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I am woefully terrible at drawing, sketching, or even tracing. As to be expected, then, my map-making skills are underwhelming, to say the least. I have a specific overworld map idea in mind, but lack the creativity to make it look good. In that light, I am looking for a tool that will help me craft a custom overworld map for a fantasy setting of my own creation.

This tool should, in order of preference:

  1. Not be grid or hex based — simply be a map like what you see in the LotR books.
  2. Give me printable maps
  3. Be relatively easy to pick up and use (Not require programming knowledge, has an easy-to-navigate UI, and/or has quality tutorials available to teach how to use the program)
  4. Preferably be free and/or quite cheap.

I'm willing to spend under $100 USD, and I'm willing to take a couple of weeks to learn the basics of a program, and several months to master it, if it means I'll get the quality of product I desire, so criteria 3 and 4 are negotiable. Number 1 is a must-have, and number 2 is highly, highly desirable.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ What are you looking for? Do you need a map generator or a program to help you make maps? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 1, 2015 at 14:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DavidReeve I'm not totally familiar with the correct terminology that I would want. A map generator sounds to me like randomly making a map, no? I have a specific overworld map idea in mind, but lack the creativity to make it look good. I'm hoping there is a tool I can use on the computer that can turn the map in my brain into a reality. Does that answer the question? =) \$\endgroup\$
    – sillyputty
    Commented Apr 1, 2015 at 14:22

2 Answers 2

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It's been a long time since I was drawing maps, but I had some luck with Fractal Mapper after deciding that AutoRealm was too hard.

Let me take your points in order:

Not be grid or hex based — simply be a map like what you see in the LotR books.

This is not a battlemap maker - it's map drawing software. However, it can put hex, square, or dot grids on any map. Making what you see in the LotR books is up to you, but it does support monochrome and sepia styles to give it that older look.

Give me printable maps

Printing is pretty flexible in FM. Single and multi-page prints, whole or partial maps.

Be relatively easy to pick up and use (Not require programming knowledge, has an easy-to-navigate UI, and/or has quality tutorials available to teach how to use the program)

It's a Windows program aimed at gamers, not a cartography program aimed at experts. Whether you can use it effectively I can't begin to guess, but you can evaluate the interface and documentation with the free trial. If you do want to program it, it has an API.

Preferably be free and/or quite cheap.

You said under $100, FM is $34.95. You can try it for free with no map saving and a limited symbol set.

What I like about it best is how it makes it easier to make maps look more natural with the fractal tools. The site puts it well:

Fractal Mapper gets its name from its set of Fractal drawing tools. These allow you to easily draw out natural looking continents, islands, rivers, and caverns.

Not everything gets the fractal treatment, you can draw straight lines and perfect curves too.

Because it's for gamers, it can store some campaign notes and keep some private for the GM.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I'll check it out! Exactly the kind of help I was looking for. +1! \$\endgroup\$
    – sillyputty
    Commented Apr 3, 2015 at 18:59
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Not necessarily a question for this forum, however I can offer some help.

Check out The Cartographers Guild They can point you in the right direction on the software.

Personally, I use Photoshop CS3 and GIMP (free) for my maps. I'm not an artist by any means but have been able to throw maps together rather quickly (30min) after going through some of the tutorials on the site.

Dundjinni Is also another option though I don't have much experience with the program.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This answer contains not a single tool that fits what OP is asking about. A link to another website containing tutorials to use raster image editing software does not qualify as a tool, and Dundjinni's gallery doesn't show a single world map. \$\endgroup\$
    – MrLemon
    Commented Apr 1, 2015 at 14:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ The program can be used to make over-wold <a href="dundjinni.com/forums/…> Additionally the link to cartographers guild was simply to point the user in the direction of people who might be better suited to give the them advice. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 2, 2015 at 13:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ GIMP and Dundjinni fit what the user is looking for (cheap, easy to use, not grid based, and you can print maps from them) Please actually do some research before responding. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 2, 2015 at 13:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ If you feel the need to start an answer with "this question might not be appropriate for this site": stop, and do not post. Or, if you do feel like writing an answer is appropriate, don't start by saying it isn't appropriate! Just pick one, not both, since playing both sides like that is not well-regarded by voters. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 2, 2015 at 15:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ Regarding "please do some reasearch before responding": showing relevant research is the job of the person writing the answer. If you feel like those points make your answer good, click "edit" and put them in the answer rather than using comments to argue about it. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 2, 2015 at 15:39

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