So you’re taking the plunge and want to design your shed – great! But you’re still going to need help. You need to design a shed that is more than just a rough sketch on scrap paper. We are going to take a look at the top shed design software programs that will help you create the perfect shed for your backyard.
As you’ll see, not all shed designer programs are created equal. Some you have to pay for, others are free while some are iOS only or are quite expensive. We’ll take a close look at each shed design program available to you to help you choose the right design app.
We’ve compiled the top 9 shed design software programs that are the most commonly used by pros and weekend warriors alike. See below and get started with your design!
Why Use Shed Design Programs
Using a shed design program before you build your shed is a good idea for several reasons. First, drawing out your design or at least rendering it visually will give you a better idea of what you want and create a custom shed design.
Second, having a drawing to work from makes the actual construction process much faster and more accurate. You won’t have to remember dimensions and you can make lots of cuts more quickly, which saves you time.
Lastly, a design program that provides estimates and materials lists will save you money. Why? If you know the exact amount of materials you’ll need ahead of time, you can shop wisely and find deals.
Some might not want to fiddle with a program and just start building. However, unless you are a master carpenter, a shed plan on paper will make the construction process incredibly faster.
Best Shed Design Software
Below is a list of the top shed design programs around right now. Please note that there isn’t one best program, but rather a collection of design programs that could suit different types of shed builders.
1. Home Designer Software
Home Designer is a product from Chief Architect and is meant to be a more accessible design program for DIYers and amateur builders. While all the great aspects of Chief Architect are included, the interface of the program is simpler
The main focus of Home Designer is exterior design. Like Chief Architect, you can use dimensional lumber to construct your shed. It will give you foundation specs for a variety of materials.
Interior features and accessories are not readily available in this program, so you won’t be able to map out wiring or other items such as insulation and interior cladding.
2D and 3D renderings make design easier, and there is a huge, online user database of drawings that you can use to assist you in your next shed design.
This program also offers landscape design, which isn’t found on many shed design programs. You can also add decks or porches to your shed, too.
As you build, Home Designer also has a built-in estimator tool that calculates costs for the entire structure, from the foundation to the roof. Home Designer updates frequently, so you can be assured that the estimates are fairly accurate. A list of materials is created as you go, so you have a complete materials list when you are done designing, along with an estimate.
Home Designer does offer a free trial period for use. However, the monthly price of around 60 dollars is much more reasonable than that of it’s bigger brother, Chief Architect. There is no risk because they also offer a 30-day money-back guarantee.
- Built-in estimator
- Contractor-ready plans
- Landscaping option
- Interior design not available
- Can’t map out wiring
CketchUp is a free, online design program for expert and beginner designers. This is not a building designer, although many have used sketch up to create plans for everything from homes and buildings to sheds, greenhouses, and outhouses.
The program is free, although you can subscribe to get more options. If you are designing a shed, there is no need to pay for the subscription. As all the options you’ll need are in the free version
There is a significant learning curve when doing building plans in SketchUp. First, there is no option to use dimensional lumber. That means you’ll have to draw the lines of the lumber to size yourself. Once you do it once, you can always copy objects, but this will take you time.
Adding exterior objects or materials might be beyond the scope of a beginning SketchUp user. Instead, this program works as a structural diagram for your shed.
The SketchUp online community is very active, so there are tons of designs of sheds, decks, and homes already out there for free. You can use these designs and edit them to your liking.
Also, there are many online Youtube tutorials for SketchUp. If you do get advanced with SketchUp, then you’ll be able to design every part of your shed.
Since this is a general design program, you won’t get any cost estimates. You also won’t have any option to choose a roof style or shed style because they don’t exist within the program.
If you are confident in your shed design and enjoy CAD, this program is for you. Otherwise, it might be a bit out of reach for the average weekend DIYer.
- Detailed, accurate design program
- Can create any accessory for a shed
- Lots of online tutorials
- No pre-loaded lumber sizes
- Not an architectural program
- High learning curve
3. Shed Boss
Shed Boss is a shed maker out of Australia, and they’ve created their online shed designer to help shed buyers design a shed online and visualize what their shed is going to look like.
The Shed Boss app is free and you can get it through Google Play, App Store, or just download it from their website. A free tutorial on the Shed Boss website is helpful in understanding how much or little this program can do.
If you want to create a shed, this program lets you choose any dimension. North Americans should beware, however, that this program is all metric. You’ll need a converter handy to translate your measurements into metric.
You cannot view the framing of the structure on the Shed Boss app, nor is there much room for varying accessories. You can add windows and doors, although moving them or re-sizing them is clunky.
Colors are an option, but not materials. Thus, you can’t choose the type of exterior or roofing material. The only way to change the shed aesthetic is color.
On the plus side, Shed Boss does give cost estimates, but you cannot view the estimates as you build – only at the end. That makes it somewhat difficult to understand the cost of each specific material or step.
You can also add lean-to’s and carports to your shed designs. Extras, such as insulation, skylights, and other important features, do not show up on the program.
This app is designed for Shed Boss to take your specs and then fabricate the shed for you, instead of you doing it on your own. Thus, you don’t get a detailed plan for a shed using this app.
Also, keep in mind this app was developed to be used on a standard desktop computer, so the iOS and Play versions may be more finicky or have more bugs.
- Excellent visualizer
- Flexible with shed sizes
- Clumsy mobile apps
- No detailed framing plans
4. Studio Shed Design Tool
Studio Shed offers a simplistic shed designer that allows you to get a professional look at how your desired shed might look like. This free shed design software is through the Studio Shed website, which is a company that contracts out designer sheds to local installers across the country.
Studio shed designer is a great place to start if you simply want to visualize a certain size of the shed, as there are 11 sizes to choose from as well as an array of paint and finishes. You can also choose accessories for all four walls, including windows and doors of varying sizes and wall placements.
Another handy tool this program offers is a built-in estimator. There is a catch, however, as the estimator only tallies costs based on its construction. If you took the time to build a similar shed, you’d likely build it at a fraction of the cost than what Studio Shed is offering.
This is not the program to use if you want a detailed blueprint for a shed. You won’t find framing specs or information on how to build a foundation for the specified shed you’ve chosen. Also, there is no option for interior design, although they do offer a “finish” package for an extra couple of thousand.
If you want a shed that is going to be a liveable space or just a fancy outbuilding in your backyard, then this is a great tool to use as a visualizer. On the other hand, if you want to build a shed yourself and need a plan, this is not the tool for you.
- Simple to Use
- Excellent exterior visualizer
- Cannot do framing plans
- Limited sizes and materials
5. Chief Architect – Design Your Own Shed
One of the great, easy to use all around shed building software programs, Chief Architect is the tool to use if you want to create a shed drawing that works and looks nice. Designed for professionals, this program has everything detail you’d ever want in a shed designer.
On the outside, Chief Architect looks complicated, but the actual design program is built to use dimensional lumber. That makes it different than SketchUp and other popular general design programs.
Framing a shed is simply – simply click “2×4” or “2×6” and start constructing. The program allows you to build in both 2D and 3D, so you can work on a wall at a time and then see the whole building as well. It will even include blocking between studs.
Material choice is extensive as well, from roofing to siding and even what you use to frame your shed. You can even design a pole or stick barn with this program.
Once you’ve designed your shed, Chief Architect will give you specs for any type of foundation you want. If you want a concrete pad, piers, or just skids, the program will tell you what you need and where you need to put them.
Lastly, the program allows you to place electrical components and will make a wiring diagram for you.
This shed design tool is not cheap, and a subscription will run you about 200 dollars per month. However, they do offer a free trial, which you could use to design your shed.
- Creates professional shed plans
- Wide array of materials to choose from
- Excellent visualization of designs
- Higher learning curve
6. Fair Dinkum Sheds Designer
Much like the Shed Boss App, this free shed designer app from Fair Dinkum provides a basic, easy-to-use program on all platforms to design and customize your shed.
An attractive part of the Fair Dinkum designer is that there are tons of pre-loaded designs for you to choose from, or you can just create your own. If you choose a pre-loaded design, you can edit it to your satisfaction.
The app itself allows you to choose some different shed styles, and then modify the design based on the initial style you chose. However, there are no options for types of materials.
This app allows you to alter roof pitches and shed dimensions without having to stick to set floor plans. As well, you can add lean-to’s and other additions, like a garage.
While the app does provide a realistic view of what your shed will look like, the graphics of the actual program lack significantly. As well, you can’t get any sort of cost estimate with the program.
To get an estimate, you are supposed to submit your design to the manufacturer, and they get back to you with a quote from a local installer. Unfortunately, this only works if you live in Australia.
Finally, the measurements are all metric, so those in North America won’t like that you have to convert your measurements into metric.
Overall this shed designer is very similar to Shed Boss. This program offers more options to accessories, such as adding skylights, different door types and even altering the roof styles.
- Can add accessories to designs
- Good shed visualizer
- Metric units only
- No materials estimator
- Shed framing plan not available
7. Revit by Autodesk
Revit by Autodesk is a seriously hardcore CAD (computer-assisted design) program for professionals. However, with a little patience, even a novice designer can create a basic shed design using this program.
The downside to Revit is the enormous cost – try over three thousand dollars per year just to subscribe! However, they do offer a free 30-day trial. That should be enough time for you to do your shed drawing. Keep in mind the program is huge, so your device needs lots of space for it to run properly.
Revit is a gorgeous program. With all it’s detail, it is surprisingly easy to use. Designing simple structures is easy and there are settings to use dimensional lumber.
When you use the program, however, you’ll find it to be incredibly intuitive. That means you won’t be inputting values and dragging 2x4s here and there.
Instead, the program bases it’s design off of creating walls, windows, and ceilings. Simply adding overall dimensions populates your shed wall with the appropriate spacing and dimensions. Editing merely requires you to change a value in the lefthand menu bar.
Any kind of roof type shed style, or foundation is available to use in Revit. Create your shed and the foundation types, placement, and materials instantly populate.
If you want to add windows and doors, you can do so using any type of window or door material to the size of your choosing. View top-down, floorplan views, 3D, 2D, and any other type of view you could want.
At the end, you get detailed drawings with every dimension you could need to complete your shed construction. Choose Revit if you want a printable, easy to read, and highly detailed shed plan for your next shed construction.
- Contractor-ready plans
- Excellent visualizer
- Built-in materials list creation
- High Learning Curve
Woodcraft is a low budget app found in both iOS and Play stores, this app is primarily for fine woodworking but can also be used to design smaller structures like sheds and decks.
Checking in at under 30 dollars, this app has an excellent interface for mobile users. The menus are extremely simple and the whole design is excellent for beginners.
One of the main drawbacks of this app is that you cannot design exterior or interior surface finishes. That means no siding, roofing material, or interior cladding.
This app sticks with the basics, meaning you can select or create your lumber size to create a plan for your framing, but you cannot design a finished structure.
There are lots of online guides and tutorials to help you get started, and Woodcraft has provided several pre-loaded plans that you can select and manipulate as you please.
While the app will not provide you with an estimate, it does give you a bill of materials for your structure. You can also switch between imperial and metric and create lumber down to 1/64 measurement.
There are also no options to landscape or add on any other features such as lean-to’s or garages. Of course, you could design those extras into your shed design, it would just take more time.
This is a great app for DIYers who want to create a basic plan for their shed without having to deal with finishing features.
- Excellent mobile capability
- Good ability to manipulate materials
- Not a visualizer
- Cannot choose finishing materials
CADPro is yet another choice for professional draftsmen and contractors, albeit on a budget. The software is packed with features on the scale of it’s more expensive competitors but is a bit more clunky to use.
To get CADPro, you first have to download it from the website. Unfortunately, it is only for Windows operating systems. That means no iOS or mobile capability.
On the other hand, the price is less than 100 dollars, which is much less compared to other programs of similar sizes, such as Chief Architect or Revit.
CADPro has an architectural mode that allows you to snap dimensional lumber into place with ease. Once in place, you have the power to input alternate dimensions to your specs.
Alternatively, CADPro provides designs that you can use with your shed, such as roof types and shed styles. This allows you to avoid creating them yourself.
The operation of the program is simple. Input the values for your shed, such as 10×14, and it will automatically create walls for you with appropriate stud spacing. Input windows and the framing will adjust accordingly to accommodate the window or door.
As well, you can include electrical in your designs, and place receptacles and other fixtures in your shed.
The design of the program itself seems dated, and the multitude of buttons and menus don’t exactly make it easy for a beginner to complete any task. There are some tutorials online but the learning curve for this software is high.
You get what you pay for, and while this product has all the features of the more expensive competitors, it still fails to compete due to non-intuitive design and dated aesthetic.
- Cheaper “professional” options
- Makes accurate framing plans
- No online help
- High learning curve
- Clunky design
10. Rhino 3D Design
Rhino 3D Design is an excellent program for modeling the exterior of your structure to visualize how it will look. While the program is packed with every CAD feature possible, the learning curve is extremely high.
Built for Windows and iOS, this is an expensive program at close to 1000 dollars. On the other hand, Rhino has an extremely generous 90-day free trial in which you can save and share your work.
Since this program allows you to design pretty much anything you could imagine, it isn’t specifically intuitive for architectural purposes. For that reason, you aren’t likely to sit down and draft dimensional lumber to scale in this program.
Users of Rhino will find that it is much easier to draw larger shapes such as walls, roofs, and openings with general dimensions. This will allow you to 3D model your drawings and get a feel for what they’ll look like.
The best part about Rhino is the ability to add color and texture to objects. This allows you to create a seriously realistic rendering of your shed. You can create siding and roofing to match your desired materials. You’ll have a hard time finding a more realistic visualizer anywhere online.
While the design learning curve on Rhino is high, the program has a particularly active online community with tons of tutorials and forums to seek help.
Additionally, there are many, many pre-loaded designs that you can use to help you build a shed.
Rhino is ideal for those experienced with CAD who also have construction knowledge and want to visualize their shed without having to input every single value.
- Can create any shed accessory
- Best visualization program available
- Customize exterior materials
- Not for contractor-ready plans
- High learning curve
Are Paid Programs Better?
Paid programs are better, and it isn’t close. While many of the paid programs are quite expensive, the quality is night and day better than the free online applications.
If you want to draw a contractor-ready plan for your shed, then the only way you’ll be able to do it is on a paid program. Even then, doing a contractor-grade plan will only work with programs like Revit or Chief Architect. There is not any free shed design software with a materials list, either.
If you just want to visualize what your shed is going to look like and have a basic size and style in mind, then don’t spend the money. The free online designers are exactly all you need.
Remember, you can do more with paid programs. But, as stated above, the paid programs offer free trials. So you can try out the programs before you commit to purchasing them. Try the free trials first, and if you find they are too complicated or just too much, then you can always switch to the less expensive or free programs.
Hopefully, you’ve learned something about the various shed design programs out there. Not all of these programs are one size fits all, and you might have to end up trying a few of them to find the right one.
As always, thanks for taking the time to read the article. If you have any feedback on the programs mentioned above please share, I’d love to hear about them.
Also, if you have another program that I didn’t mention but feel that it should be included – or one that should be removed from the list – please drop me a suggestion.