What is the best software to design your home landscape?
While you could plan your garden or landscape design just by using your imagination, visualizing it on paper or a design software usually yields better results. You don’t have to spend money on expensive software to plan out a patio, deck, or garden—you can access plenty of free tools right from your browser. That way, you can focus your expenditures on plants and accessories for your yard.
A landscape plan is highly significant to complete a landscape project successfully. It helps in visualizing exactly how your landscape will look like after construction. Also, it enables you to estimate the type and quantity of the material required in the construction and estimated costs relating to it. The landscape plan is also required to seek approval from local authorities or landowners before construction starts.
Earlier, when technology was not so prevalent, people used to prepare landscape design plans manually using pencil, ruler, and papers. But, now, in this digital era, landscape design software is used to design landscapes professionally. You can get a better visualization using the software. With virtual objects and 2D and 3D effects, and your digitally prepared landscape design becomes much more comprehensive than a manual design in which circles and squares represent patios, statues, trees, gazebos, etc.
A landscape design software simplifies the job of creating landscape plans and help garden designers, DIY landscape owners, and landscape architects in professionally presenting their ideas before converting them into reality.
The Benefits of Switching to Landscape Design Software
Why are so many landscapers, landscape architects, and designers switching from hand drafting to landscape design software?
- Save time. Using software can let you add common design elements in seconds, quickly handle revisions, and eliminate a lot of the groundwork that comes with drafting designs by hand.
- Coordinate with teams & clients. Many landscape design programs let you send previews to clients or collaborate on designs with other employees.
- Add professional polish. Several of the options in this guide can produce 3d models, multi-slide presentations, video walkthroughs, and even 3D VR experiences.
- Streamline other functions. Many landscape design programs let you produce cost estimates, material lists, and full proposals. Some options also connect to other commonly-used software, such as invoicing software.
- Security & redundancy. Losing a piece of paper is easy. Losing a design that’s stored in the cloud isn’t.
Professional Landscape Design Software Reviews: Can You Trust Them?
If you Google “landscape design software reviews,” you might see something a little suspicious in the results. Many of the top-ranking software reviews sites heavily to promote one piece of software above the rest, but when you look at the features, they don’t seem to match up with the recommendation.
If you think the review site is getting a kickback, you’re right.
This is called affiliate marketing. Most software review sites rely on it for a big chunk of their income, so don’t take their recommendations seriously. You’re better off speaking directly with other landscapers about their experiences, or even visiting landscaping forums, than trusting anything you read on software review sites.
Significance of Landscape Design Software
While designing a landscape, sometimes we know exact design specifications, but many times we are clueless about how to start with it. A landscape design software even helps in generating ideas which we can execute in our landscape design. Many times, it also happens that the idea we have is not feasible with the landscape area. In such a situation, a landscape design software can help you in checking whether your design idea is compatible with the landscape area or not. With the help of a landscape design software package, you can create a landscape of your dreams without leaving your chair.
Whether you are the owner and want to design your landscape yourself, or a professional landscape architect, you require a good landscape design software for estimating costs, checking feasibility, and preparing digital plans. Moreover, your landscape design software can integrate with other CAD software and BIM software to create wonderful designs for the properties.
Popular Professional Landscape Design Software Options
The following options are presented in no particular order and are intended to be general recommendations, not in-depth reviews. Be sure to do your research before choosing your landscape design software.
Pro Landscape Design Software is a strong option for small and midsize teams. For $1495, their software offers:
- CAD drafting
- 3D rendering
- Lighting design features
- Proposal generation
- Access for two computers and one tablet
Pro Landscape heavily focuses on 3D rendering, but some landscapers have complained that their 2D renderings aren’t as strong.
AutoDesk offers a variety of software options for landscape designers, including options for 2D drafting, 3D rendering, creating hand-drawn sketches, and building information modelling. AutoDesk’s design software is extremely flexible and feature-rich but doesn’t offer as many marketing and presentation options as some of the other contenders. Pricing starts at $195/month.
DynaSCAPE Design, Color, and Sketch 3D together offer an amazingly sophisticated feature set. The DynaSCAPE suite includes over 1,200 drag and drops landscape element symbols, over 9,000 catalogued plant photos from Horticopia, stone catalogues and price lists, nightscape symbols, a voltage drop calculator for your lighting, an integrated product catalogue from AquaScape Designs, and more. It also integrates with Manage360, their business management suite.
DynaSCAPE’s learning curve might be a little steep, and the design suite alone will set you back $2,850, but sophisticated landscapers will appreciate their feature set.
SketchUp is a very affordable, flexible option for the landscaper who’s not afraid to get their hands dirty. While they don’t offer as many marketing features as some of the other contenders, SketchUp’s enormous 3D warehouse, real-time shadows for any day of the year, photorealistic rendering extensions, and VR integration means it can create some of the best renders of any software in its class.
SketchUp offers a free package for personal use so you can try it out, but professional options range from $120/yr to $1200/yr.
VizTerra’s focus is on creating polished presentations fast. VizTerra can quickly turn 2D designs into 3D, has an enormous library of landscape features and materials, and advanced photo rendering features. They also offer GIS integration, easy video creation, advanced AR features, and even social media integration.
With pricing that starts at $95/user/month, VizTerra is a great option if the presentation is a priority.
Vectorworks Landmark is one of the most expensive pieces of landscape design software, but you might get what you pay for. With Landmark, you’ll get GIS integration, features for hardscape and irrigation, the ability to integrate plant catalogues from multiple sources, BIM features, features for tracking water budgets for LEED projects, some of the best collaborative features in its class, VR walkthroughs, and much, much more.
Smaller landscape design firms probably won’t need even half of their features, but larger firms, commercial firms, and more sophisticated landscapers will love them.
Calling iScape “professional” landscape design software is a stretch, but smaller landscapers shouldn’t overlook it too quickly. Instead of designing your landscape with a CAD program on your computer, iScape runs natively on iOS and lets users design landscapes as AR overlays. Believe it or not, iScape can also create inventory lists and generate proposals. Not bad for only $20/month.
Punch! Is intended as consumer software, but some landscape designers use it too. Punch offers a fairly standard set of 2D rendering features, as well as photo overlay features, a catalogue of over 10,000 plants, and plant growth visualization. However, it does not include any 3D rendering, and some users have complained about poor documentation and lack of support.
Realtime Landscaping Architect offers 2D and 3D rendering, Filters for multiple 2D styles (including hand-drawn, CAD style, and full-colour), features for swimming pools and other landscape features, can design over photos and can create videos of your render.
Tips For Choosing Software For You
Not all software is the same, even though they all provide the same end goal; design your landscaping. Some are basic and best for users who want to play around with a simple layout. While others are extremely detailed and have a learning curve, but result in beautiful, realistic renderings of the property. With most higher-end software, the renderings and blueprints are so well done that you can hand them off to a professional landscaper. So how do you choose which one is best for you? We’ve got four easy points to consider.
Determine Your Budget
Again, while all landscape design programs offer the same thing; designing your exterior property, they range in features as well as price, just like any product. Some have free trials, some have free versions, while others have monthly or annual fees or a one-time purchase price. Lots of options, you have to figure out which is best for your wallet. So, to determine your budget ask yourself:
- Am I going to use this software more than once?
- Can I use this software for other projects?
- Is there a possibility that I can turn this into a hobby or a part-time income? Better yet, am I going to use this for business purposes?
If you answered yes to any of those questions, then you may want to consider a higher-end program that you pay for especially so if it will be used to start a landscaping business. If you answered no to most of those questions, then it’s likely that you’re doing a one-time project at home and want a better visual to follow. I’d opt for the free trials or cheaper programs in that case.
Determine Your Needs
Sit down and figure out what your needs are. Like I just mentioned, if you plan to start a landscaping business and need the best software to attract those clients, then get the best. If you need to do some landscaping projects and want some detailed visuals as well as plans to follow, then for sure get a middle of the range to higher-end option.
Determine Your Wants
This is slightly different than determining your needs. Wants are more along the lines of features and options you’d like to have but don’t necessarily need them to do the job. Let’s say you own a few rental properties and you have to update the landscaping. You could hire a professional to do it, or you could cut the costs and get a mid-range software program to play around and figure out the best, most cost-efficient way to do the projects. Or, if you’re an avid DIYer, and prefer to have a plan in place before you start a big landscaping project at home, then you’d probably want a basic program that provides a guide to follow.
Determine Your Capabilities With New Tech
Like any software, landscape design programs can range from uber basic and simple to use, all the way up to you-need-a-degree-in-engineering-to-use-it. I” m not kidding. Some programs are so hard to use and figure out that they have major learning curves. So, assess whether you’re super tech-savvy, or prefer something you can fiddle with and learn in a pinch.
Features of an Ideal Landscape Software
Landscape design software is expected to have the features which can help landscape architects to build stunning and scalable plans. It should facilitate the clients/landscape owners in visualizing ideas in the form of accurate digital drawings. Some of the easy-to-use tools of ideal landscape software include –
Integrated CAD Tool
The landscape design software with integrated CAD tool can help in designing planting details, irrigation systems, lighting, and other utilities for a specific landscape property. There is a symbol library available within the software for the landscape architecture objects like a plant, gazebo, fountain, swimming pool, etc. You can also create custom symbols using the software to make your presentation appealing.
This tool allows you to select the design appearance you require for your presentation. You can create a sketch with the watercolour look or a vibrant landscape plan which includes a lot many graphical elements. You can experiment with new ideas using this tool and create an appealing design blending well with the requirements.
You can provide labels to the plant symbols in your landscape design which can be its botanical name, size, quantity, etc. The layout and design of the plant labels can be modified suiting to the overall landscape design. The details of the plant labels can be even exported to excel for future modifications.
Using 3D graphics feature, you can add effects like flowing water, shadows, lighting, etc. to create lively presentations. Virtually walking through the landscaped property is possible using this feature.
This tool helps you in adding house to the landscape. The house can be pre-built, or you can create one as per your choice. You can easily create a house with walls, windows, doors, lights, etc. with few clicks of a mouse and your imagination.
Import Digital Photographs
You can import the digital photograph of the original house and design the landscape surrounding that house. This feature is quite useful if the quick design of a landscape design is required. Moreover, it gives a realistic effect to your presentation.
Customized Model Design
Want to insert a gazebo or a swing in your landscape? This feature allows you to show exact models at exact places in the landscape design, giving you an accurate idea of how your landscape will look like after design completion.
Landscape without proper irrigation system cannot be adequately maintained. Especially if it is a big landscape project, you need to have an appropriate irrigation system in place. Using landscape design software, you can create a virtual irrigation system, including customized symbols for pipes, valves, etc. and create impressive presentations.
Material List and Cost Estimation
Using landscape design software, you can create the list of material required to build the landscape, the cost of the material, and labour, as well as the final budget of how much the overall landscape design project would cost.
The landscape design software consisting of advanced features many times may not fit in your budget. Thus, you need to choose a landscape design software having features which you are going to use; otherwise, you end up investing a higher amount unnecessarily.
Before investing in software, you can try free landscape design software and check whether it can match your requirements or not. If you need to go for highly advanced features which are not there is free software, you can try the freemium version so that you know whether the software is up to the standards you require or not before you invest a huge amount.
Why use the software?
The main benefit of using landscaping software is that you get a very clear image of how you want your garden or yard to look like, without turning to a specialist. If you were ever a fan of the game The Sims, then you surely loved to fiddle with different interior design ideas, as this was one of the most fun parts of the game. With landscaping software, you can visualize the different elements, with their exact position and compatibility.
Creates A Visual
Depending on how complex your landscaping software is, it can render virtual 3D tours of your yard, to give you a clear overview of what the result would look like. The more expensive options have libraries with thousands of items to choose from: plants, fences, shrubs, trees, outdoor furniture, gazebos, and more. You can create intricate deck ideas, add a swimming pool or even see what your garden would look like plants, trees, and flowers grow.
Play Around until You’re Ready
Since landscaping software mostly implies a one-time payment, you can play around with different ideas for as much as you like. Some programs will even allow you to upload photos of your current yard setting and add or edit different elements, to see what the surrounding would look like with the changes you have in mind.
Gives You A Full Plan
Landscaping software can eliminate the back and forth process of talking to a designer/contractor and constantly rejecting their ideas or having to give them feedback every step of the way. Once your plan has been established, and you have a pretty good idea on what you want, you can then turn to a professional and give clear and detailed instructions.
So Many Options
The best part of purchasing landscaping software is the variety of options available on the market. You go for something very simple, very basic, that allows you to add a few elements and sketch your dream garden outline. Alternatively, you can purchase more complex pieces of software that determine your property outline and topography based on your map coordinates. Yeah, there’s even software that will allow you to visualize your plan with VR goggles.
Thankfully, there are loads of options to choose from in terms of a good landscape design software for Mac. The beauty with most of these options is that they also include home interior design, which means that you have a complete set of functions if you ever decide to spruce up the place at some point in the future.
One of the most important things when looking to buy such software is to have access to a wide collection of landscaping items, as they expand your possibilities in terms of planning your exterior design. If you’re not tech or software savvy, try to look for software with an interactive and intuitive user interface. Alternatively, look for software that has a bunch of explanatory video tutorials, so you can understand how to get the premium design software and use its features to the max.
Here at Seyffer Designs, we use a range of software packages to generate everything discussed in this article and more. Sophisticated designs, 3D rendering, everything to ensure your project is delivered seamlessly and cost-effectively. Check out our services page for more detail, of always feel free to give us a call. We would love to chat about your project and your specific goals.
Seyffer Designs Crew