AutoCAD vs SketchUp for interior designers

As a green interior designer I learned AutoCad last year and then started looking into SketchUp and fell in love with the latter. I wonder why someone like me would ever need to use AutoCad if I can do everything in SketchUP? AutoCad seems so serious and heavy while SketchUp is fun, colourful and does the job. I also absolutely adore Layout! I can’t find a reason to keep using AutoCad, but maybe I am missing something?


That’s also true for architects and landscape architects too. There is better software available for what we do than sketchup, no doubt, but it is not AutoCAD. Sketchup is great for our jobs.


The usefulness of CAD or BIM applications depends on the kind of work you do. SketchUp excels in smaller design-oriented projects but if I had to do, for instance, a workplace layout with hundreds of seats I would use something like Revit or Archicad that have some management features, especially scheduling built in. AutoCad, today, seems to be mostly reduced to a file format used in communicating designs to various engineering disciplines that have not yet switched totally to 3D.

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Well…those are 2 different types of software. Both can work well enough with out each other and they can work with each other. For you and your work you can probably just focus on SketchUp Pro with Layout. I’ve used Acad since r12 and SU since r3 just as a point of reference.
As of right now and in my opinion there is nothing with SU that can replicate AutoCAD’s (AutoCAD Architecture) built in door and window schedules, reference files, detail manager etc. If you don’t and won’t ever need those then don’t worry with it. :wink: Good luck

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Let architects do the drafting, that’s what they’re for.


There are a number of us here who came through the AC route and fetched up with SU, usually after quite lot of playing with it. I found it helpful for explaining detailing because it is so easy to produce 3D models.

But you do need to beware of thinking of SU and AC as alternatives. One is a 3D surface modeller and the other is essentially a 2D drafting package. That’s a very different concept. If you mainly do plans and elevations and don’t have a lot of use for 3D, you may be better off with a 2D drafting package.

Migrating from AC to SU is quite possible but there are some things that work quite differently. If you do decide to go down the SU route, I thoroughly recommend immersing yourself in the very good tutorials that are available online and maybe buying some of the equally good books aimed at architects. It will save you getting into bad habits (some of which I am probably still growing out of 6 years after making the switch!).

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Thanks guys! I like both 2D and 3D and I purchased and watched many tutorials. The reason for this post is that I found that I can produce very nice 2D plans in SU and once they are developed further (in 3D) I then pull my elevation drawings from them. I am not an engineer or an architect and don’t have the mind for that. I really enjoy SU’s cute and colourful “attitude”, however, vs that of AutoCAD.


SketchUp has limitations, so it depends on what you want or need to do. If you don’t run into those limitations, you’re right. I’m an architect and I’ve managed to avoid Autocad for 35+ years since I started drawing on the computer. I’ve done it by using PowerCADD (originally PowerDraw) since 1989. PC is not at all like Autocad. It’s more like Adobe Illustrator if it grew into a CAD program. Both programs derived their inspiration from the original MacDraw for a computer drawing paradigm, where as Autocad is quite different. Layout is also a MacDraw-like program, and that’s what most people remark on when they compare it to Autocad, but LO is so lame compared to what I’m used to with PowerCADD, I really have a hard time with it.

Oh wow, that’s interesting and all of that was way before my time. I love Layout. I first learned how to draft by hand (but only just a bit) so being able to pull those super fancy elevations from 3Ds is über cool to me. I guess it always depends on what you compare with what. My hand-drawn elevations seem lame to me in comparison with those from Layout so I can’t complain. …I get it that SU has limitations (like everything and everyone else), but I am yet to run into them. I also use SU for small residential projects, nothing too commercial and/or big scale.

Yeah… that’s not really true any more. AutoCAD is very capable of complex 3D objects. Since r2013 (iirc) it has been able to do meshes, curves, NURBS, solids and other 3D commands. Sure it can’t “render” a material on a 3d face like SU can but it is still a “solid” 3D application. Here I was able to very quickly create a 3D mesh object that I can filter for either vertex, edges or faces. I have also very quickly created a network surface with U and V curves.
I still think SU is the better choice for her :wink:

Thanks for the correction. It’s true to say that I have not used AC in quite a while so I am sure things will have moved on.

I think I did have access to a version of AC about 10 years ago that had 3D capability, but compared to SU, it was very clunky and hard to use. And at the time, full blown AC was very expensive and SU was very cheap. If the OP is a single seat user (like me), full blown AC may simply be beyond financial reach.


I have used AutoCad from version 2.5 (1986) and I am quite confident that I am able to model everything I can do with SketchUp with it, only much slower and not in such a fun way. So I think SketchUp is the better choice for me, too.


Having a software toolbox full of tools and knowing how and when to use the appropriate one(s) is a good thing.

A few months ago I got something I hadn’t seen for many years. A client sent me a space layout that he had created on an Excel spreadsheet where the cells had been resized to little squares. The walls were shown with cells with a filled dark background. While I wouldn’t have chosen that particular tool, it was something he had and knew how to use and it got his point across. It also took into account the fact that walls are thicker than pen or pencil lines and will impact the size of the spaces you might think you’re going to get as you quickly divide up an overall area while you’re doodling on the back of an envelope or a sheet of paper.

Funny… The Windows version of Layout might have been able to import his .XLS file but not one exported as a PDF.


Oh agreed, if you don’t need it don’t pay for it. There are other good dwg editors out there (nanocad, draftsight, etc) if one needs one for every now and then needs. Some free and some cheap :wink: I’m lucky that work has no issues in paying for our 3 AEC suite copies and 6 LT copies. A drop in the bucket as compared to other software costs.

I agree! As a landscape designer, I’ve used SU since it’s beginnings back in 2005. I have added Layout to the process in the following years after they worked out the bugs. With SU and Layout, along with my rendering software, i’m able to offer my clients a wonderful glimpse into the future of their exterior spaces.


Nice stuff!

I used and taught AutoCAD for 25 years. As a licensed architect my practice went from larger commercial to smaller custom residential. I have abandoned AutoCAD and use SketchUp exclusively and am loving it. Check out Nic Sonder’s SketchUp videos! Best of luck.

AutoCad is really kind of passe’ these days. powerful BIM software like Revit is becoming the industry standard. Revit can be used in all stages of design and implementation and is best for many people collaborating on a big project. Firms Ive worked fior the last 10 years would not even hire someone who did not at least have some capability and familiarity with Revit. I’m a more seasoned designer and had to learn Revit after being an AutoCad user for much of my career. I still prefer to design early on in SketchUp with Enscape rendering software and document in Revit. Kids coming out of school these days can do everything in Revit. I also have an interior design/ interior architecture focus.

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In itself, a bit contradictory for BIM process as described by industry standards (Building smart) talk about a ‘software independent data model’ instead of a overly marketed AD product. SketchUp being part of Trimble buildings and thus of the more opened mind of Trimble has bim-potential as well.

Checking him out right now, thank you!