Software for Interior Designers


Interior Design is almost something I’d consider a “classical” field of design. That is, it’s been around for as long as people have had dwelling and a sense to design. Modern software provides designers with unparalleled abilities to iterate on early ideas. The best 3d modeling software out there can help a designer quickly eliminate undesirable ideas.

3D Modeling Software & Interior Design

There is a lot of really high-quality 3D modeling software to assist designers in many numbers of ways. There are programs to design trees, clothes, houses, and even multi-million dollar commercial buildings. There is 3D software that allows teams to collaborate, clients to approve designs remotely and work to be stored in the cloud. With all these options, how is one to have any notion of the best 3D software to be used on their project? Here are some simple questions to ask yourself to help find out.

Are You Creating 3D Models or Just Arranging Them?

Many 3D design programs offer what I’ll call a “full set” of features. That means you can create 3D models, do UVW mapping (so annoying), and even create complex animations. On the other hand, there are programs out there that specialize in only doing one or two things, really well. Know what you’re goals are and that will help you better understand what fits the bill for best 3D design software on your project.

Are You Planning to Sell Your Project Assets?

This might sound like a silly question but it’s an important one. If you create 3D models for your projects that you need to sell (or just pass along to other end-users) you’ll want to ensure adequate file-export capabilities. Knowing how to sell 3D models can get pretty involved, so I won’t waste much time on it. Just because your little 3D model-maker can whip out some 3D furniture doesn’t mean it can save it in such a way that other software can open it.

Are you Rendering Anything?

Creating 3D assets like rooms, furniture, decorations, and even short animations is a great way to wow a client. Being able to drag around models on a screen to consider layout options is something that modern 3D software makes a breeze. 3D modeling tools come with a lot of features to help in generating different aspects of your design, but they don’t always come with a robust rendering engine. If you’re planning on rendering your images consider programs such as Blender or Cinema4D that have powerful rendering images built-in. Of course, you can always buy another program, such as VRay, to handle that for you!

How are Your Presenting to your Client?

In the world of 3D software, there are two major types of interactions: real-time and render-time. The first is one of the most exciting (and new) areas in the field of 3D design. It allows designers to adjust lighting, colors, and other scene elements and get real-time updates as to the final product. These programs require pretty powerful computers to run in many cases, so you might also have to consider an upgrade if that’s the route you take.

“Interior Design” Software

Beware any 3D software that is billed strictly as being for interior design. These programs are often poorly designs, have weak support, and are only useful in a handful of cases. The biggest selling point here is that some are designed specifically to work on tablets and other mobile devices. Spending even a minimal amount of time up-front learning a full 3D software package will eliminate the need for these. Most enterprise 3D programs can somehow integrate into mobile devices as well.

Start with Free Software Then Upgrade

If you’re new to 3D modeling or haven’t really settled on any single program yet, don’t be in a rush. Programs like Blender offer powerful free solutions where you can get your feet wet. Other programs, such as 3DS Max and Maya are now priced on monthly subscription models which make things easier to get started. Imagine dropping $3500 on a program you’d never used!

Any of these programs can be used to help create, manipulate, and showcase 3D models you create during the process of creating your interior design. Your clients won’t always be looking over your shoulder to consider what’s on your screen though, so keep in mind what type of deliverable you’ll need to produce. Overall, hunting down the best 3D modeling software is a matter of knowing what you need to get done and how you want to do it.

James is an interior designer with a Master's of Fine Art from the Kendall School of Design in Grand Rapids Michigan. He's passionate about keeping up with new trends of design as well as growing his own appreciation for those of the past.