DungeonFog is really essential if you plan on creating awesome maps without hours of work and years of art practice. You can map out a house, a dungeon or a ship with their drag and drop interface. Mess with the lighting to make it shine. Export it easily for reference. Or come back any time to update it because you changed your mind.
Flowscape is an indie tool that lets you create dynamic landscapes from a whole host of assets. Edit the landscape, fashion whole forests or ship wrecks, and then take awesome photos of your creations. You can explore it with the 360 camera as well. I love using these to visualise a location from my world, and they also make great World Anvil article headers. You can buy Flowscape on Itch.io or Steam.
GIMP (the GNU Image Manipulation Program) is one of several really solid alternatives to Photoshop for the budget worldbuilder. It doesn’t have every feature, but GIMP is free and you can rarely beat that. It is great for photomanipulation, cropping or resizing headers, or pure digital art. I personally used GIMP for many years to create my maps. You can download it at GIMP.org.
Kuula makes virtual tours really, really easy. You may be thinking this isn’t something you need as a worldbuilder, but with Flowscape you can create your world’s famous locations and then embed them into Kuula to let anyone explore it! The immersion has never been higher! You can also embed Kuula into World Anvil to make your articles shine!
Map to Globe does just what the name implies. You can take your world map you created elsewhere, and turn it into a globe to explore.
It looks incredible, and really helps visualise locations on your world. I did it with my own world map of Alvarica, visible to the right. With MapToGlobe I can also zoom around to view different angles and change lighting and atmosphere conditions for total control.
Draw.io lets you create charts for anything. I love to use it to create family trees, but I’ve also put it to work creating military hierarchies and organisation structures. In my article about the structure of the magical university of Juventius I used draw.io to illustrate how the different power structures are stacked up. It is just a great, flexible tool and its free! I also find the ability to save straight to my Google Drive really useful.
You probably know about Grammarly. It is a great set of tools that will help you write with less typos, and sound more professional. Nothing draws me out of an enthralling read like a typo. That is why I recommend Grammarly to worldbuilders all the time. It isn’t just important that your ideas are good – your execution has to be flawless too.
If Photoshop is out of the budget but GIMP just isn’t cutting it for you, Affinity Photo is a really incredible option. It has a whole host of features, including a lot of the more premium tools of Photoshop. It is one of the most slick Photoshop alternatives I’ve found. It is also great to see a really comprehensive set of tutorials on their website to help you get started.
More worldbuilding tools
What worldbuilding tools do you use? Let me know in the comments, I appreciate the recommendations. And make sure to start using these tools today by signing up for a World Anvil account.