CAD Programs

I have been cruising the web to learn more about Easel and other CAD programs.
I will be using a X-Carve machine
Are there preferences on which CAD to use?
I am new to this game.


Easel lets you do quite a lot without needing other CAD packages. It works well for carving signs or engraving shapes and patterns into flat stock.

I like to do more 3D shapes which require more software features than Easel provides. I use Vectric Vcarve desktop for this. I can get 3D files from places like Thingiverse and with a bit of effort I can create tool paths for my machine to make that shape.

I believe that XCave sells software like Vectric at a discount. I would start with Easel and go on from there.

Thanks Harry…

CNC’ing is a 3 stage operation:
1 - Designing (CAD)
2 - Creating tool paths (CAM)
3 - Cutting (CNC, sending gcode to the machine)

Easel is a 3in1 package tailored for the Xcarve.

Almost any other CAD package is primarly 1 & 2 only, options are like:
Vectric, AutoCAD, Sketchup, Fusion360, Aspire, Solidworks etc etc.

Stage 3 require a “sender” and there are several to choose from, some of them are Easel, UGS, bCNC, Chilipeppr.

A post processor (translator) is needed to match the transition from stage 2 to stage 3.

What you design is what mainly define the ideal design suite, combined with personal preferences.

If you feel Easel is limiting your ambitions then look for alternatives.


Thanks Haldor.

Trying to what is best to start learning… I like you 3 stage analogy. It made things a little clearer…

I prefer Fusion 360 myself for the CAD part however it is more advanced as far as design goes. You can model an entire project you are working on then flat pack it down to apply your CAM. and you can either post out the g-code to use with easel or use a universal g-code sender (UGS). Easel is a great way to start if you are looking to ease into it. Great explanation on 3 steps process @HaldorLonningdal

Which tool you use depends on how you wish to work and your budget.

You could just draw everything up in Easel. Using a vector editor such as Adobe Illustrator or Inkscape will afford more options and can then be imported.

Using 2D CAD such as Draftsight will let you leverage its capabilities, or you could go all the way over to 3D CAD or modeling making pretty much anything possible.

What sort of things are you planning on making?

I got started with rhino3d for CAD over a decade ago. It was a free download and they sold it with educational discounts. It was pretty powerful and widely used. I think Autocad has a free 3d program now for learning the ins and outs of it if you are earning under a certain amount of money with it. That would be the route I’d probably go today.

With 3D cad, there is a pretty steep learning curve, but knowing how to do 3d is worth it. I use the UGS Gcode sender with my Gcode. For 2D stuff I use CAMBAM to get the G code. That has worked out well for me. I haven’t done anything with Easel except play around with it.

All options are open right now… I was given a 500 x-carve as a Christmas gift.


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My usual suggestions:

  • Vector drawing:
    • Free/opensource drawing: Inkscape (Cenon if on Mac OS X)
    • commercial vector drawing: Serif’s Affinity Designer
  • Special purpose CAD/CAM
    • free/opensource: F-Engrave
    • budget: PixelCNC
  • 2/5D CAD/CAM:
    • free: Easel (if you don’t mind cloud software) or Carbide Create (if you prefer a local install)
    • budget: CamBAM or EstlCAM or Vectric Cut2D
    • commercial: Vectric Vcarve or Aspire
  • 3D modeling
    • opensource: Blender or Art or Illusion or OpenSCAD or Solvespace
    • Commercial: Moment of Inspiration or Solidworks
    • Free annual license: Autodesk Fusion 360

I would suggest to stick with Easel unless there is something Easel wont do for you. Most other options have steeper learning curve.

Easel is alright for what it is, a beginner-friendly interface with quite a few options available, with an enviroment that cover everything from basic designing to carving :slight_smile:


I like the idea of local software. My access to the cloud in my shop is Wi-Fi..  Will Carbide Create run the x-carve?

What is the learning curve?


Carbide Create is a CAD/CAM application which you can install locally and then use to export G-Code files to create a design on the machine.

You’ll need to use a separate application to actually control / setup the machine — Easel is the standard option for X-Carves — this communication / control program needs to be able to:

  • home the machine / set the origin relative to the stock
  • select and send the G-Code file to the machine

You could use Easel similarly, just create the design in it, then write out G-Code to a local file, then use Easel to home the machine, set the origin, and send the G-Code file.

Alternately, you could use some other program for that such as UGS (Universal Gcode Sender).

The big thing is to remember that while there are 3 basic kinds of applications:

  • CAD
  • CAM
  • communication / control

Some applications combine functions:

  • Carbide Create: CAD and CAM
  • Easel: CAD and CAM and communication / control

and that the principles learned in one application should apply to others.

Pick a very basic task (cutting out a coaster) in some modest / inexpensive material (cork was the classic choice) and try it following along with some suitable tutorial. If you have a problem which re-reading the docs doesn’t help with, post again here noting:

  • what you did
  • what you expected
  • what actually happened

and folks should be able to help you puzzle things out.


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