Managing Prop and Set Design Inventory: Problems and Fixes

managing prop set design inventory

Props and sets are core elements that can make or break a theater or film production. For cast members and stage crew to do their jobs well, you must manage your prop and set design inventory right.

Whether you’re a props master or a prop house, a reliable inventory management system can make your job much easier. And if you’re new to software-based props inventory management solutions, you’ve found the perfect guide!

Keep reading to learn how prop and set design inventory management software can address your problems and fit into your operations.

First, let’s get a clear understanding of prop and set design.


Prop and Set Design: Responsibilities and Processes

Prop and set design is one of the many processes involved in theater or film production. It typically consists of a variety of tasks, such as the following:

  • Creating, finding, and modifying props and set pieces
  • Meeting and coordinating with production staff
  • Planning set design and all props needed
  • Renting or purchasing props and set pieces
  • Managing props and set pieces from storage to set and back

These tasks merely outline the main work involved in prop and set design—there’s a lot more to day-to-day operations. It also involves smaller tasks like fixing or repurposing broken props, ordering and maintaining backup options, etc.

The work involved in prop and set design is usually the responsibility of a designated prop master. Prop masters are multi-talented individuals with an education in theater, film, and similar courses.

The prop master manages everything related to props before, during, and after production. Many people are involved in the process if inventory is rented or the project is complex.

Let’s take a closer look at the processes involved in prop and set design to understand how to manage prop and set inventory.

Prop and Set Design Step-by-Step Process


Pre-Rehearsal and Rehearsal

  • Assessing prop requirements with the production team
  • Researching and selecting props
  • Creating a list of props
  • Categorizing props (to buy/rent/repurpose/create)
  • Collaborating with prop creators
  • Designing and modifying props


Pre-Technical and Technical Rehearsal

  • Plotting prop use and location
  • Overseeing prop purchases
  • Ensuring prop accessibility
  • Organizing and overseeing prop storage during the production
  • Communicating with actors and other departments about correct prop handling and storage
  • Watching rehearsals to plot prop placement and changes



  • Making sure props are available and ready for use
  • Ensuring prop continuity (for film productions)
  • Styling props



  • Organize prop dismantling, disposal, and/or storage
  • Overseeing prop return

The complex process of prop and set design varies depending on the production type and number of props used. If the prop is purchased or rented, a few additional steps might be involved. For example, teams may need to record and keep receipts for newly bought props or ensure rented props are returned safely after production. The decision to purchase or rent usually depends on costs, risks, long-term usage, available storage space, etc.

Whether you’re renting props to other teams or managing your own, inventory management can make everything a lot easier.

Prop organization is quite demanding compared to other types of inventory management. A wide variety of assets must be stored safely and categorized by colors, dimensions, periods, time of use, etc.

If you’re using traditional or manual inventory management methods, you’re at risk of many obstacles and losses. Let’s take a look at some of the most common challenges that you can easily avoid with the help of inventory management apps:


Challenges of Managing Props and Set Design Inventory (With Solutions)

Whether you have a small inventory of props or an extensive collection, managing your assets poses unique challenges. Here are some of the most common issues prop and set design inventory managers face and how robust software solutions can help solve them.

Locating Items Quickly

Designers and props managers must work efficiently to deliver the required items to the set. No time should be wasted, so items should be easy to locate.

Unfortunately, this can be difficult if manual inventory lists and traditional management systems are in place. It is even worse if the extensive prop collection is spread across multiple warehouses or storage spaces.

With the help of inventory management software, tracking each prop is much easier. These tools come with labeling tags and integrate easily with standard scanning systems. You only need to assign barcodes/QR codes to your assets and scan them into the software. Then, you can easily track and locate items whenever you need them.

Storing and Maintaining Items

Prop and set design inventory can include many items that might be difficult to store or categorize. They may also need notes and regular updates on their condition. For example, costume managers will need to know whether a piece of clothing has been worn. This will help them schedule laundry services before a show or a rental delivery.

Another example is set design items that are quite expensive or fragile. Such items are often at risk of damage or theft throughout the production. And while they may come with insurance coverage, filing a claim can be difficult for managers without thorough documentation of the item’s status. Thanks to inventory software, you can easily record all relevant information for all of your set pieces from the first day.

Managing Renting and Delivering

Those who rent out prop and set design inventory need to pull up inventory data multiple times a day to confirm the availability of items. They must also act quickly to place orders for items with low stocks.

With manual systems, there’s often a risk of incorrect data on inventory levels and what’s available. Errors like double booking are common.

A software-based inventory management system ensures this never occurs by tracking every item and maintaining accurate, up-to-date records. Some of the best solutions will sync your data across all devices to ensure no miscommunication among teams.

Disposal/Recycling of Props and Set Pieces

If your team handles multiple set design projects, they can easily forget to mend or dispose of a prop when needed. This can mean you’re wasting precious storage space for props that aren’t available for use. And you won’t be able to deliver the accurate number of items when an order comes in.

You can easily prevent losses by using inventory management software. With these tools, you can update data in real-time and schedule repairs for any item that needs it. You will always know how many usable and ready assets you have in stock.

Overseeing Prop Return

If you’re managing prop and set design inventory, your work is not done until all the props are back in their designated storage spaces. If you have a small list of items, overseeing prop returns and ensuring timely returns is generally straightforward. But that’s not the case with extensive inventories.

Whether you’re renting items or managing the set yourself, lots of props mean complex workflows for your team. This can easily lead to misplaced or lost items.

Inventory management solutions can simplify the process by tracking the delivery status and check-in time of all your props. You can also set alert notifications for items past their return deadline and notify the client of the same. If you’re renting the items, you can also set up interest payments for late returns.


4 Useful Software Solutions for Managing Props, Costume, and Set Design Inventory

With advanced software solutions for asset tracking and management, prop and set design inventory issues are a thing of the past.

No matter what your set entails and the inventory issues you’re facing, here are four of the best solutions that will surely prove useful:

1. Nest Egg

Nest Egg is one of the best management software options for prop and set design inventory. It comes with a solid set of functionalities that help teams manage prop and set design inventories of all kinds.

Here are some of the key features you get with Nest Egg:

  • Inventory organization
  • Inventory tracking
  • Barcode/QR code tagging and scanning
  • Track purchases, sales, and changes in inventory levels
  • Track lending and borrowing
  • Manage contact details of suppliers, clients, etc.
  • Data analysis and actionable insights
  • Sync data across multiple devices
  • Share data through print, email, or the cloud
  • Customizable linear and 2D labels
  • Reporting
  • And more.

Nest Egg is ideal for small and large productions or teams that handle prop and set design inventory of all sizes. One of its best features is that you can take pictures of inventory items and attach voice memos to their records. You can also customize the product categories with colorful or relational tags.

It is one of the most user-friendly on the market and compatible with various devices.

Nest Egg is available for free or through multiple paid plans in monthly and yearly payment options. You can sign up for a two-week free trial to experience all features firsthand.

2. Propcart Pro

Propcart Pro is e-commerce software with great features for prop houses, prop fabricators, art galleries, and similar users. It is a comprehensive solution for users who need the following functions:

  • Managing prop and set design inventory with bulk updates and insights
  • Importing prop data using QR codes, labels, etc.
  • Tracking rental and sales data in real-time
  • Generating invoices
  • Building an e-commerce website for your props business

Propcart Pro is a valuable tool if you want to manage and rent out a lot of items. It enables smooth and efficient collaboration with multiple clients (vendors, productions, artists, companies, etc.).

Propcart Pro is available for free or via paid subscription packages for every type of use. They employ usage-based pricing on their monthly plans.

3. PropBase

PropBase is a professional workflow system for managing and organizing sets, props, and costumes. It is ideal for studios, theaters, and other production facilities with large inventories.

Whether you want to streamline inventory management or simplify your prop renting/lending operations, PropBase can help you through these functionalities:

  • Inventory tracking
  • Accounting
  • Barcode and QR code printing/scanning
  • Invoice generation
  • Check-in/check-out tracking
  • Integrated email
  • Reports
  • Scheduling
  • And more.

The best part about using PropBase is that there are multiple customization options for every feature. However, the solution may be too expensive when compared with alternatives.

There is a free version and multiple paid options for different business types, customizations, and functionalities.

4. GoCodes

GoCodes is tracking software that helps users manage their prop and set design inventory with a cloud-based platform, smartphone scanner apps, and rugged QR code tags.

With this software, you can:

  • Track and locate inventory items
  • Track the status of all assets

GoCodes is excellent for those managing costumes and props handled by multiple users for production, cleaning, and other purposes.

The premium version also enables complete inventory lifecycle management, so you can track equipment utilization and complete asset audits with ease.

GoCodes is available in multiple pricing plans based on the number of tracked assets and users. There is also a 15-day free trial.




Who is responsible for props in theater?

The prop master, or property master, is responsible for props in theater productions.

What are the responsibilities of a prop master?

The responsibilities of a prop master include organizing, storing, managing, purchasing, and renting props. They are the go-to for everyone working on the theater or film production.

What is the props designer process?

The props designer process involves various activities, including the design, purchase, rental, or creation of props, followed by set dismantling, prop returns, storage, and organization. The exact steps depend on production requirements and prop availability.



Prop and set design inventory management is a huge responsibility, no matter what production you’re working on. When done right, you are assured of a smooth process with minimal losses.

With prop and set design inventory management software, you’ll always stay on top of your assets. We wish you all the best for all your upcoming productions!

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