Background map created using Inkarnate’s free subscription.
A map can bring your science fiction or fantasy novel to life for your readers, and it can help you stay on track when writing because you have a map where you can check distances and landmark placement.
There are several map-making software programs out there that you can use to create a fictional map. Here are a few we like.
If you want to have complete control over your map and have some design skills, Photoshop may be the tool for you. It is a photo-editing tool that allows you to draw different shapes on easily editable layers. There are also brushes you can download online and import into Photoshop that create shapes like mountains and trees (and if you’re adventurous, you can make these brushes yourself). This does mean, though, that you have to draw out the land mass yourself and find the map-related brushes that you want to use.
Photoshop costs $9.99 a month, and you can download a trial version first if you just want to test it out.
For some more map-specific software that gives you more of a template but still allows a lot of freedom, Fractal Mapper 8.0 is a good choice. This software already has map-related stamps that you can use, and automation that allows you to create a more natural-looking land mass.
Fractal Mapper 8.0 currently costs $34.95, but you can also download a trial if you’re not sure this is the software for you.
For more of a template mapping software and beautiful maps, try Inkarnate. Inkarnate is used in your browser, so unlike the other two map-making programs, you do not download it and install it on your computer. Inkarnate has stamps you can use for mountains, forests, cities, and so on, and while it gives you less design freedom than the other two programs, it’s very easy to use.
Inkarnate is free for personal use (so if you’re only using it as a reference while you write a book, you don’t have to pay), but if you want to include the map in your book, you need to pay for the pro version, which is $5 a month or $25 a year.
What map-making software have you used to create a fictional map for your novel?