As technology has evolved and the world has become more progressive, architect software has evolved way beyond creating 2D to 3D models on a computer. With the growth of digital platforms, their workflow has improved. The primary means by which architects communicate their ideas to clients, contractors, or the team are by drawings. These 3D models are compatible with automation capabilities like Building Information Modeling (BIM) and making the whole procedure more intuitive and easier. The technique helps architects and engineers collaborate on the design, labour, materials, planning, and technical specifications for several projects. When it comes to deciding criteria, architect software is targeted for different needs and choosing the one best for you depends on several factors. They should be compatible with other programs, industry standards, cost, the system you are opting for, and the amount of time you are willing to spend on the drawing process. There is a similar pattern in which all the software work for the user in a certain way. The exact requirement of the designer depends upon their level of math comprehension, their knowledge of new component interpretations, and their understanding of structural design while adhering to the spirit of building codes as they change. In this article, we will be presenting you with 25 of the best architecture software programs for beginners to know about. It will help you with the specific requirements and combinations of working with multiple software.
Additionally, this guide will help you pick software that facilitates your needs as well as provide information on 10 of the free architecture software tools. Read on to uncover every bit about architecture softwares.
25 Best Architecture Design Softwares for Beginners.
Archicad demonstrates the basics of BIM (Building Information Modeling) and provides a complete suite of tools for architects, including 3D and 2D modeling, visualization, and 3D drafting. It offers high-quality & realistic architectural renderings for advanced visualization for urban planners, architects, designers, and interior designers. You can learn more about it by claiming a free 30-day trial (1 year for educational use) on the website. In addition, it supports multiple formats with plugins to work with 2D and 3D models.
|Archicad Collaborate||$133.33 + tax/month|
|Archicad||$133.33 + tax/month|
|Archicad Solo||$66.67 + tax/month|
Rhino is a 3D graphics and CAD software created in 1998. It utilizes the NURBS surface model instead of the conventional application used by most 3D software programs. It is also used as architectural design software.
It handles complex curves with ease. With it, you can model any structural part that is not straight, such as the intersections of curved roofs. It offers immense flexibility in importing drawings and then automating the creation of complex 3D modeling without a prior understanding of CAD. It costs a one-time purchase of around one thousand dollars and offers a 90-day free trial for Mac users.
|Full – Single User||$995||$195|
|Upgrade an old Version – Single User||$595||$95|
SketchUp is the best beginner architecture software developed in 2000: a general-purpose 3D content creation tool for users to learn and plan the entire workflow of any project. Its accessibility and real-world applications make it suitable for architecture, interior design, civil and mechanical engineering drawings on a small budget. The software has fewer features than any of the other platforms, and the free version allows you to invest in the ones that suit your project and increase flexibility. However, the most lagging limitation of SketchUp is that it is not BIM-based, but it is best for learning and conceptualizing stages. It is even possible to create a Walk Through with it, which may be favourable for your architectural initiatives in future work.
|SketchUp Studio||$699/yr||Available at tiered pricing.|
Revit architecture software is an Autodesk product that supports BIM workflow while enabling 2D and 3D architecture models. The 3D model-based process helps architects in modeling, rendering, and constructing infrastructure more efficiently. It allows users to build models using components like actual walls, roofs, and doors instead of using the regular geometrical dimensions. The best features of it are automation and collaborative aspect. It allows users to access a library of objects for design and can coordinate multiple team members into a single project using the same model hosted on a cloud-based database. The software is compatible with Autodesk and its products with a 30-day free trial and some subscription plans with annual and monthly installments.
|Every 3 Years||Annually||Monthly|
Cedreo is a 3D home design software for beginners who intend to become home builders and interior designers. The software enables construction and remodeling professionals to draw floor plans and create 3D rendering in an hour. It covers a wide range of features specific for construction like an unlimited number of home projects and instantly generates photorealistic renderings. One can create such 3D renderings of a home with exact lighting and surface shading to get realistic images in a few minutes. Cedreo offers collaborative tools that allow you to work with fellow members and has great presenting features. They can manage project designs without going back to the engineering or CAD department and change designs before the construction begins.
6. AutoCAD Architecture.
AutoCAD is an Autodesk product developed in 1982; to bring it from mainframe to personal screens. It is popular software with experienced users and used extensively as architectural design software. AutoCAD Architecture software works on the same platform having an excellent rendering function and features for 2D drafting, drawing, and documentation familiar to them. It creates realistic fashions with a mixture of solid, surface, and mesh modeling equipment. Unlike much industrial software, AutoCAD has quickly innovated for the 21st century. It is compatible with Revit, and the 2D to 3D architecture software allows different people to work and communicate as a team. Apart from a 30-day free trial, the software has an annual subscription for $1,955 & a monthly subscription for $245.
|Every 3 Years||Annually||Monthly|
7. 3D Studio Max.
Autodesk launched another product in 1996, 3D studio Max designed for making 3D animations and images. This architectural design software comes with great visualizations for rendering the 3D images and professional walkthroughs and animations. It makes it easy for users to import 2D drawings and translate them into objects that can be textured, rendered and lit in 3D, which is handy for beginners as you can create realistic 3D models with minimal CAD knowledge. This software has additional tools for structural analysis, building performance analysis, and steel detailing. 3D studio max also has a 30-day free trial with an annual subscription for $1,875 and a monthly subscription for $235.
|Every 3 Years||Annually||Monthly|
|3D Studio Max||$5,625||$1,875||$235|
V-Ray is a plug-in for realistic visualization, allowing you to show how your 3D models would look in the real world. In the marketplace, the maximum effective 3D rendering answer is V-ray and it is the best beginner architectural software. It turns ArchiCAD, SketchUp, and 3DS into a subtle rendering. The software also has an extensive material library and resources providing various options in lights and realistic textures to take your architecture design to the next level. To get full access, it has a paid subscription that is costly and for the students, it is just $149, so it is a lot more affordable than many other architectural rendering software.
CorelCad was launched in 2011 as a crucial collection of design tools developed expressly for manufacturing, construction, and engineering professionals. It helps architects create 2D and 3D structures with technical precision in text, graphics, and tactile outputs. The software allows beginners to work on 2D materials and later on, transform them into 3D rendering with easy editing provided by polar guides, grips, and powerful 3D modeling tools. It is well optimized for creating 2D spirals and dimensions for accurate measurement, making it preferable for beginners. The application can be purchased for $769 and generate quick sketches.
Floorplanner is an application specifically focused on designing interiors. It combines ease of use and thoughtful features to make the most of the available interior space in the workplace and home settings. This software allows you to create 2D and 3D home designs and floor plans. With 150,000 items to choose from, you can replicate your space and add in any items to make it look desirable. One feature for ease in helping and attracting beginners is that the images can export in 2D and 3D formats across various platforms. It is browser-based software and can be used anywhere, with the best part being that it is available for free. The application provides a library of objects having great tutorials so users can make the most of the program right away.
11. Fusion 360.
Fusion 360 is an Autodesk product having cloud-based 3D modeling, CAD, CAM, and CAE being a one-stop solution for product design, testing, and fabrication, and has appreciators due to its versatility. It is a better choice as it ensures aesthetics, form, fit, and function of design and products. Due to its powerful designing capabilities in architecture, it can produce realistic renders of designs and models, making it useful for visualizations and presentations. The Fusion 360 is a cloud-based software allowing it to be used on different devices across a team to work on a single project. The other advantage is that the non-commercial version is free and with an amount of $70 as monthly charges for the subscribed one.
|Every 3 Years||Annually||Monthly|
|Autodesk Fusion 360||$1,635||$545||$70|
12. Planner 5D.
Planner 5D is one the best 2D and 3D interior and exterior design software for free. The beginner architects need no complex technical skills to prompt in this software to generate lovely 3D and 2D house designs, complete with floor and decoration plans with other interior design elements. You can consider it trying as it is the best beginner architecture software. One has access to a rich library of 5000 items to select colors, furniture, materials, and more. Planner 5D captures photorealistic 3D images of your designs and is accessible from different devices. The company offers a free trial with limited access and can be upgraded based on negotiations with vendors.
SmartDraw is the best architecture software that helps build floor plan from scratch. Architecture is not all about exterior and interior designs- it is also about technical diagrams and flowcharts when architects have to deal with the inner layout of buildings to make them functional. SmartDraw has an extensive library of floor plan templates that helps create visual plans from electrical circuits to roof visuals allowing architects to plan their strategies carefully and efficiently, right from the beginning. You can also create all sorts of documents and diagrams with SmartDraw, where architects have a choice of schematic diagrams to express their ideas better.
|Single User||Multiple Users|
Dassault systemes developed CATIA 30 years ago to produce a precise model of military hardware. CATIA is famous for its precision and handling complex architectural problems with optimum accuracy. That is why it has uses in various fields such as automotive, aerospace, and architecture. Recently, CATIA also expanded its features in cloud technology & works well in collaboration. Architect Frank Gehry used CATIA to design some of his signature curvilinear buildings, like the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. CATIA V5 is available for free for the student version otherwise has a costly license.
|CATIA||Requires you to contact the sales team to learn about pricing|
15. Chief Architect.
Chief Architect is one of the best residential home designing software to achieve 2D and 3D rendering. The program’s architecture layout is convenient to use and allows for quickly constructing 3D models of exterior and interior spaces and then projecting those into 2D plans and elevations. The interface is truly intuitive and the software program gives capable construction equipment with its user-friendliness. You can also export 360° panorama renderings and share them with anyone. The software is available for free for a limited time with a premium package of $199 monthly.
|Chief Architect Premier||$199/month|
16. Vectorworks Architect.
Vectorworks Architect is a tool that designs, renders, documents and collabs on a single interface from 2D graphics to 3D modeling to fully integrated BIM. It can pull together all necessary information to start your project, providing everything from conceptual design, and site planning to analysis. BIM software isn’t exactly known for promoting creative expression, but this software is different. Vectorworks Architect 2022 offers workflow improvements for greater precision, control, and accuracy for the visual model. It provides support for openBIM and access to direct links with software like Revit, SketchUp, Rhino, and Photoshop.
Dassault’s systemes developed Solidworks for the AEC (Architectural, Engineering, and Construction) industry. Designers and Architects need easy-to-use CAD software that enables the creation of complex designs with parametric capabilities and helps in design changes at any stage of the design process. Solidwork fuses the BIM methodology, which helps in progress from the conceptual level to construction to demolition. It also creates photorealistic 3D renderings and detailed fabrication drawings for structural designs, mechanical systems (HVAC), electrical cable layouts, and piping systems. The software has a free version only for students with a free trial for a limited time.
|SOLIDWORKS Cloud Apps for Students||$60/yr|
|SOLIDWORKS Student Edition||$99/yr|
18. FreeCad Arch.
FreeCad Arch is a free 3D architecture software that allows architects & beginners to design 3D objects of various sizes. The Arch Workbench in software provides a modern (BIM) workflow to FreeCAD that comes with the wizard & support for features like fully parametric architectural entities such as walls, beams, roofs, windows, stairs, pipes, and furniture. Additionally, you can import and export multiple files in various formats, including 2D and 3D. The software is available for free, where BIM collaborates with the OSArch community to improve the building design for an enhanced experience.
19. Foyr Neo.
Foyr Neo is a more efficient interior designing software for aspiring architects and interior designers that generate professional-level photorealistic renders in a few minutes owing to their cloud-based rendering engine. Foyr developed Neo as a powerful software used to create 2D floor plans, furnish and customize designs in 3D mode. Then, instantaneously shift to 3D to add more details and get a photorealistic feel for your space. Neo also comes with a library of templates with designs for home interiors, kitchens, offices, and more, helping out from the same tedious CAD designing process. Foyr offers a 14 day free trial of Neo for every new user.
Adobe Photoshop is high image quality producing software creating renderings, elevations, or plans and becomes a vital and essential requirement for architectural students. It is high-quality image-producing software that allows layering to add texture, style, and atmosphere to your designs with a few iterations that give a real-life dimension. It is also a great way of editing & fixing errors. It is also faster to work in compared to other 3D interior design software & allows you to create vignettes for your presentations.
|Monthly||Annually (Paid Monthly)||Annually (Prepaid)|
21. Home Designer.
Home Designer is simple enough for beginners to the experts for creating 3D home designs & interactive floor layouts. Chief Architects developed this software as a remodeling & interior design software that comes in handy & has easy DIY techniques. You can make 3D models for realistic visualization of any object you like and then evaluate it. When you place a door or window, it is inserted into the wall and software automatically updates the framing. When you move walls, the roof and foundation are also updated. Every item you add to the design is included in the list of materials. That enables beginners to use versatile resources for design ideas to begin. The software comes in 3 versions that you can choose as per your need with a basic of $129 for lifetime.
|Home Designer Suite||Home Designer Architectural||Home Designer Pro|
|Chief Architect||$129 Lifetime||$249 Lifetime||$59/mo OR $595 Lifetime|
22. Esri City Engine.
Esri city engine provides a basic version for beginners to start 3D modeling software for creating interactive and immersive urban environments in less time than traditional modeling techniques. Cityengine helps urban planners, architects, entertainment, and game studios to render realistic cityscapes or share real-world GIS data. The software powers rapid adjustments to the architectural style or other features of your model: so you can easily create multiple design scenarios with a simple 5 step process. It eliminates the need to generate 3D cityscape designs and models from scratch and can give the system, Geographical Information Systems (GIS) data, attributes, 2D data, create procedure rules & the software will do the rest. It is an easy-to-use software with a 21-day free trial.
|Esri City Engine||Requires you to contact the sales team to learn about pricing|
23. CAD Cabin.
CAD Cabin offers software products that you can use to completely design with a product range suitable for all types of expertise: from beginner to professional level. Equipped with a drag-and-drop environment, it helps create detailed 2D drawings, floor plans, elevations, and 3D models to visualize your house project. Apart from the basic 2D and 3D design, it applies realistic materials to 3D models from the built-in material library. Also, the platform supports DFX, DWG, 3DS, and PDF files from other tools, making it simple for those leveraging multiple design platforms. Each tool is customizable for your requirements and additionally, no CAD experience is required.
|CAD Cabin||£224.25 GBP|
ZWCAD gives beginner architects a familiar ribbon or classic interface. It supports DWG and DXF file formats for optimum affinity, and flexible tools that incorporate today’s technologies. ZWsoft developed the ZWCad software that has easy-to-use intuitive CAD commands & aliases. These include a barcode and QR code conversion tool, file compare, data extraction, tool palette, and Smart Voice modules, among others. The software is compatible with professionals & also comes with ample industry-specific add-ons. Its 2D drafting tools let you work with standard PNG, JPEG, and BMP image formats and attach multi-leader annotations and more. This software has many more features that can avail once negotiated with vendors.
|ZWCAD||Requires to request a quote|
Allplan is a BIM architect software that develops solutions for architects covering the entire design process and takes collaboration with project partners to a new level. This software provides unsurpassed information quality, especially in working drawings with detailed output. The ultimate design freedom helps you design 2D and 3D models according to your needs. Open BIM platform for efficient cooperation across all disciplines by building virtually first in reality, indicating any errors and conflicts early during the design phase, avoiding construction delays. These tools save time and increase your design quality for construction. The integrated CineRender from n enables you to create high-quality visualizations efficiently. Allplan provides a free trial version for academic purposes and a 14-day free trial.
|Allplan AEC||from 333,00 € per month|
|Allplan Engineering||from 248,00 € per month|
|Allplan Architecture||from 194,00 € per month|
Select the Best Architecture Software “The I to P Layout”
Step 1: Find Out Your Requirements Based on Features.
Your requirements may vary and so does the functionalities of a software. So we summarized some of the software with the features they are best for.
- SketchUp – Best for 3D modeling.
- Autodesk Architecture – Best for 2D drafting.
- Revit – Best in BIM & cloud-based platform.
- 3DS Max – Modelling system with powerful plugins.
- ArchiCAD – Best for 2D & 3D combination.
- Chief Architect – Best house building kit with templates.
- Rhino – Best curved surface modeling.
- Civil 3D – Best 2D modeling with civil engineering Features.
Step 2: Determine Your Learning Curve.
It varies with the software’s complexity, whether it would take you a while to get comfortable or act as a launching pad for your learning. It also depends upon how many different parameters you opt-in for a single program.
Step 3: The Compatibility Testing.
It may not affect you initially when you start as a beginner. But, while working in a team, you need to collaborate with the other members or colleagues. So, choosing software with a cloud-based platform would be useful in your learning phases.
Step 4: Perfect Plans for All.
A deep analysis of each plan of these softwares is crucial as many of the free trials offer what a paid version doesn’t or simply doesn’t fit in your requirements as a beginner.
Step 5: Know Your Industrial Standards.
You should always prioritize an industry-standard software. To start with, get on the web, carefully pick what your competition is using, and see how you can benefit from it as well.
Step 6: Recognise Your Personal Preference.
It is the part where your preference or prior learning guides you. If you have decided on the preferred features and have a grab at something, leverage it. And, in case you are not sure till now, then take a look at our recommendations.
The I TO P Layout which literally means Identify and Pick will help you understand your demands and select the best option out of the hundreds available in the market.
10 Free Architecture Software Tools to Kickstart Your Journey.
As promised at the start, the following list will share 10 of the free architecture software programs that you can rely on without second thoughts.
- Blender – An open-source tool widely popular among professionals and learners, Blender is great for rendering, modeling, simulation, animation, and video editing.
- Cedreo – A free architecture software to start with paid upgrades available from $49, Cedreo is a cloud-based 3D architectural and home design solution that allows the user to create 2D and 3D floor plans as well as design the interiors and exteriors.
- Floorplanner – In existence since 2007, Floorplanner is a versatile tool for anyone looking to design interiors, exteriors, and floor plans. Capable of both 2D and 3D, this free architecture software has a few cutdowns, but you can always upgrade it from as low as €4/month.
- Planner 5D – With an easy operating panel, Planner 5D is a great architecture software to plan 2D and 3D house designs with floor plans and decoration.
- FreeCAD – Designed as a scriptable CAD solution, FreeCAD is an open-source and customizable 3D modeler that architects and mechanical engineers use to design 3D models of various objects.
- LibreCAD – LibreCAD is another open-source 2D CAD application that can be utilized by beginners, hobbyists, or professionals to create and export technical drawings for free.
- Draft It – Draft It is a free CAD software with an easy-to-use system suitable for your occasional or long-term drawing needs.
- OpenSCAD – Focussed on CAD aspects OpenSCAD is a script-only modeler for creating solid 3D CAD models.
- MyVirtualHome – MyVirtualHome is an architecture software adapted from a base-building game and aims at users who are not proficient in virtual design.
- BRL-CAD – The oldest free architecture software, existing for over 30 years, BRL-CAD is an open-source system that allows you to create, analyze, and edit 3D models that you can later use with other systems.
For all the emerging, enthusiastic architects & designers of the future, we have tried to explore the best architecture software to kick start your journey. These cover all the necessary features and as listed, most of them are available for free with in-built BIM for a beginner’s learning to expertise. We hope you find this article helpful and utility-oriented.
Frequently Asked Questions.
The most commonly used architecture software is Autocad. The industry standard application has several features and comes with various helpful toolsets. Compatible with most applications Autocad costs $1865 annually.
Based on my experience, it is easy to use architecture software once you get familiar with its interface, controls and commands. However, getting good at elevations and matching the plans with sections requires time, skills and care.
Planner 5D is the easiest architecture software that beginners with no prior technical expertise can start with for free. It generates 3D & 2D house designs alongside several interior decoration elements. Other options to be looked at are SketchUp and Floorplanner.
There is a significant gap between Revit and SketchUp. While Revit is aimed toward complex projects, SketchUp can perform it while also giving the benefit of interior designing. SketchUp is also an easy-to-use application offered at an affordable price.
BIM is a process and not a software program. Through it, architects create and manage information on a construction project across its lifecycle. It provides a digital description of any built asset, which is essential.
SOLIDWORKS is popular because it can create complex designs while making changes to them at any stage of the project. It is easy-to-use CAD software that established itself too early and has continued to improve over time. The application is also available for free to students, which is noteworthy.
BIM means Building Information Modeling. It is used to create and manage information on built assets on a construction project throughout its lifecycle.
Architects use CAD software to generate different aspects and perspectives of a project. These are then used as virtual tours to be shown to clients.
SketchUp is among the easiest architecture software to learn. It has a descent interface that takes no time to get familiar. One can also learn from various youtube tutorials and start using the software for free.
While the learning curve differs from person to person, it should not take you more than 30 days to get your hands on its controls and commands. You can also learn from the YouTube tutorials and start using the application for free.