Design A Camper Van Layout (Paid & Free Software)

You’re ready to start designing your camper van’s floor plan, but how do you go about doing that? You could go with the traditional pen-and-paper route, but why do that when you have a computer and have access to powerful software, both paid AND free?

When looking at paid software that helps you design elegant interior van spaces, one of the popular favorites is VanSpace. Scroll down to see our review and understand who would benefit most from this particular software.

But if you’re looking for a free van floor plan creator option, this post will show you how to utilize any free drawing software – that you probably already have on your laptop – to design layouts that are dimensionally accurate, which will help you when it comes time to construct the interior furniture. And if you think “free” means “bad”, then you’d be mistaken.

Below is the layout we created on our laptop and is what we used as the basis for our van build. You can see how we created the dinette (shaded in light blue) and the kitchen counters (shaded in orange). It may not look like much, but everything in this diagram is dimensionally accurate and to-scale. Most importantly, we were able to get the exact layout we wanted and know that each of our major items, like our fridge and water tank, would fit in their designated storage area.

Birds eye view of camper van floor plan design, including bed and kitchen counter
Birds-eye view of our van floor plan

If you’re ready to learn how to do all of this, let’s get to it!

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What You Will Need

Before creating your van’s layout, we recommend doing your homework and researching the following points.

Vehicle Dimensions

Every vehicle’s dimensions are slightly different. To create an accurate floor plan, you will need precise van dimensions. If you already have your van, use a tape measure and write down the length, width, AND height of the rear portion of the vehicle (not including the front cab).

Have a Sprinter, Transit, or Promaster? Visit this Sportsmobile page to get your vehicle’s dimensions.

Product Dimensions (Major Items)

Knowing the dimensions of your major items, like the inverter, water tanks, and batteries, is essential to size your storage areas, like cabinets and the area under the bed. Don’t make the mistake of building your kitchen drawers only to realize later that they won’t fit your Instant Pot or fridge.

Tip: If you haven’t yet purchased your items but know which models you’ll get, you can find their exact dimensions on their Amazon product page.

Read Our Layout Guide

Our van layout post discusses important considerations before you start designing your floor plan, including bed and kitchen designs and storage options. It’s an informative 101 guide before you start piecing everything together.

Now, with all that out of the way, let’s go over your free and paid options to design your van’s interior.

Option 1: Free Van Floor Plan Creator

You may think that to design your camper floor plan, you’ll need to use some fancy, expensive 3D modeling software. But I’m here to tell you you don’t need them. You’ve likely got adequate software already installed on your computer.

Below is a 7-step guide to using any standard drawing software to create an accurate, to-scale van layout.

Step 1: Pick a Van Design Software

Whichever drawing software that you choose, it’s essential that the program allows you to create rectangles where you can control the dimensions, either in pixels, inches, or centimeters.

We used an outdated, downloaded version of Adobe Illustrator.

Alternative: Another great free design app is “Paint S.” If you have a Mac laptop, you can find this software for free on the app store. If you have a PC, get the free download here.

Step 2: Learn How To Make Shapes With Exact Dimensions

All our software suggestions above allow you to draw shapes with exact dimensions. In the example below, we use the Apple Pages software to show how to make a rectangle that is 3.28″(W) and 2.34″(H)

Making a rectangle using basic drawing software to design van floor plan
Making a rectangle that is to-scale

Step 3: Draw Your Van’s Interior Dimensions

Once you have your dimensions, open your van floor plan creator of choice and draw a rectangle to match the dimensions of our vehicle.

Keeping Everything To Scale Is Critical. We chose a 1:10 scale. This means everything that we sketched was 1/10th the actual size. So when we drew our van’s interior dimensions, the rectangle was 13.1”(L) x 6.6”(W)

Below, we sketched a birds-eye view of our van’s floor dimensions. We shaded the rectangle yellow and gave it a black border.

We also added room for the two-wheel wells in the back and the sliding door in the front. The wheel wells and sliding doors were measured, so even these additions were drawn to scale. Remember: Everything was kept at a 1:10 scale.

Early stage of creating a van floor plan by drawing the perimeter of the van and including the sliding door and rear wheel wells
Create floor plan dimensions

Have A Ford Transit? The cargo area of our 2018 Transit is 131”(L) x 66”(W). x 76″(H)

Step 4: Add Interior Furniture

Now that your van floor plan dimensions are set up, you can begin placing your interior furniture into your van floor plan creator. This is the fun part!

Design the Bed & Back Benches

To draw in a bed using your van design software, use the rectangle tool and play around with different dimensions until you arrive at a shape that fits your liking. Because you’re designing a bed, it’s a good idea to measure your height to ensure you’ll create a bed where you can comfortably sleep.

In our camper…we wanted to build a convertible bed in the back of our van. This bed converts to a U-shaped bench and dining area during the day. (In our opinion, convertible beds are much better than fixed beds.)

Below is how we created the U-bench (shaded in light blue). We outlined each dimension to see how long and wide each section of the benches was. We even know how wide the aisle (21”) will be in the van’s middle.

There will be a table that sits in the middle of the U-bench. To convert the U-bench into a bed in the evenings, we plan to lower the table so it sits flush with the benches. This will create a rectangle-ish bed.

Adding rear bed frame dimensions to our camper van floorplan
Adding the bed (back benches) to the van floor plan design

Note: You might realize our bed is NOT a perfect rectangle. We did this on purpose to maximize our countertop area. Eric sleeps on the bottom half of the bed, while Yuko sleeps on the top half.

Design the Kitchen Counter

With the bed layout finished, you can design the kitchen counter. In the layout diagram below, our kitchen counters are shaded in orange.

One of our priorities when designing our camper’s layout was maximizing the countertop area in our van. We wanted ample countertop space to cook, fit our stove & sink, and hold all our belongings.

Van floor plan diagram (with kitchen counters)
Adding the kitchen counters to the floorplan design

So, we took the remaining area and shaded virtually the rest of the camper with two orange rectangles. You can see in the floor plan diagram above that we designed a longer counter on the left side of the van (72” long) and a shorter counter (20.5”) just next to the sliding door.

Looking Back After 4+ Years: We’re happy about maximizing our countertop area. It’s made living in our van considerably more accessible and more comfortable. It’s one of the 12 things we love about our van build.

Step 5: Add Large, Essential Products

Once you’ve created the basic floor plan with your interior furniture, it’s a good time to start placing large, bulky items into your van layout design to ensure everything fits. You wouldn’t want to finish building your kitchen counter only to realize that your desired fridge won’t fit, right?

Examples of large items to put in your van layout can include:

  • Fridge
  • Fresh & grey water tanks
  • Propane tank
  • House batteries
  • Sink
  • Inverter
  • Diesel heater

The layout diagram below shows how we accounted for all our essential items and where we intended to place them in the van. Once again, each product you see below is to scale.

Complete camper van floor plan diagram (Birds eye view)
Complete camper van floor plan diagram (birds eye view)

Can’t Measure Your Product? If you don’t yet have the product to measure accurately, one tip is to go to the product’s Amazon page and find the LxWxH dimensions.

But where’s your toilet? Great question! We decided not to travel with a toilet, which worked well for us. Learn why you don’t need a toilet in your camper van.

Step 6: Design Camper Van Side View Layouts

Once you get comfortable creating scaled rectangles using your chosen van floor plan creator, you can also create side-view layouts.

In our diagram below, we created a side view layout of our camper’s left side (driver side). Here, you can see our back bench (blue), kitchen counter (orange), and upper cabinets (green).

Complete Camper Van Floor Plan Design (Side View)
Side view of van floor plan

Important things you can see in this side-view design:

  • Kitchen drawers are designed to fit each of our bulky items.
  • Our 1.5” butcher block sits on top of the counter.
  • A toe kick that exists at the base of our kitchen counter.

Side view layouts are excellent because you can get a feel for how your van’s interior will look when you’re inside your camper.

Electrical sockets? You can add those too! Add space for your 12v and 120v sockets into your walls or furniture.

Step 7: Design a Van Ceiling Layout

Did you know that creating a van floor plan isn’t only related to the actual floor? You can also design a ‘ceiling plan!’

Below is the ceiling plan we made with our van floor plan creator.

Camper van ceiling layout diagram showing location of LED lights, ventilation fan, and ceiling boards.
Van ceiling layout diagram

Here is some helpful information to know when creating your van’s ceiling plan:

  • Know the length and width dimensions of the ceiling
  • Find out the dimensions of the wood plank pieces you will be using.
  • Know where your ceiling furring strips will be located.

Are you adding Furring Strips? #3 above is an essential point because your furring strips will likely be where you’ll have to cut your wood planks. Aside from the left and right-most edges, can you see where our other three furring strips are located?

Read: How To Install Furring Strips

Learn More: How To Install A Beautiful Cedar Plank Ceiling

Add Lights and a Vent Fan

Once you’ve completed your ceiling plan, you can decide the best position to put in your lights and ceiling fan.

In the diagram above, the six black circles are our LED lights, and the grey square near the middle is our MaxxFan ventilation fan.

Top Recommendation
Acegoo | 12V LED Lights

We use 12 of these 12V puck lights in our camper van. They fill the van with bright, warm white light and only consume 3W per device. Slim profile means they take up minimal ceiling space. Easy to wire to batteries.

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Option 2: Paid Floor Plan Creator Option (VanSpace)

We looked at several paid options to create a van conversion floor plan, and VanSpace came away as one of the best options. Admittedly, we chose our free method because we felt we could squeeze more granular details from our designs than plug-and-play software and because it was…well, free.

But if you’re looking to get a quick design, test out different layout options, or even see how different color schemes will look inside a van, VanSpace is a good option.

How much does VanSpace cost? A one-year subscription costs $27, which isn’t terrible. Although an ‘unlimited’ option exists, the one-year choice is more than enough. Watch the intro video below to see what you get for that money.

vanspace 3D Tutorial | Design Your First Van

What We Like About VanSpace

  • No software experience needed: Unlike other paid options, like Sketchup or AutoCAD, the software that VanSpace built is designed for complete beginners. It utilizes lots of drag-and-drop features, and it’s easy to resize and reorient your furniture.
  • Great for basic floor plan design: If you’re starting out and don’t even know what you like, VanSpace is so easy to use that you can quickly create many floor plan interactions until you arrive at a design that resonates with you.
  • Lots of pre-built furniture options: With over 400 preloaded furniture designs, you get to see what the standard van life furniture options are, which is an excellent resource if you’ve never experienced van life before and don’t know where to begin.
  • Easy to develop an interior color scheme: VanSpace makes it easy to select the exact colors you want for virtually everything in the van, including the color of the walls, floor, bed frame, and counters. This makes it incredibly easy to design your van’s color scheme.

Advantages Of Free Option Over VanSpace

  • More control of exact dimensions: Though our free method has a steeper learning curve, you can get much more specific in the EXACT dimensions of every piece of your van’s layout. You have more control on a granular level, which makes everything more manageable when it finally comes time to construct the interior furniture.
  • Quickly see if large items fit in storage areas: It’s easier to see when large items, like a fridge, will fit or won’t fit in your designated storage areas. We were able to fit our Instant Pot inside our drawer with less than half an inch of space remaining. Talk about space efficiency! The visualization is a bit clunky on VanSpace when getting to that level of detail.
  • Free: Hey, it’s free! You save $27, and that’s money you can spend elsewhere.

Who Would Benefit Using VanSpace?

If you’re the type of person who enjoys having control of every square inch of your van’s interior space, then we think VanSpace may not be your best option. Using our free method really gives you the flexibility to truly own your space.

But, if you’re just starting out and not sure what you like, and maybe you want to try out different layouts to see how they compare visually, then VanSpace is a great option. You have access to lots of different furniture elements that you can easily import and swap out if needed. You can save a lot of time using their software, and it’s fun to play around with!

Do your research: Visit VanSpace to see for yourself the full array of options available to help you create your van’s layout.

Conclusion: An Accurate Design Helps Your Build

Back half of a camper van with the dinette and kitchen counters

No matter which van conversion floor plan method you choose, a good layout should achieve two things.

  1. Help finalize the overall design: By the end, you should be able to answer questions like what the bed dimensions will be, how many cabinets you’ll have, and where your water tanks will be.
  2. Simplify the furniture construction: Because all your furniture is designed with specific dimensions, this makes it easier to construct them because you’ll know exactly how long each piece of wood needs to be to fit everything you’ve planned to build.

If you have any questions about how to design a camper van floor plan, please let us know in the comments section below.

Happy planning!

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