The other answers list a bunch of commercial software, and that's fine--those are the tools most commonly used by professionals.
But if you'd like to experiment before spending a lot of money (and many of the listed ones are very expensive), you can play with these:
- Blender - originally commercial but bought out by the open-source community a number of years ago; now freely downloadable (and still being developed actively). It's been used to create animated movies, models of the large-scale universe, and everything in between. https://www.blender.org/
- OpenSCAD - a constructive solid geometry (CSG) tool that can be used to create models for 3D printing. I've just started playing with it myself. If you've done any programming, it's pretty natural: you script objects in one pane of the window, and another pane shows you the current state of the object you're creating. There are quite a few examples and some good tutorials available. http://www.openscad.org/
- White Dune - a 3D editor specifically for VRML/X3D models, which can include animation, sound, etc. This is a much less polished tool, and while English documentation exists, it's a bit rough around the edges. (The main developer is German, I believe.) But it has its charms, too, and the "dune for the impatient" page will give you a rough idea of what it's like in less than 10 seconds: http://wdune.ourproject.org/docs/usage_docs/dune_en_exercise.html
- SketchUp - this is a commercial 3D editor, but it includes a free version that runs in a web browser. You do have to create an account to use it, however. https://www.sketchup.com/products/sketchup-free
There are plenty of others, too, but as a Linux user, these are the ones that immediately came to mind--they natively support Linux as well as Windows and MacOS.
Greg recommends the following next steps:
Dear Mathew N.
Glad I can help with that!
There are tons of software available to make 3D models. The real question is, to do what.
Maya and CATIA are used to make movies
AutoCAD is used to make buildings
AutoCAD revvit is used to create models of machines and even screws, nuts and bolts.
Corel Draw is used to make amazing graphics for online or printing on paper.
Shapeways is used to print 3D models that have a material and physical reality.
Project Vasari to calculate solar paths and predict shadow patterns.
Most come from AutoDesk anyways and this company alone has over 250 different versions (programs) of virtual rendering and virtual construction. And this is not the only one there is Artlantis, Lumion and Ice Edge as well at tons of others.
Whether this is for engineering, manufacturing, architecture, product design, even film production, car designs, or many other products that need to be drawn with accuracy and precision and have to depict a realistic prototype of the item you will be drawing. Some people have even drawn a map of the entire world! like the one you see on google Maps. This is called geospatial metrics.
The master of these kinds of drawings is called a draftsman, (s)he basically draws all day long on a computer.
I am not an authority on the others, but can tell you a great deal about architectural and design software.
These make flat or 2 dimensional virtual drawings that make quite an amazing illusion of a real 3-Dimensional structure. You can set them in any time of day or night, create shadows, you can see the illusion of glass reflections and can set furniture, cats and dogs and people in them. You will be able to choose trees and plants and patio items for the garden. And you can do walk-throughs and take pictures. You can make them float, orbit, and move them left -right | up - down and have any isonometric viewpoints. Thermal measuring (heatmaps) and windflow as well.
There are many shapes that you can make with AutoCAD in 2D and 3 D , cubes, triangles, torus (donut shape) square, rectangles, spheres and polyhedrons. All done perfectly You can make meshes and have many different views, solid, hollowgrams, mesh view. so that you can make changes. You can also fuse and extract two objects. and the program can make videos, and make calculations of materials. You will be able to select color of tiles, (called hatch) to create the illussion of bricks, metal, glass, chromes, wood, stone or any other material, even water, grass and soil.
By far AutoCAD is one of the best, most complete and with many applications. Yet you will find other smaller and simpler programs to make floorplans. Google Sketch, Chief Architect and AutoDesk HomeStyler.
Try finding student versions and start with easy ones, because it takes 2 to 3 years to learn the more complicated programs, before you must decide what you want to do with them.
MEP (Mechanical - Engineering and Plumbing) - HVAC [Heating - Ventilation and Air Conditioning) and all architecture is done with AutoCAD.
In a nutshell I have explained a few things about 3D rendering or modeling, it is up to you to discover which one you are, Architect, Product Designer, Engineer or Contractor.
When you find you, you can delve deeper into which program is best for you.