The Best Software for Architectural Design in 2021

Architects and designers can use 3D modeling software to create appealing presentations of buildings and home ideas. Such software helps you create, visualize, render, and document building designs.

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The Best Software for Architectural Design in 2021

Architects and designers can use 3D modeling software to create appealing presentations of buildings and home ideas. Such software helps you create, visualize, render, and document building designs. As a professional, you know how handy these tools are when you need to show your work to your clients. You no longer have to be restricted to physical models and concept drawings, but rather, you can design interiors and populate them with 3D modeling.

A simple online search for the best architectural design software yields thousands of results. Sifting through them to choose the best can be an uphill task. This is why we have put this list together to ease your search. It will help you choose based on your work style, individual requirements, usage, and comfort. We have classified them into software for various functions like drafting, modeling, presentation, rendering, and illustrations.

Best Software for 2D Drafting

One of the tools that architects have widely used for drafting is AutoCAD. It’s a handy tool for 2D drawing that helps you represent buildings, elevations, floor plans, and sections at their very basic level. It can speed up the drawing process because it features pre-built objects like doors, windows, and walls. You then transfer the drawings to other software for advanced 3D modeling.

AutoCAD also supports specific mechanical, architectural, electric, and other toolsets to allow all types of drawings and designs. Unlike other industry-standard software that is slow to adapt, AutoCAD has undergone several upgrades to offer web and mobile app support. It also provides online storage with most of the leading cloud storage service providers. This way, your team can collaborate in viewing, editing, and sharing CAD drawings in real-time.

For optimal performance, ensure your laptop is Windows 7 and up, has a display of 1920 * 1080 with True Color, has 6BG free disk space, and 8GB and more RAM. You don’t need an extra graphics card to run AutoCAD, but having a dedicated one can improve rendering.

Best Software for 3D Modeling

You’ll find a wide variety of 3D modeling software. However, if you’re into experimenting with your designs from scratch, SketchUp is the way to go. The software was initially a Google-backed project, but it now belongs to Trimble. The company releases a new version of the software at least once a year.

SketchUp is one of the most effortless tools to use in CAD. It comes with a few tutorials that are easy to follow and comprehend. With the tool, you should be able to work on any complex and solid geometry quickly. The free release has made the software very popular as it has helped many inexperienced architects and hobbyists achieve their goals. The user base has played a role in creating an extensive library of pre-constructed parts to drop into any project.

While SketchUp will not help you design a building in its entirety, it will help you prototype a design while still in its conceptual stage. It is good enough for basic linear structures and interior designs. It also features geolocation options that help you replicate the original site into the model.

Most modern laptops can run the software without much of a problem. However, ensure your internet connection is strong and stable to install the software and use some features.


Rhino is another excellent option for 3D modeling. It holds its position as the king of curved surfaces in computer-assisted designs. Unlike most other excellent applications with straight lines, Rhino handles curved lines, meshes, and high-complexity surfaces. For example, it works well when drawing a human face or sweeping the curves of a supercar.

In architectural design, the software is best for modeling complex intersections of a building like curved roofing. Rhino is more of a platform than a tool, catering for add-ins and the Grasshopper visual programming for highly specific tasks.

Besides, you can tweak the tool to automate detailing operations and complex modeling. With the software, you’ll be happy to note that you won’t be forced to upgrade to new releases. Rhino runs on ordinary Windows, Mac desktop, and laptop computers, but Windows 7, 8, XP, Vista, 32-bit, and NT versions are not supported.

Best Software for Rendering

Most modeling software comes with inbuilt rendering technologies to help you with the process. However, if you want to achieve a realistic rendering of your materials, you need a specialized tool. One such software is V-RAY. It is more of a plugin instead of a standalone software but has the best effect on the rendering of your projects.

It offers access to the cleanest textures and a wide array of color palettes, allowing you to make the most out of light and share in your designs. With the plugin, you can create photo-real representations of your models, making it an excellent tool for users who want to give their designs an extra flourish. The tool is not a good choice for beginners as it calls for a high level of operational expertise for efficiency. Ensure your laptop has a proper cooling system installed, and the processors can run much faster and hotter.


Lumion is a 3D rendering tool that makes the process simple and enjoyable. With the vast library of intuitive tools, features, and content, there is no limit to the much you can achieve in your landscape, interior, or urban designs. The tool allows you to bring 2D spaces to life by creating visuals that will inspire your clients to take action.

Lumion is compatible with almost every 3D and CAD program. However, it requires a fast graphics card, high-end hardware, and plenty of system memory for an optimal rendering experience.

Best Software for Production and Presentation

Adobe Photoshop is an ideal choice for CAD and 3D architecture programs. It’s an excellent tool that helps you edit your designs and present them in the best way possible. The software is ideal for professionals and beginners alike, considering the availability of tutorials online.

Use Adobe Photoshop to create renderings and visualizations from a SketchUp model and provide the final touches post the production process. For designs you render on other software like V-RAY, Photoshop can help you enhance certain areas like increasing the image sharpness or making the shadows stronger.

Ensure your laptop boasts powerful components and can support complex photo editing tasks without crashing. The trackpad and keyboard need to be well built without making the laptop bulky.

Final Thoughts

As an architect, you want to present the best drawings and designs to your clients. There is no better way to do this than to leverage the available technology. Right from the design to presentation, there is a tool for each need. If you’re not already using these tools, you’re missing out on what technology has to offer.

If you’d like more guidance or advice on choosing the best software, an expert is here to help. At Initial IT, we can help you with all your IT-related needs in running your architectural business. Call us today and talk to one of our experts to schedule a consultation to find out how we can help your business.