What Is The Best Design Software For Woodworking? Our Top 4 Recommendations

What Is The Best Design Software For Woodworking? Top 4 Woodworking CAD Software Recommendations

Speak to your grandfather or another older member of your family who is passionate about woodworking, and they’ll tell you that, back in the day, you had to design everything with a pencil and paper, or in your mind. Hey, you might even remember doing things that way yourself and are now looking for a more modern approach to woodwork design.

There are several computer-aided design (CAD) software programs out there that are invaluable for woodworkers yet not everybody realises the importance of this type of program. Perhaps you’re just so used to doing things the old fashioned way that planning out your projects digitally feels a little alien or maybe you’re just yet to try this innovative approach. Whatever the case, we’re here to introduce you to some of the benefits of using design software for woodwork and help you get better acquainted with some of the top products.

The Benefits Of Using Design Software For Woodworking?

There has been a lot of recent focus on 3D modelling and for woodworkers, this is an entirely different concept from what they are used to. After all, woodworking involves a lot of manual work using hand tools and natural materials whereas 3D modelling involves a much deeper digital aspect. But there’s no reason why the two cannot be combined.

Whether you are a hobby woodworker enjoying some downtime or a professional running a business, CAD software could bring about many unexpected benefits. You’ve likely not thought about these before but once you understand the ways in which design software can help you, there’ll be no turning back.

Concept Design Is Quicker

When you’re planning a project, the chances are that you are going to want to get stuck into the actual making as quickly as possible. Coming up with your initial concept without the use of design software can be very time consuming and may take days rather than the mere hours it can take when using a program like this.

This is especially important if you are working at a commercial level as you’ll want to be able to produce as many pieces as possible without compromising on quality. Getting that initial concept laid out quickly will ensure maximum productivity.

Reality Check To See If Something Will Work

One of the best features of any design software is that you can get a real feel for how something will work without actually having to make it first. Many times, you’ll find that you come up with a concept that just isn’t quite right but you only find this out after having made a prototype. Not only is this time consuming, but it’ll also come with the added cost of materials and time.

When using simulators on your design software, you’ll be able to see what works and what doesn’t while also being able to make relevant adjustments. Imagine how long that would take doing it manually!

Visualising The Piece Before Any Wood Is Cut

Have you ever spent days on a project only to look at the finished piece and realise that it wasn’t what you expected? It’s frustrating at best and devastating at worst, especially if you’re working for a client or to any other kind of deadline. And don’t get us started on the financial loss associated with wasting materials.

Wood does not come cheap and if you only figure out that a piece doesn’t work after it’s been made, you stand to make a significant loss. Using design software allows you to visualise the piece and ensure that it all comes together perfectly before you go anywhere near that wood with your saw. You’ll save yourself a lot of money, you’ll have less waste and you won’t spend as much time, giving you the chance to work on more projects.

Save On Materials

One of the things that many woodworkers find is that materials can quite easily go to waste and this results in them having to spend more money. The beauty of using CAD software is not only that you are able to create a vast array of designs but also that you have everything organised in one space. This includes cut lists.

A cut list, sometimes called a cutting list, is data that details each piece of material required to build a project. It’ll have information on the dimensions required and while it is similar to a bill of materials, the difference is that no cost details are included. In any case, having a cut list will allow you to know beforehand exactly what materials you’ll need with a much lower risk of waste.

Saving Time On Prototyping

If you have even the smallest level of experience in design and manufacturing then you will be familiar with the idea that you cannot simply produce something without having first created a (if not several prototypes). But this is a very time-consuming part of the design process and can often mean that you end up being far less productive overall.

But your design software gives you a much quicker way of creating digital prototypes without having to use any materials. What’s more, is that you are able to edit these prototypes in seconds, getting a much quicker and often clearer idea of whether the product is going to work in reality.

Essential For CNC Use

If you want to use a CNC router then it is essential to have good CAD software since these machines rely on data from the software to know what they need to produce. One thing to keep in mind, however, when choosing CAD software for CNC machining is that you must select one that is compatible with your machine. This means sourcing software that sends the correct file type to the CNC machine. In most cases, this will be an IGES or STEP format.

Potential To Sell Plans

Once you have created your design plans, you don’t have to limit yourself to what you use them for. OK, a lot of people choose to keep them for themselves and create either a single unique piece or several pieces to make a profit. But you could also profit by selling your designs to other businesses or hobbyists.

There’s some good money to be made this way if you have the skill and imagination to come up with unique designs and plans. What’s great about this is that when you sell woodworking plans as opposed to the final product, you can sell the same plan to several people at once with little to no cost.

Best Design Software Reviewed

There are a lot of options when it comes to design software although, as with anything, there are some that really stand out from the crowd. The best design software for you will depend on what you expect from this kind of program so it’s important to weigh up the pros and cons of each one. Below, we will discuss four of the most well-known and reputable CAD softwares, introducing you to what each can offer.

Autodesk Fusion 360

Autodesk Fusion 360
Autodesk Fusion 360

Fusion 360 by Autodesk is one of the best design software packages out there, especially if you need something more versatile. It brings together all aspects of engineering, manufacturing and electronics to give you a complete platform to plan out and implement your designs.

It advertises itself as being ‘One product, infinite possibilities’ and it does live up to this expectation. If you aren’t quite convinced then there is the option to download a free trial which is handy before forking out the £438 per year, it’ll cost you to use the unlimited version of the software.

Completely cloud-based, Fusion 360 offers sketching, parametric modelling, surface modelling, mesh modelling, rendering, sheet metal and much more. You can import non-native files and edit everything all in one place for much greater convenience. You can collaborate on projects and there is a handy data management section that allows you easy admininstration of all projects and users.

What we really love about this software, however, is the in-depth simulation that allows you to really get a feel for how your design will work before crafting it. You can pit designs against one another and compare how different features work, ultimately helping you to decide what works best.

We mentioned that this software will cost you £438 annually, although there is an option to pay a monthly fee of £54, but, this does work out to be more expensive. Autodesk will even customise a package for you, giving you far more freedom in how you pay for the product as well as the option to add extensions such as machining and management. Plus with every subscription, you get 30 days free to make sure that Fusion 360 is right for you.



If you have enjoyed designing by hand and are a little dubious about moving into digital design then Sketchup might be right for you. This one gives you the ‘joy of designing by hand with the ease of super-smart software’, combining the best of both worlds. But what’s really great about it is that you can customise the software to your needs with a huge variety of extensions and add ons.

There is a specific software made just for woodwork design that is super in-depth and provides you with a 3D modelling tool superior to many others. You have the opportunity to try out various designs and compare them to find the best one. It’s also very easy to use so even complete beginners will be able to quickly get to grips with it.

One of the most amazing features of Sketchup is that you have the ability to create a 3D toolbox. Here, you’ll be able to upload various wood colours and grains so that your 3D models are as true to life as possible. Moreover, there is a handy costing feature that estimates the total cost of your project based on materials and other factors.

Plans come in various shapes and sizes so you won’t spend more than you need to. What’s more, there are subscriptions based on your needs including a personal or professional plan as well as a higher education plan or one for use in primary and secondary schools.

For the purposes of this guide, we are going to assume you are a hobby woodworker looking for a personal plan in which case you can expect to pay between $119 and $200 per year depending on whether you choose the Shop or Pro plan. Professional clients can opt for an even more detailed package for $699 per year. Another great thing about Sketchup is that there is a free package and while this doesn’t have quite as many features, it is ideal for those who only want something very basic.

SketchList 3D

Sketchlist 3D
Sketchlist 3D

SketchList 3D is widely used by professionals and hobbyists alike and is one of the easier software package to get to grips with. Yet this simplicity does not mean that it is lacking in features or detail and you have everything you need in one place to create and prepare your designs. One of the things that really stands out about SketchList is how true to life the designs are. If you’re looking for something that’ll give you a very realistic view of the product, this is an excellent option.

Moreover, Sketchlist 3D is ideal for a number of applications. General woodworking is one of the main features but it also has capabilities to plan for kitchen cabinets and furniture design. This is an excellent piece of software for those using CNC machines and this feature offers some of the best precision on the market. You’ll also benefit from instant feedback at every point of design so you know that the final result is going to be incredibly accurate.

SketchList 3D delivers accurate and detailed reports and this is software that develops with the user. The company prides itself on bringing its users software that is easy to use and as such, they take user feedback into account and have recently given the software a complete overhaul to make it even more user friendly. You can customise the interface to suit you and there are clear processes from start to finish. If that wasn’t enough, we also love the fact that most things can be done in one click.

In terms of cost, SketchList comes in a choice of two subscriptions. The Pro versions will set you back $850 a year which is a little more than some of the competitors, but with a focus on ease of use, we think it’s worth it. However, if you’re a hobby woodworker then the $200 annual charge is incredibly attractive. There are options to add upgrades over time as the developers of the software continue to update it. However, this does come with an additional cost which can be quite pricey.

Something that SketchList has that isn’t available on all other software options is that you can purchase an hour of online training with one of their experts for just $99. This is ideal if you’re serious about getting started with CAD software but have no previous experience. While SketchList is user friendly, this training will help you to get the most out of it.



TurboCAD gives you some of the best options in terms of which version of the software you would like. For hobby designers who don’t need a massively complex system, the basic package costs just £59. But there are four further packages, each more detailed than the last with the top package coming in at £1299.99. Now, this might seem excessive but when you consider what you get for this one-off price, it suddenly becomes a lot more reasonable.

For starters, the versatility of TurboCAD is far greater than its competitors with the option to plan 2D and 3D designs. If you’re a professional in need of something that gives you the opportunity to create incredibly lifelike designs then there is no doubt in our minds that this is the right software for you. It can be used by a wide range of people including architects, manufacturers, engineers and more. Even the hobby woodworker will find this indispensable.

TurboCAD also offers versatility in the type of files it supports. Regardless of what format you need or prefer, it’ll likely work with this software which supports more than 40 different file types. Plus whether you are looking to create prototypes with your 3D printer, create an advanced architectural design, do some remodelling or even create plans for a musical instrument, TurboCAD has got your back.

While this is one of the more advanced CAD software packages out there, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t simple to use. Even the most professional features are user friendly with a simple UNDO/REDO function. What’s more, you can set your own preferences in terms of the display with the option for add-on menus and more, customising the software to the way you will use it. Even better, TurboCAD is compatible with both MAC and Windows.

The developers are continually updating and improving the software and in the most recent update, some exciting features have been added. These include lighting visualisations, 3D mapping tools, architectural grids and many more. There’s an option to download a limited trial version to give you an idea of whether the software is right for you and when you’re happy with it, it’s as simple as hopping onto the website and ordering the full version.

So, Which Is The Best Design Software?

Each CAD software has its pros and cons and while each of the ones we have looked at impressed us, we have to admit that TurboCAD just took the lead. We feel that this software has many more options, especially for people who do woodworking as a hobby. If you’re only in your home workshop on a weekend afternoon, there’s very little point in paying hundreds of pounds for software that’ll rarely get used. With options for every need, TurboCAD doesn’t discriminate against its users.

What’s more, this is one of the most detailed and realistic design software packages out there with technology that will blow the minds of even the most experienced CAD user. We love the fact that the software is always receiving updates and even if you’ve never used it before, TurboCAD offers training to help you get to grips with the basics.

That said, if you are looking for the best value for money, we would recommend Autodesk Fusion 360. This software definitely has the best price for the most features and gives you the option to design in several different ways.


Design Software isn’t compulsory for woodworkers but it’s certainly an essential tool that’ll make your life much easier. It has a range of benefits including fewer waste materials, faster prototype design and more accurate finished projects so it doesn’t take much to see why we would recommend using it.

What Is The Best Design Software For Woodworking? Our Top 4 Recommendations

Related Posts

Scroll to top