In today’s digital age, designers have a powerful tool at their fingertips. Interior design software helps you bring your ideas to life with remarkable precision and efficiency. From conceptualisation to visualisation, software streamlines workflows and boosts collaboration and communication. Finding the right interior design software will be a game-changer throughout your Master's studies and beyond.
But with so many options out there, it can be hard to know which is right for you. Let’s clear things up by exploring some of the most popular interior design programmes on the market right now.
What’s interior design software and what’s it used for?
Interior design software refers to computer programmes designed for professionals, students, and hobbyists in the field.
They enable designers to create, manipulate, and visualise interior spaces virtually, providing tools for planning layouts, experimenting with materials, adding textures and finishes, and producing realistic 3D renderings.
Whether you're an aspiring designer or an established professional, interior design software can transform your creative process. It streamlines workflows, speeds up design iterations, improves collaboration with clients and stakeholders, and enables seamless communication of ideas.
Interior designers use software for:
Planning and designing interior spaces for residential and commercial projects
Experimenting with different styles, colours, textures, materials, furniture, and accessories
Creating photorealistic renderings and animations of the 3D designs
Sharing and presenting the designs with clients and collaborators
Printing the designs or exporting them to other formats
Choosing the best interior design software
“We’ll encourage you to enhance your existing software skills through online training if you feel they need to be worked on […] There’s no requirement to use any particular software.”
As you embark on your interior design journey, it's important to pick software that aligns with your creative goals and technical ability. Keep in mind, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, and exploring different options can help you find the perfect fit. Many of the software listed below offer free trials for you to experiment with.
Rhino, also known as Rhinoceros 3D, offers a versatile set of tools for creating free-form 3D models, generating accurate visualisations, and producing detailed drawings.
Rhino's intuitive interface and extensive plugin ecosystem make it a great asset for designing spaces with precision and flexibility, but it might take some time to find your bearings.
The software's approximate cost ranges from £1,000 to £1,500, with educational discounts available.
Advanced 3D modelling capabilities ideal for conceptual design, organic forms, and complex geometry
Extensive plugin support for expanded functionality, e.g., Grasshopper and V-Ray
Strong community and online resources for learning
Steep learning curve for beginners
Requires additional plugins for rendering and visualisation
May not be very efficient for documentation, collaboration, or Building Information Modelling (BIM) integration
Requires a powerful computer to run smoothly
AutoCAD is an industry-standard software used across various design disciplines, including interiors, architecture, and construction.
With its sophisticated geometry, drafting, and documentation features, AutoCAD enables designers to create detailed floor plans, elevations, and construction documents.
It offers a robust platform for collaboration and supports integration with other Autodesk products such as Revit (BIM) and 3ds Max (rendering), with additional features such as augmented and virtual reality.
Subscription plans for AutoCAD are around £2,000 per year.
Precise and efficient drafting capabilities
Comprehensive library of design elements and symbols with industry-specific toolsets included
Extensive integration with other design software
A large community of users who share tips and tricks online
Can be used on mobile devices
Complex interface for beginners
High cost of ownership, especially for individual users (expensive subscription fee)
Large-scale projects and resource-intensive operations may require more powerful hardware to ensure smooth performance
Vectorworks offers a range of Design Series products, each tailored to specific design disciplines. For interior designers, Vectorworks Architect is your best choice, with comprehensive tools and features that streamline the design and documentation process.
One of its key strengths is its intuitive interface, which allows users to navigate through its extensive 2D and 3D capabilities. From creating mood boards to exploring virtual and augmented reality environments, interior designers can efficiently bring their ideas to life and communicate them effectively.
The software fully supports BIM workflows, facilitating seamless collaboration and co-ordination among project stakeholders.
The cost of Vectorworks varies depending on the version and module. A subscription to Vectorworks Architect currently costs around £1,230 per year.
Integrated with the SIEMENS Parasolid engine
Compatible with other software, e.g., Revit, SketchUp, and Cinema4D
Can analyse and optimise designs using data tags, schedules, costs, and energy efficiency tools
Offers advanced capabilities in augmented reality, virtual reality, and rendered panoramas
Fully integrated BIM workflow
Cloud service features
Can be challenging for beginners and casual users
High cost of ownership, particularly for individual users
Limited third-party plugin support compared to other software options
With a free web browser version and user-friendly interface, SketchUp’s accessibility makes it a popular choice for both beginners and professional interior designers.
For professionals, there are several premium versions, including SketchUp Pro and SketchUp Studio. These provide advanced features and enhanced capabilities for more complex projects.
Although you’re able to create your own completely customised designs, SketchUp has an extensive library of pre-built 3D models. From Ikea furniture to high-end designer pieces, it gives users a time-saving way to incorporate ready-made elements into their designs.
The basic version is free but SketchUp Studio, which offers the most comprehensive set of features, requires a professional license, priced at around £550 per year.
User-friendly interface and relatively easy to learn for basic modelling
Free web version and cheaper than many of the other options available
Good for quick rendering and schematic models with plugins
Library of user-created designs available to download
May not be the best tool for complex geometry, document production, and intricate 3D models
Limited rendering without plugins
Limited file type compatibility
Commands and maneuvering can be awkward
While it may not offer the same level of accuracy as dedicated CAD or 3D modelling software, Photoshop is still a valuable tool for interior designers. Renowned for its powerfulimage editing capabilities, Photoshop is best used in combination with 2D and 3D modelling software to create mood boards, collages, and sketches, or to enhance floor plans, elevations, section drawings, and 3D models.
You can adjust lighting, remove unwanted elements, and add photorealistic details (such as specific wallpaper or realistic landscape views) to renderings to elevate them to a professional standard and communicate your vision accurately.
Photoshop is part of Adobe’s Creative Cloud Suite, which operates on a subscription model starting at approximately £20 per month for Photoshop alone.
Industry-standard for graphic design and photo editing
Ideal for visualisation and mood boards
Able to create custom brushes, styles, and actions
Integrates with other software including AutoCAD, SketchUp, and Vectorworks
Has a large and active community of designers who share resources and advice
Not built specifically for interior design
Isn’t a 3D modelling software and has limited 3D modelling capabilities
Feature-rich software can be challenging for beginners
Complementing hand-drawn sketches with software
“You don't have to be able to draw on a computer to do the course. I encourage a hand-drawn sketch element as well, and you can combine the two and use whatever software you want.”
As Course Leader Sarah Bax suggests, you don’t have to be an expert in specific software to have a career in interior design. Although learning software can improve your design skills, traditional hand-drawn sketches still have a place in the creative process. Combining these two methods helps balance artistic expression and digital precision.
Elevate your interior design career
Ready to take your career as a designer to the next level?
Choose the online and part-time MA Interior Design programme and discover how technology, creativity, and ingenuity can work together to help you excel in this dynamic field.