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

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

    687 53.92%
  • Raster (free) [e.g. GIMP]

    507 39.80%
  • Vector (bought) [e.g. Illustrator, Corel Draw, Xara]

    286 22.45%
  • Vector (free) [e.g. Inkscape]

    248 19.47%
  • Vector (Symbol driven) [e.g. CC, Dunjinni]

    316 24.80%
  • Online Generator [e.g. City Map Generator, Fractal World Generator]

    109 8.56%
  • Fractal Generator [e.g. Fractal Terrains]

    179 14.05%
  • 3d modelling [e.g. Bryce, Vue Infinite, Blender]

    161 12.64%
  • Scanned hand drawn maps

    426 33.44%
  • Drawing Tablet and pen [e.g. Wacom]

    349 27.39%
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Thread: New to Digital Cartography? Software General Information

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  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.
    Daniel the Neon Knight: Campaign Cartographer User

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    Any questions on CC3? Post them with CC3 in the Subject Line!
    MY 'FAMOUS' CC3 MAPS: Thunderspire; Pyramid of Shadows; King of the Trollhaunt Warrens; Demon Queen's Enclave

  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.
    JUST ADD HEROES An ICONS Superpowered Roleplaying Game Blog by Joe "jaerdaph" Bardales

  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!
    GM, Westaven
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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.

    The internet! It\'ll never catch on.

    Software Used: Terranoise, Wilbur, Terragen, The Gimp, Inkscape, Mojoworld

  6. #6
    Administrator RobA's Avatar
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    Apr 2007
    Niagara, 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
    Join Date
    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

    Post New to Digital Cartography? Software General Information

    :Edit: copied from another thread as it was good general advice. - Ravs

    Mapping software solutions, there are a bunch, it really depends on the way you like to work, how much time you have to learn, what your budget allows and your goals.

    Many members here are Profantasy Campaign Cartographer users CC2, CC3, Dungeon Designer, City Designer and more. These are CAD programs and completely different than standard graphics applications.

    There's also Dundjinni which more of a combat scale battlemap maker, not good at regional/world mapping. As well as NBOS Fractal Mapper.

    There proggies cost around $40 each.

    GIMP is the open source version of Photoshop, Inkscape is the open source version of Illustrator - which basically means that most any vector drawing app and/or raster image editor works great for creating digital maps.

    Some prefer CAD, some prefer vector or raster apps - it really depends on you, there is not a single package that is best for all mappers.

    Explore this site, look deep, there are many samples, tutorials and discussions about all these apps. Read them, try out the free ones, or splurge on one of the low cost paid-for apps and start mapping.

    That's my advice!
    Last edited by ravells; 01-21-2008 at 11:49 AM.
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  9. #9

    Post Dundjinni is a fine program.

    Dundjinni is a fine map-making application, but in some ways limiting to how I like to map. I am aware of pro mappers at Gamemasters Syndicate that use Dundjinni as their primary application, combining a ton of map objects as well as use of 3D to create special content for great looking maps.

    Often I need use of feathered edged objects containing image fills and various degrees of transparency, which is lacking in using Dundjinni. It was using Dundjinni that actually chased me back to my more familiar Xara Xtreme as a hybrid raster/vector app that could duplicate any feature of Dundjinni and a hundred more options.

    I went to Xara, only because I was already familiar with it and hadn't considered it as a map application when I first went alookin'.

    But I still use Dundjinni, CC3, Fractal Mapper on occasion - I rely on hand-drawn work and Xara for most everything else.
    Gamer Printshop - We print RPG Maps for Game Masters!

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  10. #10
    Software Dev/Rep Redrobes's Avatar
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    Dec 2007
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    I reckon that GamerPrinter has it about right. Each type of app runs on a methodology. Photoshop can do everything but its geared up for drawing individual pixels. The vector apps are good at some things where a CAD like look is what is required. Vector apps have advantages particularly with scaling but have issues with full color photo images but you might find that they can do some limited ability with photos. Icon based programs can be quite easy to use and quick to get something up but they will not handle either pixel based operations like flood fills or do vectored operations but again you will find that these apps partially cover for some of those limitations. Then multiply all that again for 3D.

    My recommendation is to become good with one of each of them and know what is best of each. There is no point in trying to force one app to do a job that another is geared up for. And don't forget a good pen & scanner or digital camera in that tool set too. I can draw curvy thin lines with a pen faster than any bit of software if you have enough of them then use a pen and I can take a photo of a tree faster than I can draw it.

    I tend to draw the outline with a pen, scan it in, use a raster app like PSP, Gimp or Photoshop to touch up, fill and get basics in then import into my icon based app and add extras like tables, chests, people, buildings or whatever. Some people would take it back into a raster process to add effects and shadows, which although it looks great and turns a map into a piece of art, its just not my bag and no criticism from me for anybody who does.

    Most apps can change between formats though I would say that its a lot harder to go from raster to vector than it is to from vector to raster. I think this is the reason why raster apps tend to dominate.

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