When I'm doing maps for publication, the tools I use, and the approach I take, ultimately boil down to the needs of the publisher ... but in practice it's always been a mix of scanned hand-drawn stuff, Illustrator for vectors*, and Photoshop for raster finishing (if any), with a few nostalgic touches in terms of drafting-symbol sheets and old rub-down type.
When I'm doing maps for self-publication, the tools and approach change drastically since I'm designing for the home printer, so even when working in similar styles I have to completely re-engineer methods to minimize file size, printer-memory load, leaning on any particular ink in a CMY or CMYK inkjet, etc. Same tools as above, but used very differently, especially in the final stages.
When I'm doing maps for my own campaigns, I like felt-tip pens and colored pencils :)
I've played with other stuff ... I've got a tablet, I've found Sketchup useful for idea-bashing, that kind of thing. But most of that has just been at the dabbling level; I haven't really learned to speak those things like a language, and I need that before I'll inflict it on a customer (whether directly, or indirectly through an employer).
Just a .02 to add re: the CAD discussion...
Someone mentioned AutoCAD and Microstation, but I'd also like to throw Vectorworks out there. If you are interested in CAD, and are looking at a more designerly approach, then Vectorworks might be worth looking into (I'm a theatrical designer, and there is a lot of debate in our field between AutoCAD and Vectorworks - mainly between the scenic and lighting design communities).
For my money, Vectorworks is a good CAD program that has a simple Vector interface. If you can use Illustrator and Photoshop, then, with a small amount of a learning process, you can at least get started in VW.
Admittedly, it is more "designer" friendly, and less of an engineering tool, which is why I think it is popular in the theatrical and Interior Design worlds, and less so in any of the various engineering worlds (although you can purchase engineering and landscaping packages for it, so perhaps I'm mistaken).
As an example of a VW drawing: while I mostly use PS, my two ships for Serenity primarily done in Vectorworks. Small bits of post in PS.
Just trying to throw other options out there...
Approaching this from what is good for me as opposed to the high concepts of what is a good program.
I have actually made maps with Campaign Cartographer 2, GIMP, and ( a very long time ago) MS Paint. Of the three, I prefer GIMP. It is a decent little program and has a great price tag. Now if I could get a version that gets rid of the multiple, independent windows, I'd be happy.
CC2 Pro was a good experiment. I made a decent continent back in the day. The problem comes in that the maps are flat and ultimately uninteresting (to me). There seems to have been a deliberate choice to duplicate the style of the original Forgotten Realms boxed set. While I like those maps, further refinements in fantasy cartography make them look a little dated. I have considered upgrading to CC3, but I had a bad bit of customer service with Pro Fantasy so I have been real hesitant.
MS Paint. Well, aside from following RobA's regional map tutorial, that one map was the single longest endeavor ever. I hand painted the mountains and trees in, using an advertisement for Might and Magic 3 as inspiration. There were problems with the map, but I was very proud of it. Lost it in a computer crash. :(
Since picking up the GIMP, I've installed Paint Shop Pro 8 and Photoshop Elements 2. In many ways, they are easier to use than GIMP, but come with far less functionality. I cannot afford Photoshop CS ?, so it looks like GIMP is to be my raster program of choice for some time.
I played with Inkscape a little, but truth is, I prefer raster to vector. Seeing the tutorial for Xara though, I've considered experimenting.
And I've used both Dundjinni and Dungeon Crafter. Interesting toys, but I find their symbol sets more useful than anything. Autorealm was an interesting alternative to CC2, but suffered from being even more uninteresting.
Originally Posted by nolgroth
It supposedly gives gimp a background window that holds all the others.
Alternately (and my current fav way of working with gimp) is to use full screen mode (F-11). Double-tab will being up all the other dialogs/docs, which will go away when you start to edit/apply a filter, etc.
Thanks. I didn't notice anything different after installing the extra software. In the end, it doesn't matter. I've started developing ways and habits of dealing with the GIMPs unique interface. For instance, if reading a tutorial, I click on the tutorial window once to read and then click on it again to minimize it. Meantime, I have the picture, GIMP and the layers window behind and when I minimize the other file, it pops me back into all three. It's workable for now.
Thank you for the response and suggestions.
nolgroth - I'll encourage you to try full screen mode... once you try full screen, you'll never go back :P
(though it may also be that I rarely worked on anything other than a dual screen setup that makes this soo nice)...
Digital media are my thing... I'm actually quite new to mapping, but I recently started drawing again. I do any drawing in ArtRage (which simulates real-life art media rather well), and work on anything else in Photoshop/Illustrator CS3.
I'm a designer and illustrator and use Photoshop and Illustrator extensively. I'm interested in purchasing a Bamboo or similar small graphics tablet.
Does anybody here use one?
I believe several of us do. I'm a recent convert to tablets myself. I don't know if I would consider mine small, but regardless of size they all seem to work pretty much the same.
I consider my tablet a more valuable tool than my software. Had I known how powerful the tablet was, I'd have spent my money there initially instead of buying CC3 at first.
I have (rather, my wife has) a Wacom Intuos3 6" X 8", which I currently use with CC3 and Photoshop 7.