Creating Art, as an Engineer

Often times, people are stereotyped based on what they do for a living. It is sometimes assumed that engineers might not have interest in more artistic endeavors.

Join SOLIDWORKS® Industry Consultants Mark Peterson and Gian Calise for a SOLIDWORKS LIVE Design episode that will dismantle this stereotype, demonstrating that many engineers do have an artistic side that may appear at various points in their careers. Gian shares some of his own 2D pastel and acrylic-based artwork before jumping into the 3D world. (The time-lapse process Gian shares of creating his artwork is amazing.)

Gian also demonstrates in just five simple tips that artists or engineers can create just about anything using the subdivision surface modeling capabilities in 3D Sculptor (xShape). Get ready to be inspired that anyone can use the “digital clay” push-pull methods of xShape to make ideas come to life.

Before jumping in to actual project examples and tips, Gian begins with an xShape primer. The product is also available within the 3DEXPERIENCE® SOLIDWORKS Offers for production projects, the Maker Offer, and on its own (e.g., for use with your own seat of SOLIDWORKS). He explains that xShape is built for freeform surfacing, which can act as a complement to parametric 3D modeling in 3D Creator (xDesign) and/or SOLIDWORKS 3D CAD.

Gian shows his process with a ring he created—from sketch, to model, to render, and on to the final product. Gian also shares how he got the ring made from the 3D data he’d modeled. It is as simple as submitting an STL or STEP file, including the desired material, to an online 3D printing vendor for a quote. In only a matter of weeks your creation is delivered to your doorstep.

Gian showcases an elephant pendant he made for his mother that was inspired from a soapstone art project he’d carved by hand with metal tools while in middle school. He made the pendant from six different subdivision bodies crafted exclusively within xShape. Once the design was complete, he exported it as a STEP file and had it 3D printed.

In addition to sharing his own projects, Gian shares his top five tips for designing in xShape.

Tip #1: Master the Robot: Gian explores different options and perspectives available by leveraging the options available with the “robot,” a triad-based interface that enables customized ways to push and pull on sets of faces, edges, and more to achieve a desired shape, which is analogous to style splines and control lines in SOLIDWORKS. Gian states that over 95 percent of what you do in xShape involves the robot, so mastering the robot in xShape is extremely important.

Tip #2: Select Like a Pro: Gian shows selection filters and various methods of capturing sets of faces, edges, vertices, and more, including different types of box selections (much speedier than Control-Select) and when to use each. Shortcut keys can be a huge time saver.

Tip #3: Start Simple: Don’t stress about making multiple bodies with loads of faces to start! Start simple, with minimal loops, and work your way up as needed. Gian displays his thought process and how he manages different modeling challenges within xShape to achieve impressive results with far less headache and time expenditure than modeling shapes in a traditional CAD tool.

Gian also fields questions about dealing with mesh data, bringing in images to use in the background to guide your xShape design, and more.

Tip #4: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: Did you know you can copy and paste bodies in xShape? Gian shows how well this can work when making different iterations of similar objects, such as with hands in this case.

Tip #5: Refine Your Design: As you get deeper into your design, you may need to adjust some areas, such as intersecting surfaces. Gian shows how to leverage the cage view of a model to understand its general health and readiness for printing, machining, etc.

Learn More

To learn even more great xShape tips, check out Jordan Tadic’s Get Flexible with 3D Sculptor video at

If you’re interested in using xShape (part of the 3D Sculptor role), check out the 3DEXPERIENCE® SOLIDWORKS Offer for production projects or the Maker Offer, which both include 3D Sculptor along with other great roles and apps for 3D modelers.

Be sure to subscribe to our SOLIDWORKS YouTube channel for more livestream content and check out for more information on previous and upcoming streams.

Sean O'Neill

Sean O'Neill

As an Industry Process Consultant, Sean's role is to help amplify the 'best of' both our products and our community, via the stories we showcase on our livestreaming programs (like SOLIDWORKS LIVE) and other digital outlets. Sean is also the creator of both the SOLIDWORKS Champions Program and the SOLIDWORKS Influencer Program.