Cartography Software for Fantasy Writers

Ortelius.jpg

This is not a sponsored post.

Happy Saturday, my lovely bookaholics! As you know, earlier this month I started writing a novel for NaNoWriMo, which means I have to write a novel at least 50.000 words long before the month ends. And, as I mentioned in my latest post, I don’t want to do a half-hearted job: a tremendous artist, Hellyon White, is designing the cover and the character’s portraits, and I have started drawing a map for the story.

And this is what I want to tell you about right now: the map.How is a writer with no drawing skills whatsoever undertaking so big a project?

Well, let me tell you how I’m doing it.

Let me tell you about Ortelius.

As every good fantasy writer out there, I am thoroughly obsessed with maps. I remember sitting through my classes in secondary school making up maps of fantasy worlds—sometimes I even started stories because I wanted to know what the nations in these maps were like, and what kind of characters inhabited them.

When I started designing video games, my map craze became even bigger: now I was not only drawing mapamundis, but also every single location that the player could move through it. Mind you, I was never great at it: just like singing, I love drawing, but I’ve never been amazing at it.

inkscape

When I started writing more seriously, though, I realised that I needed some powerful software that would allow me to present a world map in a more professional way. The first tool I used was Inkscape, a vector-drawing freeware which I would recommend to all PC users. It has a learning curve, true, and it takes some time to get used to it, but once you do, the results are outstanding. As a vector drawing tool, you can use it not only for maps, but for anything you’d like to draw.

I also tried my hand at Campaign Cartographer, a very geeky program that’s more often used for drawing role-playing and video game maps. You do have to purchase a licence (here are all the value bundles, along with a list of what they include), but it’s not too expensive, and I think it’s worth it. I have seen the results of some professional users and I must say that their maps look gorgeous, but my PC died before I could properly master it.

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After that, I decided to change the game and buy a Macbook Pro. I don’t know if any of you have faced this problem, but it’s not exactly easy to find some cartography software that runs on a Mac. Eventually, I came across Ortelius, another vector software which works in a similar way to Inkscape.

At first, I was reluctant to purchase it. Licences are fairly pricey (mine cost £100.32) and I wasn’t sure how it was going to turn out. So I downloaded the demo, tried it out, and learned all the basics very easily and without the need for tutorials how to use it. Eventually, seeing it was exactly what I was looking for, I did buy the licence.

So far, I’m quite happy with it. This is the program I’m using to draw the map of my NaNoWriMo novel, and I think it’s coming along quite nicely. In a few days I will write a post sharing the final design, so that you can get a glimpse of what the fantasy world I’m writing about is like. In the meantime, if you’re a fantasy writer and are looking for a cartography map, you can check out the software recommended here!

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21 thoughts on “Cartography Software for Fantasy Writers

  1. Even if I like to write fantasy novels, mine are more anchored to reality… anyhow, I shall try out your suggested programs. I am a really curious being 😉
    I get a lot of inspiration from Tolkien and since I read his book when I was merely 15 yrs. old, I guess he did the drawing of his maps without using any technical device. Thank you for your advice and suggestions
    :-)claudine

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This sounds amazing. I love writing, not that I do it professionally, but I have always thought it would be great to have an actual map of the world I created.

    Looking forward to seeing the final design!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hey thanks for this post. I am trying to start into writing fiction and every time I’ve tried to start it was hard to picture geographically what was going on. Thanks for the specific resources that have helped me get going in the right way. As a point of curiosity, what are the things you do to help build the outline?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m happy to hear this post helped you! I also find it very difficult to advance the story if I don’t know where things are happening.

      What I usually do for the build is just draw the outlines of the continents and islands according more or less to what I want them to look like, then I modify them so that they look more genuine (Ortelius and Inkscape allow you to do this by changing the connecting dots of the vectors and the angles at which they stand from each other). From that point on, it’s all a matter of adding detail and letting your imagination decide what goes where 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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