If you’re looking do some virtual 3D landscape design, there are many software packages out there to help you do just that. Some are PC only, a handful are multiplatform, and we’ve even found an online service (as long as your goals are modest).
Best 3D landscape design software
As you might expect, an app dedicated solely to landscaping (as opposed to offering indoor house design as well), will likely have more of the features that you’d expect and need in your creation process. However, you will find in our list a couple of titles which are more renaissance men than jacks of all trades, offering an all round package with excellent features, from house design to garden landscaping, for a reasonable price.
Depending on your needs, and chosen platform, we’ve selected five of what we feel are the best applications to help you create the garden of your (or your client’s) dreams from the comfort of your computer.
Space Designer 3D is an online service, which means it’ll work from a browser, irrespective of the platform you’re using. It sadly doesn’t offer a free plan, just mostly subscriptions ranging from $25 for Regular, to $100 per month for Team. Business is a bespoke subscription with prices depending on your needs. There’s also Casual which lets you pay $10 per project. But if you want to try before you buy as it were, check out the Demo option to get a feel for what the service offers.
The main focus is interior design, but landscaping your garden is also possible, with a generous array of trees, plants and flowers on offer for you to pepper throughout your terrain. You can’t alter the ground’s elevation though, which limits you to perfectly flat gardens, but it could be enough to get you started in visualising your outside space.
Space Designer 3D is a good service, offering a clean, easy to use interface. It’s a shame they don’t offer a free plan as a lot of their competitors do, but it seems from their promotion, that they aim to entice more businesses than individuals. If you’re in the market for a 3D design app, check this one’s demo to see if it offers everything you’re after.
As its name implies, this package aims to offer everything in one place, be it the inside of a home or the outside, including the garden. That’s quite an extensive goal, and at a penny under $100, it’s a good price for such an ambition. It’ll work on a machine running Windows 7, 8 or 10, with a 2GHz 64 bit processor, 8GB of RAM, 2GB video card, and at least 10GB of storage space.
The landscape creation section is very flexible, enabling you to work on multiple elevations, create paths, add lighting, and have access to a large library of plants, arbors and trellises. You can also add fences and walls, and there’s even an option to include sprinklers. The software comes with a number of wizards, including one to quickly create decks, potentially saving you a lot of time.
Virtual Architect Ultimate with Landscaping and Decks Design 10 is mostly a good program, with many features designed to help you create easily and effectively. It’s only marred a little by a couple of annoying interface decisions, but the advantages certainly outweigh the disadvantages.
FloorPlan 2021 is a desktop application that works on any Mac running MacOS 10.11 or above, with 3GB of available storage and at least 8GB of RAM (if you work with a PC, 2020 is the latest version). Is this the right package that will allow you to design a building and the surrounding terrain, if you have $200 in your pocket?
We did like the Templates section, where you can find a vast selection of ready made groups of items, like a table and chairs, say, or a ready-made landscape section. It’s all there to help speed up the design process. There’s also a host of features for disabled access too, which we were happy to see.
For the most part, FloorPlan is easy to use. There are many features designed to speed up the creation process, the help menu is but a click away, and the interface is friendly and inviting. You could get a design done in very little time, which is a definite plus. Fine tuning and customising is just as easy, and it’s only marred by a potentially glitchy 3D interface where we struggled to select some objects (but not others). It’s definitely worth a look if you’re interested in 3D home and landscape designing.
This software is designed to work on Windows (from XP onwards) and the Mac (10.5 and above) and is remarkably affordable: Plus is a commercial licence, and would cost you $40. If you only need it for personal use, Home costs $35. That’s not much of a price difference to be honest. However as of this writing, there’s a promotion going, allowing you to grab these at $29.99 or $24.99 respectively.
Not only can you design an entire house and furnish it, you have the tools to extend your creation process outside, landscaping your garden or terrain just as easily, and as you’d expect, the software comes with a vast library of plants and outdoor furniture which you are free to customise.
NCH’s DreamPlan is an excellent piece of software, helping you create a building on multiple levels, alter it and customise it inside and out to your heart’s content. It is designed to make it easy to perform alterations, and even goes out of its way to help you understand the app’s inner workings, by offering you links to specific video tutorials throughout the interface (via the subtle blue circular camera buttons). It’s very affordable too, works on multiple platforms, and comes with a free trial period – definitely worth a look.
As its name implies, this Windows-only package is focussed on helping you create outdoor areas. If you need to design a room, or an entire house, you’ll need to look elsewhere. This doesn’t mean you can’t create exteriors of houses. In fact, Realtime Landscaping Pro lets you add houses to your design. You just can’t venture inside them.
Landscaping an entire area from scratch can take some time, but Realtime Landscaping Pro is there to help speed up the process with the use of Wizards. You have a handful of them, helping you with your Landscape, Decking, or even Pond, among others.
You have the option of fully customising your chosen template, from its building material, to the size of individual elements. So it’s both a time saver to help you get started, and a launchpad to further your own creativity.
For $150, Realtime Landscaping Pro offers a wealth of features to help you create the garden of your dreams. If can be used for fun or as a professional tool to create what you or your client is after prior to having picked up a spade. The interface is easy to understand, and interaction with the software is fluid, even on a machine that isn’t the most up-to-date model. Overall, this is an excellent piece of software for anyone who loves or needs to design landscapes virtually.
Need help on your next creative project around your home? Check out our roundups of the best home interior design software and the best 3D home design software