Shapeways also has a tutorials page to get you started. This will be helpful when you've started designing.
First I will talk about the software I use or have used/tried.
|Rhino interface ~ own work (Girl Robot Ring)|
This is the software I use at the moment for creating 3D-printable content. I learned to work with this software at my school. We used this especially for 3D printing, so I know where I can find the features needed for this purpose. I will talk more about this in another post, now I will only show different options of software ;)
Rhino isn't free, but as a student you can get a free copy I believe (check with your school). You can also download a trial version.
There are many plugins available for Rhino, one of them is Grasshopper. This is a parametric modeling plugin. You can use variables to make 3D content. It's really amazing, but kinda difficult..
I really like this software now I know my way around with it. It isn't difficult to learn, there are even build-in tutorials.
|Blender interface ~ billrey.blogspot.com (I've uninstalled it from my laptop.. )|
This is free software! and it's amazing for something that's free. It even comes with a build-in game engine, how cool is that! But it takes some practice.. I have used this software for some time, not for 3D-printable content so I'm not to sure how to check my product is ready to be printed. The user interface is quite different compared to other 3D software, that's not a bad thing, it just needs some time to into it.
You can create very beautiful things with this software, definitely worth a try!
|Maya interface ~ area.autodesk.com (for some reason I uninstalled this a few days ago -.-)|
This software is from Autodesk. If you're a student you can download free student versions of all Autodesk software, like AutoCAD, Revit or 3ds Max. These aren't the full versions, but they will do. You can also download trials.
I learned how to use Maya when I started with my study in Architecture. You can really create amazing architectural visualizations. There is a lot to learn about rendering and modeling in this software. It can become very complex. So not the best software to start with. Again, I haven't used this for 3D printing, just for visualizations.
Now for the software I haven't used.
|Google SketchUp interface ~ garageshop.blogspot.com|
This is free software from google. I've never used this but they say it is very easy to learn! It's also used among professionals, because it's free I guess..
|3ds Max interface ~ ciscolara.blogspot.com|
Also from Autodesk. This software is one of the most known in the 3D world. People can create stunning images with this.
I once used this software. It was kinda strange, because I was so used to working with Maya, I couldn't find my way around in this. So if you're new to the game this will be less of a problem ;)
Ok, these are some of the many 3D software programs out there. For future post I will do tutorials in Rhino, so if you're interested in that I recommend you download this software.
Blender and Google SketchUp are great free ways to get you introduced to 3D software in general. If you have time to play around with these, please do so! There are enough tutorials out there to get you started.
Maya and 3ds Max are more for professionals. Of course you can try these, but be prepared for the many options you will have within the software ;)
I've only showed pictures of the user interface, if you want to see amazing renders done with the software, you should check out the sites I have linked (names). The reason I did this, is so you can see a bit how easy or difficult the different software look. Maybe this can help with your choice ;)
I hope this was a bit helpful and if you have any questions don't hesitate to ask! ^_^