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!
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.