3D Files Meet 2D Views with Canvas X3 CADComposer
Kristine Horvat posted on January 07, 2020 |

Canvas GFX Inc. is back at it and has made major improvements in the newest version of their Canvas software, Canvas X3 CADComposer. Having just launched on December 3, this software is a powerful graphics program with many technical image editing tools. As always, this program can handle vector and raster images; however, most notably, this new version now allows users to import 3D CAD files to give 2D illustrator power to a 3D image.  I had the opportunity to test out the program with different 3D files, and I found several interesting program features.

When you open the Canvas X3 CADComposer program, you are greeted by a standard welcome screen. If you want to open an already existing file, you are in luck, because CADComposer will accept 75 different file types. However, if you want to open a 3D file, this isn’t the place to do it; if you try, you’ll get an error message.

The Canvas X CADComposer welcome screen.
The Canvas X3 CADComposer welcome screen.

If you want to open a 3D file, first you need to create a new document – either an Illustration, Publication, Animation or Presentation. Next, click on the Place 3D Model 3D cube (circled in red below) to import your CAD file. Once your file has loaded, a new ribbon of options will appear with ways for you to modify the view of your 3D object.

Import 3D files by clicking on the Place 3D Model cube, circled in red.
Import 3D files by clicking on the Place 3D Model cube, circled in red.

So now you have imported your 3D file, and there’s a lot you can do! I have found it difficult to rotate objects in other software programs; sometimes one small move of a mouse flips an object far beyond your intentions, and then it can be difficult to rotate the object back to its original position.

The rotation feature in CADComposer is very well made and user friendly. On the upper right side of the object is a cube, and each face of the cube is divided into 9 sections. You can click and hold on one of these segments to rotate the object around that orientation.

If you just want to move the object to a new location on your illustration, that can be easily done with the Pan button. Or, you can use different View options to view the object from the bottom or from an isometric view, for example. This provides a great deal of movement control to set your object to the exact angle you want.

Rotate objects with precise control using the segmented cube on the upper right.
Rotate objects with precise control using the segmented cube on the upper right.

Aside from rotating an object, it is also very easy to move the different components of an object. The Move menu allows you to move or rotate components along an axis, or you can freely move those components yourself with the free drag feature. You can also ghost different components in your object to see the connections hidden underneath.

Using any of these techniques allows you to showcase the exact components of a part that you want to be highlighted. And if you want to unexplode your object to get components back into their original positions, all you need to do is select all of the components (CTRL+A) and click Restore Neutral Position.

Expand out the components of an object to clearly showcase different layers.
Expand out the components of an object to clearly showcase different layers.

Another useful feature in CADComposer is that when your CAD file is brought in, all of the component files are brought in as well, including the names of each component. This seamless file import allows you to see all of the individual components of your object that you originally named in your CAD software in the Assembly Tree panel on the left, without having to go back and forth between a CAD program and Canvas X3 CADComposer.

In addition, instead of ghosting components within the Canvas program, you can uncheck Assembly Tree items to make them invisible.

Ghosting the housing better showcases the screws holding this engine together.
Ghosting the housing better showcases the screws holding this engine together.

You can also utilize different rendering modes, including smooth, smooth with outline, technical, flat technical, silhouette, flat and wireframe. This flexibility caters to different image objectives: for a technical engineering drawing, a wireframe rendering might be ideal, whereas in marketing materials, a technical rendering would provide a stunning representation of your product.

Starting from the top left and moving clockwise: smooth, flat technical, wireframe and silhouette, as compared to the center technical rendering mode.
Starting from the top left and moving clockwise: smooth, flat technical, wireframe and silhouette, as compared to the center technical rendering mode.

The files I have been working with here, provided by Canvas GFX, are .CATproduct files from CATIA V5 and .SLDASM files from SOLIDWORKS, but you can import 29 different types of 3D files into CADComposer. You can also perform several tasks here that can be performed in CAD programs, such as creating a bill of materials for your product and adding labels.

I enjoyed testing out this program. Over a year and a half ago I tested out Canvas X 2018, and while I was impressed with the technical drawing capabilities of that program then, I have been blown away by the user friendliness of Canvas X3 CADComposer’s ability to focus on 2D views of 3D files while maintaining all of the drafting features of the previous version.

The software’s ribbon menu is very simple and clear to understand, which greatly reduces the learning curve for this part of the program. As an academic, I do not create technical drawings frequently, but I can appreciate the ease with which I could create eye-catching technical drawings. There are numerous applications for this program, especially for creating assembly guides and maintenance documents. This program also bridges the gap between the technical and marketing sides of a business, as in addition to the many technical uses of Canvas X3 CADComposer, clear diagrams that would appeal to and be informative to general audiences can be created with ease.

Canvas X3 CADComposer is compatible on computers with Windows 7 and more recent versions of Windows, and no fancy video graphics cards are needed for this program to work well (I was using a Windows 7 laptop with 16 GB memory, without any issues).

This Canvas program has a subscription available for $699/year or $559.67/year for three years. Considering the interdepartmental uses of this program in combining the 2D and 3D world, this is a fair deal for the cost. The benefits of this subscription service include that Canvas GFX can continue to release updates without needing to wait to release a new version to update the software for users.

You may have also noticed that a new version of the standard Canvas software has also been released: Canvas X 2020. Canvas X3 CADComposer contains all of the features of Canvas X 2020, plus the ability to import CAD files. Both programs still maintain the 0.035 micron accuracy of Canvas X 2018, with the addition of a new visual combine tool, a vector brush for sketching, isometric snapping grids, a math equation editor, a QR code creator, new ink and stroke detection abilities, smart dimensioning where object resizing is automatically detected, and now Canvas X programs will keep your last used setting when you draw in new objects.

Interested in checking out the versatility of the Canvas X3 CADComposer program? A 14-day trial of the full program is available here.



Canvas GFX Inc. has sponsored this post.

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