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Thread: What software to use for making maps from scratch?

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  1. #1

    Default What software to use for making maps from scratch?

    Hey guys, just a DnD nerd from Mythweavers passing through. I need to design some town/geographical maps for my campaign (I have battlemaps covered with Dungeonographer). I have Cartographer from a really long time ago, but I messed up the UI terribly somehow and haven't found a way to reset it to default.

    The point of this thread is I'm looking for opinions on what tools can design maps from scratch. A lot of programs I've seen like Map Tool and such seem to need already drawn maps which they then edit to suit their needs, but I've seen none that actually build a good looking map. Are you guys all artists that draw your own and then use stuff like photoshop to enhance skeleton maps? If there's something I'm missing, can you guys recommend any programs that I might be able to use?

    Sorry for ignorance, I mean no offense. Just a noob looking for guidance here.

  2. #2
    Community Leader jfrazierjr's Avatar
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    Oct 2007
    Apex, NC USA


    It depends. There is a software forum and a thread with hundreds of apps listed, but you have to determine what will work best for you. I started with Fractal Mapper 8, but migrated to Gimp when I realized I "wanted" far more control over the final output. For some people, price is important, be that free only, low cost(for your definition of low cost), or "money is no object".. For others, a specific style is more important and some software is just plain better at producing a specific style than another.

    Perhaps the best thing you can do is look around at the various maps here, find some you like, and then see what the artist used to make them to give you an idea. Personally, I use Gimp because it's free and runs on multiple platforms(linux specifically). There are some things it can't do(or at least not easily) though and for those things other software is better(I don't do those kinds of maps, so it's not important for me).
    My Finished Maps
    Works in Progress(or abandoned tests)
    My Tutorials:
    Explanation of Layer Masks in GIMP
    How to create ISO Mountains in GIMP/PS using the Smudge tool
    Unless otherwise stated by me in the post, all work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.

  3. #3


    I'll second GIMP, but it depends on your skill with the application. Use a program that can do what you need.

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