October 04, 2011

New Worlds from Scratch: Designing Your Own Maps

Total Read Time: 2 minutes

A sample from the Pro Fantasy gallery

Last week, I posted about why fantasy maps rock. Of course, creating your own maps isn’t limited to fantasy writers. Sci-fi and horror books can include maps of fictional locations as well, so at this point, I’ll invite all the speculative fiction writers out there to join the party.

If you do decide to create a map to include in your book, there are several different ways to go about designing it. Some are free to use, while more professional-looking packages can cost a bit of money, but could be considered a useful investment.

Some of these programs are geared toward game designers, but they could be used by book authors as well.

Here are a few of the options available:

Freehand Design Using Photoshop/Gimp

If you’re decent at drawing and want to sketch your map yourself, you can always use Photoshop. If you don’t own a copy, you can download Gimp and use it to create and manipulate your freehand map image for free.

This is a free, open source mapping program that might look better than what you could draw freehand, but not quite as nice as what paid software can deliver.

Ortelius (Mac Users Only)

Another cartography program that is available as a free trial. (Standard license is $99.) Their gallery looks pretty decent, with several different map styles available.

If you want something that looks good, doesn’t require artistic skills, and are willing to pay for it, this looks like a cool program to use. There are various packages and bundles available, depending on how extensive a map you want to design.

Personally, I like to draw my own maps, and have used Photoshop to snazz them up, but that Pro Fantasy program looks pretty sweet.

Have you designed a map for any of your books? What tools did you use?


  1. I've used GIMP and AutoREALM. But I have never heard of Pro Fantasy. Definitely gping to check it out.

  2. That's a great post. I'm following your blog with google reader, and it's nice to get informative and helpful info. Keep up the good work.
    Goodreads: Sabine A. Reed

  3. @Krista
    How do you like AutoREALM? Is it easy to use?

    @Sabine A. Reed
    Thanks! I'm glad you're finding my posts helpful. :)


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