Top software for architects: documentation, 3D modeling, visualization

It's always hard to choose the right software and be aware of the modern solutions and their features. So we decided to collect the most helpful tools that architects and designers could use for their projects with the most benefits and less effort! This material contains links to the main BIM and visualization software, graphics, and presentation solutions. It will help you create documentation, models, renders, videos, and solve many other architectural tasks.

This material is divided into 4 parts and some parts contain several software options to choose from, so don't be scared of the number of solutions you need to learn. We want you to pick solution that will suit your needs!

Tags:

– BIM software

– CAD software

– Architectural modeling software

– Architectural drawing programs

– 2D and 3D modeling software

– Architectural sketch software

– Architectural planning software

– Architectural layout software

– Visualization software


1. CORE SOFTWARE


Archicad

Type: Building Information Modeling, Visualization

Education version: Student, Teacher, School

Trial version: Free for 30 days

System: Win, Mac

Bonus: Free Archicad Basic Skills course


Archicad is a core software for architects, contractors, and designers and a Building Information Modeling (BIM) technology-based solution since 1982.

It allows you to design, visualize, document, collaborate with the project team, and deliver projects of all sizes. And all of that is based on a model – so you don't need to draft anymore and use multiple software redrawing or remodeling your project. Archicad has a robust set of built-in tools and an easy-to-use interface that make it the most efficient and intuitive BIM software on the market. The best thing about Archicad is that it has a model-based connection with other solutions. Not only with special visualization software (such as Cinema4D, Twinmotion, Lumion, Enscape, and others) but with construction solutions (such as Tekla, Solibri, SCIA, and dRofus)


👉 Read more: https://graphisoft.com/us/solutions/archicad

👉 Try: https://graphisoft.com/us/try-archicad


 

2. VISUALIZATION


Cinema4D

Type: Modeling, Visualization, Animation

Education version: Student, Teacher, School

Trial version: Free for 14 days

System: Win, Mac

Bonus: It has a direct export from Archicad


Cinema 4D is a professional and highly acclaimed high-end render engine that lets users quickly and easily create compelling renderings. Cinema4D has an advanced sculpting tool (for creases, buttons to upholstered furniture, pillows, etc.), a MoGraph toolset that quickly generates thousands of copies of objects, and a vast library of materials, scenes, and objects. It's also integrated with leading external render engines such as Indigo, iray, Maxwell Render, mental ray, Octane Render, and VRay.

The latest version even allows you to turn photos from your iPhone or iPad into high‑quality 3D models and use Asset Browser that provides easy access to libraries of preset content stored locally or online.


👉 Read more: https://www.maxon.net/en/cinema-4d/features

👉 Try: https://www.maxon.net/en/try


 


Twinmotion

Type: Visualization, Presentation

Education version: Student, Teacher, School

Trial version: Unlimited time without commercial usage

System: Win, Mac

Bonus: Live connection Add-on for Archicad


Award-winning Twinmotion is a real-time 3D immersion software that produces high-quality images, panoramas, and standard or 360° VR videos in seconds. It is extremely easy to learn and use, regardless of the size and complexity of the project, the materials, the user’s IT knowledge or their preferred BIM modeler. Twinmotion also has a few exciting presentation features: you can save a .exe file that the client can use or you without any software installations and explore in VR and 360° pictures that you can use for 3D tours creation.


👉 Read more: https://www.twinmotion.com/en-US/features

👉 Try: twinmotion.com/en-US/license


 


Lumion

Type: Visualization, Presentation

Education version: Student, Teacher, School

Trial version: Free for 14 days

System: Win

Bonus: Live connection Add-on for Archicad


Lumion is visualization software made for any architect or designer. It fits into your design process and allows you to create stunning images, videos, or 360° panoramas. Lumion has its own portal for 3D tours, and you can also embed these panoramas on your website. The latest version has a volumetric spotlight effect, 570 new library items, 65 new materials, and improved OpenStreetMaps import.


👉 Read more: https://lumion.com/specifications.html

👉 Try: https://lumion.com/free-trial.html


 


Enscape

Type: Visualization, Presentation

Education version: Student, Teacher, School

Trial version: Free for 14 days

System: Win


Enscape is an add-on for BIM software that allows you to create real-time renders. It has all features of modern renders: picture renders, 360° panoramas, video creation, and VR. Enscape also has additional interesting pictures settings: Light view, Depth of field, White mode, and Ortho views that could be used for facade presentations. The Asset Library contains 2700 elements of vegetation, people, furniture, lighting, and other elements. Enscape has collaboration features and can share the project with anyone as a fully rendered .exe file or web standalone.


👉 Read more: https://enscape3d.com/features/

👉 Try: https://enscape3d.com/trial-14/


 


Rhino+Grasshopper

Type: Modeling Software, Visualization, Algorithmic design

Education version: Student, Teacher, School

Trial version: Free for 90 days

System: Win, Mac

Bonus: Live connection Add-on for Archicad


Rhino is an incredibly powerful solution that includes a large number of functions. Rhino can create, edit, analyze, document, render, animate, and translate NURBS curves, surfaces and solids, subdivision geometry (SubD), point clouds, and polygon meshes. Integrated to the latest version Grasshopper tool requires no knowledge of programming or scripting but still allows developers and designers to develop form generation algorithms without writing code. So you can not only create code-based shapes but run simulations and use the endless list of Rhino add-ons.


👉 Read more: https://www.rhino3d.com/features/

👉 Try: https://www.rhino3d.com/download/


 

3. POST-PROCESSING



Adobe suite

Type: Graphic

Education version: Student, Teacher, School

Trial version: Free for 7 days

System: Win, Mac


Even if we can get the pictures from the model, the classic Adobe suite will be needed in some cases! The most helpful for architects are Photoshop, Indesign, and in some cases, Illustrator. Of course, it will be harder to track changes and collisions if an image was enhanced in PS. But sometimes, it's easier to make a few changes like that instead of re-rendering the entire project. You can remove background, enhance your picture settings, draw, create layouts, and do many other things with Adobe suite. Some time ago, Adobe ran the browser-based service Creative Cloud Express that solves some of these issues.


👉 Read more: https://www.adobe.com/creativecloud/features.html

👉 Try: https://www.adobe.com/


 


Figma

Type: Graphic

Education version: Student, Teacher, School

Trial version: Free for 3 projects

System: Win, Mac, Linux, Browser


Figma is a new generation of graphic design tools with straightforward but numerous features with user-made add-ons. This solution is less for work with colors and picture settings but more with shapes, effects, and libraries of icons, pictures, and other elements. And since everything is more digital nowadays, you can test your designs with a built-in prototyping feature. It also has helpful collaboration features suitable for mind maps or process discussions.


👉 Read more: https://www.figma.com/design/

👉 Try: https://www.figma.com/signup


 

4. PRESENTATION



BIMx

Type: Presentation, Supervision

Version: Free / $9.99 / $49.99

System: Win, Mac, iOS, Android, Browser


BIMx is a powerful app with a multi-functional and multi-platform solution for project presentation, on-site supervision, and collaboration. You can easily publish your project and access all content you have in Archicad: BIM-model, documentation, and elements and project information. It has a presentation feature for clients' presentations and VR mode, which you can use with any Cardboard Glasses. There's also a massive variety of options for sharing your project with clients or other specialists: from the .bimx file sharing and link sharing (file can be uploaded to the transfer site) to embedding the project to the company's website.


👉 Read more and try: https://graphisoft.com/us/solutions/bimx


 


VOOSEY

Type: Presentation

Version: Free

System: iOS, Mac


Voosey is a pretty new software made for the presentation of your BIM project. It has instant AR, HDR physically based rendering, and countless interactive features, including furnishing*, painting, and virtual tours.


👉 Read more and try: https://voosey.com/


 


Sketchfab

Type: Presentation

Version: Free / $15 / $79

System: iOS, Androin, Browser, Mac, Win


Sketchfab is a 3D viewer that lets you showcase interactive 3D models anywhere. The primary and most interesting features for architects are Augmented and Virtual Reality. So you can easily use your clients' coffee table for the project presentation in AR with your iPad or any smartphone. Sketchfab has a considerable base of models, and it supports all major 3D file formats.


👉 Read more and try: https://sketchfab.com/


 

Afterword

Modern specialists use less CAD software and flat drafting and more model-based workflows which broaden horizons of collaboration and data transfer from one software to another one. And more solutions nowadays are compatible with each other, so be curious, learn new features and search for solutions that will solve your issues!

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