I would like to create two-dimensional projections of three-dimensional geometrical objects. The drawings should be in a vector format, SVG or PDF, which can be imported by Inkscape or Adobe Illustrator. On Wikipedia, I found the following examples (original SVG, CC-SA):


Those are isometric projections. A wireframe version thereof (black lines only) can be constructed with Inkscape's Axonometric Grid feature. However, this method does not help with shading. The sphere would look flat if the gradient was missing. Is there a program similar to Inkscape, which let's you choose the position of a light source and produces a planar projection with gradients?

An other shortcoming of 2D vector applications such as Illustrator or Inkscape is the difficulty to draw an object that is not aligned with the grid axis. Suppose, you'd like to rotate the cube in the figure by 20° without changing the perspective. How would you do this?

Note: With help from the answers found here, I found the following tools promising:

  1. Vector Rendering Method for Blender (Free Software)
  2. Maya Vector Renderer (Commercial Software)
  3. Swift 3D (Commercial Software)
  4. VectorStyle 2 for Carrara (Commercial Software)
  5. Google SketchUp Pro (Commercial Software)
  6. GeoGebra (Free Software)
  • maya uses swift3d
    – joojaa
    Commented Apr 13, 2014 at 8:22

6 Answers 6


I'm thinking Google SketchUp might be perfect for that.

[PRO] Export PDF and EPS: 2D vector images

With the Pro version of Google SketchUp, you can export views of your models in PDF and EPS format, allowing you to continue to work on them in vector editing programs like Illustrator and Freehand. For 2D images that need to be resolution-independent, nothing beats exporting to these formats.

Source >>

Sadly this feature is in the Pro version only which is not exactly cheap.

( I've never properly used sketchUp, so I don't really know how well it exports anyhow. )

  • Do you happen to have a simple scence showing a sphere and a box, which was exported using this feature?
    – Jan
    Commented Jan 30, 2012 at 20:20
  • @Jan I had hard time finding anything before, but since you asked I tried again and I found this video youtube.com/… That's the only proper example that I found, but it may be that I just used all the wrong search words. Dunno what version of sketchup he was using though.. There might be some improvements in the newest version, who knows..
    – Joonas
    Commented Jan 30, 2012 at 22:15
  • Then theres another video from the same guy youtu.be/334BI29mnyo
    – Joonas
    Commented Jan 31, 2012 at 7:28

In many schools of architecture, the software of choice for creating annotated vector drawings of 3-dimensional geometry is a workflow from Rhinoceros 3D (Rhino) to Illustrator. Rhino is generally the tool of choice for 3D drawings, diagrams, and drafting because it can be easily scripted or extended with Python or Grasshopper (a visual programming plugin). Additionally, Rhino can import a wide variety of file formats, including Illustrator and PDF.

Rhino includes to options that are typically used for this:

  • Make2D creates a 2-D vector tracing of the objects in the current viewport (in any graphic projection). It will generate new 2-dimensional objects and can separate visible and hidden lines as separate layers.
  • Rhino can then export the resulting 2D vector objects to an Illustrator file in PostScript format, for further graphic editing.

Here's a sample of the type of drawing you can create with this workflow:

I should note that while Rhino does not natively export to SVG, there have been attempts to build that functionality using Python scripting.

  • 1
    to be honest a bunch of cad apps can all do this including, solidworks, creo(Pro|e), solidedge, microstation, catia, vertex, NX, autocad.... you can convert the ps file to svg with no problems
    – joojaa
    Commented Apr 13, 2014 at 21:16
  • @joojaa if you know the details in some of those, it might be useful to post it as an answer. Commented Apr 14, 2014 at 0:22
  • Yes but the user asks for color shading which is not usualy part of this. Im not sure it is appropriate to hijack the thread for this?
    – joojaa
    Commented Apr 14, 2014 at 4:05
  • @joojaa you're totally right. I somehow overlooked the shading. Do you think my answer should even be on here? I'm thinking of deleting it ... Commented Apr 14, 2014 at 17:25
  • Naah no problem
    – joojaa
    Commented Apr 14, 2014 at 17:29

Swift3D is a vector-based 3d application that seems to offer gradient shading.

  • Could you possibly post a simple SVG image, showing a sphere and a box, rendered with Swift 3D?
    – Jan
    Commented Jan 30, 2012 at 20:18

I have a suspicion that you can do it with GeoGebra. It's a free app for geometry constructions. They mostly focus on planimetry, but the current beta also has stereometry.


all the major renderers should support this. the google term you are look for is " vector line rendering"

for eg: "3ds max vector line rendering"

update: seems my answer was too ambiguous. the "Illustrate!" plugin (3ds max) supports vector line output; this is for flash export

http://www.davidgould.com/ "One amazing feature of Illustrate! is its ability to render these styles out to vector artwork. It currently supports Shockwave Flash, Adobe Illustrator, and Autocad DXF output. This allows you render your 3D scenes for displaying on the Internet or for inclusion with other vector graphics."

  • 1
    Without confirming it, my guess is that they will be talking about wireframe rendering, which is still in a bitmap format. Some renderers such as Mental Ray can render to EPS, but even that is just the bitmap preview image.
    – jontyc
    Commented Jan 27, 2012 at 1:14
  • Think it's vector output, but the result is somewhat like tracing the bitmap output.
    – e100
    Commented Jan 27, 2012 at 18:17
  • please see updates above; i understood the question perfectly as i've actually faced this situation before. my answer was too general though, i guess "ask google!" is not really helpful.
    – Doug Lee
    Commented Jul 25, 2012 at 23:59
  • autodesk licenses swift3d
    – joojaa
    Commented Apr 13, 2014 at 8:23

I am a mechanical engineer working with SolidWorks. It is even possible to parameterize the dimensions you want. This means that all dimensions can be related through mathematical equations.

Even more these images seem made in this software.

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