How to Design a Shade Sail: Suggestions for a Great DIY Outcome

The design of your shade sail is one of the most important parts. If you’re planning on doing it yourself here are some tips to ensure your satisfied with your shade sail. From start to finish we’ll walk you through how to design a shade sail.

Before We Get Started

Edge Metres Not Area

Most sail-makers don’t measure a shade sail in area, but rather in edge or perimeter metres. Custom made or irregularly shaped sails are easier to measure along than edges, rather than trying to calculate the area. Most companies will also price their sails in perimeter metres. Edge metres are a simple and accurate way of costing the stitching and perimeter cable as well as the shade fabric.

Quick Guide to Shade Sail Hardware

  • Turnbuckles are used to tension shade sails of all sizes.
  • Shackles are used to fit shade sails. Fit them over the ring of the shade sail, and put the pin into the eyebolt or turnbuckle. To prevent the shackle pin from working loose tie a galvanised wire around it.
  • Eye nuts are used at shade sail attachment points to fit threaded bolts and rods.
  • Spring hooks are a general-purpose item with a spring-loaded tongue is used to link chains to hold sails in place. They are not designed for heavy loads.
  • Eye nut bolts provide a strong point of attachment for sails.
  • Internal corner brackets provide a strong way to attach sails to the internal corners of suitable brick or concrete walls.
  • External corner brackets, similar to internal corner brackets but for the external corners of suitable brick or concrete walls.
  • Plates of different sizes and shapes will spread the load when attaching a sail to a brick or concrete wall.
  • Anchors allow for shade sails to be fitted to roof lines and are a handy alternative to posts.
  • Stainless steel wire rope is a strong and flexible rope with application to the rigging of shade sails.
  • Stainless steel chain of a high-quality can also be used to rig shade sails.
Custom Made Shade Sails

Your Custom Design Shade Sail

With a custom made shade sail, any variety of shapes and designs are possible. There is no need to limit yourself to basic shapes like squares and triangles. Your design can be any shape to fit into your space and provide the shade you need. Shade sails are highly versatile but there are some design limitations and practicalities to keep in mind.

Shade Sails vs. Waterproof Sails

Waterproof sails must be angled in order to allow water runoff. Water pooling on a sail can significantly damage the fabric and reduce the life of your waterproof sail. There are two main types of waterproof sail, PVC fabric, and shade fabric with a waterproof coating. For waterproof shade fabric, for every four metres in length, you should have one metre in height. And for PVC fabric, for every five metres in length, you’ll need one metre in height.

Waterproof sails are not always feasible because of the amount of pitch needed. Consider the lowest amount of clearance you need under your sail and if you can make up the extra height. If 100% waterproof sails aren’t required, remember that tightly woven shade fabrics can still provide an amount of rain protection.

Fixing Points

So how will you actually put up your new shade sail? Once you have an idea for space and the design we can think about fixing points. You don’t need to fix your shade sail to free-standing posts. There is a range of options for mounting your shade sail off your roof or suitable wall.

Depending on the size and weight of your sail the types of fixing points you use will vary. For long-life and weather-resistant components ensure they are made of marine-grade stainless steel also known as 316 grade stainless steel. This heavy-duty quality material will resist rust and wear in any weather. The bigger the sail the more fixing points are also required. Refer to the table below for the recommended number of fixing points per edge metre.

Edge Metres101520253035
No. of Connection Points3-43-54-65 or more5 or more6 or more

If you are not able to use the recommended number of connection points it becomes even more important that you consider the size and strength of the posts and hardware you use.

Remember that your shade sail can still catch the wind like any other sail. On most small to moderately sized shade sails, the design, fabric and connection points prevent any serious uplift. We recommend for waterproof sails larger than 25m2 that the structure is designed or approved by an engineer before you proceed. If you have a particularly large shade sail or have any concerns it’s always best to seek professional advice.


Once you’ve planned out your shade sail, it’s time to get your measurements together for your sail-maker. Draw a simple and clear diagram and label it with your edge measurements from fixing point to point around the sail. For most shade sails this diagram doesn’t need to be professionally drafted.

For sails with four or more fixing points Custom Made Shade Sails also requests diagonal measurements across the area of the shade sail. These diagonal measures are key to ensure our custom sails perfectly fit your space. We can use these to cross-check measurements and ensure the sail is exactly as designed. This means we are able to guarantee the fit. If your shade sail doesn’t fit after providing us with all requested measurements, we will remake the shade sail and resend it to you at no charge.

To Do-It-Yourself or Not

Custom shade sails are the perfect way to ensure your sail suits your unique needs and now you can design a shade sail yourself. With Custom Made Shade Sails designing and installing your very own custom shade sail is easy. Our sail-maker has been hand-fabricating shade sails for the Australian market, and Australian weather, since 1988. Backed by our unrivalled 10-year warranty on fabric and stitching, you can rely on our high-quality sails.

If DIY isn’t your thing and you want expert design or installation Custom Made Shade Sails can still help. Contact us today for your free quote.