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Janherbergh
11-09-2009, 05:46 AM
In the past couple of days I've been looking around for mapping software, tried some of the free programs and right now I have a question.

Most of the mapping software I found seems to work with icons or simbols you insert on the base of the map. I got the impression that this system is quite limited. I mean that you depend on these simbols to create your map.

On the other hand I suppose that learning to use a more complex program as Inkscape or Gimp should be harder, but in the long run, one will have much more freedom.

Now my question... Given that I must start from 0 on either choice, but I usually prefer to have as much freedom as possible, is a good idea to forget about mapping software and begin right with graphic software?

Wich ones had the best tools for mapping?

I'll begin with atlas style, but eventually I'll move to cities or dungeons.

Thanks!!

ravells
11-09-2009, 07:21 AM
It's pretty much as you say: if you use Gimp or Inkscape, you have more 'freedom' about the look of what you create, but with symbol driven software (e.g. Campaign Cartographer) you are limited (until you learn to make your own symbols) to the symbols they give you - also these programmes don't give you so many layer style options etc.

No one tool is 'best' for mapping. Many people use more than one item of software to make maps. What you have to find is the one that's best for you, and that usually involves trying out a few (many programmes you pay for have evaluation versions), or by looking at completed maps, seeing what you like and what the author used to draw them with.

Best of luck in your search!

Mark Oliva
11-09-2009, 03:25 PM
with symbol driven software <SNIP> you are limited (until you learn to make your own symbols) to the symbols they give you - also these programmes don't give you so many layer style options etc.

This really isn't 100% correct. There are tens of thousands of free symbols/objects and fills/textures available for download for raster mapping programs like Dundjinni (TM) or Fractal Mapper (TM) 8. In addition, FM8 gives one 256 layers with no limitation upon the styles used within them.

We use several programs, but FM8 and Dundjinni in no way inhibit my freedom. I would contend that it's more a question of how fast one wishes to make maps. I can produce almost the same map much more quickly, for instance, with FM8 than I can with the GIMP. On the other hand, I can make FM8 symbols with the GIMP that would be impossible to make with FM8.

Redrobes
11-09-2009, 04:05 PM
I think that if the app allows you to import an arbitrary image as an icon then its no more limited than any other paint package. In a sense its like having these icons on a separate layer in Gimp. The advantage to doing it this way is that because the program tracks these items as individuals then you dont need a layer to hold them for individual modification.

So you might have a dungeon with a store room and place down loads of crates. To do this in Gimp requires you to load an image of a crate - usually already made for you like an icon/ Then you have to position, rotate and scale them one by one and either transfer them to a holding layer or use a new layer for each. Now transfering them to a new layer prevents you from editing that crate again unless you select it and then move the selection and by using a layer for each means you dont have to do that but it burns HUGE amounts of memory to do it. Another problem is that every rotation degrades the image so you really have to get it rotated and scaled right in one go or else undo and redo with a different amount. By using a token based app the rotation, scale and position is extremely easy which is why people use them. And they don't degrade the token on a reposition or rescale because they might done from the original and built up - at least mine are. Guess I cant really comment on how other people make their software.

Generally using an token based app for putting token like things down is much easier and of higher quality. You can also snap to grids and maybe rotate about useful points instead of the corner or the middle of an image which might not be as sensible.

The downside is that the token apps don't have as nice painting functions and effects built into them. You can import / export between them but there's usually trade offs to the process.

In my opinion the thing is to know where they are at their strongest and weakest and use the app that applies to that job. Its a good idea to have a token based app, a paint package, a vector based one and also some 3D modeling ability. Having skills in one of each of them (or apps that cover more than one of those) is the best way.

ravells
11-09-2009, 04:16 PM
This really isn't 100% correct. There are tens of thousands of free symbols/objects and fills/textures available for download for raster mapping programs like Dundjinni (TM) or Fractal Mapper (TM) 8. In addition, FM8 gives one 256 layers with no limitation upon the styles used within them.

We use several programs, but FM8 and Dundjinni in no way inhibit my freedom. I would contend that it's more a question of how fast one wishes to make maps. I can produce almost the same map much more quickly, for instance, with FM8 than I can with the GIMP. On the other hand, I can make FM8 symbols with the GIMP that would be impossible to make with FM8.

Thanks for putting it much better than I did! The advantage with the symbol map making programmes is definitely speed. I've never used FM8, but does it have as many layer style options as GIMP? If so, I'm truly impressed. But I gues it's also other stuff, like filters, brushes etc where the non-mapping raster editors really score.

By the way I went to your site and downloaded your symbols - they're quite beautiful and this is a perfect place to thank you and give you some rep!

Janherbergh
11-09-2009, 06:07 PM
Wow... There's so much to try and learn :shock: In dungeon and City map I see the use of token-based software. As Redrobes said in the crates example, it should be more easy to manage such task. I wasn't much sure about token-based programs, but I see I'll have to give them a try :)

About atlas maps, I'm not so sure about tokens... Doesn't is more easy to just draw things like mountains, valleys and such that use tokens? I mean, they are flexible enought to seem "real"? Sorry if I'm asking dumb questions.

In any case I should begin downloading and trying evaluation versions of the programs and judge by myself!

Redrobes
11-09-2009, 06:23 PM
Token apps, well I make one but its not free and windows only but I think its quite good. There is dungeonforge which I think is free - cant remember if its cross platform or not... Dundjinni is a commercial one too and popular with a lot of tokens floating about for it tho since they use normal PNG's you can import these into mine and dungeonforge too so thats no biggie. CC3 seems to be mostly token based with vector drawing stuff. It can do vector tokens with the SVG format I think but you dont seem to see as many token based maps from CC3. Dont know why that is tho - the lure of line art ? Dunno.

Gimp and Photoshop seem to duke it out a lot here for a raster paint package. Pros and cons of each but the big pro is the free nature of Gimp cos PS is real dear. I use PSP tho but I wont say its any better. Its just that I know it better I think. Familiarity.

Inkscape is the free alternative to Illustrator and same rules as above. A lot of people like doing their text labels in inkscape.

Xara is used by Gamerprinter and combines the vector and raster nature of both. Tho its pretty good by all accounts theres not a lot of take up of it. You should not dismiss it tho.

And for 3D theres a lot. Google sketchup is fast and easy to use but limited in style. Blender is free open source and very hard to use - so hard noone on here regularly uses it in anger. We all dabble now and again. Lots of inbetweens of varying quality. Its the one of the 4 most up for grabs for anyone to make a good cheap easy to use app. 3D is not for everyone tho there are some things where your mad not to do it in 3D.

ravells
11-09-2009, 06:37 PM
Blender did have a lovely greeble script which I used to make a city with...that was the only thing I ever used Blender for, the interface left me for dead.

Mark Oliva
11-10-2009, 01:06 AM
I've never used FM8, but does it have as many layer style options as GIMP?

I wasn't very clear there. FM8 works in a different way. It has 256 layers available, but you have to decide yourself which style options you want to use with them. It's far different from the GIMP or Photoshop.


But I gues it's also other stuff, like filters, brushes etc where the non-mapping raster editors really score.!

Definitely. After one's past the beginners' stage, a good cartographer won't settle for just FM8 or Dundjinni or CC3. One also needs to use the GIMP or Photoshop, as far as I'm concerned. It's only an either/or question at the start.

Another point about FM8, Dundjinni and CC3: They automatically scale things correctly for you.

But then there are the many things that they don't do that the GIMP and Photoshop will do.

Mark Oliva
11-10-2009, 01:17 AM
Wow... There's so much to try and learn :shock:

My suggestion (because it's so easy to learn):

Go to http://www.nbos.com and download the free demo version of FM8. Then stay on the NBOS web site and click the menu option "Resources." Under "Items," go to page 5. Download the item near the bottom of the list "Fractal Mapper 8 Tutorial PDF - 18.38 MB." This is one of the easiest, fastest, best tutorials I've ever used. Work your way through it.

When you're done, if you think a cartographic program is the right thing for you but FM8 doesn't fill your bill, go to http://www.dundjinni.com and download the free trial version of Dundjinni. If that still isn't what you're seeking and you're up to a steep learning curve, go to http://www.profantasy.com and try the test version of CC3.

If you still aren't satisfied, then you probably need the GIMP (free), Paint.net (free) or Photoshop (very expensive).

In all cases, however, you'll get off to the easiest start with FM8 and the FM8 tutorial.

jaerdaph
11-10-2009, 10:56 AM
The only thing I would add is that the learning curve in CC3 is much less steep than it was in previous versions of the program, but it is still there nonetheless. If you do download the trial version, be sure to watch the tutorial videos by Joe Sweeney: http://www.profantasy.com/community/user_tutorials.asp

Janherbergh
11-13-2009, 04:35 AM
My suggestion (because it's so easy to learn):

Go to http://www.nbos.com and download the free demo version of FM8. Then stay on the NBOS web site and click the menu option "Resources." Under "Items," go to page 5. Download the item near the bottom of the list "Fractal Mapper 8 Tutorial PDF - 18.38 MB." This is one of the easiest, fastest, best tutorials I've ever used. Work your way through it.

When you're done, if you think a cartographic program is the right thing for you but FM8 doesn't fill your bill, go to http://www.dundjinni.com and download the free trial version of Dundjinni. If that still isn't what you're seeking and you're up to a steep learning curve, go to http://www.profantasy.com and try the test version of CC3.

If you still aren't satisfied, then you probably need the GIMP (free), Paint.net (free) or Photoshop (very expensive).

In all cases, however, you'll get off to the easiest start with FM8 and the FM8 tutorial.

Thanks for the advice and for pointing me to a progression of software. As soon as I get my Wacom, I'll begin working on FM8 and it's tutorial. I would like to do something for the weekend.

About 3d software I'm still not confident enough to try one. I was thinking use a program to create a landscape and then use that image to draw over. As I said I'm very bad drawing, so a little help would be nice :)

Thanks to everyone for helping me and soon I'll post something in the WIP section!