Compare Fusion 360/AutoCAD/Inkscape/Illustrator/Sketchup/Etc

I’m not sure how to be succinct with my question. There are references to several different software programs and my head is beginning to spin. I’m trying to decide if I need to learn another program or two.

  1. I use AutoCAD LT everyday for architecture and I understand its advantages and limitations. It can be very rigid, but also very precise. A lot of the new topics lately have mentioned Fusion 360, but that seems to really be for 3D, and complex parts. Is there an advantage to using Fusion 360 over AutoCAD for the GF?

  2. Inkscape vs. Illustrator - I dabble with Illustrator and also use it for my architectural practice so I’m familiar enough to be able to work through things. But, there are more mentions of Inkscape that Illustrator. Is one better than the other for what we are trying to do?

  3. I also love Sketchup for roughing things out in 3D. It too has limitations like the way it draws a circle in segments. But, I can model it in Sketchup and then export to an AutoCAD file or pdf and bring into Illustrator.

I guess my short questions are, should I learn Inkscape and Fusion over Illustrator and AutoCAD for any reason? And, is there a program that I’m missing out on to easily build in 3D space that is better than Sketchup for the GF?


IMHO, Illustrator is more powerful than Inkscape, but Inkscape is free. (Which is why you’ll see more discussion of Inkscape here than Illustrator.)

If you have Illustrator, just learn to use it. It has everything you need.

Same for Fusion 360. It’s the free one. So you’ll see it discussed more here.

If you have one 3D model program and one 2D drawing program you can do what you need to though, so it really comes down to what you are comfortable with. Just use that one and don’t try to learn another one. :slightly_smiling_face:


Thank you.

I use Inkscape because it’s free. My impression is that illustrator is more powerful, but up to now Inkscape has done everything I’ve wanted to do.

I used to use SketchUp for 3D and now use Fusion 360. You can see why here:

I’ve been told that the new SketchUp is now parametric as well. But I’ve now gotten used to Fusion, so I’m not going back. I’ve found it difficult to get a good SVG output from the free version of SketchUp in the past. I’m not sure if that has improved at all either.


I use Fusion360 for any structural designs, and Illustrator for anything “artistic”; although, I’m not overly creative. I use parameters and constraints heavily in F360 to keep my designs organized.

I also have Inkscape, but it seems to run a bit quirky on my Mac, and Affinity Designer, but there are limitations–such as lack of image trace–that prevent me from using it more.

I use Affinity Designer for the majority of my art work, it’s very powerful and way cheaper than Illustrator. It doesn’t do everything Illustrator does, but then again we’re using it to create cut/score/and engrave paths/images, mostly grayscale items, to burn into wood, not create color posters for professional advertising (although truth be told Affinity Designer has handled the majority of my illustration needs thus far).

jbpa is correct that AD doesn’t have image trace, but I do have another illustration package that handles that for me if I really need it. I’m pretty good with bezier curves that I could usually just create my own vector elements by manually drawing my curves using the image as a template or guide.

If you have Illustrator, I would recommend that over Inkscape any day. Inkscape is a convoluted, messy, and hard to use program.

If you don’t have Illustrator, I would recommend spending a few shillings for Affinity Designer. I would avoid Inkscape at all costs. But that’s just me…

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Holy heck! This is you! That sculpture is saved at the top of my list of amazing works. The video was extremely helpful, and at first the parameters stuff reminded me of Revit, which I can’t stand _(mostly because of the Autodesk hype). But after seeing how modifying the parameters modified the model, I’m sold for flat work. Not for architecture really, but definitely for the GF. Thank you.


I have used Autocad since before it was 3d and I miss using Lisp as I could do a lot with it, I have it but have not loaded it on this new computer. I really wish Inkscape had a concept like blocks but what it does with smoothing curves alone makes up for everything it lacks.

Blender has a lot to offer particularly where 3d is a desire as a part. I can build in 3d and then make a shaded 2d image that will engrave in 3d in the Glowforge. Blender also only costs the time and effort it takes to learn it, but the effort is worthwhile. It will import SVG but not export it, however, it will export many things that can be translated.

I guess I will need to look at Fusion 360 if learning it is the primary expense. I used Sketchup when it first came out but was disappointed with the maiming of the free version and have not gone back. Similarly, Autocad-lt was supposed to be for management folks who did not need to really do work as it too is quite maimed, but it is weird how now the folk really doing the work have LT and the Management folks have the full version as their superiority justifies, but of course do not ever use the unmaimed parts.

Since you already have it, Illustrator is probably your best choice for preparing art for the Glowforge.

AutoCAD LT is precise, but not well-suited to this type of design. It’s fine for linework, but things like gradients, blends, and custom pattern fills are easier in Illustrator (in my experience).

Inkscape is a good free alternative to Illustrator, but as you mentioned, less powerful.

Fusion 360 and Sketchup are great tools for 3D work, but unnecessary for this application, and lacking many useful 2D tools.

(Disclaimer: Although I use all of these tools, I am far more experienced in Illustrator, so I am likely biased toward that option.)

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I have been interested in the difference between pricey marketed and user-created systems. If you are building for others your prime customer is someone with no experience in the software, as those with lots of experience probably already have it. With that as the goal easy and intuitive GUI works best even if it there are more decisions and commands, and the most important buttons need to be big (and probably red) with button size based on the expected amount of use.

User-created software is usually based on need and efficiency, more than intuitive awareness of the user, as the designer/ expert user is the primary consideration and therefore the program is a bit obscure to the new user.

The thing is that nobody is a new user for long, and the annoyance of decision trees will last long after you were thankful that they were there when you were learning the program.


Reminds me of a quote on the wall in the architecture studio at UPENN way back in the late 80’s. “If you can’t design it well, make it red. If you can’t make it red, make it big.”

Being able to make the most used buttons big and red in Illustrator and AutoCAD would be great. Because they move stuff every new release.


One of the complaints about Blender is all the tiny buttons all the same size (but what it does is use less screen real-estate for more buttons. 3D Studio Max had a “render” button that was huge and could make a movie in minutes, it took months to make decent images much less movies but they obviously wanted you to be able to appear to do something at first sit down.

When I went back to Autocad after learning Blender, even though I have streamlined with Lisp all the commands, I was constantly annoyed at all the extra moves that I could not make unnecessary.

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Only true if a) you only want 2d things or b) you can think 3d in a 2d program. I design mostly 3d things and need 3d modeling to let my bad ideas die early as a file that gets deleted. So for me anyway, 3d modeling software is a necessity.

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It is fun here - every once in awhile you find that someone here is famous (in some way) and you go “wow, I sort of know them” :smile:

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I believe an AI direct to GF plug-in was supposed to be part of the deal originally. Not sure if that’s still the plan?

The other thing to think about is the workflow and how clean those files are. I’m not sure what the workflow is for Autocad to get to the Glowforge. Lots of interesting, and sometimes frustrating, file issues have popped up with different design platforms. They get solved typically via some troubleshooting and workarounds, but still something to think about.

I can say for Illustrator, if you respect whatvthe Glowforge can process (as far as text, appearances, transparencies, clipping masks, etc.), I have zero problems with SVGs generated from it.

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Re: Fusion v. Sketchup

I love Sketchup and use it daily for work, but for Glowforge type projects Fusion’s parametric capabilities put it light years ahead of SU.

For example, you design up a cool laptop stand that slots together and make one for yourself. Your friend covets it and wants you to make him one in a different material that happens to have a different thickness, even if it’s slight.

In SU you’d have to fiddle with all the connections or even remodel the thing. In Fusion, if you’ve set up the file correctly, you can just change the material thickness and the whole model will update accordingly.
(@Secret_Sauce made a great series of webinars on the topic he recorded and posted on YouTube)


A question for those who know Inkscape and have Lasers. Can you cut a vector Pattern or make a pattern into a proper vector file in Inkscape?


This isn’t an answer, but related. There is a phone / iPad app called Adobe Capture. It’s not free, but amazing for creating patterns. Just point your phone at your surroundings and instant patterns. I’ve only just discovered it. It can be exported to Illustrator or Photoshop however in trying it out, it doesn’t show up in Illustrator. Online says to open in Photoshop and erase around and bring into Illus. Cumbersome.

The app can also make a SVG vector shapes of any photo or picture through the camera or already on your phone. It’s called “Shape” within Adobe Capture. I plan to use it to engrave images of old houses. No GF yet to try it out. The online forum for pattern says to screen capture the pattern, then run through “Shape.” This works but it’s kind of rough.

This link explains the Pattern App better

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Inkscape will apparently turn anything into a pattern though I have not worked out all the (somewhat obscure) controls. As yet that leaf texture is the best I have managed and rectangular array the only shape repeat. hex would be cool, but not found such a widget yet.

Illustrator has a similar feature. The Adobe Capture though helps me be more creative for the first step.