6 programs for interior design: what to choose?

Do you need a collage, a sketch of the future interior, a drawing, a presentation for a customer, or a visualization? Not a problem – there are tools for any task.

An interior designer, both a practitioner and a beginner, can only do with programs. They greatly simplify and speed up the work of creating a project. There is no need to fiddle with voluminous prototypes made of cardboard or draw on paper and demonstrate the finished plan to the customer; just one click is enough.

Programs allow the designer to:

  • Create collages and moodboards to show the concept of the future interior;
  • Develop a floor plan with all dimensions and drawings for the project, calculate building materials, and make an approximate estimate;
  • Arrange furniture and appliances; select light and finishes; change shapes, textures, and sizes;
  • Show in volume how the interior will look like; make realistic pictures or virtual 3D tours of the apartment;
  • Quickly make changes to the project – for example, increase or decrease the size of the wall simply by correcting a couple of numbers.

I talk about six tools I tried myself:

  • What can you do with them?
  • How easy is it to master?
  • Which one to choose if you want to try interior design?

What programs are

Programs are divided into professional and amateur, which are suitable for beginners. They differ in the logic of work, what tasks can be performed in them, and the complexity of mastering.

Among them are paid and free. Testing a demo version of a paid program is often possible, and then purchasing a license or subscription. If the designer works for a company, as a rule, she takes on these costs. In educational institutions and online courses, programs can usually be used at a discount or for free – for the duration of training.

Six programs for interior design: what to choose.

I will share my personal experience with some of the programs. I was tasked with learning the basic tools for working with the interior, in which one could create collages, draw plans and make visualizations. Some of the programs I mastered in courses or asking for help, some on my own.

It is optional to know them all, especially for a beginner. It is enough to master one or two and already work to deal with the rest.

Professional programs

These include those used by practicing designers. Universal Archicad and SketchUp, in which you can make the whole project: drawings, specifications, and visualizations. And programs with narrow specialization: 3ds Max for modeling and rendering and Photoshop for creating and editing images.


Program for creating plans, drawings, and working documentation.

What can be done in Archicad?

In general, almost everything that will be in the interior is from the floor plan with dimensions to the final picture.

  • The project can be created in a “flat” 2D and three-dimensional format – immediately visualizing the room in 3D. It is convenient to switch between 2D and 3D modes in one click: we added curtains to the window in the drawing – we pressed the button and saw how they looked.
  • The main advantage of Archicad is that you can prepare all construction drawings in the program. For example, a plan with measurements, new walls, furniture, tile layout, electrics, etc. You can draw up a specification and estimate building materials for the project. And then give these drawings to the builders for repair.
  • It is also convenient to track changes in Archicad. All project parts are interconnected: changing something in one will be reflected in the general plan and all related drawings. We put a new wall on the general 3D plan – it will appear on the drawing with furniture and electrics.
Six programs for interior design: what to choose.

Of the minuses

  • Not a very rich base of furniture and interior elements. But you can load additional models or entire libraries.
  • It is difficult to master on your own, so it is better to take training courses to get the first working skills.


This is not a special program for interior design – you can’t make construction drawings or project estimates in it; you can’t twist a 3D layout. But it can be used to visualize your ideas and present the project to the customer.

Six programs for interior design: what to choose.

What is Photoshop good for?

  • You can collect collages and moodboards and prepare sketches of a design project. You can cut and add objects and pictures, move them, lay them out in layers, and resize them. Add inscriptions and arrows to designate the interior area.
  • You can do post-processing of renders, retouch and improve images: add depth, shadows, and light, adjust color, and apply special effects.
  • You can create a 3D layout and apply textures, materials, and furniture to the drawing. Or make graphics for the presentation of projects.

3ds Max

Allows you to visualize interior projects very realistically. It is also popular in creating animation, commercials, and characters for games.

Six programs for interior design: what to choose.

What can you do in 3ds Max?

  • One of the program’s main purposes in design is to create beautiful, photorealistic architectural visualizations, showing how the project will look. In the render, for example, you can add sunlight from the window, “turn on” the lamp, put a bedspread with folds on the sofa, and indicate scuffs on the surface. And it will all look like the real thing.
  • Set up your library of interior elements: download textures and furniture from the Internet (or models made in other programs).
  • Independently create three-dimensional objects: furniture, decor, decoration – that is, any three-dimensional interior elements. They can also be added to the project and library.
  • Enter the plan into the program and draw it in 3D format.

Minus the program

3ds Max is difficult to master independently; you can get confused about the huge assortment of tools and their settings. This is not an intuitive service – you must spend a lot of time learning. In addition, rendering an image in 3ds Max is slow: one photo can take 20 minutes to several hours.


It combines the functions of a sketch – freehand drawing, 3D visualization, and preparation of working documents.

SketchUp is used by professionals: not only interior designers but also architects, landscape designers, and engineers. Also suitable as a first 3D program for beginners.

Six programs for interior design: what to choose.

How good is the program

  • The design project is immediately done in volume. And with the LayOut plugin, you can create construction drawings for your project.
  • Many options (in the free version, they are limited, though) for layouts, surfaces, textures, and furniture. You can easily change individual elements or objects’ dimensions, colors, and sizes. SketchUp allows you to use your work or download from the Internet, add the markup, and sign dimensions.
  • There is cloud storage (unlimited in paid versions), where you can upload projects and ideas and later open them from any device.
  • The program allows you to design interior design, landscape design, street, and furniture.
  • You can share finished projects on the Internet or study other people’s work for inspiration.

Of the minuses

  • We need additional applications and plugins for certain actions – rendering, virtual walks, and documentation.
  • A small number of objects in the free version. But they are enough to create your first 3D project.

Programs for beginners

Suitable for the creation of the first projects. They are universal: they can draw a plan, choose furniture, decor, and finishes, and create 3D models. The programs are free, but there are also paid versions with extended functionality.

Planner 5D

Online service for computers and phones, suitable for professionals and beginners. The planner has a friendly interface to create three-dimensional plans and designs without special skills or preparation.

Six programs for interior design: what to choose.

Program benefits

  • There are all the standard features for interior design; you can work in 2D and 3D modes. Good quality 3D visualization – realistic and detailed.
  • The library has more than five thousand objects (not all are available for free). You can develop your version based on the finished one: change the design, colors, and sizes. You can edit other people’s work, not just individual elements, and download textures and patterns.
  • Allows you to decorate the adjacent territory (exterior): add a garage, lawn, garden furniture, gazebo, etc.
  • You can work on several platforms: a mobile application or a computer. For example, create an apartment plan in a browser, and arrange furniture on a smartphone.


Another online 3D interior planner with a 3D visualization function. Suitable for both experienced designers and beginners. In it, you can design rooms, arrange furniture, customize models, take virtual tours, and save high-quality images.

Six programs for interior design: what to choose.

What can you do with Planoplan

  • Create 2D layouts, 3D renders, and VR panoramas. And all this is high quality and detailed.
  • Adjust the natural light in the room depending on the time of day and year, cardinal points.
  • Use the service in a browser, install it on your desktop, or download an application for a smartphone – in it, you can take a virtual walk around the created apartment.
  • A separate feature is that the library contains furniture and decoration from various real stores with links to manufacturers’ websites.
  • Each item can be customized: by changing the size, color, shades, and surface texture. If there is no suitable model, create your own or upload a finished one. That is, you can personalize any item. The same with the layout: you can draw or upload a plan and use ready-made templates.
  • The program allows you to prepare documentation and calculate project estimates.

Where to begin?

From the simplest and most free programs – Planner 5D and Planoplan. They have all the basic features you’ll need to get started.

In parallel, you can master the basic functions of Photoshop for creating collages and simple photo editing.

For professional design, Archicad and SketchUp are suitable. They can be studied if you decide to become a designer. And 3ds Max is best for commercial rendering, but you won’t need it early in your career.

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