Calling All Non-Artists

I know some very talented people who write and also draw or paint. Some of my favorite writers even write, draw, and sing (Maggie Stiefvater, I’m looking at you!). And some of them seem to only require about four hours of sleep per night. (Laura VanArendonk Baugh, I’m looking at you!)

I’m not one of those supercharged people. I’m a decent singer (I sang in a rock band for about three gigs a few years ago), but my drawings never look quite like they’re supposed to. I enjoy doodling and drawing, but I can’t claim to be the best DrawSomething player in the world, let alone being talented enough to create portraits of my characters or maps of my novel settings.

That’s where Campaign Cartographer 3 comes in for me.

My incomplete fantasy map

My incomplete fantasy map

Fast-forward to 2012, when I started getting really serious about polishing my novel into something that people would pay money for, and I really needed a good map of my kingdom. I’m the kind of person who often gets lost in atlases (oops, sorry for that)–I can sit and look at maps for hours. So no half-assed map was going to suffice for my fantasy kingdom. I had hand-drawn a map of my kingdom on a piece of posterboard years ago, but a few features had changed, some things had been refined, and the posterboard was badly outdated, not to mention badly drawn. A few years ago at this little show (you might have heard of it…GenCon Indy?) I came across a booth selling CAD-based mapping software. I bought it, took it home, tried to use it, got frustrated, and gave up.

So I hauled out the Campaign Cartographer 3 software, reinstalled it, and made a serious attempt this time. I even (gasp) read the instruction manual and worked step-by-step through the tutorials! That turned out to be the key to understanding the software.

Let me say up front that CC3 has a steep learning curve for 1) people whose idea of graphic design begins and ends with Photoshop, and 2) people who have no prior experience with CAD.

But once you get to the top of that hill, the CC3 experience is 100% worth it. Imagine a piece of software that will allow the nonartistic person to create a map that is legible and fun to look at whether it is printed on a single sheet of paper or on a 36″x24″ poster. Imagine having a professional and pretty map that tells you the distance between two points. Imagine an add-on (City Designer) that allows you to create beautiful city maps that can be linked with your kingdom map.

I love this software, and while I think it is fairly well-known in the gaming community, I don’t know how many writers out there are aware of it. While reinstalling my essential software on the reset computer I started playing with it again, which is what prompted me to write this post. I’ve just signed up as an affiliate with their website, because honestly I would love to buy some of their add-on image packs but I have no free cash sitting around. If you’re interested, please consider clicking the link here and purchasing the software with my affiliate link.

My biggest problem with this software is that it’s so much fun to use I sometimes lose track of time while creating maps–and time spent mapmaking is time not spent writing!

* The links in this post are affiliate links.


  1. I cannot draw anything not made entirely of stick people, so I’m going to look at this again (I also glanced at it at Gen Con and got frustrated). Thanks for the nudge, and yes, I clicked through the link!

    (Also, I *do* sleep. Sometimes.)

    • I am not convinced. I have never seen you asleep, but I HAVE seen Tweets and Facebook statuses from you at all hours of the day and night. ;)

      The key to success with CC3 is working through the tutorial videos. I usually scoff at those, but when I gave it a second look, I was desperate enough to try them, and experienced such quick success that I went through the entire set and then looked for more tutorials to try. ProFantasy was at Origens last year and when I told them that story, and they said a LOT of people do that–skip the tutorials, get frustrated, give up, then go back and try the tutorials and become a convert. :D

      Also, if you want to give the software a try on my computer before buying, I’m pretty sure we can work that out. :)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.