So you’re interested in designing and building a home built from containers? That’s totally cool. In fact, while a great way to recycle containers, they can also look very, very cool. Check out the example above.
While there are many general home design software options, including interior design software, kitchen design tools, landscape design software, and deck design software, there is also software options for designing shipping container homes. We list out free and paid options below.
Table of Contents
1. Live Home 3D
Live Home 3D by BeLight Software is an advanced home design software that’s easy and fun to use for both novice and professional interior designers. It comes loaded with great features that allow the user to import prefab blueprints and even set exact measurements, which is essential when it comes to designing and building container shipping homes.
The program also comes with functional, easy-to-learn point-and-click design tools that are convenient for nonprofessionals. Even when it’s obviously a drafting solution, it doesn’t feel intimidating nor frustrating at all. And that’s even when you don’t have any experience with a CAD program.
You can agree it’s an intuitive design software because it’s logical and straightforward. You can start with setting the dimensions of the interiors, adding walls, door openings, and furniture pieces. What’s cool about this is you can even set the exact measurements for the furniture pieces in your room. To do this (like the rest of the features), all you need to do is highlight the furniture in the layout that you want to customize and go to the inspector window for the adjustments. You can even save this to your library for future use.
Another cool thing about this program is you can create a video of the finished design and even export it or brag about it with friends on social media.
- Can be used to design apartments, kitchens or houses of any complexity
- Import and trace blueprints or draw from scratch
- Set exact measurement
- 2D floor plans drafts and automatic 3D rendering
- Add and arrange furniture
- A vast collection of furniture and appliance materials plus a free download of thousands of 3D models through Trimble 3D Warehouse™
- Choose a color scheme from over 2,100 included materials or import a photo
- Add a roof
- Work in 2D, 3D or split mode
- Set cameras and view the house from different angles
- Add lighting also using true geo-positioning and sun lighting
- Export screenshots to JPEG, TIFF, PNG, and BMP
- Create 360° Panorama JPEG images or 360° videos for a 3D video walkthrough and record at daytime or nighttime mode
- Share results on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Vimeo
- Video tutorials include User Interface, Creating a Floor Plan, Working with Objects, Applying Materials, Adding a Roof, Customizing an AutoRoof and many more
- Versions for Mac, Windows, and iOS
- 64-bit architecture, iCloud Support, Auto Update
- System requirements: macOS 10.9 or higher and High Sierra compatibility
- 30 days money back guarantee
- Available in English, German, French, Italian, Russian, Japanese and Spanish languages
- Easy to follow tutorials
- Easy to use
- User-friendly navigation
- The system doesn’t feel intimidating to non-professionals
- Can be used in both Windows and MAC OS
- Limited customer support because of the lack of telephone support
Live Home 3D User Interface Video
Click here for Live Home 3D
2. 3D ISBU Shipping Container Home Design Software
This program has simplistic navigation tools that any novice can easily handle. The tools include View Mode, Color, Move, Rotate, Walk, Undo and Redo. The View Mode is its default mode and can be used for zooming in and moving around. You just hold the left-hand mouse button to move around, the right hand to view all the way up and double click to create a pivot point. You can set a pivot point from anywhere on the layout.
The simpler alternative to the View Mode is the Walk Mode. You just hold the right-hand mouse button to see backward, forward, left, right and virtually walk through the shipping container.
The rest of the navigation tools are self-explanatory. The Color tool, however, can be disappointing because it has a limited color selection that’s showcased via a color pinwheel.
3D ISBU Shipping Container Home Design Software offers a free version which you can easily download from its website. There are also short YouTube tutorial videos using the free version. But alas, you’ll find that the free version is only good for stacking containers and placing parallel containers side by side. They promise that the paid version has more functionalities. So in effect, the free version is not that promising and if you take their word for it, you’d have to get the paid version to take advantage of using more functions.
Not that enticing considering there are other applications with free versions that can do so much more.
The simple task of stacking containers or placing them side by side perfectly aligned can get complex and can take some time getting used to. But once you’ve already gotten used to it, all you need is to tap into your creativity.
A saving feature for the software is it allows you to import images to the library. This helps a lot in making up for its limited color selection and other aesthetic design features.
The software, unfortunately, can’t be used for designing indoors so you’ll have to make do with using it for the external appearance and outdoor features of your shipping container home then use another application for the details indoors.
- Can be downloaded from the website for free
- Allows import of images
- Part of the Graphic Apps category under CAD subcategory
- Microsoft Windows compatible with minimum system requirements including a separate style plug-in mouse and a 3D graphics card installed on the PC
- Offers free trial service
- Easy to navigate tools
- Can’t be used for designing indoors
- Limited tools and functions
- Limited selection for landscaping
- Not available for MAC users
- It’s almost impossible to use the software without a plug-in mouse
3D ISBU Shipping Container Home Design Software Demo Video
3D ISBU Shipping Container Home Design Software Video Tutorial
Click here for 3D ISBU Shipping Container Home Design Software
3. Sweet Home 3D
Sweet Home 3D is a totally free software which you may download straight from its website or use online. There’s a donation link on the website but users are not obliged to pay and the only time you have to create an account with them is when you want to save your online creation.
First off, the controls can be a bit complex and the navigation tools not as intuitive as other design software. It would help if the tools are labeled clearly and indicate their functions but then working with Sweet Home 3D is almost like working with programs such as PowerPoint. After about an hour or so of tinkering, you’d find it’s pretty easy to get to grips with. It’s mostly a click and drag method, there are helpful pop-ups that offer useful tips and it’s easy to get a sense of what you’re doing with the split mode view.
To start the floor plan, click and drag with the desired dimensions. Then click on the create walls button, click to start of the wall and double click at the end of the wall. Same goes for the floor.
To add the door, go to the Doors and Windows library and click and drag to the floor plan with your chosen door type. It’s almost the same process as everything else.
As free software, it has plenty of features and functionalities. You can import your own blueprint and images and add to its already vast library. And the coolest thing about it is you can customize the walls, floors, roofs and furniture pieces for a more true-to-life feel.
- Free software which may be downloaded or used online via Java-supported browser
- Work on a split mode
- Set precise measurements
- Extensive and searchable catalog of objects and design preferences (color, size, thickness, etc.) organized by categories
- Automatic 3D rendering
- Custom light settings for photorealistic images and videos
- Allows import of home blueprints. Supports formats BMP, GIF, JPG and PNG
- Print and export data, images, videos and 3D files to various standard file formats
- Allows additional Java plugins
- Create video walkthrough of the result and share it on Facebook
- Sunlight function to show how the room/house will look at a particular time of the day or night
- Runs under Windows, Mac OS X 10.4 to 10.13, Linux and Solaris
- Available in English, French and 23 other languages
- Vast selection for design preferences
- Easy to use with click and drag method
- Helpful pop-ups that provide useful tips
- No app version
- Navigation tools are not intuitive
- The free downloaded software doesn’t have built-in features for sharing on social media
- Limited choices for furniture and types of doors and windows
Sweet Home 3D Demo Video
Click here for Sweet Home 3D
SketchUp is a 3D modeling software used for various drawing applications such as interior design, architecture, civil and mechanical engineering, film, and video game design. It allows you to build almost anything from scratch and be as meticulous as possible. The free software is called SketchUp Make and can be downloaded from the website. The paid version is called SketchUp Pro and is used by many professional architects.
Unlike many design software, users in SketchUp starts with working in 3D. Another difference with SketchUp is it allows you to build everything and anything from scratch. This means there’s plenty of room for you to get wild and creative as you customize and add details. On the other hand, this can also mean that working with SketchUp can be complex.
Its user interface may be daunting at first but it’s actually pretty simple. The most commonly used tool is the pencil tool and push and pull tools. So the technique is mostly drawing then push and pull. That’s how most of the 3D models are created. This makes it easy to learn even for those with no CAD backgrounds. Within an hour, you’ll find yourself creating shapes and house models.
So in SketchUp, creating a shipping container home would be no different as when you’re creating a regular house. You start off by drawing a rectangle then use the push and pull tools to create the rectangle 3D form and build up a wall. SketchUp feels like a smart software since it has intuitive guides such as axis points and interface points that let you know if you’re on the edge or midpoint.
Once the walls of the home are created, leave voids for windows and doors. To add these two, simply use the draw and push and pull method again. Draw an outline of the window then push and pull for the desired thickness. You can also use the clone tool to make copies of the windows or doors for other rooms.
To add color, textures or objects, simply go to 3D Warehouse where you can find thousands of free 3D models. Just type in the object that you’re looking for — but use keywords so you’ll quickly find what you’re looking for. You can also use the material tool to customize the appearance of the objects.
- 2D models
- 3D models
- Its 3D Warehouse library of free 3D models is the world’s biggest
- Lighting effects
- Layer manager
- Add model view, drawing scales, line weights, dimensions, callouts, and graphics
- Precise dimensions
- Export to PDFs, images and CAD files
- Autosave and manually save in Sketchup format
- Import JPEGs, CAD plans, PDFs and other file types
- Works under Windows and MAC OS
- Available in 10 languages
- Has a free version
- Smart and intuitive software
- You can build and create anything with it
- Lets you add complex details
- A vast library of free 3D models as well as aesthetic design options
- Plenty of video tutorials
- Tablet version for androids and iPhones
- The free version doesn’t allow import of files
- Only the paid version allows export of files
- Shareable only within the 3D Warehouse
- A tendency to stop responding when the file becomes too heavy
SketchUp Demo Video
Click here for SketchUp
Floorplanner is, as its name implies, a software for creating floor plans. This would come in handy if you want to create the layout and interior of your shipping container home.
The screenshots below were applied in creating an actual floor plan for a shipping container home. It’s based from a 2 x 40 foot (12 meters) and 2 x 20 (6 meters) foot shipping containers.
Drawing the floor plan using Floorplanner was very simple because of its interface and click, drag and release method. You may draw out a room as a box or create single rooms.
Adding the walls, doors and other structural components are just as simple. For example, you can just click on the Doors icon to open the objects library, choose a door type by clicking it and drag it in position. The same thing goes for adding pieces of furniture.
While the general drawing of layouts and its user interface come off as user-friendly and intuitive, some of the program’s features can be hard to find. An example would be its cloning feature. Also, in order to get inside the 3D room, you’d be taken to another site (sister site) Roomstyler.
- Offers a free version with an online service
- Import JPG, PNG or GIF files
- Export in image or PDF format
- Easily share final floor plan to Facebook, Twitter or email
- Connects to Roomstyler for viewing inside the 3D rooms
- Has a free version
- User-friendly and intuitive
- Applying the furniture is easy
- 2D furniture designs are fun to look at
- Can’t print to scale
- Allows only one-floor plan
- A mobile app is available only for iPad and iPhone
- Difficult to set exact dimensions
- Zooming and panning in 3D mode can be frustrating
- No walkthrough feature
Floorplanner Video Tutorial
Click here for Floorplanner