Worldbuilders need maps and map-making software is a great way to create your own! And anyone wanting to take advantage of World Anvil’s interactive maps features will need a map image to get started! Of course, if you’re a talented artist (I’m not) and if you have loads of time (I don’t) you can hand-draw your maps. But map-making software offers a great chance for the rest of us to have artistic input, and still quickly come up with a map that looks at least passable!
Rather watch the video about map-making software than read the blog? Here’s our review in video form!
So, behold – 5 of the best map-making software on the market (or just about to be) right now! They’ll all allow you to create maps which you can import into World Anvil as JPG or PNG files. And from there, the fun really begins! You’ll be able to drop pins to create interactive maps which your players and readers can explore, track journies of your characters and even link maps to other maps! That gives your readers and players an incredible understanding of the scope and scale of your worldbuilding, and it’s a sure way to get them hooked!
Map-making software 1: Project Deios (Coming Soon)
Project Deios was designed to be the last word in map-making software. The art style is phenomenal, as created by the inimitable map illustrator Caeora. The UI will be straight forward. You’ll be able to link all your maps together, so you have a clear understanding of scope as you work. And most importantly, it’ll integrate directly into World Anvil! There’s a browser-based option (my preference) BUT if you’re a die-hard downloadables fan, you’ll be happy to hear there’s a desktop application too, which will work offline.
What kind of maps can you make with Project Deios’s map-making software?
Project Deios will allow you to make star maps, globe view maps, world maps and region maps. But what I’m most looking forward to is the city maps, which will be created in stunning detail. Dungeon Maps, scene maps and building maps will be possible with the integrated battlemap editor from DungeonFog. And my favourite thing? These will all be procedurally generatable IF YOU WANT THEM TO BE! SO, you can have full control of you map, and where everything is place if you need that. But if you’re in a hurry, you can just tweak a few specs and…. voila! A map in moments!
How much does Project Deios cost?
Well, here’s the thing. Project Deios exploded at Kickstarter (more details here) and is currently being built by a crack team of coders in Austria. But it’s not quite ready yet. Good news is that the preorder store will be open in two weeks, and you’ll be able to learn more and buy this glorious chunk of mapping genius! Once launched, it’ll also have a Freemium model so you’ll be able to try before you buy, and see if you like it! But since it’s not quite ready yet, check out the rest of the mapmaking software in this blog post!
Map-making software 2: Inkarnate
Inkarnate is browser-based map-making software, which means that it works wherever you have internet access. There is a limited free version with about 100 map assets, but the full version offers way more. For me, though, I’m not in love with the art style of Inkarnate maps, particularly the way the lettering looks. Of course, if you’re creating your maps to be imported into World Anvil, you can just add interactive labels on the World Anvil interactive maps interface. That means you can dodge the lettering and get a slightly sleeker result from this map-making software.
What kind of maps can you make with Inkarnate’s map-making software?
Inkarnate allows you to make world maps, region maps and distant-view city maps. It also promises a variety of different styles of assets – including Elven, Dwarvish and Orcish assets. That’s going to be a relief to TTRPG GMs who are map making for Dungeons and Dragons style games. A lot of the assets would also be suitable for medieval fantasy settings, so fantasy authors writing medieval or renaissance style fantasy will find this just fine. They don’t seem to have any futuristic or scifi assets, though. Maybe not a great resource for Starfinder campaigns or Scifi writers!
How much does Inkarnate cost?
Inkarnate is a SaaS (System as a Service), and so it’s purchased by subscription, which makes sense. Browser-based software like this has persistent costs to cover, and subscription models allow the software to constantly improve, too!
The free version of Inkarnate’s map-making software will get you smaller maps (1024×768), and about 100 assets. In addition (and that’s important for all you self-publishing worldbuilders and pro-GMs out there) maps from the Free version are only for personal use. You can’t use them for any published or commercial projects.
The paid version of Inkarnate gets you bigger maps (2048×1536), over 500 assets and you can use your maps for commercial projects, without a hitch. A subscription will set you back 5$ a month, but if you try it for a month and like it, spring for the yearly fee of 25$. That’ll save you 35$ a year!
EDIT (13/3/20): The nice folks over at Inkarnate reached out over Twitter to let me know that their most recent version (Inkarnate 1.0) supports up to 8K export resolutions, HD versions of all our stamps for close up city maps, over 1600 assets, and many new features and options!
All in all, Inkarnate is a cheap and cheerful map-making software! You can make some good looking maps on this with a little knowhow, especially if you’re happy with medieval fantasy style assets, or sticking to geography-only for scifi maps! If you’re curious, the beauty is that you can go make an account and play around with it right now for free! And if you want to learn more before you check it out yourself, watch this Inkarnate review by WASD20. It’s far more detailed than anything I can do in the scope of this blog post, and also shows in-platform footage and the map-making process! Nate from WASD20 is a really good guy, too – so make sure you’re subscribed to his channel!
If you’re creating worlds, you’ll know the frustration of dreaming up fascinating stories behind each island and continent…. and then forgetting them! World Anvil’s interactive maps allow you to add context and information to your maps. You can add pins to denote which regions and cities (and dungeons, and lakes and. more!) are which, and even reference articles about them – they pop up on the right, just like in the video below! Imagine being able to immediately check out names, cities, dungeons, and the like!
Oh, and you can also give this information to your players and readers if you want to, or keep some or all of it secret! Designed by writers and GMs, for writers and GMs. 🙂
Map-making software 3: Wonderdraft
Wonderdraft is a downloadable map-making software with a onetime purchase. It’s compatible with Windows 10, Linux, and MacOSX. Like all the map-making software on this list, you can use it to quickly create maps which look pretty good. You also have some good color and visual customization options, and you can autogenerate continents for faster map-making, too.
The benefit: That said, if you have very dodgy internet, or frequently make maps when you travel, this might be a good program for you, as it works offline!
The drawback: Because it’s downloadable, it’s got two big drawbacks. Sadly, you can’t try this one out before you buy it like you can with Project Deios or Inkarnate. And because it’s not browser-based, you can’t just pick up working on your maps on any computer.
The art style reminds me of those sketchy, Tolkeinian hand-drawn maps, but it’s fairly inoffensive. The running requirements are not crazy, and my gaming laptop runs it just fine.
Bare Minimum Requirements for Wonderdraft
Graphics Driver: OpenGL ES 3
OS: Windows 10 64-bit or Linux 64-bit
CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo 2 GHz
GPU: Intel HD Graphics 5000
Memory: 2 GB RAM
What kind of maps can you make with Wonderdraft’s map-making software?
Using the Wonderdraft map-making software, you can make world maps and region maps, and, at a pinch city maps. Megasploot, the creator of Wonderdraft, also just released DungeonDraft, a dungeon mapping software like DungeonFog, but it’s not part of the Wonderdraft program. In terms of genre, this one’s a lot of Inkarnate. Great for fantasy, but not much offering for Scifi, and the art aesthetic really reinforces that.
How much does Wonderdraft cost?
As a downloadable software, Wonderdraft has a one-time fee of $29.99. That’s a very reasonable price for a software that can make you UNLIMITED maps! Wonderdraft also has additional art packs that you can buy for 5 or 10 dollars, but you can also use your own assets if you want to (this thread explains how).
If downloadable is the ONLY way for you then Wonderdraft might be for you. Again, if you want to learn more about this map-making software check out Nate’s excellent review here. He goes through the map creation process on Wonderdraft in detail.
Map-making software 4: Flowscape
OK, so Flowscape kind of is and kind of isn’t a map-making software. Let me explain…
Flowscape is a downloadable 3D modeling program that allows you to make 3D animated scenes. You can also resize the assets, which means (using tiny assets) you can create a large region or a continent. Or (using larger assets) you can create a city or even a single house or scene. It’s all a matter of perspective.
World Anvil users are going to find this program to be pure gold, especially if they’re eager for imagery! Because it’s a 3D modeling program, you can use different perspectives for your images, moving the camera around to get the angle you want. You can take a bird’s eye view screenshot and turn it into a map! Or record a video like this to show to your players or readers and embed it into your World Anvil article! But also, it’s a great way for novelists or tabletop RPG Game masters to get different impressions of their city, from street level. That’s going to help your players and readers really understand what you’re describing, and it’s a great way to generate multiple images and assets for World Anvil worldbuilding articles! You’ll be able to zoom in on areas you like.
Here’s the trailer of Flowscape, and it’s hilarious!
What kind of maps can you make with Flowscape’s software?
Because of the resizable assets, you can make anything from a region or a small continent to a city or even a single house or scene. Check out this 3D medieval style city made by the Co-operatives using Flowscape!
How much does Flowscape cost?
Flowscape costs 10$ and you can buy it right here. It’s an offline, downloadable programme which runs on Windows, Mac and Linux. You can also buy it on Steam, but it’s just a little bit more expensive there at £11.39 (about $14.50).
Map-making software 5: Campaign Cartographer 3
Campaign Cartographer is a downloadable map-making software made by ProFantasy Software. It runs on any modern PC with Microsoft Windows 10, 8 (and 8.1), Windows 7, Vista, XP or 2000, but not on Mac or Linux. It’s an old software, and the UI is pretty dated. Actually, it made me super nostalgic for old-school MS Paint! Not to say the program works the same way, but I was definitely getting some retro vibes!
What kind of maps can you make with Campaign Cartographer’s map making software?
Campaign Cartographer allows you to make world and region maps, but that’s it. They have other map-making software you can buy (City Designer and Dungeon Designer) which cover Cities and Dungeons or Scenes, but they are not part of Campaign Cartographer. You can choose from a LOT of different preset styles on this program, which gives you a diverse choice of aesthetics.
How much does Campaign Cartographer cost?
Campaign Cartographer retails at £29.95 (about $38.50) in the UK, but $44.95 if you change your settings to USA on the website. They also have additional upgrades you can purchase. Either way, it’s the most expensive of the software mentioned here. If you want to learn more about Campaign Cartographer, you can find their tutorials here.
You can use some of your own assets in Campaign Cartographer, like in Wonderdraft, which gives you more stylistic options (learn more here). And this software definitely has some die-hard fans. That said, it’s a bit retro for me, and wouldn’t be my personal choice. The maps don’t look bad, though, and it certainly does the job it sets out to do – you can make maps fairly quickly, and without any art skills!
Once you have your map images, remember that you can link EVERYTHING together in World Anvil! Go from your solar system, to your plant, down to your regions, cities, and even dungeons! The video below shows this really well! This kind of linking system gives you – and your readers and players if you choose to share – the ultimate perspective of WHAT is WHERE in your world. And after all, isn’t that what a map’s all about? Interactive maps are one of the many free features that World Anvil offers both novel writers and TTRPG Dungen Masters. Make sure you check it out!
Which mapmaking software do you use, and would you recommend it to others? And did I miss one? Let me know in the comments! <3
THE MAPMAKING RESOURCES
I’ll be rolling these out more of these over the next few weeks, so check back for more posts linked below, or keep an eye on our social media!
- Check out our micro-review of free map generation software for world and region maps!
- Or check out these amazing fantasy and scifi cartographers who create work you can use for your own worldbuilding
- For city and settlement maps (both generated and software) check this one out!
- For landscape images check out this blog post which is full of useful resources!
Finally, check out our blog post on character portraits and images resources – not quite maps, still super useful!