Cartography Software for Fantasy Writers — The Life & Times of Miguel Olmedo Morell


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.


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.


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!

via Cartography Software for Fantasy Writers — The Life & Times of Miguel Olmedo Morell


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