My cartography kit for hand drawn RPG maps

It’s quite flattering that I get asked relatively frequently what pens, paper or other equipment I use to draw my RPG maps.

I didn’t ever think I’d be in a place to make suggestions on ‘art supplies’, but then I never thought people would like to see my D&D maps.

Below are the majority of the items I use to do my cartography pieces, although I imagine the list will grow as I acquire items for specific purposes.

UniPin Fine Line Pens

I do most of my drawing and outlines using these fine line pens.

They come in a variety of nib/tip widths.

I tend to use something like a 0.8mm tip for my room outlines, dropping down to a 0.1mm or 0.05mm tip for detail work.

On Amazon these fine line pens are about £9 for a pack of 6 different width pens.

Update 2020 – by now most of the white writing has rubbed off the sides of these pens. As a miniature painter, I’ve actually coloured the ends of these pens. I use the 0.8 and 0.3 predominately, however finer detail is usually added using the 0.1 / 0.05.

These pens are not massive fans of lots of stippling dots – I ruined a 0.3 with this repeated bashing of the nib. My bad.

TouchNew Sketch Markers

These double-ended colour markers are great for blocking in large sections of colour.

I’ve found they tend to bleed into the paper if you have low GSM paper or push down too heavily.

Although they’re not perfect (due to the colour bleeding), I can’t argue with the price for the quantity you get.

On Amazon these Touchnew markers are about £22 for 40 double-ended colour markers.

You can also buy bigger bundles – the colours are really quite varied and vivid.

Update 2020 – I’m still super happy with these pens. I must admit I’m using a dozen or so of these pens 95% of the time, however it’s nice to pick out tiny details with the lesser used pens from time-to-time (Pink roses on a garden map, orange firelight in a forge etc)

A3 Dim-able Lightbox

One of the best purchases I made, after some decent fine liner pens, is easily my light-box.

It uses magic LEDs to allow me to see my grids from underneath the thick artists paper.

The HUION lightbox I purchased was about £60 on Amazon but easily worth it.

I bought a dim-able version, which pushed the price up a bit, but I’m glad I did. The default (and brightest) setting is just too bright, so I usually turn it down to about half-power.

Absolutely brilliant purchase.

Update 2020 – sadly the USB port broke on my lightbox. I think it was user error more than shoddy parts. Since then I’ve bought another HUION lightbox – they’re so lightweight and they just work. They do exactly what you want them for. 

Lemome Sketch Pad with Grid

Although I mostly use artists paper (below), I find it really helpful to have a small A5 pad of good quality paper I can throw in a bag or lug about.

The paper in this one is cream/yellow but is super thick. I think it’s about 100gsm, which is plenty high enough for my map sketches.

Update 2020 – I often use this pad for DM plans and sketches, as well as my maps. It has such a nice feel to it, its just a pleasure to use. Once it’s full, I’ll definitely be purchasing another one – they do the cover in a dark blue / navy, that’ll probably end up in my shopping basket before long 🙂

On Amazon these sketch pad books are about £10 for a A5 grid version.

Here is an example of the pages:

135gsm Artists A3 Paper

The majority of the cartography pieces I do are on 135gsm sketch paper.

I use a pad from a store called WHSmith, for about £6 for 30 sheets.

Amazon have similar pads for roughly the same price; A3 drawing paper pad.

Disclaimer, these are mostly affiliate links. If you use these links to buy anything, I get a tiny-tiny cut (like 1-2%) from the seller for referring you, which I can use for being my next load of pens.

Every little help, even if it’s just a few pence or cents.