Best Free Landscape Design Software Tools - Backyard Boss
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Best Free Landscape Design Software Tools

With a little bit of imagination and some time to spare, landscaping can turn into one of your most rewarding activities. There’s nothing like walking in your yard or garden and enjoying the view that was born from the depth of your imagination. However, that’s easier said than done. Landscape design software tools can help make your dreams come to life. 

We want to share the 5 best free landscape design software tools so you can choose the most suitable one for yourself.

Backyard Boss Top 5 Landscape Design Software You Can Get for Free

  PRODUCT FEATURES  
DreamPlan Home Design Software - Best Free Landscape Design Software Tools DreamPlan Home Design Software
  • Compatible With: Windows 10, XP, Vista, 7, 8 and 8.1; OS X 10.5 or above
  • 3D Mode: Yes
  • Requires Download/Install: Yes
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iScape - Best Free Landscape Design Software Tools iScape
  • Compatible With: iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch (requires iOS 9.0 or later)
  • 3D Mode: No
  • Requires Download/Install: Yes
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SketchUp - Best Free Landscape Design Software Tools SketchUp
  • Compatible With: All common web browsers
  • 3D Mode: Yes
  • Requires Download/Install: No
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Plan-a-Garden - Best Free Landscape Design Software Tools Plan-a-Garden
  • Compatible With: All common web browsers
  • 3D Mode: No
  • Requires Download/Install: No
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Gardena Garden Planner - Best Free Landscape Design Software Tools Gardena Garden Planner
  • Compatible With: All common web browsers
  • 3D Mode: No
  • Requires Download/Install: No
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Why You Can Trust Us 

Before we had a backyard of our own, we spent a whole lot of time dreaming and planning. Filling page after page with slight variations of a general plan. Things start to get a bit confusing when you’re using paper copies, especially if the organization isn’t your strong suit. Besides, it’s 2022. There’s an app or software for almost everything.

It also includes landscape design. There’s plenty of great software out there and plenty that leaves a lot to be desired. But don’t worry, we won’t make you comb through all the landscape design software out there because we’ve done it for you!

Skip the searching and cut straight to the good stuff with these reviews of the best 5 landscape design software tools on the market.

Best for Simple Planning

DreamPlan Home Design Software
    Easy planning for your landscape design with an easy-to-use interface that doesn't take a lot of technical knowledge

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Why We Like It: DreamPlan Home Design is software that helps you plan both your interior and your landscaping ideas. 

You can visualize what your garden would look like with plants and trees. It also allows you to modify the terrain surrounding the house. You can add elements such as a swimming pool to get a better idea of how to organize your outdoor space. If you’re aiming for a more unique design, you can import 3D models and work with them.

 Because of its clean interface, DreamPlan Home Design can be used even by people who aren’t tech-savvy. The steps are intuitive, so learning how to use this software is a really fast process. While the software is free for non-commercial use, there is also a professional version that you can buy, called DreamPlan Home Design Software Plus.

Who Should Buy It: This software is great for people who want a basic interface that’s easy to learn and use.

Best for Mobile

iScape
    Great interface for mobile devices that can do all the same things that a desktop software can with more versatility.

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Why We Like It: Simple, free of charge, and available for your iPhone and your iPad: this is the best way to describe iScape. 

It’s a mobile software available in the App Store that allows you to create your dream garden without having to spend time learning how to use complicated tools. It gives users a glimpse of what their landscaping project would look like.

Through its partners, iScape can help you purchase the landscaping items you want, eliminating the hassle of having to spend hours searching for them for yourself. Through its sharing features, iScape allows you to collaborate on your project and easily forward it to your contractor or perhaps friends (assuming you want their opinion before going forward with the project).

Who Should Buy It: This is a software app dedicated to users of portable Mac devices who want a basic tool without too many features to help them visualize the end landscaping result before deciding to hire a contractor.

Best for 3D Modeling

SketchUp
    3D rendering software for a better look at what your yard's potential might be in a more realistic setting.

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Why We Like It: If you’re a professional looking to test one of the most popular design tools, you want to try the free version of the famous SketchUp Pro. 

While the average home user can fiddle with SketchUp as well, the learning process could turn out to be lengthy and complicated, but it depends on how keen you are on figuring out new software. SketchUp was created to act as an extension of your hand, helping draw whatever, whenever. 

You can work in both 2D and 3D models while integrating a set of powerful tools that will seem complicated if not in the hands of an expert. You can save your drawing to the cloud, but also locally. Of course, the paid version is also an upgraded one. The web-based SketchUp lacks some features that a professional might need, like extensions and the possibility to edit or create materials.

Who Should Buy It: This is for you if you’re looking for a web browser-based version of the most famous modeling tool, typically used by engineers, builders, designers, and architects.

Best for Software Assistance

Plan-a-Garden
    An online software created by the experts at Better Homes & Gardens with software-assisted drawing and a large free feature library.

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Why We Like It: Created by Better Homes & Gardens, the easy-to-use interface and wide variety of features and plants make it a good choice for those who want an easy way to start visualizing their new yard.

Before beginning, you can upload a photo of your home, and Plan-a-Garden will set it up in the application’s main window. All the tools and options are laid out in a way that makes it easy to switch between textures, structures, and plants. With a paintbrush-style applicator, you can easily add all the different features you want for your yard. 

The tool will even apply sizing depending on where you drop things like plants and trees to fit the perspective. It makes it easy to get high-quality renderings, even if you don’t have much artistic talent. The paintbrush-style applicator is assisted by the software to make straight lines. You don’t have to worry too much about being accurate, as the tool will straighten things out for you.

Who Should Buy It: If you’re looking for simple and intuitive landscape design software, Plan-a-Garden could be a great option for you. 

Best for Fun Planning Experience

Gardena Garden Planner
    The fun and aesthetically pleasing interface of this landscaping software makes the whole process a fun, easy to understand experience.

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Why We Like It: Explaining the Gardena Garden Planner is a breeze, mainly because this is the simplest and cutest online landscaping app we’ve seen so far. 

The sketches look like a drawing, making it fun to use the app. There is a menu with all the tools needed to draw your garden. It also has options to add your house, outdoor furniture, plants, and more. You can easily draw your garden with the integrated plot surfaces feature. There are pre-drawn items to choose from, and each of these items can be enhanced, shrunk, rotated, and moved to the delight of the planner. 

A very cool feature is that you can add your sprinkler system, helping you plan out a watering pattern to keep your lawn and plants green and healthy. There are several templates you can choose from if you’re not sure where to start your project. You can play around with ponds and pools leisure items like barbecues outdoor lighting, and you can even add vehicles to plan every square inch of space available.

Who Should Buy It: This online software is a great tool for people who want a quick way to plan their garden but want to avoid downloading programs on their computer or having to browse through thousands of items. 

Why Use Landscape Design Software?

landscape design
Image credit: Tom Fisk via Pexels

Landscape software can make this process a whole lot easier because it gives you the chance to sketch out your ideas. Consequently, it will be easier to share your concepts with family, friends, or professionals hired to see this landscaping job through.

Using design software has some amazing advantages. Depending on which software you use, they can be quite easy and intuitive to use if you put the time in to learn the ins and outs of the software you’ve chosen. Making subtle changes is quick and easy, and the undo button is a lifesaver for undoing any mistakes.

Using software also keeps everything to scale, which is important when designing the layout of a space. It makes it easy and obvious what you will fit into your space.

Some software, like SketchUp, has great 3D capabilities. You’ll be able to move around your design, place human figures in it for scale, and generally move around the space that gives some awesome insight into how the space may feel once it’s complete.

How to Choose

man and woman planning digital landscape
Image credit: Highwaystarz-Photography via Canva

In the same fashion as 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 choosing 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 narrow down which program to get.

Landscaping Tips

Of course, nothing that’s ever truly rewarding is also easy. 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. They have constant creativity sparks studied to understand color and shape combinations and can come up with elaborate plans on how to create dreamy scenery.

There are homeowners who, before 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? However, 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 is 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 who loves to admire the most fragrant and colorful flowers and read the book in the shade of his trees. The question is: What should be the purpose of your garden?

What Objects Will You Include?

backyard patio with poind
Image credit: Hilda Weges | Photography via Canva

If you are a 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, 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 or even a TV, for sports fans.

The majority of homeowners want to enjoy their homes both inside and out. That means that landscaping is also a matter of continuity. It translated into comfort, even as you go outside. It 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. It 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.

How We Picked

When it comes to design software, the choices seem limitless. It can also be difficult to choose with all the technical language and specifications that mean nothing to many of us. To help you avoid this headache, we identified some criteria to help pick the software that made it onto this list. Here are the criteria:

  • Price. Since this is about free software, all of the items on this list won’t cost you a thing. There are paid premium versions of some of them though.
  • Ease of use. There is design software out there that you need a Bachelor’s degree to use properly. We focused on simple software that anybody would easily be able to use without a steep learning curve.
  • Capabilities. We had to make sure that all this software is appropriate for designing landscapes, not just interiors or buildings.

Our Free Landscaping Software Verdict

If you’ve never used landscaping software before or are looking for something simple and easy to use, make sure you steer clear from more professional tools that are based on the 3D drawing experience of experts such as architects, engineers, or professional decorators. The list above includes some very neat software options, from ones that can be mastered in less than an hour to more complex choices that are best suited for people who’ve used such software before.

Even though all of the design software tools that we included are worth the recommendation, in our opinion, the program that stood above the competition is DreamPlan Home Design. This simple, easy-to-use software will be a breeze for anyone to use. While still offering some more advanced features like 3D modeling and the ability to import models.

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