Map Making Tools

For those you interested in displaying your galaxy, far far away, your nice single biome planet, or Imperial Capital City:

Auto Realm:

  • Can draw fractal lines for coasts and borders
  • Free
  • Can do layers
  • Ok library of icons
  • Fair bit of tools
  • Program seems dated, but I believe there is a person working on updating it.
  • Layering system feels odd
  • Slight learning curve


  • Texture brushes are very nice
  • Can easily create nice looking maps
  • Active development of new tools which sound promising
  • beta is free to use
  • Still in development and many proposed tools aren't out
  • Unclear licence terms, but it seems the next release will be a comercial version and allow comercial use. No pricing posted

Adobe Photoshop/ Illustration/ Animator
  • Professional grade artistic tools
  • You can get really nice effects from filters
  • You can create your own texture fills
  • Adobe==$$$$$
  • Requires some learning and artistic skill
  • I'm too poor to afford a creative cloud subscription
GIS (Geographic Information Systems) Software (both commercial and open-source)
  • Best way to provide multiple zoom-level maps
  • Best layering available
  • Can be used to show data and information
  • Some free software tools are available
  • I use this software (ERSI ArcMap) professionally and it can do really awesome things
  • Has a way to incorporate dynamic maps with websites
  • Require training to use software/ technical ability
  • Limited drawing tools, more of a tool to combine and analyze features already created
  • Drawing tools which do exist are often limited
  • COMPLETELY OVERKILL for 99% of anything an author would use it for, unless making cool data-driven maps for my app :smiley:
  • The flagship commercial software by ERSI makes Adobe Creative Cloud look like it costs pennies

Do you use any of these and have anything to add? Feel free to add your mapping tool of choice. Also, if you want good artistic-style maps, I suggest posting on I've gotten really affordable quality art and icons for maps on there.


  • Sweet. I used to make maps for my online D&D games in photoshop, but nothing terribly detailed.
  • I have been asked by a couple of readers to provide a map for my first trilogy, so this is very valuable info. Thanks! :)
  • Both autorealm and inkarnate, started as tools with D&D in mind.
  • I didn't like the map generators so always just did my own in PS.
  • I like this neat tool for making random city maps. It has a bunch of options for city size and type and building shapes and stuff. I've only ever used it for D&D, but I could see it being a good starting point for a map for a novel that takes place in a city. Also it's fun to just play with if you're into that sort of thing. :D
  • I'll have to check it out
  • Will have to come back and investigate further, but a few of these (from the descriptions) sound right up my alley. I managed to make a map for the mortal's Realm, but am not satisfied with it.
Sign In or Register to comment.