Top 9 Free Landscape Design Software Tools

best landscape design software tools

If the fancy to design your own landscape comes by but you are unsure of what to eliminate or add in your garden, an actual trial and error would be expensive and laborious.

Visualizing it with a piece of paper before the actual landscape is what free landscape design software is all about. With virtual landscape designing, you could save time, money and can exert your own creativity.

Did you know that there’s a whole lot of free landscape design software out there? Today, we will cover some of the bests to help you roundup what will work best for you. 

9 Best Free Landscape Design Software In 2020

  1. iScape
  2. Showoff
  3. Terragen
  4. Gardena
  5. Plan-A-Garden
  6. Dreamplan home design
  7. SketchUp Free
  8. Sweet Home 3D
  9. Garden Visualizer

What is landscape design software?

As the term implies a landscape design software can come in the form of a downloadable application or a browser-based tool that will help you in adding a personal touch in any outdoor project (garden, deck, outdoor space, etc.).

These types of software are readily available in the market as they are now used by professional landscapers, contractors and architects. Landscape design software for professional use is expensive though.

This is where free landscape design software comes in. Though it has its limits compared to pro apps, it does the job for newbie landscapers like you are. 

Note however, that free landscape design software is not the same as free garden planner tools that you see on the internet. Most often that not, garden planning tools are already infused even in free landscape design software. 

Why use landscape design software and how can landscape design software help you? 

As all virtual tools, the purpose of free landscape design is generally user-dependent. The general use of these software however, is to help you transfer your landscape or garden idea into a printed paper before you could make the final changes in your garden.

By doing this, you can visualize first what to do and how you will do it before things become permanent. 

Additionally, you can also come up with as many designs as you want and choose one that will make the final cut.

Free landscape design software has landscape templates that you could tweak or get ideas/inspiration from.

They also come with a lot of landscaping elements that you can customize as you see fit. Through these, you will maximize not only space but also resources. 

Most importantly, a free landscape design software can help you stay on schedule thanks to its feature of geo-tagging you to nearby local stores where the materials you used could be found.

Other landscape design software will even print a complete list of the things you will need. With this, you can also project the needed budget. 

Benefits of landscape design software

For this section, we will get to the specifics of how free landscape design software will be beneficial for you. 

#1. Accuracy

Either you intend to do it your own or give your design to your landscaper, architect or contractor, you can bet on the printed copy from a landscape design software for its accuracy. 

#2. Immediate results and easier decision making

You make them, you print them; that is where immediate results come in. Each print out will come with a detailed list of materials and geo-tagged stores where you could find them. By the power of compare and contrast, you could easily come up with a decision of which design to execute. 

#3. Maximized space

By rendering the actual size of the garden in the landscaping design software, you can immediately see where you want to put things or the angles that you want to improve. You can go all-out or go minimalist depending on your choice. 

#4. Feedback

One of the features of landscape design software is that you can email them directly to your landscaper for immediate feedback.

You can also send it to family and friends for comments and suggestions or directly upload it to an online landscape forum for other direct feedback. 

#5. Professional use

The landscaping design relies on reputable designs. By accurately conveying their designs and easily sketching some prospective designs to potential clients, they could save time and gain more client traffic. 

How to choose a landscape design software

While there are thousands of free landscape design software in the internet, you cannot just download one without a background check.

If you do this without contempt, you might just waste time, effort and sometimes unknown in-app purchases that need money. Given these, it is important to look for key features that will help you in narrowing down the free landscape design software that you will choose. 

In choosing the best free landscape design software, you have to ask yourself about certain guide questions such as: 

  • Purpose of the landscape design: What design are you actually eyeing for? Do you want to build a child-friendly yard? Will it be an open space for family activities? Will it be a flower garden? 
  • Space: After answering the first question, you have to settle this one too. Will the trees and plants have ample room to grow in? Is it good to have an extended kitchen in the deck? How many people at a time can my landscape accommodate? 
  • Realistic planning: Given the first and second questions, there are only a handful of landscape materials that you can include. You can always go over the top but if the space and design cannot accommodate it, you’ll have to be realistic and just keep it simple. 

Now that we have settled these guide questions, it is time to give a rundown of the features that you should look for in choosing a good landscape design software. 

1. Comprehensive interface

We all love a program that is self-explanatory and easy to maneuver. A comprehensive interface means that the design software must have a wide range of basic and complex tools depending on what you want to achieve.

Some interfaces are just rowdy to look at and require time for mastery. You don’t want that and you do not have time for that. 

2. Overall design appearance

The first thing that you will do is to come up with a rough draft of your design. A good landscape design software must allow you to sketch your own design using many graphic tools such as pencil, paint or watercolor. Through this, you can well experiment on your design and make many versions of it as you seem fit. 

3. Importing capability

If you are not the artsy type, a convenient feature is the capability of the design software to import pre-existing photos of your garden and outdoor space.

With this, you can easily add landscaping materials around the house and more realistic print out afterwards. You may also import other materials that are not available in their graphics library if your design software has this feature. 

4. House wizard

Having pre-existing house templates in the software’s library is a major upside but having a house wizard feature means that you get to create your own house complete with lighting, walls, interior and exterior designs and doors. After which, a set of landscaping elements will be offered for your choice. 

5. Object manipulation capability

This feature allows you to customize your model design. You can add specific objects and put them in specific places. You can also set the climate settings of your design under this feature. If your chosen software has this, then you have a good one as it makes your design more accurate and realistic. 

6. 3D graphics and rendering

Speaking of more accurate, having this feature makes your design lively and realistic too. It gives you a virtual tour of the adjustments you made while navigating them from all angles. With this, you could also add elements such as flowing water, lighting effects, etc. 

7. Irrigation system

Not all design software featuring 3D graphics would have this upside. With this, you can position your irrigation system at the most strategic location. You can also arrange the pipe lines and customize valve systems depending on your design. 

8. Material database

A good design software must include a wide material database. It should have a library for plants and trees along with their species and care information. It should also have a library for water feature designs (pools, fountains, etc.) and texture library (for gravel, sand, flower beds, etc). 

9. Material cost and estimation

Finally, good landscape design software must have this feature. It means that before printing out, it will show you a complete list of the materials you used in your design.

Advanced material listing and estimation would even have the ability to locate and geo-tag nearby stores where these materials are available. For non-available materials, a website link is given.

Best Free Landscape Design Software

Desktop Landscape design software

1. iScape

Iscape Landscape Design App

This one is only downloadable software available in the Apple App Store. Hence, this is only available for Mac, iPhone and iPad users.

It has a very straightforward interface with available template suggestions as soon as you open the app. Aside from having shareable designs for immediate feedback, it also has the capability to geo-tag nearby stores where all the materials you will use are available.

For unavailable materials from local stores, the app will link you to websites where you could buy them online. It is best for newbie landscapers who only want a rough draft of the final design. In general, this one is a 3 of 5. 

Pros Cons
Easy to use and intuitive interface.   Only available for Apple users and useful tools need to be purchased. 
Has a handful of templates to choose from.  Does not allow you to sketch your property’s size and angles. 
Easy sharing options.   Has a limited library for plants, furniture and other landscape materials. 
Geo-tag and website links for local stores and online shops.  Does not come with plant care information and listing of materials needed. 
  Only gives a rough draft of the final landscape. 

 

2. Showoff

Showoff

Just to clarify, Showoff is the website but the name of the landscape design software is The Visualizer. It is a downloadable program that is suitable for Windows.

The biggest upside of this program is that you can upload an actual photo of your surface area or the entire property.

From here alone, you could already visualize a before and after photo of the landscaping. Aside from having a wide range of landscaping templates, it also features a wide library containing photos of trees, plants, water features and garden furniture to choose from.

It has a print and share feature that will be directly uploaded in the platform for other users to see and give feedback to. All in all, this one is a 3.5. 

Pros Cons
Useful for DIY and professional exterior renovation.   Only suitable for Windows. 
Immediate feedback from fellow platform users.  Some model renderings do not look realistic when printed out. 
Allows actual property photos to be uploaded.  Care information for plants is not available. 
Has a wide range of stock photos.   

 

3. Terragen

Terragen

This one is an easy 4.5 out of 5. It is a comprehensive and straightforward design tool which renders printouts in HD. With it, you can upload, alter and put animations in your surface area.

You can also customize the terrains and have an advanced 3D rendering capability that sets the climate and topography of the surface (complete with clouds and other objects).

Another upside is that aside from being able to choose stock photos of landscaping elements, you can also customize the colors and size of the photos you choose. It is like 3D rendering and advanced PhotoShop at once thanks to its advanced object manipulation feature. 

Pros Cons
Comprehensive interface for Apple and Windows operating systems.    Does not include future program updates. 
Realistic, HD printouts of final designs.   Does not include plant species databases and care information for each. 
Advanced rendering and object manipulation capabilities.    
Customizable terrain, procedural shading for added objects.    
Comes with a free 30-day trial.   

 

Online landscape design software

4. Gardena

This one is easy to maneuver and fun to use. Some of its ergonomic features is that you can draw the exact shape and measurement of your garden.

For the design, it comes with more than 20 templates. You could easily pick your surface area (e.g. lawn, outdoor decking, patio, etc.) and if it is gravel, clay or sand. From there, you could add your desired elements like water features, lighting, plant arrangement and light work.

It also helps you in sketching out an irrigation system for the whole landscape which is a major plus for this online software. For newbie landscapers, this one is 3.5 out of 5. 

Pros Cons
User-friendly interface.  It will encourage you to buy their products before you could download/print the design. 
Requires basic computer knowledge.  Only has a few varieties of plants to choose from. 
Has a feature for planning out an irrigation system that is appropriate for your chosen plants.  Featured plants don’t come with care information unlike other online design software. 

 

5. Plan-A-Garden

Plan-a-garden software

This online landscape design program was specifically developed for DIY landscapers and homeowners and professional use. Aside from being an easy-use program, it is also free.

You only have to key in your email address to access the website. It comes with a handful of template designs where you could position stock images of plants and other landscaping features.

It is complete with fire pits, swing sets, water features and sheds. It is a 4 out of 5 because of three reasons.

First, it has a wide range of specific trees and plants complete with care information details. Second, you can adjust climate settings specific to your location. From there, the appropriate plant selection and landscape elements will come out. Third, your final design can be viewed in 3D or in eye-view mode. 

Pros Cons
User-friendly interface.  Does not allow you to draw the exact shape of your surface area. 
Good for newbie and experienced landscapers.  Templates do specify the texture of the surface area. 
Runs through a wizard that will assist you in navigating the features and when to use them. When viewed in 3D mode, you can only navigate the design from one angle. 
Can be viewed in 3D or eye-view mode. 
Adjustable climate settings and specific details for plant and landscape feature selection. 
Printouts come with a detailed list of the materials you will need. 

 

3d landscape design software

6. Dreamplan home design

Dreamplan

This one is a downloadable program that can be used by both Apple and Windows systems.

Its main upside is it features a 3D modeling complete with a printable blueprint and floor plans. It is not only good for landscape design but also for interior home designing.

Another upside is that you can import photos from the internet or from your desktop. It also allows you to customize the template’s terrain to resemble yours. Its image library comes with more landscaping materials.

It is perfect for DIY homeowners. It has a pro version which you can purchase online but this one is definitely free. With all things considered, this one is a 3 out of 5. 

Pros Cons
Suitable for Apple and Windows OS.  Basic features and slow-paced interface. 
Printable 2D and 3D blueprints and floor plants.  Plants do not come with care information.
User-friendly interface.  Does not provide a list of materials in the printout. 
Supports AutoCAD files.  No available CAD designs. 

 

7. SketchUp Free

Sketchup

We are featuring this one because there is a pre-purchase version called SketchUp Pro. For a free browser-based program, it has a good 3D interface for newbies and startup professionals with a wide range of tools from rough draft to modeling and finally for 3D rendering.

Aside from its own library, it can also be done in a sharing and collab feature with CAD project tools using Trimble Connect. This feature is great for professionals in the construction industry. This one is a 3.5 out of 5. 

Pros Cons
User-friendly interface.  Inaccessible landscape elements without the 2015 warehouse. 
Good for newbies and professionals.   High-spec desktop is required since it makes use of CAD. 
Suitable for Apple and Windows users.  Complex designs slow down the interface. 
3D rendered printouts.  Can’t be used offline. 
Fused with CAD tools through Trimble Connect. 

 

Landscape design software for mac

8. Sweet Home 3D

This has the simplest interface of all the featured landscaping design software here and for this, we give it a 3 out of 5. While you might consider it a decent app, it is practically rudimentary.

It will be very good for DIY homeowners who are eyeing for less complicated designs. It is not limited to Apple devices alone.

The upside of this one is that you can upload existing photos of your property or a digitized blueprint if you have one. You can also customize your landscape with its texture library (gravel, sand, flower beds, etc.) and a plant library to choose from. 

Pros Cons
Not limited to Apple users.  Full version tools cost $20. 
Can import existing photos and blueprints.  Basic graphics and limited object library. 
Easy to maneuver.  Limited outdoor landscaping elements. 
  Plant library does not include plant information. 
   

 

9. Garden Visualizer

This one is a 4 out of 5 simply because it offers a sophisticated interface but generally easy to maneuver. Using it is like playing Minecraft because you could literally walk around your template choice or upload the exact photo of your property (minus the avatar of course).

And before you print it out, it will take you on a virtual tour to see all the changes and inclusions you put.

One of its major upsides is that you can adjust the surface to its actual size, shape and layout. You can also create/draw specific elements such as pathways, walls, decks and pillars.

It is complete with edgings, paving, swimming pool, summerhouses, etc. Your work is also stored online and you can go back to it anytime using your account. 

Pros Cons
Sophisticated interface.  Downloadable in Firefox or Opera browsers only. 
3D rendered printout.  Has more complex tools than others. 
Customizable terrain, shape and property layout. Limited range of plant features. 
Provides specific themes and a wide range of landscape elements.   
Comes with product information for the materials needed.   

 

Best free landscape design software (Winner)

So far we have covered 10 of the best free landscape design software available. We have provided their key features, technical specifications, pros and cons. Now, it is time to weigh them up and give the verdict for the best free landscape design software. 

We based our choice on six key features: interface quality, graphics quality, rendering, object manipulation capability, material database, listing, cost and estimation. Based on these key features, it is a tie between Terragen and Plan-A-Garden

In terms of interface quality, Terragen is a good choice. Its navigation tools are comprehensive enough for a newbie and all complex tools are accessible. As for graphics quality, both Terragen and Plan-A-Garden have this upside. You can add stock images from their libraries, give texture to the landscape and print out high quality designs after.

For 3D rendering, Terragen is slightly more commendable than Plan-A-Garden. It is because it has CAD integrated tools that allow you to import AutoCAD files like a pro. It also takes you on a virtual around the design anytime you want to monitor the changes you added. 

As for object manipulation capability, both software win. Atmosphere and climate settings are available for both, animated objects are there, customizing shape and property terrain as well as adjusting the color of the materials are also made available.

As for the material database, Plan-A-Garden wins. Terragen falls short in tagging a wide range of plant species and some of the ones in the database don’t have species and care information. 

Lastly, in terms of listing, cost and estimation, both Terragen and Plan-A-Garden are winners. Unlike the others, they not only provide a complete materials list but also have a geo-tagging feature which is useful in locating local stores where these can be found. They also provide useful links for videos and websites where you alternatively buy materials that are not found in local stores.  

Conclusion

Generally, we have covered everything that you need to understand when it comes to free landscape design software.

At best, these types of software are helpful in creating more accurate, realistic and immediate virtual designs that you can use as a guide before making permanent changes in your landscape.

Regardless if you will embark on a DIY project or not, using a landscape design software offers a wide range of benefits that will surely save you time, effort and money. And if you have long been wondering which one to use, we have already provided a useful roundup of the best free landscape design software available in the net right now.

Some of them could be upgradable for pro versions but if you are not going down the professional route, you can count on these software to deliver what pro versions could also do.

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