Who hasn’t watched an episode of a house flipping or home renovation TV show and immediately wanted to find a contractor to help reimagine their indoor and outdoor living spaces?
For any landscape project, plans are a must. Pen and pencil can only get you so far — landscape design software is specifically developed to help homeowners take their ideas and turn them into reality.
Landscape design software is helpful for two reasons: It streamlines the process of drafting and collaborating on designs and facilitates the accurate representation of outdoor spaces.
With a little bit of imagination and some time to spare, landscaping can turn into one of the most rewarding activities of your lifetime. There’s nothing like walking in your yard or garden and enjoying the view that was born from the depth of your imagination. It gives a sense of tremendous satisfaction, not to mention the fact that it’s a great conversation starter whenever you’re having guests over. Just by having the chance to say “I thought of this myself”, you’ll spark the interest of many. But how do you choose which one to get?
If you’ve ever fancied yourself as an amateur landscape designer, or you’re thinking about making changes to your yard but are unsure if they are a good idea, getting yourself acquainted with some free landscape design software might be the best thing you do this year.
In this article, we’ll go into details the best landscape design programs that are free on the market so that you can do the design job for your garden right away.
What is Landscape Design Software?
Landscape design software can be a downloadable program, an app, or a browser-based tool that facilitates the design of outdoor space, such as a backyard, a driveway, or a deck. These can be aimed at different markets, from homeowners and DIY enthusiasts to professional landscapers and architects. A landscape design tool seems to be much more complex than a garden planner tool. And many landscape programs can be used to plan a garden as well.
How Can Landscape Design Software Help You?
The purpose of landscape design software can vary depending on the user. Some people will use these tools to accurately transfer an idea from their mind onto a screen or a printed piece of paper, as a means of helping them visualize what their garden might look like before they commit to making any permanent changes. This is a huge help because it means you can make design decisions virtually rather than in reality, which could save you time and money compared to if you jumped straight in to physically landscaping your garden and made a mistake. Similarly, for a homeowner, a landscape design software gives you the opportunity to consider all of your design options fully and allows you to maximize your space.
Depending on the software you use, there will be an inventory of items available that you can place in your landscape to see how they look and fit. With everything being properly proportioned, this allows you to properly see what will work well in your space, and what sort of changes you have space for. Some programs also have pre-designed templates, which can give you a starting point for your design if you’re unsure of what sort of look you want, and these templates can also be useful for inspiring ideas.
If you plan to complete your landscaping project yourself, a landscape design program can help you to stay organized and on track. Some software is able to direct you to be online or local stores that stock the items you will need for your project, which can be helpful in terms of saving you the time and frustration of searching around for products. Some software will also print an entire list of the items you included in your design, which is helpful for when you go shopping so that you don’t forget anything, and these lists will also help you to fully understand the extent of what you will need for your project, as well as helping you to draw up a likely budget.
If you are not a DIY enthusiast, you might instead prefer to employ a contractor to complete your landscape project. Landscape design software can be helpful in this instance as a means of accurately conveying to your contractor exactly how you would like your garden to look. Anyone who has tried to describe a hairstyle to a stylist rather than take a photo to the hair salon will know that it is easy for spoken descriptions to get lost in translation, and the same can be said of landscape design.
You might think that sketching up a quick idea with pencil and paper would work just as well, but proportions can be incorrect and space not accurately represented. If you want a guaranteed way of ensuring your contractor fully understands what you want your finished outdoor space to look like, then a model created using landscape design software is your safest bet. Most programs will allow you to print your designs. At the same time, some also have sharing capabilities, so you can forward designs to contractors via email, or share them on a community platform. These features are also helpful as they enable you to share designs with friends and family to get feedback and suggestions before you proceed with any real changes.
Landscape design software is also enormously helpful for professionals in the design industry, including builders, gardeners, and architects. Many of these professions rely on good landscape design software to be able to share their ideas with prospective clients. Being able to easily produce models of what a client’s space will look like if they proceed with plans helps to sell their design and accurately convey ideas to clients. Landscape design software is also able to save designers a huge amount of time, as they can enable users to quickly pull together designs in a much more rapid fashion than drawing designs with pencil and paper. MJS Construction Group has the best range of home builders Melbourne services to help you create your dream house.
While considering the use of landscape design software, it’s also important to understand its limitations. Free software is unlikely to offer a plethora of features that a paid-for design tool will include, and there are some things that free software won’t be able to achieve. Still, for many people, free landscape design software will have many benefits.
Best landscape design software – at a glance
The website for Lands Design describes its product as a ‘work in progress’, but it’s much more sophisticated than that label might suggest. Lands Design first appeared in 2012, and the ninth Beta version was made available back in July 2019.
Where this product is different from others is that this isn’t a standalone tool, but a plugin for the 3D modelling tool Rhino. Therefore, to use Lands Design requires a version Rhino, though it can also be used with AutoCAD.
If you have Rhino, then this is a remarkably powerful solution that includes freeform landscape modelling, a database of more than 1800 plant species, an urban furniture library and both 2D and 3D representations.
Using Rhino rendering engines it can turn a design into a photo-real representation, and it can also generate virtual tours. Buildings and furniture can also be imported from AutoCAD, and the finished designs exported to that platform if required.
With all the power of Rhino under the surface, this solution isn’t for those that tinker as landscape gardening, but professionals that are likely to work with architects.
Let’s imagine you’ve bought a new home and your trying to decide how the garden might be redeveloped, then iScape could be for you.
This software uses an Apple iPhone or iPad to gather data about the existing space and then, using augmented reality, overlay those existing features with new ones.
The beauty of this solution is that you can walk around with the phone and see what the new garden will look like from different vantage points, and adjust if a tree blocks the view, or similar.
iScape has a huge selection of trees, plants, fences and other garden paraphernalia that you can drop into the virtual garden and then move to the exact location you’d like that feature.
And, to speed up the process, elements can be mirrored, copied and cloned.
What this isn’t is a CAD tool for creating exact models, but it does provide an excellent method for trying out the options and get feedback on what works, and what doesn’t.
Our only reservation is that you must own an Apple phone or tablet to use it, with the developers ignoring the much larger Android market.
This tool is free, but you can upgrade to a Pro version that is designed for landscape professionals to use to promote their services.
Garden Planner by Small Blue Printer is an accessible garden and landscaping design tool that is available for both Windows PC and Apple Mac. On either platform, this is a drag-and-drop interface where objects are selected from a comprehensive library and added to the design.
Once the placement of plants, furniture and features is complete, Garden Planner will create a selection of notes that includes a list of everything added and any notes you created while working on the project.
New to version 3.7 is 3D views, but all planning is in 2D. The representation of plants and paving is highly stylized, and it doesn’t offer photo-real rendering or light calculations. What it does have is the ability to add your plants, and control how they appear.
Overall, this is a simple tool with limited objectives. But, if those are to produce a map of a garden with changes to give to a landscape gardener, then it might be ideal.
The pricing for Garden Planner is very straightforward; a one-off fee of $38 with no subscriptions and no in-app purchases. Site licenses are also available, as are educational deals for up to 500 computers.
PRO Landscape Home
PRO Landscape HOME has an interesting approach to landscape design that starts with you using a phone or tablet to take pictures of the area you wish to redevelop.
Using the image as a start point, plants, grass, mulch, pavers, furniture, and more, can be placed into the scene.
This product is funded through in-app purchases. The product is free to download and install, but you pay for access to the extended library of plants, pavers, etc.
It also has adverts, and these can direct you to local landscape service and resellers. These are useful, but the selection of free plants is very limited and takes no account of the geographic location of the user and their garden.
PRO Landscape Home is a very basic product for exploring landscaping ideas. If you want to produce plans or detailed instructions for a landscaper to follow, this probably isn’t the tool.
Some landscaping products are for home use and have limited functionality, but Realtime Landscaping isn’t one of them.
What it offers is a variety of different professional solutions, that enables designers and homeowners to create an accurate model of a house and its surrounding area and then design changes. Finding the right Melbourne home builders is an important decision. Check out our range of the best home design constructions at MJS Construction Group.
It enables a landscape gardener to present ideas for approval along with accurate costings to the homeowner, and even invoice once the work is complete.
The images that the system creates are stylized, look very professional, and it is very clear what is being represented. You can simulate landscape lighting if that’s a part of your project, and the system can handle changes in altitude and curved property boundaries.
The creators, Idea Spectrum, have four different versions of Realtime Landscaping that are meant for specific sectors. It has Architect, for those that work with CAD, and Pro and Plus that are meant for designers, and a basic tool Photo.
The main difference between Plus and Pro is that the latter has water features (ponds, streams, waterfalls and fountains) and custom swimming pools.
Key Benefits of Landscape Design Software:
See immediate results
Landscape design software allows the user to accurately visualize what their finished project will look like in a matter of minutes, so they can see what will or will not look good in their space without making any real changes.
Easier decision making
By seeing what their finished landscape will look like, the homeowner will more easily be able to decide if they want to go ahead with their project.
Landscape design software encourages the user to try out different options that they may otherwise have never considered. It can also offer templates if you are struggling with inspiration.
By entering the square footage of your garden and drawing out its shape, you can see on an accurate scale what changes would be possible. You can also move things around and try things at different angles to see what will give you the best use of your space.
By having a plan to follow and a list of items you will need, your project is more likely to run smoothly, making for a less stressful experience that gets completed on time.
How To Choose?
Examining a new gadget. Confident young handsome man in a suit working on a digital tablet while standing against a white background. Try to understand how to use new features.
In the same fashion of shopping for any product, it’s always important to ask yourself some qualifying questions to figure out how to pick the one that’s best for you. Because that could be different than what’s best for someone else. So, before picking a landscape design program, ask yourself this:
- Will I use this program more than once?
- Do I want it simply for laying out my project, or do I want more detailed designs?
- Am I tech-savvy, or should I look for a program that has a minimal learning curve?
Since we’re dealing with free software in this article, there’s no need to ask questions regarding budget (because that would be a determining factor otherwise). But with those three simple questions, you should be able to figure out or at least narrow down, which program to get. At MJS Construction Group, we offer a wide range of home builders Melbourne.
Buildings, trees and other plants are on the plan.
Of course, nothing that’s ever truly rewarding is also easy. Yes, landscaping can be a tough job, especially when you have no idea where to start. There’s a reason why decorators are making so much money: because they have constant creativity sparks, they studied to understand colour and shape combinations, and they can come up with elaborate plans on how to create a dreamy scenery.
But there are homeowners that, prior to hiring a contractor, want to think out every little detail for themselves. They want to give their beautiful gardens that personal touch that characterizes every individual… and who can blame them? But, sometimes, these people have no idea where to start. Are there, perhaps, some useful landscaping tips to get them started?
What is the purpose of your yard?
The first secret lies in giving a purpose to your landscape. There will be a huge difference between a yard that’s supposed to be child-friendly and provide plenty of space for family activities, and the yard of a nature-lover and a gardening passionate, who loves to admire the most fragrant and colourful flowers and read the book in the shade of his trees. The question is: What should be the purpose of your garden?
What object will you include?
Well-thought planning place for getting together. Nature scene of green design features.
Suppose you are the kind of person that loves to entertain guests or feel that the best way to spend a sunny Sunday afternoon is by cooking a barbecue together with the whole family. In that case, it’s important to focus on elements that facilitate such activities. A gazebo becomes almost mandatory in such a scenario, not to mention an equipped outdoor kitchen. There should also be a lounging area, perhaps even a TV for sports fans.
The majority of homeowners want to be able to enjoy their homes both inside and out. That means that landscaping is also a matter of continuity. This translated into comfort, even as you step outside. This can be achieved through proper outdoor lighting, comfortable outdoor furniture, and perhaps even a fireplace.
Room to grow?
People passionate about cooking and healthy living will surely want to have a vegetable garden, no matter how small. If there’s not enough space, a herb garden might be a better option. This could be located close to the kitchen entrance of the house. Aside from the obvious health benefits, herbs have amazing aromas that can be enjoyed on cool summer evenings, as you take a stroll through your garden.
Leave Room For Error
Every idea revolves around the purpose of the garden, but remember to plan realistically. If your outdoor space is limited, there are only so many elements that you can place, so plan smartly and, when needed, keep it simple.
The software helps the user figure out how to use their space best, and provides them with an accurate look of what they can expect their actual garden to look like after the work has been completed. Users can add various features to their landscape, including swimming pools, plants, and trees. This is a basic program targeted at homeowners and lacks a lot of more complex functions that may be required for design professionals. The minimal features of this tool are what helps to keep this software simple to use. Still, a commercial version is available to buy, which would be more appropriate for those in the landscaping or property design industry, or anyone wanting to produce a more detailed and complex design.