if you like so go ahead and try out a few if you haven't already. This is the hardest part of the whole process...waiting!

Step 12: Keep on Rockin in the Free World

Now that you have your perfect pick that's the right shape, the right thickness and everything for you it's time to try it out. Maybe it's not perfect yet, maybe you need to try again and make some changes. That's fine, now you know exactly how. Now you also have a basic idea of how to sketch in Fusion 360, so you can make all sorts of things. If you spend an afternoon on youtube you can learn way more advanced techniques, but you'll be amazed by what you can do simply by sketching it. I've included some pictures of other items I've made in Fusion using the exact same techniques I just showed you.

While I've been aware of it for ages 3D Printing is very new to me, and there's something profoundly surreal about pulling an idea out of your head, and then physically holding it in your hands. It's been amazing learning so much over the past month since I got my first printer, and I would have done this a long time ago if I knew then what I know now. I hope that this instructable will help some of you make the plunge and get your own printer. Your future projects will thank you for it!

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    3 years ago

    That's a good idea!