9 best websites for free 3D models

Artwork on screen by Marina Nakagawa

After examining the nature of the free 3D model resources available to download from the web, these eight archives exist as the best online resources for free high-quality 3D models.

The creative possibilities are endless with the variety of 3D models offered at Free 3D, Archive 3D, NASA 3D, Artist 3D, TurboSquid and CG Trader. The last two also sell 3D models, making our overall list of the best websites for 3D models.

And did we mention that they’re free?!

At no cost, explore thousands of high-quality 3D models suited for professionals, whether a game developer, graphic designer, or artist looking for creative inspiration.

Smithsonian Open Access

Working with Khronos, the Smithsonian publicly launched their Open Access initiative in February, which included the release of approximately 2.8 million 2D images and 3D models into the public domain with the internationally recognised Creative Commons Zero (CCO) license.

Additionally, a variety of platforms will be launched to make its collection media, collections data, and research data available for educational and research endeavours, creative reuse, computational analysis and innovative explorations.

To distribute their massive gallery of media and data, the Smithsonian is offering a download option for their 3D models in glTF™, a royalty-free specification for the efficient transmission and loading of 3D scenes and models by applications. An open standard developed by Khronos, glTF minimises both the size of 3D assets and the runtime processing needed to unpack and use those assets. The Smithsonian has developed a specialised glTF vendor extension, but with this new agreement, the museum will engage directly with Khronos and build a glTF-based open source tool chain for scalability and longevity.

Scottish Maritime Museum 

The Scottish Maritime Museum, which is based in Irvine, Ayrshire, has shared 3D models and 360° virtual tours of almost 50 of Scotland’s most important historic vessels, maritime artefacts and shipbuilding tools on Sketchfab, the world’s largest platform for shared 3D content.

The first 3D scans captured include MV Spartanthe only surviving Scottish-built ‘puffer’; the 1898 built SY Carola; and the 1898 RNLB Jane Anne, a rare surviving example of a double-ended, self-righting lifeboat which is of huge importance to the Museum’s local community of Irvine. 

The Scottish Maritime Museum’s scans also include a ‘Cat's Head’ carving from the Cutty Sark; a steam hammer built by RG Ross & Sons for the 1907 opening of the Clyde Port Authority (Clyde Navigation Trust) repair workshops in Renfrew; and the stern of SS Rifle.

The Scottish Maritime Museum’s 3D models and virtual tours can be found online at www.scottishmaritimemuseum.org and at www.sketchfab.com

Free 3D

With 15,000+ free models, it’s hard not to find what you’re looking for at Free 3D.

443,336 users have benefitted from thousands of high-quality 3D models, such as this Lamborghini Avenger downloaded over 200k times.

Archive 3D

See Archive 3D for a multitude of high-quality 3D models, all offered at no cost.

Though mostly home-related with categories such as furnishing, equipment, appliances, structure, and kitchen, this resource also includes 3D models of people and related ware, nature, air and spacecraft, geometrical shapes, and more.

NASA

US space agency NASA’s 3D archive contains 3D models, images, textures, and visualisations offered at no cost and without copyright.

If you’re looking to create a space-themed computer game or need an astronomical backdrop for a film, visit this archive for a variety of NASA-verified astronomical models and objects.

Artist 3D

Last but not least, Artist 3D offers graphic designers and artists new free monthly 3D models each month.

User-downloaded ratings allow artists to exercise discretion before downloading models.

TurboSquid

TurboSquid mainly sells 3D models - but it does have a whole section of free models like this recreation of an iPad Pro.

CGTrader

Like TurboSquid, CGTrader has free models as well as paid-for ones.

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