No matter what kind of fictional map creator you are, we’ll show you the best map-making software available online to bring your world to life.
Being able to turn your dreams into reality requires skill and fortitude.
With these impressive software options whole worlds, countries, regions, cities, villages, and assets can be generated with ease.
There are map-making programs that can clone and customize worlds well as artistic tools that can automatically bring textures and details to an area. You don’t even need any drawing or painting ability.
From beginners creating fictional online maps for free to advanced GIS (geographic information system) software using territorial information, the best map maker software is at your fingertips.
Who uses fantasy map-making software?
- Cartography hobbyists
- RPG and Dungeons and Dragons game masters
- Battle strategists
- Fiction authors
Read further, if you want to find out what is the best map-making software solution for you.
Best Fantasy Map Making Software
Best Overall Map Making Software: Inkarnate
Inkarnate is an intuitive online GIS platform that allows users to create an endless range of world maps.
It is available online for free with a considerable number of features. Serious map-makers would be advised to upgrade to the paid option which costs around $5 a month or $25 a year.
The paid version gives access to a diverse toolset of art assets updated monthly. This includes HD stamps, textures, and customization features that allow you to upload your art or export your maps.
Inkarnate boasts a variety of over 13,400 map assets that include elven forests, dwarven strongholds, and human capitals amongst other fantastical beasts. It is one of the most comprehensive role-playing software aids available online.
With its collaborative tools and insightful, easy-to-learn user interface, Inkarnate helps you to generate maps quickly and professionally.
Inkarnate is suitable for both map maker enthusiasts with no artistic skills and advanced game masters.
Their active online community is a great resource for improving your ideas, gaining advice on challenging concepts, and receiving feedback.
- Easy to use interface
- Extensive library of maps
- Customize or clone maps
- High-quality art
- A large variety of assets
- Paid for Pro version is infinitely superior.
- Free plan only exports maps at 2k resolution
This is a good all-around map generating program that is only available as a once-off payment of around $30 with no free option.
Unlike the giant of map-making, Inkarnate, Wanderdraft offers a limited amount of assets. This does impede your creative abilities.
However, you can get around this problem by downloading additional art packs to suit your needs.
With your imagination as a guide, Wanderdraft allows you to create maps with color and visual personalization.
You’re also able to upload and customize your images and stickers, though the layering functionality can become a bit complicated.
Luckily, Wanderdraft has an avid online community that are always ready to aid you in figuring out solutions to any problems.
Wanderdraft enables you to paint, colorize, draw, and generate landmasses from anywhere between 512 and 8192 pixels and is custom-built to do large continental and world maps.
This excellent mapping program works on 64-bit Windows 10, Linux, and Mac OSX.
Any fantasy enthusiast will find this an enjoyable and intuitive map-making software option. Online tutorials and prompt feedback on forums make it a user-friendly experience for creating your world.
- Easy to use
- Vigorous undo/redo feature
- Simple UI
- Shading and black and white settings
- Custom asset support
- No vector map
- Only fantasy theming
Best Value Fantasy Map Making Software: Flowscape
Though it’s technically not specifically a map-making application, Flowscape is a modeling program that allows you to create 3D animated scenes.
It is a genius piece of software that will provide you with hours of enjoyment honing your skills in rendering 3D landscapes.
Flowscape was built around the philosophy that there are no mistakes when designing, just happy accidents.
There are built-in selections of assets that you just have to click and paint to achieve out-of-this-world results.
At under $15, it’s also affordable.
Featuring a unique set of tools, Flowscape will have you creating magical worlds in no time.
Flowscape has an intuitive interface with loads of free updates and extras to aid the map designer.
Its painting toolbar is like none other, allowing the user to determine an object’s alignment, growth speed, and even flow of the brush.
There are even ambient sound functions to further enrich your world.
Other than the pre-loaded formats, Flowscape allows you to import .obj assets from other modeling programs. You can layer and adjust them as needed.
There are also a plethora of user-created templates available to download online for free.
It’s easy to get lost in the worlds of Flowscape, and as you spend more time testing out its numerous features and tools, the more intricate the possibilities become.
Flowscape works best for beginner and professional creatives who enjoy making digital art.
- Instant visual gratification
- Resizable assets
- Offline availability
- Imaginative option for writers
- Ability to embed sound and video
- Need a good graphics card
- Built-in help function problematic
Alternative: Dungeon Fog
Dungeon Fog began on Kickstarter as a mapping tool project that grew to enormous success and popularity.
Dungeon Fog runs on your browser, making it accessible on various devices without the hassle of downloading multiple versions.
It’s also fast. This allows you to create high-concept visually stunning maps in minutes that can integrate seamlessly into your game world or battle plans.
One of the most appealing aspects of Dungeon Fog is that it is not only focused on fantasy worlds.
You can map out geographies and environments from various genres, including Victorian, Lovecraftian, or modern.
It has a simple interface that allows you to point and click to build structures.
If you upgrade to a premium subscription your access to features increases.
Though not as immersive as Flowscape’s architecture, Dungeon Fog still offers its creator elaborate and labyrinthine stylings.
You can reduce the size of the grid to hone in on details. Utilizing the lighting design options will make creepy caves appear lifelike and moody.
Another great feature for creatives and storytellers is being able to layer multiple levels to see how your architecture fits together.
With new features added almost weekly, the monthly subscription fee of under $8 is good value for money. On the free subscription option, you can still build up to 3 maps.
Dungeon Fog is a sophisticated and stylish mapping software for those who want to design fast and draw up battle plans even faster.
- Simple interface
- Numbers and text descriptions can be added to rooms
- Export your maps easily
- Only able to design 3 maps on the free option
Best Budget Fantasy Map Making Software: Campaign Cartographer 3
Campaign Cartographer has been around for ages and is still one of the best budget options in your world-building arsenal.
The software allows you to create detailed maps in minutes to run your RPG campaigns, battle strategies, or real-life applications.
Though the look and feel of Campaign Cartographer are a bit outdated compared to the 3D technology of more recent software, it’s still the workhorse of the map-making world.
It’s reliable and gets the job done.
There’s a large selection of styles in your toolbox as well as the option of being able to create and draw details.
Another great feature is that Campaign Cartographer supports many role-playing worlds, not just fantasy. So if you’re a science fiction nerd you can access numerous themes to pad your desired destination.
Campaign Cartographer allows you to create small components like furniture and floor plans right up to designing countries, continents, or entire planets.
Because of its longevity in the marketplace, Campaign Cartographer has built up a large fanbase of map-making enthusiasts. Its online community and support are one of its biggest benefits.
The professional tutorials and friendly community add value to the once-off fee of around $20 for this map-building system.
That’s why it’s our budget-friendly choice for the best mapping software.
Everyone can use Campaign Cartographer, from beginners to experienced CAD users. Its simple interface will make you feel like a professional cartographer within minutes.
- Beautiful lush maps
- Extensive online tutorials
- Supportive online community
- Numerous templates to pick from
- Good value for money
- Be wary of illegitimate online vendors selling fake product keys
- Initially takes a bit of time to learn software
Alternative: Azgaar’s Fantasy Map Generator
Who doesn’t love a free online tool geared towards storytelling? Azgaar’s Fantasy Map Generator is your passport into a world of creativity.
Though you can’t really build your own map with it, it does generate large world maps where you can then add your own towns, villages, religions, and cultures.
It’s a great visual storytelling assistant that can help you organize your thoughts.
Azgaar’s includes details like rivers, streams, mountains, nature, and tribal or house emblems.
With its many typographical elements, you can add and adjust features like elevation, latitude, precipitation, and sea levels. This will turn your fictional world into one that’s fleshed out with all the tiny details fantasy nerds obsess over.
Azgaar also includes the most specific of details to bolster your narratives, like population, religions, and armies.
Overall this is an outstanding program that simulates real-world statistical data to bring fantasy to life.
Azgaar’s Fantasy Map Maker offers a comprehensive free service to visualize your fictional world.
- A few clicks create detailed maps
- Great for TTRPGs like D&D
- Unable to customize the available maps
- Can crash your computer
How to choose the best map-making software for you
Do you have the right computer setup?
The first thing to ensure ease of use for your map-making adventure is to have a good computer setup with a powerful graphics card.
To run GIS smoothly, make sure your device has at least an Intel i7 processor, a minimum of 16GB Ram, and a large drive.
It’s best to go with a top-tier processor and solid-state drive for map building.
Bigger hard drives will not get your computer to run faster, but installing additional drives will remarkably enhance elements of your overall performance.
Map-making software, especially 3D options, requires a separate GPU to speed up rendering. We would suggest only using GIS software on desktops, as most laptops aren’t powerful enough and will overheat.
How much experience should you have in designing?
Most map-making software takes a few hours of practice to get used to.
If you’re an absolute beginner and want to produce maps that look professional, it’s advisable to look for programs that generate maps that you can personalize.
If you are more seasoned with programs like CAD and Photoshop, you’ll revel in the more detailed map-making alternatives.
It all depends on how much you are willing to invest using the tools and art to build your project.
What do you need your map to do?
Fictional cartographers create maps for a number of reasons. Your end goals will determine what type of software is best for you.
A strategic combat map specific to a particular RPG will not necessarily need tools that focus on ambient lighting or sound.
Be careful when choosing your mapping software software so you are not paying for unnecessary extras.
Don’t let overly priced optional extras dissuade you from simpler choices.
They might not seem as sophisticated, but a succinct two-dimensional map is just as effective as a rolling 3D landscape.
Fantasy map makers online community
One of the benefits of joining the online map-making world is the exuberant online community.
For every map-making program out there, there’s a host of Dischord, Reddit, and cartography forums of map creators eager to share their knowledge and creations with you.
From reviewing the best free map-making software to dissecting details of updates and tools, you will never be without support.
YouTube channels devoted to tutorials, quick fixes, and cheat sheets all aid the creator in producing works of map art.
Draw on the knowledge of the online map-making community and your maps will be better for it.
Subsequently, do your research of the reviews, comments, and product breakdowns before committing money to any map-making software.
What are the basics of designing a fantasy map?
Whatever your style, the process is a deeply creative endeavor. This produces a satisfying product to be printed out, linked to, or embedded.
Most beginner map-making programs provide you with basic templates that you can then customize.
However, if you prefer to start from scratch and produce something unique, it’s always good to begin with a clear idea of what you hope to achieve.
This involves meticulous planning to ensure you don’t get confused as you progress into more elaborate details.
A basic strategy to getting started would be to:
- Plan your fantasy world
Decide on what the landscape (mountainous, rivers, etc.,) and landmarks (castle, tavern, houses, etc.,) are.
- Sketch out your environment
This can be done with paper and pen or on a program like Draw or Photoshop
- Plan important elements
Make sure your topographical details such as landmarks are defined.
- Locate yourself geographically
Do this by including a compass and scale marker
Though there is a wealth of diverse applications available and being developed online, one stands out as the best fantasy map maker software.
Inkarnate is the cream of the crop in the world of cartography software.
And this is not just due to its reasonable pricing, flexible packages, or the ability to create maps with up to 100 assets for free.
It’s because of Inkarnate’s commitment to innovation, constant updates, and great customer support that make it a trusted and popular cartography program.
A clean interface makes its layout easy to grasp for beginners or a quick task for those that need to generate a comprehensive map in a few minutes.
From creating whole countries, continents, and worlds, to detailing specific topography below and above ground, Inkarnate delivers.
If you want to embark on a map-making journey with simple, clean designs and customizable formats, or build layered dreamscapes to enhance the reality of your writing, Inkarnate is the best choice.
Mike Hostetler is an Entrepreneur & Technologist currently working to help technical teams grow and thrive. Mike formerly founded appendTo, a boutique consultancy born out of the jQuery project. He is an active OSS supporter and currently serves as CEO & Publisher of ModernWeb.com. Mike is passionate about Remote Work, the Future of Work, Leadership and helping others succeed.