3D modeling has always been a fascinating aspect of the digital world, and with advancements in technology, creating impressive models has become more accessible than ever. In this article, we will explore how to create a 3D modeling app using just HTML and CSS, two primary web technologies that form the building blocks of modern web design. By leveraging the power of these fundamental tools, you can craft stunning 3D models without the need for complex software or expensive equipment.

HTML and CSS are known to provide structure and style to web pages, but when combined in the right way, they can also be used to simulate a 3D environment. As you delve deeper into this topic, you will discover how HTML elements can be transformed and positioned in 3D space using CSS properties, including perspective, transforms, and more. Throughout this exploration, you will learn how to create, manipulate, and insert 3D objects into a webpage, making it an immersive and interactive experience for users.

By the end of this article, you will have the foundational knowledge required to build a 3D modeling app using HTML and CSS. Whether you are a seasoned developer or a beginner eager to learn new skills, this guide will help you unlock the true potential of web technologies for creating captivating 3D experiences.

Getting Started with 3D Modeling in HTML and CSS

Understanding HTML and CSS Basics

Before diving into 3D modeling using HTML and CSS, it’s crucial to understand the fundamentals of these technologies. HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) is used to structure content on the web, while CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) handles the visual appearance of those elements.

HTML uses tags to define elements like headings, paragraphs, images, and links. For example:

<h1>My heading</h1>
<p>A paragraph of text</p>
<a href="https://www.example.com">A link</a>

CSS, on the other hand, controls the visual look of elements by defining rules for colors, sizes, margins, and other properties. Here’s a basic example of CSS:

h1 {
  color: blue;
  font-size: 24px;

p {
  font-size: 14px;
  color: gray;

Creating a Basic 3D Environment

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s start creating a simple 3D environment using HTML and CSS3. First, make sure you have a basic HTML structure with a <!DOCTYPE html> declaration, <html> element, head, and body.

Once you’ve set up the HTML structure, add a div element where you’ll display the 3D environment:

<div id="3d-environment"></div>

Next, you can start defining CSS rules to create 3D objects and apply transformations. These transformations include translation, rotation, and scaling, and are achieved using the transform property in CSS. Here’s an example:

#3d-environment {
  perspective: 600px;
  width: 100%;
  height: 100vh;

.cube {
  width: 100px;
  height: 100px;
  transform-style: preserve-3d;
  transform: rotateX(45deg) rotateY(45deg);

In this example, we set a perspective value for the 3D environment, which defines how the space is viewed. For the cube, we define both its dimensions and apply rotation on the X and Y axes.

To create a more realistic 3D environment, combine several CSS3 properties:

  • Use opacity to create transparent objects.
  • Apply gradients or textures to surfaces.
  • Create complex 3D objects using multiple div elements with different transformations.
  • Use keyframes and animation properties for animated effects.

By integrating these concepts, you can create impressive 3D modeling applications with just HTML and CSS. Practice and experimentation are essential in exploring the full range of possibilities with these technologies.

3D Transforms and CSS Animations

Applying 3D Transforms

With new features like CSS 3D transforms, creating 3D modeling apps using just CSS and HTML is becoming more achievable. To apply 3D transforms to an element, you can utilize properties such as translate3d(x, y, z), rotateX(angle), rotateY(angle), rotateZ(angle), and scale3d(x, y, z). These properties help control the position, rotation, and scaling of an element in a 3D space.

For example, to move an element 50px to the right, 100px upwards, and 150px into the screen, you can use the CSS property transform: translate3d(50px, -100px, 150px);. Similarly, the rotate and scale properties can be used to achieve the desired rotations and scaling.

Creating Simple 3D Animations

To create simple 3D animations with CSS, you can use keyframes and CSS animations. The @keyframes rule is used to define the animation behavior during various stages of the animation timeline.

The following example demonstrates a simple rotating cube animation:

@keyframes rotateCube {
  0% {
    transform: rotateX(0) rotateY(0);
  50% {
    transform: rotateX(180deg) rotateY(180deg);
  100% {
    transform: rotateX(360deg) rotateY(360deg);

To apply this animation to an element, use the CSS animation property:

.cube {
  width: 100px;
  height: 100px;
  animation: rotateCube 5s linear infinite;

Here, the animation property consists of:

  • rotateCube: The name of the animation.
  • 5s: The duration of the animation.
  • linear: The timing function applied to the animation.
  • infinite: The number of iterations for the animation.

CSS transitions can also be used to create animations. Transitions help create smooth changes between styles when triggered by an event. Similar to how keyframes define animation steps, transitions define how a style change occurs, usually by specifying the property, duration, timing function, and delay.

For instance, using a simple transition on the hover event of an element can be done as follows:

.element {
  width: 50px;
  height: 50px;
  transition: width 2s, height 2s;

.element:hover {
  width: 100px;
  height: 100px;

In this example, when the element is hovered upon, its width and height will gradually increase from 50px to 100px over the duration of 2 seconds.

By combining 3D transforms, keyframes, and transitions, developers can create interactive and engaging 3D modeling applications using just CSS and HTML.

Adding and Manipulating 3D Objects

Building Basic 3D Shapes

Creating 3D applications with just HTML and CSS requires basic understanding of 3D geometries. You’ll need to start by building basic 3D shapes, such as cubes, spheres, and cylinders. To create these shapes, you’ll need to define their vertices, which compose the geometry.

The CSS transform property can be used to achieve the desired 3D effects such as translation, rotation and scaling of objects. In addition, CSS perspective and perspective-origin properties help in setting the depth of the scene and the vanishing point respectively.

Consider the following CSS code for creating and transforming a simple 3D cube:

.cube {
  transform: rotateX(45deg) rotateY(45deg);
  perspective: 800px;
  perspective-origin: center;

.face {
  width: 100px;
  height: 100px;
  position: absolute;

Working with Complex 3D Models

Although CSS and HTML can create basic 3D shapes, working with more complex 3D models requires additional tools and technologies such as WebGL. WebGL is a JavaScript API that enables rendering 3D graphics in the browser.

To import complex 3D models into your application, you’ll need to use file formats like OBJ, STL, FBX, or glTF. These formats define the geometry, textures, and animations of 3D models. Most 3D modeling software can export their models as one of these formats.

Using a library like THREE.js simplifies the process of working with complex 3D models. It provides functions for loading and manipulating 3D geometries and textures. Here’s an example of loading a glTF model:

const loader = new THREE.GLTFLoader();

loader.load('model.gltf', (gltf) => {

When working with imported 3D models, you’ll need to pay attention to details like vertices and geometry for optimal performance and rendering quality. Proper manipulation of these properties helps create realistic visuals and smooth animations in your 3D application.

In conclusion, creating a 3D modeling app using HTML and CSS requires combining basic 3D geometries with advanced rendering techniques. Utilizing WebGL and third-party libraries such as THREE.js streamlines the process and provides greater control over the manipulation of 3D objects in your application.

The Power of CSS Perspective and Lighting

Creating a 3D modeling app using just CSS and HTML requires a solid understanding of CSS perspective and lighting techniques. In this section, we will cover how to master the CSS perspective property and implement lighting effects to achieve a realistic 3D appearance.

Mastering CSS Perspective Property

The perspective property in CSS plays a crucial role in creating the illusion of depth in a 3D modeling app. It defines the distance between the viewer and the object, allowing for the adjustment of the 3D effect’s intensity. A lower perspective value results in amplified 3D effects, whereas a higher perspective value results in muted effects1.

To apply the perspective property, you should set it on an element acting as the stage for the 3D scene:

.stage {
	width: 300px;
	height: 300px;
	perspective: 1600px;
	perspective-origin: 50% -240px;

The perspective-origin property allows for the adjustment of the vanishing point, further influencing the perceived depth and positioning of 3D objects2.

Implementing Lighting Effects

To enhance the realism of a 3D modeling app, implementing lighting effects is essential. CSS provides tools like rgba and radial-gradient for the creation of light sources and shading effects.

Using rgba, you can apply semi-transparent colors to 3D objects, mimicking the way light interacts with their surfaces. For example:

.box {
	background-color: rgba(255, 0, 0, 0.5);

The radial-gradient function enables the creation of circular gradients, which can be utilized to simulate spotlights or ambient light. Combining this with rgba, you can achieve complex lighting effects:

.light {
	background-image: radial-gradient(rgba(255, 255, 255, 0.8) 5%, rgba(0, 0, 0, 0) 60%);

With these techniques and tools, you can create a visually impressive 3D modeling app using just CSS and HTML.


  1. The noob’s guide to 3D transforms with CSS – LogRocket Blog
  2. perspective – CSS: Cascading Style Sheets | MDN – MDN Web Docs

Integrating Libraries for Enhanced Features

When developing a 3D modeling app using just CSS and HTML, incorporating advanced features becomes essential. These features can be achieved by integrating libraries that support 3D graphics and animation.

Incorporating Three.js into Your Project

Three.js is a versatile library that harnesses the power of JavaScript, WebGL, and HTML5’s canvas elements to create stunning 3D graphics within web projects. To incorporate Three.js, you’ll need to include the library script in the HTML file:

<script src="https://cdnjs.cloudflare.com/ajax/libs/three.js/r128/three.min.js"></script>

Next, create a basic scene in a separate JavaScript file or within a <script> tag in the HTML file:

const scene = new THREE.Scene();
const camera = new THREE.PerspectiveCamera(75, window.innerWidth / window.innerHeight, 0.1, 1000);
const renderer = new THREE.WebGLRenderer();

renderer.setSize(window.innerWidth, window.innerHeight);

This snippet sets up a basic scene with a camera and renderer, which can then be further customized with 3D objects, lighting, and more.

Exploring Other Libraries and Tools

In addition to Three.js, there are other libraries and tools that can enhance your 3D modeling app’s capabilities:

  • Babylon.js: Another powerful JavaScript library for creating 3D scenes and graphics with simplified coding syntax, making it beginner-friendly.
  • A-Frame: An open-source library that simplifies the creation of 3D graphics by utilizing custom HTML elements.
  • SVG: Scalable Vector Graphics is an XML-based markup language for describing two-dimensional and basic 3D vector graphics. It can also be styled using CSS and manipulated via JavaScript.
  • Blender: A comprehensive application for creating 3D models, animations, and game assets that can be used with other libraries and tools you integrate into your project.

Remember, when choosing the right tools for your project, consider their features, complexity, and compatibility with your existing HTML and CSS frameworks. Integrating libraries and tools will help you achieve better results and features in your 3D modeling app.

Presenting and Sharing Your 3D Modeling App

Optimizing Your App for Different Devices and Browsers

When developing a 3D modeling app using only HTML and CSS, it is essential to optimize the app for various devices, such as iPhones, and browsers to ensure a smooth user experience. To achieve this, you can leverage responsive design techniques that adapt the layout and design elements based on the device’s screen size and browser capabilities.

Utilize CSS media queries to apply different styles depending on specific device characteristics like device-width, orientation, or pixel density. This will help ensure your app looks great on devices ranging from mobile phones to desktop computers. Furthermore, test your app on multiple browsers, including Google Chrome, Firefox, and Safari, to verify its compatibility and address any browser-specific issues.

Showcasing Your Work Online

Once your 3D app is fully developed and optimized, showcasing your work online is the next crucial step. Several platforms can help you present and share your 3D modeling app with a broader audience.

  1. Website: Create a dedicated webpage on your portfolio website to display and demonstrate your app’s functionality. Provide clear descriptions and instructions for users to quickly get started with your 3D modeling app.
  2. CodePen: CodePen is an excellent platform to share live demos of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript projects. Upload your app’s code to CodePen to offer an interactive demo for potential users and fellow developers.
  3. Sketchfab: Although Sketchfab primarily focuses on 3D models sharing, you can showcase your app by uploading a few sample 3D models created with it. This helps potential users visualize the kind of models they can create using your app.

By following these suggestions and optimizing your 3D modeling app for different devices and browsers, you can ensure its success and showcase your work online effectively. Remember always to test, refine, and adapt to provide the best possible experience for your users.

Advantages and Limitations of CSS and HTML 3D Modeling

Exploring the Benefits of Pure CSS 3D Modeling

Pure CSS 3D modeling offers several advantages for web developers and designers. Firstly, it eliminates the need for browser plugins such as Flash. Since CSS is a native part of the web stack, it ensures better compatibility with modern browsers. The visuals and appearance of the 3D models can be controlled directly using CSS techniques, offering seamless integration with the overall design of a web application.

Another benefit of using pure CSS for 3D modeling is the ease of implementation. The CSS transform property provides a simple way to create and manipulate 3D objects. This means that developers can leverage their existing CSS knowledge, making it easier to adopt and integrate 3D modeling into their projects. In addition, given that CSS and HTML are both lightweight technologies, there is typically a noticeable improvement in performance compared to using plugins.

Addressing the Drawbacks and Constraints

Despite the advantages, there are some limitations when it comes to CSS and HTML 3D modeling. One of the main constraints is the rectangular nature of HTML elements, which can make it challenging to create complex and non-rectangular 3D shapes. As a result, developers may struggle to build intricate 3D models using only CSS transform properties.

Another potential drawback is the lack of advanced features and tooling available for 3D modeling with CSS and HTML. Unlike dedicated 3D modeling software, CSS was not initially designed for creating 3D models, so some advanced capabilities, such as precise control over lighting and textures, may not be readily available or require extensive workarounds.

Furthermore, browser support for advanced CSS techniques may vary, leading to potential compatibility issues across different browsers or devices. Although support has improved significantly in recent years, it is essential to ensure that the chosen techniques are compatible with the target audience’s preferred browsers.

In conclusion, while pure CSS 3D modeling offers some impressive advantages for web developers and designers, there are also drawbacks and limitations to be aware of. Implementing 3D modeling using CSS and HTML may be more accessible and lightweight, but it may not provide the same depth and control as using dedicated 3D modeling software.

By Ash

Ash has worked in the software industry for over 25 years. In this time he's learned what to look for in a great product, and all the things to watch out for. It's become his life's mission to help others so they can be more productive with their time. You can reach out to him via the contact us page. I love hearing from readers, so if you have any questions or comments, please don't hesitate to reach out to me. You can contact me through the contact us page.