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The Best Map Maker Tools For 2021

A roundup of map maker tools— perfect for creating custom Google Maps, fantasy maps and more.

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Updated Jun 21 2021 Steve Benjamins Steve Benjamins

Everyone knows how to use Google Maps— but not everyone knows how to create their own maps.

This is a roundup of all the tools that let you create your own map.

These tools range from custom Google Maps (with multiple markers) to fantasy maps (for RPGs) and much more. 

Let’s go!

Atlist: The Easy To Use Custom Google Map Maker

A tool for creating custom Google Maps with multiple markers.

Full disclosure: I’m a co-founder of Atlist. So I think Atlist is great but I’m of course biased.

The goal with Atlist was to make a tool that allowed anyone to create custom maps. We wanted creating a map to be as easy as it is to create a Microsoft Word document.

Here are some of Atlist’s features:

  • Hundreds of Markers — You can add markers manually or by data import from a CSV.
  • Custom Styles — You can give markers, modals and maps custom styles to fit your website design.
  • Embed Anywhere — You can embed Atlist maps on any website.
  • Search & Sidebar — You can add a searchbar or sidebar list of markers to maps.
  • Photo Galleries — Add photo galleries to your modal windows.
  • … And much more.

Video: A Quick Introduction To Atlist

Watch this introduction video to see how Atlist makes it easy to create custom Google maps:

Try Atlist →

Inkarnate: Fantasy Maps for D&D

Create high quality fantasy maps.  

Inkarnate is an amazing fantasy maps generator and creator. 

It’s perfect for creating high quality world maps or city maps for RPG’s like Dungeons and Dragons.    

It’s easy to use and the maps look amazing. Here’s an example:

Inkarnate is an easy to use tool for creating fantasy maps like this.

Inkarnate is an easy to use tool for creating fantasy maps like this.

… And here’s another example:

Inkarnate even let's you create interiors and dungeons.

Inkarnate even let's you create interiors and dungeons.

Try Inkarnate →

Google My Maps: A Free Map Maker

Free to use! Which is great. The only downside? Poor style customization.

Google My Maps feels like a Google product. It has a bit of a learning curve but once you learn it, you’ll find it has surprising depth in features. It’s main weakness is in map styling.

My Maps is best used for adding markers and creating custom routes (for driving, biking or walking). Each of these are organized within layers. I find it especially useful for creating biking and walking routes— drawing them is quick and effortless:

Adding several routes as layers in Google Maps.

Adding several routes as layers in Google Maps.

There’s also undo and redo buttons and an excellent tool for distance calculations:

Using Google My Maps to measureme the size of a park.

Using Google My Maps to measureme the size of a park.

Markers can be customized by choosing from a selection of Google icons or choosing one of the 30 colors Google has pre-choosen— you actually can’t choose a custom marker color!

When maps are shared or embedded they automatically have this red bar (see below). Unfortunately you can’t customize the bar in any meaningful way— for example you’re stuck with the red color.

Styling is limited— you can't even change the red background on the header.

Styling is limited— you can't even change the red background on the header.

Try Google My Maps →

CACM: For Clickable Maps

Need a clickable map that opens a link when users click a region? This free tool is perfect for that.

You’ve probably used a clickable map before— they look something like this:

I'm hovering over South Dakota.

I'm hovering over South Dakota.

Creating these types of maps is actually pretty tricky! It seems like it should be easy but there aren’t many tools out there to do it.

Fortunately CACM (CreateAClickableMap) is easy to use— and free. 

It covers just over 100 locations, including Canada (provinces), the US (states), Australia as well all 50 states (broken into regions).

CACM is the easiest way to create clickable maps.

CACM is the easiest way to create clickable maps.

Try CACM →

Atlist: Create A Map From Your Spreadsheet Data

Can I create a map from my spreadsheet data? Definitely.

You can import any spreadsheet datasets into Atlist— doesn’t matter if it’s an Excel, Numbers or Google Docs spreadsheet.

Just export your spreadsheet as a CSV and upload it to Atlist.

From there you can create custom styles for your map, markers and modals.

This (short) video shows you how:

Try Atlist →

Canva: A Free Mind Map Maker

What is a mind map? It’s a way to organize information with branches.   

Mind Maps are maps for concepts— they let you organize ideas into diagrams. They look something like this:

This is an example of a mind map.

This is an example of a mind map.

Canva is a free tool that lets you create mind maps.

Mind maps are a new feature for Canva and I haven’t had a chance to try it too much but I’ve always found Canva to be easy to use and often totally free.

Try Canva →

NatGeo: World Maps & Educational Maps

An educational tool created by National Geographic to overlay climate and political data layers on a map.

Here are some example layers: CO2 emissions, population and geothermal energy.

It also includes simple tools for adding text and shapes.

An example map of GDP per country.

An example map of GDP per country.

Try NatGeo →

Atlist: Printable Maps

Atlist lets you export maps as a PNG file— perfect for it you need to print it or import a map into Photoshop or Illustrator. 

Can I convert PNG files to JPG? It’s super easy to convert between PNG and JPG files. Most image editors will allow you to do it— otherwise there are free tools like this.

Printable maps can be used to make posters like this.

Printable maps can be used to make posters like this.

See Snazzy Maps if you want a specific map style. 

Snazzy Maps has hundreds of map styles. You can find black and white maps, cartoon maps and more. 

You can import Snazzy Map styles into Atlist.

Try Atlist →

Mapbox: Powerful Map Maker— But With A Steep Learning Curve

Mapbox is like Photoshop, but for maps.

Learning Mapbox Studio is roughly equivalent to learning Adobe Photoshop or Premiere— you should expect that it will take some time. The big upside is that you’ll have access to some of the most powerful style editing of any map maker.

Mapbox Studio allows you get granular with map styles.

Mapbox Studio allows you get granular with map styles.

Users looking for something simple and easy to use— for example to map the locations of their retail stores on their website— will want to look elsewhere. Mapbox Studio is overkill for this (plus it doesn’t include an “embed” option).

Instead Mapbox Studio is best for users looking for a professional map creation tool. For example, Mapbox is used in those fancy Vox videos on Youtube.

Mapbox Studio's editor.

Mapbox Studio's editor.

One important thing to know: Mapbox Studio is the only map maker in this article that does not use Google Maps. Instead Mapbox uses Open Street Maps, a free, open-source wiki map of the world. Because of this you might notice different results when you search for an address on Google Maps and on Mapbox— they use a completely different data set.

In fact, Mapbox competes with Google in providing location-based developer tools (APIs and SDKs). Basically companies like Uber and Facebook use Mapbox instead of Google for their mapping tools. (Mapbox Studio is their product for non-developers.) →

Mapline: For Data Visualization On Maps

Mapline lets you upload datasets (basically— spreadsheets) and display them as markers and shapes and categorize them within territory boundaries to a map.

The Mapline editor.

The Mapline editor.

It includes route planning and other powerful features around territory boundaries— which allows you to parse your data by location, for example you can add upload all your sales data for the US and then see revenue state by state.

There is an excel add-in and XML feed (only available in the most expensive plan) that updates your map data in real-time.

Prices run from $0 - $106 per month. Plan differences are around the total number of maps and datasets— as well as features (for example: multiple users costs $106 / month).

Try Mapline →

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I create a printable map?

You can use Atlist to create maps and export them as a PNG file— even if the map has custom styles and markers.

What is the best map making software?

It really depends on your needs. Atlist is an easy to use custom map maker. Mapbox has a learning curve but is powerful.

How do you make a fantasy map?

You'll want to try Inkarnate— it's the best fantasy and RPG map maker I've tried.