Maps are a great way to visualize your setting as you create your world, and can be really inspirational for worldbuilding. Later on, they’ll be a great way to share your novel or campaign setting with others – your players and readers. That’s why, once you have your Meta document and Categories set up, we recommend the next step in your worldbuilding is a map.

This article is part of a series to help you get started worldbuilding with World Anvil! If you’re new to worldbuilding, we recommend you get started with the Meta Document. That will give you a foundation, and help you develop your world. 

What kind of map do I need to create my world?

This ENTIRELY depends on you, and your setting! If you’ve already set up the meta document in your world, you’ll know the size of your active storytelling area. Depending on your setting, your genre, and the kinds of stories you want to tell in this setting, that might be a city, a continent, or even a galaxy! The map you need will probably be this scale too. Of course, it’s better to start small and expand later, so if picking between two sizes, we recommend choosing the smaller.

Where can I get a good map for my setting?

World Anvil is a worldbuilding platform, not a map-making software. But there’s a tonne of options below for sourcing and making maps, including a bunch of great free ones!

Great options for worldbuilding maps (ranked easiest to hardest):

Click the links for resources and recommendations in each category! Remember, it’s usually better to start with something than nothing – don’t let the search for “the perfect” map slow you down.

  • Auto-generate (and tweak) a map (free). Just a few clicks, you’ll be the proud owner of a map! This is the best option for complete beginners.
  • Ready-made maps (free/$). This is the fastest option for getting a map. Many amazing artists give maps for free, or for a few dollars. Just watch out for permissions – not all can be used for commercial projects.
  • Map-making software (free/$$). Map-making software is a great option if you can imagine your map, but don’t want to hand-draw it. You have more control than a generator, but don’t need to be an artist to create a good-looking map. Most are quick and easy to use, and some (Inkarnate and the upcoming Deios) have free versions.
  • Hand-draw your map (free/$). If you’re artistic, why not hand-draw your map, digitally or on paper? If on paper, you’ll need to scan or photograph it to upload to World Anvil.

World Anvil tutorial for maps

Once you’ve got your map image, it’s time to upload it to World Anvil. This is a straightforward process, but if you need help, this World Anvil tutorial takes you through it step by step! Rather read than watch? Check out the written tutorial for interactive maps.

How to create your world with maps

Assuming you’ve filled out your Worldbuilding Meta section, you’ll probably already have created some locations in your world. You may even have some articles of locations in your Atlas category! Right-click to drop pins for these on the map. If these locations already have articles, select them on the pin form to link them in. Otherwise, choose “create a new article”, a title, and a template. This new article will be added to your world.

World Anvil's interactive maps pin creation

World Anvil’s interactive map pin creation form. Just fill in the name of your location, then choose a pin. Want your pin to link to an article? Select one from the dropdown, or click “Create a New Article”, fill in the boxes, and it’ll be created in your world!

Once you’ve added your pre-existing locations, why not add or name some new ones! Cities and settlements, watchtowers, forests, lakes, and caves are all great points of interest to add. As a hint, cities tend to be on the coast, along rivers, or in other defensible locations. (We made a whole video about where to put cities on the map!)

Hints and tips for worldbuilding workflows with maps

The bane of every worldbuilder’s existence having a cool idea, then forgetting it! Writing notes on locations as you add them to the map prevents that. Here are some great workflows for worldbuilding with your interactive map.

World Anvil's fast worldbuilding features: previewer, navigator, image upload, quick article creation and quick creation button

World Anvil’s Quick Action menu is at the bottom right of all your edit pages – press the plus (+) button to expand it! Features (left-to-right) are Previewer, Navigate, Quick Image upload, Quick Article/Content Creation and Quick Links.

  • All guild members have access to the Quick Create purple button from the quick actions menu (the + button at the bottom right).
    1. Create a new article with the purple Quick Create button (the quill icon)
    2. Refresh the page
    3. Link your new article to a new map pin in the form
  • If you have a Master+ membership, open the Previewer (Alt+Enter) in the map edit interface. Here you can edit your articles as you drop pins on your map.
    1. Drop a pin on the map
    2. Create a new article using the map form
    3. Open the new article in the previewer to add your notes

World Anvil has extensive map features. If you want to learn more about map layers, pin groups, labels, and more, check out the World Anvil tutorial on the advanced map features!

My map is too big for World Anvil – what do I do?

No need to worry, this is an easy problem to fix – you just need to reduce your file size. There are loads of programs that can do this without losing quality. By default, Free accounts get max. 3.5MB for Maps and all Guild Member accounts get 25MB for Maps.

What should I do next to create my world?

This article is part of the Get Started on World Anvil series. If you’ve already done Meta, Categories, and got your Map started, why not worldbuild your history with timelines? Or check out the full series below:

  1. Start worldbuilding with the Worldbuilding Meta
  2. Organize worldbuilding with Categories
  3. Create your world by setting up your map
  4. Start worldbuilding history with timelines
  5. Level up your amazing worldbuilding with visual themes

Not yet on World Anvil? Create your free account here! And if you’re looking for more help, check out the full written help guides, the Discord community and the Youtube channel.