Drawings remain the primary means by which architects communicate their ideas to clients, craftsmen or within the design team. The way we create those drawings has evolved over time and is still evolving on a daily basis. Each design software is targetted at different needs, and choosing the best one for you depends on many factors such as cost, compatibility with other programs and the amount of time you are willing to spend on the drawing process. Although you will only find the most suitable design software by being able to adapt and jump between them, here is a list of basic programs to increase your workflow and help you get from the first draft to the final presentation.

1. SketchUp


We strongly believe that architects should start the conceptual phase in 3D. SketchUp allows the user to quickly and easily make 3D designs. It can be downloaded for free however many of its export features are disabled. Since Google bought its copyrights it has become extremely popular in terms of usability and cost. It is one of the easiest programs to understand but its simplicity also means that it has limited rendering capabilities. However, it is still a powerful program to convey first ideas and it also offers an enormous component library, particularly for domestic architecture. Every object, surface, and material come with its own unique texture, which is definitely a plus. Its biggest pro remains till date its user-friendly interface.

Read more: SketchUp Tutorials for Architects: The Most Useful Web Sites and Resources

2. Revit


Revit is the all-in-one software for 2D and 3D projects, that produces a total project output including modeling, rendering, and 2D construction documents. Instead of lines and circles, you can use actual walls, roofs, beams, columns and other building components and also real-world characteristics of the physical building such as windows and doors. It is compatible with AutoCAD, so it is pretty easy to insert a DWG file and use it as a trace reference to start shaping your model. One of its biggest advantages is that every change you make to the model is updated in all views, including plans and elevations. This reduces coordination and drawing time significantly.

Read more:
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3.  3D Studio Max

3D Studio Max

Although 3DRhino is getting spread at an exponential rate, because of its parametric plugins and smooth modeling features. Yet, 3D Studio Max still the most popular software in the 3D market.  Since those primordial days of computer graphics and 3D Studio (software that was running under DOS), things have changed. In just the last half decade 3D Studio Max tools have found their way into far more areas of our work life than anyone would have imagined. It has modeling capabilities and a flexible plugin architecture and can be used on the Microsoft Windows platform. It is frequently used by video game developers, many TV commercial studios, and architectural visualization studios.

Read more:

Architectural Rendering software: Most Helpful 2D and 3D Web Resources
10 Parametric Plugins Every Architect Should Know! (3D Rhino)

4. Autocad


Actually, we don’t recommend using Autocad anymore since Revit is rapidly replacing it in the market. Yet, Autocad is the old dominant player in the architecture software industry. It is so well known among students and professionals that it is unlikely to face any compatibility issues while transferring files throughout the design process. It produces purely representational drawings and usually is the stepping stone to 3D modeling software. If you adjust the user interface to your preferences and start experimenting with layers and line weights, you will get a decent draft with standard drawing conventions and measurable construction details. Another version of AutoCAD that is created especially for architects, is AutoCAD Architecture. It has features that allow architects to do a more efficient drafting, creating designs and documents familiar to them. It has the same platform as AutoCAD that makes it easier for experienced architects to understand.

5. V-Ray


V-Ray is simply the best for realistic visualization. It is a plug-in that turns SketchUp and ArchiCAD into a nice rendering. The cleanest textures, darkest darks and brightest whites amount to the most accurate representation of real-world conditions. If your aim is to put your clients in the spaces you are designing in convincing style, V-Ray is going to be your best option. Its extensive material library and resources provide a variety of options in lights, surfaces, and realistic textures to take your architecture design to the next level.

6. Photoshop


When creating renderings, whether it is a section, elevation or plan, knowing how to use Photoshop is absolutely vital. It is a high-quality image producing software, perfect for final renderings and touch-ups. With its familiar system of layers, you can give to your rendering the atmosphere and style you want with very few alterations. It is used for image processing, adding textures, landscape, people, a sky, etc. It is also a great way to fix and edit scans of your work and create vignettes for the final presentation.

Read more: Photoshop Architectural Rendering: 10 Websites you should visit weekly

7. InDesign

In Design

In Design is basically a layout program suitable for creating from booklets to large presentation sheets. You can arrange objects into presentable forms including text, shapes, and images and is also good for document creation, such as resumes and portfolios. You can set up font types/sizes, page master pages with page numbers, helping increase productivity and document consistency. The software also gives you the ability to package your files together and bring them with you so you can work at school or at home without the hassle making sure you copy each separate file and take it with you.

8. Hand Drawing

Courtesy of Jun Gil – Young

The one thing you should always remember is that drafting and design software is just a tool in the hands of architects to facilitate the workflow and reduce the valuable time of drawing production. Architects draw and sketch. There is no more basic and valuable skill, even in our technologically advanced world than hand sketching. The initial idea should be clear and concise and easily communicated to colleagues and clients. A simple sketch can say a lot more about your concept that the best and most detailed rendering. After all, pencils don’t require any updates.

Read more:

Architectural Sketching: 10 Tips to Sketch Like an Architect
Top Free Apps for Architects to have in 2017



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