Drafting software for architects: types and top products
The architecture drafting software products currently available on the market include both standard Computer-Aided Design (CAD) tools and the more unique and versatile sketching and drawing apps that architects use for drafting.
Out of all architectural activities, drafting could be the most common one, and it’s also very diverse and personal for each architect.
No matter where you start your drafting process, be it a simple notepad or a drawing app on any device, at some point, you need to communicate your ideas to clients and other stakeholders.
That is where the more advanced drafting tools come into play and let you showcase your thought process with clear digestible elements like landscaping models, doors, interior design, textures, and a lot more.
Let’s take a look at some of the architectural drafting tools present on the market.
2D Drafting software
2D drafting software lets you take care of the most basic drafting needs and produce technical drawings.
Autodesk is one of the most popular software products for 2D drafting, design, and drawing.
The platform offers an extremely flexible set of tools for any need.
Since Autodesk is widely used there are tons of reference materials and tutorials – which makes Autodesk one of the best options for long-term usage.
DraftSight is a drafting tool that lets you create both 2D and 3D models.
The software is equipped with all the necessary features you’d look for in a drafting product, as well as a set of handy productivity tools like drawing comparison, automatic dimensioning, and property calculations.
3D drafting software
3D Drafting software helps you truly bring your ideas to life for presentations to clients and co-workers because 3D models are always clear and accessible even for non-professionals.
SketchUp lets you turn hand drawings into completely visualized and presentable models that take into account sunlight, shadows, landscape terrain, and seasons.
You can sit with the client and go through all the aspects of the future building and its functionality using a SketchUp project.
Shapr3D lets you explain the whole logic behind your thought process – you can start with a drawing on any device be it a laptop or a tablet, and finish with completely ready 3D model renders.
Shapr3D puts a lot of emphasis on training and education, so mastering this drafting software is relatively easy with all the reference materials available.
Microsoft-based drafting software
If Windows is your operating system of choice, you have a lot of drafting tools to pick from.
The Microsoft Apps market also has a wide selection of drafting software products for any needs. If you prefer to use MS products you’ll find a lot of technical aids for your work there, e.g.:
Back to the Drawing Board 2D CAD
This app is a great tool to produce fast and precise technical drawings for any purpose. You can install and use it on any Windows-based device.
Explore Drafting is an educational app for beginner architects that helps master the most efficient drawing and drafting techniques with a set of tutorials and educational videos.
You can use the extensive database to find tutorials on drawing any structural element and learn anything you need on the go from any device.
Technical Drawings and Illustrations
Technical Drawing & Illustrations is a free app that lets you create quick and precise drawings of any architectural object fast and easy. There is a set of optional paid add-ons that contain advanced technical drafting and productivity tools.
Sketch 360 lets you draft the space from inside of it. You can draw out interior design sketches that are viewable in all directions using VR. Their equirectangular perspective grid embedded into the workspace helps you stay precise with your dimensions and embed any videos or images into your creation.
Mac OS Drafting Software
These products either work exclusively on Mac OS devices or allow usage on all platforms.
Rhino is an extremely feature-rich drafting software product that supports nearly all possible CAD file formats and allows you to do any type of 2D or 3D modelling.
Used not only by architects but by product designers and artists, Rhino lets you run complex projects with all kinds of notes, templates, merges, and incremental saves.
This tool is appreciated for how versatile it is, and you can try it out since it is free for the first 90 days of use.
SketchUp Pro is widely used for drafting as it allows you to create models that showcase any architectural ideas you may have. It’s highly customizable and has interoperability features that make the software great for teams and architectural assistants.
If you’re looking for iPad apps for drafting – check out our post on drafting and other architectural apps for iPad.
Free drafting software for Architects
Free does not mean low quality – most free drafting software products for architects have paid features that you may decide to skip.
With the option to upgrade at any time or use the community for help, open-source drafting tools may be the best option for you.
FreeCAD is a truly open-source project that anyone can contribute to – but it’s also a great tool for architectural drafting, as it allows you to switch back and forth between 2D and 3D models. You can export the results of your work in FreeCAD in any industry standard CAD format.
QCAD is a simple open-source 2D drafting software that can be used on Linux, Windows, and Mac.
LibreCAD is another 2D drafting software product that is completely free. Lots of documentation produced by the community makes it a good option for your architectural drafting needs.
Simple drafting software for architects
If you are delegating most of your CAD work (which is a smart thing to do!) you may want to stick to quick and simple drafting apps. Something you can access online from any browser, e.g.
SmartDraw is a free drafting app that works well with other products like MS Office, Google Workspace, Atlassian apps, and a lot more.
Tinkercad is one of the entry-level apps for 3D modelling. It works in any browser as a web app and you can use it to get started with the 3D modelling of your projects.
Specialized drafting software products
These drafting tools have features that go beyond architecture and step into the expertise of other professionals. You may be hearing these names (and getting deliverables too) from co-consultants that you work with within your projects.
PlanMan allows you to manage all the input from other professionals like HVAC engineers, landscape planners, electricians, and plumbers, – all in one place. Check out our co-consultants module designed specifically to bring together all the drafting work.
An advanced land survey drafting software that will be able to export project data to any CAD tool you will be using.
Carlson offers a set of professional products for land development, from surveying and site analysis to landscape planning.
MicroSurvey brings together land surveying and surface modelling in a clear and intuitive CAD interface.
ProfiCAD is an electrical CAD software that allows you to create complete models of wiring and outlets for your project.
You can use AutoCAD for electrical modelling if you subscribe to certain modules, but most professionals will go with specialized software.
Plumbing CAD is plumbing drafting software that you will come across. All the exports and deliverables can be managed with the PlanMan document management module for data sharing and version control.
There are dozens of worthy architectural drafting software products out there.
No matter which one you pick to make your daily go-to tool, PlanMan offers a reliable home base for all your documents, data, communications, and project management.