The Mysterious World of CAD – Top Tips

I get asked questions quite often about how I produce my 3D Visuals and the CAD applications I use in general. So consider this my quick guide to what you should know about various CAD applications for the interior design industry; based on my experience to date.

1. SketchUp is your friend. No really, it is. If you’ve never dipped your little pinky into any CAD applications previously you should start with SketchUp. Are you writing this down? Write it down. It should look like this:

Google SketchUp

2. Buy the Pro version of SketchUp. The free version is good. Actually, it’s better than good, but the Pro version has LayOut. This is an additional application with the Pro version and is worth its weight in gold. If you’re a student you can buy the Pro version at a discounted rate. Do it. Yes, I’m bossy and forthright but I know what I’m talking about.

3. Patience. Patience. Patience. So many people want to produce 3D Visuals at the same standard as mine in like, a week!! This will not happen!! Becoming familiar with SketchUp isn’t difficult but it does take time! Rome wasn’t built in a day people!! Read, research and have a nosey at online tutorials. And then get stuck in and have a go.

4. 3D Visuals need a rendering application in addition to the creation of a 3D model (like SketchUp). There are many to choose from and their learning curves can vary dramatically. After trialling a few different ones on the market I’ve opted for Maxwell Render. You of course could decide to choose something else. But in my humble opinion Maxwell Render is one of the leading rendering applications that provides extremely realistic and accurate environment/lighting conditions. This is photo-realistic rendering at its best. And it’s compatible with SketchUp. In theory, you could download the free version of SketchUp and the free version of Maxwell Render and create 3D Visuals (albeit a bit rough around the edges) within a week. What are you waiting for??!!

5. Get AutoCAD. Students can get the FULL and unrestricted version for FREE!!!! FREE!!! This is the design industry’s leading CAD software; download it!! I use AutoCAD for technical floor plans. I NEVER use SketchUp for technical floor plans. EVER. SketchUp is amazing for 3D models and design concepts but for hard-core technical floor plans I use AutoCAD. End of. Getting to grips with AutoCAD is no joke. It takes patience and lots of practice but it IS possible to reach a reasonably competent level. I now provide a freelancing service to Interior Designers who specifically request floor plans via AutoCAD. I’m proof that it can be done. There’s no reason why you can’t either.

6. PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE. I can’t emphasise this enough. Especially when you’ve reached a certain level of competency and then don’t use any of the above CAD applications for a few months. You would not believe how much you forget. And I’m speaking from experience. Always make sure that you keep your knowledge/skills base fresh by continuing to use them.

7. Download GIMP/Photoshop while you’re at it. Sometimes I do a bit of post-processing using either one of these image editing applications. I’m not going to tell you exactly what I do ‘cos a lady has to have a certain air of mystery. You know?

If anyone has any further questions; drop me a line below and I’ll do my best to answer your query.

Examples of my 3D Visuals using SketchUp and Maxwell Render:

Kitchen - Final Render 3

Kitchen - Final Render 1

Snug - Final Render 3

Tolix Chairs

Bedroom 3

Examples of the various ‘hand sketched’ effects that can be produced with Google SketchUp:

Rendered Sketch of 360 Fire Structure

Sketch of Lattice Detail

I hope this post has inspired you to go forth and investigate the wonderful world of CAD!


  1. Asma's Design Journal says:

    Anita – THANK YOU so much!
    This is a-m-a-z-i-n-g advice! You are truly awesome! I am going to download those softwares now! xx


  2. I am so jealous of your CAD talent!!


  3. dominikawiecha says:

    having used Vectorworks for the last 2 years I will soon be starting a job where I’ll be required to use SketchUp for visuals (while still using Vectorworks for all the technical drawings). I must admit I’m a bit nervous about learning new software before I even mastered Vectorworks. I’m also considering getting some additional rendering application (I’ve been using in built Vectorworks rendering application: Renderworks so far which is pretty good) and been thinking of Cinema 4D (which supposedly is compatible with Vectorworks). It’s a lot to take in already and while I would love to have a go at AutoCad at some stage I think I want to get proficient at Vectorworks first before I start learning new software (I don’t want to confuse myself plus I always believed that people who do everything are usually experts at nothing 😉 ).

    I’m always in admiration of your CAD skills though 🙂


    • anitadesignstudio says:

      Dominika, I wish you all the best in your new job and trust me, if you’ve been using Vectorworks you’ll have no problem getting to grips with SketchUp!! Thanks for your kind words 😉


  4. Melissa says:

    Ah yes Anita, I have to agree. SketchUp is my best friend too! I spent hours getting to grips with AutoCAD & still need to put many more hours in!! These renders look fantastic, it just shows that patience and determination do pay off.


    • anitadesignstudio says:

      Melissa, I’m glad to hear that you’re a SketchUp and AutoCAD convert too! Thanks for your lovely words re: my renders! 🙂


  5. Astrid Dodd says:

    Thanks for this very useful tips, especially about the rendering program


  6. Vanda-Lynn Hughes says:

    Hi Anita
    Thank you for your tips will have a go with Sketchup again and download the others too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • anitadesignstudio says:

      Hi there! Thank you for taking the time to read and comment on my post! I’m glad you found it useful. Let me know how you get on with SketchUp!


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