If I have a 2D die-line of a product. What's the quickest way to turn it into a 3D mock-up? Preferably it should output to a popular 3D format like 3ds Max.

Here's an example of the kind of dieline I'd like to fold into a 3D image.


Sketchup looks good, but it costs several hundred dollars for commercial use. Is there a cheaper (or preferably free) package for converting the die-line into a 3D image?



9 Answers 9


3ds Max is perfect for this. And has a 30 day FREE trial, with full functionality.

Draw it out in 2D inside 3ds Max. Then simply move the Transform Gizmo to the creases and fold it as you need until you have the desired result. And you can even animate these folds, for added fun.

By "folding" you'll be ROTATING, the currently selected sub selection (those bits you want to fold) around the position of the Transform Gizmo at the crease.

Should be a lot of fun to do, once you figure out all the terminology and techniques of 3ds Max.

3ds Max is probably one of the hardest design apps in the world to learn, but also the most rewarding. And they have some of the best documentation. If you need any particular help coming to terms with it, invest time watching guys use it for polygon modelling on youtube.

And, ironically, 3ds Max is about 10x better for doing 2D design with splines than the specialised 2D software. So that's an added bonus that makes learning how to use it well worthwhile.


Here's the magic feature of 3ds Max. This alone will get you addicted to its way of doing things:


Think of it like an anchor point, but it's MUCH more powerful and freeform than that.

Here's an introduction to Transform Gizmos:


And here's a brief overview of the concept of a Gizmo in 3ds Max:


These things will forever change how you can think of moving things around to create new and interesting shapes.

R is the shortcut key you want most, it's Rotate. Once in this mode, anything currently selected can be rotated around the current position of its transform gizmo.

  • Thanks, Gizmos look interesting. But after the 30 day trial 3ds Max seems very expensive. I may be forced to use Blender until I can afford a better option like Max or Maya. May 29, 2014 at 21:48
  • Get even moderately good at 3ds Max and it will fast start paying for itself. But yeah, learn 3ds Max then switch to Blender if you must. Or do a 30 day Maya trial right after. It's also great. Then C4D. Although not sure about their trial period.
    – Confused
    May 29, 2014 at 21:54
  • Do the skills learned in 3ds Max transfer well to Maya, C4D and other 3D apps or do the differences in interfaces make that difficult? May 29, 2014 at 22:00
  • 1
    no skills dont transfer well, especially skills in blender dont transfer well, consider that most people can never swirch their 3d app. As it represents a too big investment. Ps. cad apps have a sheetmetal mode that does just this importing and bending takes 2 minutes.
    – joojaa
    May 30, 2014 at 5:20
  • Speak for yourself, Joojaa. 3D apps all work on the same paradigms. Learn one, you're ready to go with the next one. And, as many many experts have noted, learning another has helped them learn more about their first 3D app. I honestly can't believe you're preaching lock-in. That's irresponsible. 3ds Max is ultimately the best to learn first because it's the most fluid and flexible, and from there it's only a few days (at most) to transition to another 3D app. There's even videos and cheat sheets dedicated to swapping between 3D apps to speed the process.
    – Confused
    May 30, 2014 at 6:51

While any 3D application can do this, its by no means trivial. First polygon modellers are discretsized and you can not just bend wherever you like. With no 3d experience this is a bit hard to get at first. For a experienced 3d modeller no problem. While any content creation application works file I have a different suggestion.

3D CAD applications have a specific operating mode for this kind of things. Mainly because of the need to build things out of sheet metal. Which is the same technique on material that's slightly more tensile. Packages get designed with this method all the time. So all you need to do is show the bend lines and input the angle. This may be more intuitive than learning Blender.

So without texturing or render heres what the process would look like in Creo:

Imported AI to creo abnd made it a sheet

Image 1: After AI import is made into a sheet

after initial bends

Image 2: Bending is just as simple as drawing lines on the sheet. (CAD takes care fo bend radiuses etc.)

enter image description here

Image 3: Bends complete

At this point its ready to be textured and rendered. But now my times up.


Thanks for all your suggestions. I've narrowed down the software to the following -

Origami is an illustrator plugin that automatically folds the 2D shape into an 3D file for further editing.

I'll still need to import the file into 3d software for rendering it properly. I've looked at several and I'll probably end up using blender. It has the least intuitive interface of all the 3D editors I've looked at, but it seems to be the most powerful of the free and cheap options. Depending on how productive I am with it I might skip Origami altogether.


joojaa mentioned CAD software called Creo, that some people may prefer. You can get a free version of Creo that allows you to use a maximum of 60 unique parts here -



Boxshot.com has an app called Origami that takes an AI file with die lines and renders a 3D view.

  • Is that page commercial, do you own it or are you part/member of it. What is the advantage? Or is this just an advertising? Please explain better!
    – Mensch
    Jul 27, 2016 at 20:57

I know this post is late and not in 3D max but any software package can pull this off. I use C4D with foldMYDesign template and FoldIt plugin with bones for animations and instruction manuals. Adding to plugins with PYTHON is beast mode as well.

If you use ArtiosCAD, you can easily export 3D format say DAE and have dieline extruded and work your magic. You can also fold your design in ARTIOS(More intelligently for simpler pieces). You can also use Adobe Illustrator as long as the shapes are closed with no gaps, no double points on top of each other, no one piece representing 3(or however many) pieces for your dieline. You want each connecting piece to be it's own COMPOUND medium. Export say Illustrator version 8 and push forward.

Example links...

FoldMyDesign R16 template https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-VRbBz3QlHE

FoldIt Plugin from C4DZone http://www.c4dzone.com/en/shop/plug-ins-17/fold-it-1-0-257.htm


There's no software (that I know of) that can magically turn a dieline into the 3D object it's meant to be, as the dieline simply doesn't have all the information needed to actually construct the package (which way to fold, how far, what the material is, what's a glue tab, what's not, etc.)

If you're simply looking for 3D software to redraw it, then there's plenty of options. For free software suitable for commercial use, Blender is a popular one.


Strata 3D used to have a great plug-in for Illustrator that would do this wonderfully, Enfold. It was created in collaboration with Esko and utilized Esko's Studio technology.

It let you create your dieline, set the creases and cut lines, and then fold it up to a 3D model you could export to Strata 3D (or anything that would open a .u3d file). It was/is great and I still use it today.

However, when they stopped selling it they tried to merge users over to Esko Studio, which was about 5x more costly. Yes, Esko studio is the standard for doing this sort of thing, but it's expensive.

I've been looking for an alternative for a while and Origami by Boxshot looks promising, it's not there yet.

  • What features do you think are missing in Origami? Jun 5, 2014 at 19:54
  • This is just my opinion based on some limited use, but it doesn't feel as polished or refined as enfold was. I found the need to rename layers awkward. I like how enfold would assign the angles without having to rename the layers. But this is a minor issue, the one major thing I couldn't live with was the inability to make a cut between two flaps with one line. When I was testing it out, I had to define each cut with two lines and a gap in order to separate to flaps of a box. Maybe I missed how to do this (I hope so), I really am rooting for this program. Jun 9, 2014 at 19:49
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    Ok, I take back what I said… I just downloaded Origami again and it looks like most of what I didn't like about it is fixed. I guess the last version I used was a Beta release. My fault for not testing a 1.0 version before passing judgement. Jun 9, 2014 at 20:15

Aha - I see, DA01 is right, there is not enough information in a 2D image to instruct the 3D. The only way I can think of is to do it the other way around, from 3D to 2D. But I am guessing that is not what you want. :)

As, again DA01 says, making a simple 3D shape that will be correct is pretty straightforward in any 3D software (Blender, Sketchup).

I would just like to add though, that if your die cut has some kind of imagery on it - colours, shapes, pictures - what you do is create the 3D shape, then wrap your 2D image onto the surface. That way, you combine the best of two worlds: freedom of graphics in 2D, with a 3D shape.


There is a software called esko which is a plugin used in adobe illustrator it turns your dieline into 3d mockup.

Also try,

origami (similar software), Folding Genius 3D (similar software), packmage (similar software).

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