Bio-based production of many chemicals is not yet possible due to the unknown biosynthetic pathways. Here, we report a strategy combining retrobiosynthesis and precursor selection step to design biosynthetic pathways for multiple short-chain primary amines (SCPAs) that have a wide range of applications in chemical industries. Using direct precursors of 15 target SCPAs determined by the above strategy, Streptomyces viridifaciens vlmD encoding valine decarboxylase is examined as a proof-of-concept promiscuous enzyme both in vitro and in vivo for generating SCPAs from their precursors. Escherichia coli expressing the heterologous vlmD produces 10 SCPAs by feeding their direct precursors. Furthermore, metabolically engineered E. coli strains are developed to produce representative SCPAs from glucose, including the one producing 10.67 g L−1 of iso-butylamine by fed-batch culture. This study presents the strategy of systematically designing biosynthetic pathways for the production of a group of related chemicals as demonstrated by multiple SCPAs as examples.