View Poll Results: What mapping software do you use? (multi select enabled)

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  • Raster (bought) [e.g. Photoshop, PaintShopPro, Painter]

    697 53.99%
  • Raster (free) [e.g. GIMP]

    513 39.74%
  • Vector (bought) [e.g. Illustrator, Corel Draw, Xara]

    289 22.39%
  • Vector (free) [e.g. Inkscape]

    251 19.44%
  • Vector (Symbol driven) [e.g. CC, Dunjinni]

    320 24.79%
  • Online Generator [e.g. City Map Generator, Fractal World Generator]

    109 8.44%
  • Fractal Generator [e.g. Fractal Terrains]

    184 14.25%
  • 3d modelling [e.g. Bryce, Vue Infinite, Blender]

    163 12.63%
  • Scanned hand drawn maps

    431 33.38%
  • Drawing Tablet and pen [e.g. Wacom]

    358 27.73%
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Thread: New to Digital Cartography? Software General Information

  1. #1

    Question New to Digital Cartography? Software General Information

    Please take a moment to complete the poll and to say a few words about the software that you use. This will be of help to people new to digital cartography.


    There are broadly four types of software which are used to create maps;

    a. Raster paint programmes (like photoshop, Gimp and PSP)
    b. Vector programmes (like inkscape, Campaign Cartographer and Xara)
    c. Automatic map generating programmes (like Fractal Terrains and some others which can be found online - see the software discussion section in this site).
    d. 3d modelling applications like Bryce.

    All of them have their strengths and weaknesses:

    Vector: Very easy to edit shapes and colours but difficult to make complex and in depth textures.

    Raster: the opposite of vector.

    Automatic map generators: Beautiful maps, but very little control over style and difficult to edit.

    3d modelling: very photorealistic, weaknesses: can be hard to edit, texture and it's hard to get a visual which is not photorealistic.

    There are also hybrid dedicated map making programmes like Dunjinni, for making smaller scale maps.


    I suggest that if you are just starting out using software to make maps that you have a look at the tutorials for GIMP and Inscape in the tutorial section. Don't forget that many of the photoshop tutorials can be applied to GIMP.

    If you have a scanner, then you can do what many here do (and IMHO produce some of the most beautiful maps) which is to scan in your handdrawn artwork and tart it up in GIMP or a similar package.

    Personally, I mostly use a vector application in occasional conjuntion with a raster paint program.

    If it's ease of use that you're after then be warned that CC3, although it has a lot of amazing symbols dedicated to mapping, does have quite a steep initial learning curve, but once you get past that, the results you can get from it can be stunning.

    The real trick is to keep dabbling until you find software that you are comfortable with and stick with that. Have a look at the headings in the tutorial sections (which generally say what software has been used) to get an idea of what software produces what sort of results.

    Hope this was helpful, but if you have any questions, please ask away!


  2. #2
    Community Leader NeonKnight's Avatar
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    Aug 2007
    Surrey, Canada, EH!



    As to the learning curve for CC3, I have heard it is steep, but I just don't see it. Not to sound facetious or anything, but I have a harder time trying to grasp the concepts of photoshop

    If you pick up CC3, my biggest word of advice is this. Follow the Tutorials that come with it, (or locate the tutorials for CC2, only difference between the two is the look of the map), and you should do fine.
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  3. #3


    Welcome, Airith!

    I'm a very big CC3 user (I've been using CC software for about 10 years now). If you have any questions about CC3 to help you in your purchase decision, please feel free to ask away.

    As for the learning curve, I think it has been greatly reduced over the years as new versions of the software have been released, but since it is a CAD-based program and not a drawing program like Photoshop, there are some differences in the way you work. But yes, doing the tutorial in the little booklet that comes with it is key to understanding the fundamentals.
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  4. #4
    Community Leader pyrandon's Avatar
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    Feb 2007
    Michigan, USA


    Hello, Airith and welcome to paradise! I hope you find a lot of inspiration, discussion, and instruction at the Guild!

    My two cents on which program you should get is GIMP. Why? First, it's 100% free, and you said you cannot dish out the cash for even CC. Second, it's very flexible and--once you learn the basics (which can be gleaned from on-line tutorials) it's very, very powerful. You can make professional quality maps in GIMP!!! Thirdly, we have great users of GIMP here (*cough*RobA*cough*) who regularly post tutorials and are eager to help newbies learn.

    I hope that helps. Welcome once again!
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  5. #5
    Community Leader Torq's Avatar
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    Jun 2007
    Cape Town, South Africa


    I agree completely with Pyrandon. Gimp is to my mind the most software you can get for your buck anywhere (which is of course no bucks at all). If you struggling to break into GIMP a good way to build up you confidence and skills might be to generate one of the cities in the RPG city generator that you mentioned and then just mess around with it for a while using Gimp. For a bit of a laugh that may prove quite useful run every script-fu on it and then take it from there.

    I used the same generator and then toyed with it in gimp in my "Small Town" thread in the WIP section. Then just post something and the magicians on this site will come up with some incredible advice. That I promise.

    Oh yes, welcome, welcome, welcome.

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  6. #6
    Community Leader RobA's Avatar
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    Apr 2007
    Toronto, Canada


    I seem to have been beat out on all the good points, but I'll throw in my vote for and Inkscape/GIMP combination for making maps.

    And welcome aboard!

    -Rob A>

  7. #7
    Guild Journeyer Airith's Avatar
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    Sep 2007


    thanks everyone, great welcome xD lots of info I couldn't find on search engines

    Will probably do what Torq said, hopefully I can start doing that sometime this weekend.

    Also, is CAD any good? My design class has CAD as a major part of it, ofc it's next semester but still. I know it supposedly costs a lot, teacher talked about that once, but I do get to use it for design class xD

  8. #8
    Community Leader RPMiller's Avatar
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    Apr 2006
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    CAD is just a generic term for a type of software. That said, yes, CAD is very good for making maps as that is the tool of most modern cartographers that aren't going for an artistic look. Applications such as AutoCAD, MicroStation, and even Campaign Cartographer are all CAD applications. The way they work is pretty much the same across the board. (I was a CAD draftsman for several years right after college - I used AutoCAD and MicroStation) So if you learn one of the CAD applications you'll have an easy time with any of them once you learn the commands.

    This leads me to Campaign Cartographer 3 which you'll see many fine examples of maps made by it on this site. If you can afford it, it is much cheaper than the "big CAD" apps, you may want to consider going that route, but ultimately it depends on what you want your end result to look like. Take a look around and see which of the different apps produce the most maps that you like. That should help you decide.
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  9. #9
    Community Leader pyrandon's Avatar
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    Feb 2007
    Michigan, USA


    CAD is a great program type for vector-based mapping (much like Inkscape & Adobe Illustrator). As you said, very expensive, but would work wonderfully for those clean-line plan type drawings. If you have access to that and need to learn it anyway, it may be worthwhile!
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  10. #10

    Default As far as CAD goes CC3 is optimized for map-making

    Although AutoCAD and Microstation which are the major CAD applications used in the engineering trades - its really more technical drawing than true map production, sure you can make maps, but symbol sets aren't made for the kind of maps used in most games.

    That's the difference with Campaign Cartographer - it is built on a basic CAD engine, however all the coding over the last 30 years was to make more applicable to RPG map-making.

    CC3 is only $39, those others are thousands of dollars each, Microstation most expensive of all. Yes they are all CAD, but CC3 and the rest are very much "apples and oranges".

    I hear all the advocacy of free software, that's not me. If I pay for software, I can yell at somebody when something's wrong, not so with free software. That's not the only reason, but I don't use GIMP/Inkscape, nothing wrong with it, its just not me.
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