Which CAD Platform for Skateboard Design?

If you want to make a skateboard or longboard, you will probably need some molds. Molds are tools that form the individual layers that make up a board into a curved shape. Of course, you can use other processes to make boards... but the most common method is by gluing sheets of thin wood (called veneers) into a bent sheet of plywood (essentially) and then cutting out the shape of your board. The molds make that bent sheet of plywood.
wood skateboard molds

A set of wood, CNC-machined skateboard molds.


Making skateboard molds can be hard to do on your own: it can take a lot of planning, time, effort, and skill. For two-part molds, the molds need to be properly offset: that is, their mold surface geometry should account for the wood that sits between them.

If you must hand-shape a mold, I recommend using the Roarockit vacuum bagging method and a foam mold - foam is cheaper, more forgiving, and you only need to make one half of a mold set.

However, making skateboard molds doesn't have to be hard!

Enter digital fabrication: 3D printing and CNC machining.

These tools allow you to build things with precision by being computer-controlled. They're more affordable than they've ever been - you can pick up a 3D printer online for a few hundred dollars. And, they're more prevalent - many schools, makerspaces, and libraries have some of this equipment now.

This removes a massive barrier of bringing your idea to life quickly.

However, you still need to create the instructions for these helpful machines. This is typically done with a CAD (Computer Aided Design) platform, which can generate 2D and 3D models.

Here's a short guide comparing some of the most popular CAD platforms for 3D modeling your skateboard or longboard:


sk8cad skateboard molds

SK8CAD is a specialized 3D modeling platform for skateboard builders that's designed to make board building as easy and fast as possible. You don't need any special training for SK8CAD - just hop on and start tweaking parameters or browsing sample shapes, and watch the model change. It automatically generates mold designs for your specifications, including mold surface offset (just tell SK8CAD your desired offset). Also, the platform is web-based, so no need to download any new software.

 Pros Cons

Easy to use

Customization limitations

Free plan option 3D file export in polygon mesh, only
No installation / download (use from anywhere)
Affordable paid plans (starting at $9/month)
Fast - generates new designs in seconds
Sample designs


Cost: 5/5

Ease of use: 5/5

Customization: 3/5


2) Fusion 360:

fusion 360 skateboard model

Fusion 360 is a powerful 3D modeling platform that's very popular among hobbyists. While it's not specific to skateboard building and requires a bit of training, you can use it to create fully custom skateboards and molds. Fusion 360 also includes a CAM module, which you'll need for CNC machining (unless you already have one - VCarve is a popular option).

 Pros Cons

High degree of customization

Steep learning curve

Free for students, educators, non-commercial use, and qualifying startups Requires installation on local computer
Fair pricing on paid plans, flexible options (e.g., pay per month) Can be slow to start / run
Includes CAM Not free for business uses
Solid & mesh exports


Cost: 4/5

Ease of use: 3/5

Customization: 5/5


3) Rhino:

rhino skateboard model

Rhino is a popular 3D modeling platform that's used in a variety of industries, including product design and architecture. It has many capabilities and features that can be used to create complex skateboard and longboard designs.

 Pros Cons

High degree of customization

Steep learning curve

Fair pricing, free trial No free options (discounts available for students and educators)
Solid & mesh exports


Cost: 3/5

Ease of use: 3/5

Customization: 5/5


4) Onshape

onshape skateboard model

Onshape is a powerful cloud-based 3D modeling platform and is geared towards engineering and product design. Onshape is particularly well-suited for distributed teamwork - being cloud-based, you can access your designs from anywhere and don't need to download any software. There is a free plan, however, all designs created in the free plan are in the public domain and accessible by anyone.

 Pros Cons

High degree of customization

Steep learning curve for board design

Free for students, educators, non-commercial use, and qualifying startups All designs created on free plan are in public domain (you don't own them, and anyone can copy/use them)
Fast and powerful Expensive ($1,500/yr or more)
Cloud-based (access your designs and account anywhere)
Solid & mesh exports


Cost: 1/5

Ease of use: 3/5

Customization: 5/5


While there are many CAD platforms to choose from, these four are probably best suited for board builders due to their functionality, user experience, price, and prevalence/support network. If you are getting started with skateboard design and/or want fast customization capabilities, SK8CAD probably makes the most sense (okay, I may be a little biased...:-) ) If SK8CAD is too limited for you and you are ready to dive into learning a new 3D modeling platform, any of the other three can suit you well.


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