The Best DnD Map Makers

Published on December 31, 2020, Last modified on July 4th, 2021

Are you looking for the best solution to create DnD maps? Look no further! In this article, we cover the best DnD map makers and their pros, cons, and use cases.

The two types of D&D maps

Because it is a tabletop game, most of the visualization in D&D is left up to the imagination. Some groups may rely on the DM’s descriptions of the locations they find themselves in, while other groups use maps. Whether you play in-person or online and with or without battlemaps, chances are you will be creating a map for something while playing D&D.

There are two main types of maps used commonly in D&D: regional maps and battlemaps.

Regional Maps

These maps are typically on a larger scale than battlemaps. They show the region from a bird’s-eye view. These maps can be anything from a world map, provincial map, or city map.

If used for exploration, then these maps can contain a grid. This type of exploration is typically called a “hex crawl” and is addressed in depth in the D&D Adventure Tomb of Annihilation.

Battlemaps

These maps are usually on a smaller scale than regional maps. Typically, they are self-contained for a single encounter, though they can grow to display the entirety of a dungeon or building that players are working their way through.

Battlemaps are usually overlaid by a standard 5-foot by 5-foot grid to make player movement and scaling consistent.

How to make D&D maps

There are two primary ways to make maps; they can be hand-drawn or made using online software. Hand-drawn maps have been around since the inception of D&D. These maps, most commonly used for in-person games, can be combined with terrain pieces or miniatures.

Hand-drawn maps can be drawn on anything from a piece of printer paper to whiteboards, but in recent years, wet-erase grid maps have become the crème de la crème solution.

Mapmaking software, due to the sheer number of options, is a much less straightforward solution. In this article, we will explore which software is best for which purposes while making D&D maps.

The Best DnD Map Making Software

There will never be a straight-up “best” D&D map maker. The below-featured map makers will list the pros and cons of each software, as well as their best use case.

Inkarnate

Inkarnate is easily the best fantasy map making software on the market. It’s got a slick UI, tons of assets, and can create detailed maps in a matter of minutes.

Pros

  • Easily the most fleshed out, versatile map building option
  • Completely online, no software download or install
  • UI is thorough enough to create amazing maps but streamlined enough to build maps quickly
  • Free and Pro versions
  • Can import custom assets
  • Pro version allows for commercial sale of maps

Cons

  • Walls don’t “snap” together, which can make the creation of dungeons or other indoors areas clunky
  • Subscription model, not a one time purchase
  • UI can get slow on big maps with lots of assets or slow internet connection

Use Case

Inkarnate can be used to create regional maps and battlemaps. I have found myself reaching for Inkarnate most of the time I am creating a straightforward battlemap. Because I try to keep my session prep to under two hours, it’s extremely nice to be able to punch out a detailed map in five to ten minutes.

Inkarnate’s regional map maker is also a great tool, though I tend to use it much less often.

I do have to say that creating a map with lots of rooms, such as a dungeon or large building, is a bit of a grind with Inkarnate simply due to the level of detail they require.

All in all, I would compare Inkarnate to a “map-focused Photoshop”. The layering, blending, and usage of assets has a similar feel to the infamous image editing software and while it might not be the most streamlined D&D map-making software, it is a great mix of easy to use and customizable.

Check out the free or pro version at inkarnate.com

Wonderdraft

Wonderdraft is a fantasy map-making software that focuses specifically on regional maps.

Pros

  • Regional map-making tools are unrivaled
  • One time purchase

Cons

  • Software download, no in-browser option
  • While battlemaps can be created using the software, it is certainly not meant for this application
  • No free option

Use Case

Wonderdraft is unrivaled in its ability to create regional maps. While Inkarnate is a close second, the one time purchase, huge array of assets, and streamlined UI make this the best solution for larger-scale maps.

Buy Wonderdraft for $29.99 at wonderdraft.net

Dungeondraft

From the same creator as Wonderdraft, Dungeondraft focuses specifically on smaller-scale battlemaps.

Pros

  • The vector-based system can scale to any resolution
  • Walls and floors are seamlessly integrated, making the creation of complex indoor environments a breeze
  • Custom assets, brushes, etc. are easily available
  • No internet required to use
  • Built-in lighting system
  • One time purchase
  • No additional commercial licensing

Cons

  • Software download, no in-browser option
  • While regional maps can be created using the software, it is certainly not meant for this application
  • No free option
  • From personal experience, can crash unexpectedly on the M1 Macbook Air
  • Fewer assets than Inkarnate

Use Case

Dungeondraft has been my go-to battlemap creator recently, especially when doing an interior scene such as a dungeon, cave, or fortress. In my opinion, Dungeondraft’s Building Tool is the quickest and most effective way to create indoor battlemaps out of any D&D map-making software available on the market.

Buy Dungeondraft for $29.99 at https://dungeondraft.net/

Dungeon Scrawl

Dungeon Scrawl is an online map builder designed to create simple maps with a hand-drawn feel.

Pros

  • Import from donjon Random Dungeon generator
  • The UI is very clean and easy to use
  • The simplified purpose of the tool allows the creation of complex buildings or intricate tunnels very quickly
  • Free to use
  • Tons of unlimited pixel exportable options that can integrate with Photoshop or Illustrator to further populate maps
  • Assets by Two Minute Tabletop (for non-commercial use only)

Cons

  • Maps cannot mimic real-world textures like Inkarnate or Dungeon Fog
  • Battlemaps only, no regional map options

Use Case

Dungeon Scrawl is meant to do one thing really well, create intricate dungeons. Whether you are creating a large building with multiple rooms and floors, or a cavern that twists and turns under the ground, Dungeon Scrawl is the best option to create them quickly and effectively.

If you would like your dungeon to be populated with intricate features, Inkarnate is a better bet but it will take much longer to produce a quality result.

You can check out Dungeon Scrawl for free at probabletrain.itch.io/dungeon-scrawl. If you like it, please support the developers 🙂

Dungeon Fog

Dungeon Fog is similar to Inkarnate. It is an online builder that has tons of assets and textures with a freemium model.

Pros

  • Can organize maps into groups or “floors” as well as into campaigns
  • Door and windows snap to walls allowing for easier creation of multiple rooms
  • Better organization of assets than Inkarnate
  • Can be used to make regional maps and battlemaps

Cons

  • Much more expensive than Inkarnate
  • Less free assets than Inkarnate
  • UI isn’t very easy to navigate
  • Very hard to find which assets can be used for free users

Use Case

Dungeon Fog is a competitor with Inkarnate, but in my opinion, it is more expensive with a less user-friendly interface and limited functionality.

The biggest advantage Dungeon Fog has over Inkarnate is the ability to quickly make dungeons or large buildings with interconnecting rooms.

You can check out Dungeon Fog at dungeonfog.com

Dungeon Builder by Hobbyte

Hobbyte is a downloadable map builder that focuses on isometric (3D) dungeons.

Pros

  • Extremely unique and cool way of displaying maps
  • Commercial options available
  • Can make small regional maps and dungeon maps
  • Easy to mod assets
  • You can roll dice, open doors, reveal traps, and gradually present your maps manually or using their fog of war feature. This is important because these maps would be extremely difficult to use in a typical online platform like Roll20 and Fantasy Grounds.
  • Scalable exporting to fit any resolution

Cons

  • The free version is more of a demo than a viable map maker
  • Commercial licenses are much more expensive than Inkarnate
  • Maps can be confusing to look at
  • No online solution

Use Case

Hobbyte is the best option for isometric D&D maps. Not everybody will be looking for a solution to make isometric maps, but if you are this is the best option.

You can check out the free verion of Hobbyte here and purchase the Dungeon Builder and commercial licenses here.

RPG Map Editor 2

RPG Map Editor 2 is an online and downloadable D&D map maker that focuses on pixel-style maps.

Pros

  • The best thing about this tool, in my opinion, is its integration with the Watabou One Page Dungeons tool and the donjon Random Dungeon Generator. Both of these tools are stellar starts to creating a dungeon, and being able to manipulate them with RPG Map Editor 2 really brings it home.
  • Completely free (even commercial use)
  • Cool, pixel-style aesthetic
  • Maps can be exported to upload to Roll20 or other virtual tabletops

Cons

  • There aren’t a ton of assets or textures but you can custom import icons
  • Focuses mainly on dungeons, rather than other types of maps

Use Case

RPG Map Editor 2 is a great tool for creating simpler dungeons. I use it when I want to pre-generate the dungeon using Watabou or donjon and then make edits to the layout with RPG Map Editor.

You can RPG Map Editor 2 for free here. If you enjoy using it, please support the devs 🙂

Profantasy’s Campaign Cartographer 3

CC3 is easily the most intensive (and expensive) map-making software available on the market.

Pros

  • Extremely powerful, vector-based, CAD software
  • Frequently featured on HumbleBundle to make the large price tag more palatable
  • Add ons can allow for making all kinds of maps from large-scale regional maps down to small-scale, single building maps
  • Tons of asset packs available for download that can customize the way your maps look and feel. Plus, some asset packs are by Mike Schley, a professional map maker who has made maps for many official D&D modules

Cons

  • Gaining access to the entire suite of map-making tools can cost $1245 USD when not on sale
  • Because the functionality is so extensive, there is a very steep learning curve

Use Case

Campaign Cartographer 3 is for hardcore map builders. If you want to invest time and money into becoming a professional or semi-professional map builder, CC3 is for you. If you are a DM who is looking for quick and easy software to make maps for their sessions, I would strongly consider looking at other options.

Conclusion

There you have it! We’ve looked at the best D&D map makers, their pros, their cons, and the use case for each.

Do you have a favorite way to make D&D maps that weren’t mentioned here? Let us know in the comments below!

Mike Bernier

Mike Bernier is the lead content writer and founder of Arcane Eye. Outside of writing for Arcane Eye, Mike spends most of his time playing games, hiking with his girlfriend, and tending the veritable jungle of houseplants that have invaded his house. He is the author of Escape from Mt. Balefor and continually strives to help players and DMs have fun playing D&D. Mike specializes in character creation guides for players, homebrewed mechanics and tips for DMs, and one-shots with unique settings and scenarios.

8 thoughts on “The Best DnD Map Makers

  1. Thanks for the list. As a veteran DM who can sketch a map by hand just fine but is looking for a faster way to make good maps for her games, this list was invaluable for picking a platform. Greatly appreciated work!

    PS: I settled on Inkarnate, and am considering a yearly subscription. $25 isn’t much to pay for a program that does that much.

  2. Great list, thank you for the article. Here are some options you missed:

    Campaign Cartographer (https://www.profantasy.com/default.asp). Nothing competes with CC3+ on quality, nothing is even close. This is the PhotoShop of mapping. It is the biggest, most powerful, and most expensive mapping software on the market. Fortunately, it shows up on HumbleBundle annually so you can get it affordably if you’re patient. This is full autoCAD vector-based software so you have infinite resolution. You can zoom in as much as you want or zoom out as much as you want, it doesn’t use pixels until you export. Add ons allow fully animated globes with fractal continents, and nested child maps so you can do the whole world, then a continent, then a region, then a city, then a single building in the city. Every month they release more custom filters and styles. But like PhotoShop, this is not easy to use, this is professional software. If you dream about being a professional cartographer and competing with the people in WotC official products, this is the software you need.

    Worldographer (https://worldographer.com/). For everyone who loves the OSR style of gaming, this is killer hex-based software for you. Has both isometric and classic top-down icons. The developer is just one guy, but he is very supportive of the user base and runs polls on his patreon where he lets the users decide what gets worked on next. Has integrated citybuilder and dungeonbuilder and the hex maps can auto-nest so you can have it make the kingdom map out of your continent map. Extra icon packs on DrivethruRPG for less than $10. Will autodesign a city in seconds based on your settings (population, size, with/without walls, etc.) and even name every NPC in every house plus give them jobs, etc. Then you can tweak it to make it perfect. Despite this it is really quite easy to use. Also, this is vector based so you can zoom in as much as you want and still have beautiful and crisp maps. you just paint icons or click where you want roads/rivers to be and it will add the curves to make it more natural. Demo video on the link above is really worth watching.

    Dungeon Painter Studio (https://store.steampowered.com/app/592260/Dungeon_Painter_Studio/) Has been in “early release” on Steam since 2017. Basically half way in between the free and premium versions of dungeon fog but for a one-time $15 payment. Has way fewer assets but you can import your own. Learn to love patreon asset makers if you use this one.

    I own all three, have used them all, and quite a few that you reviewed, but most of the time I grab for worldographer. I keep trying to get better with Campaign Cartographer, and have sunk way too much money into it. It is hard to use. Beautiful results that nothing else can compete with, but hard to learn.

    1. Thanks so much for the awesome comment Gavin! Here are my thoughts on the map-making software you listed:

      CC3
      I checked this out and it is what you said. This feels like the most extensive (and confusing) map-making software I’ve seen to date. I’ve added this to the list, mainly for those that want to get into professional map-making.

      Worldographer
      This is really cool software for those hex-crawl-loving groups. I’m personally not a fan of what the finished product looks like (I think the art style is a bit bland) but the auto-generation and editable assets are pretty cool.

      DPS
      I’ve been in and out of DPS for a couple of years now but I always end up going for an alternative solution. To me, DPS feels clunky and incomplete when compared to the other map-making software available on the market.

  3. I personally use Campaign Cartographer 3+
    It has no free version and is a one-time purchase, though I suspect it is more expensive than any of the others, especially with it’s many additional add-on purchases depending on what you need.
    It’s strength is that there are many different styles of map available; not just in terms of dungeon, regional, or overland maps but in packages of different professional-looking styles available. For example, Symbol Set 4 gets users assets and a style from Mike Schley, the artist who does the D&D 5th edition maps.
    Where the program struggles is in it’s usability. This is because it is built into a CAD software and as such, it operates extremely differently from what most people expect unless they are familiar with drafting software.

  4. Thank you very much for this list, there is one that is not mentioned in this list that I was considering called Dungeondraft it is made by the same people who do Wonderdraft. But focuses on battle maps as opposed to under draft. Below I’ll post the link to it https://dungeondraft.net/

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