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June 11, 2018

Making Battle Maps with Dungeon Painter Studio

Table Top RPG

I’m going to preface this post by saying that I’m not affiliated with Pyromancers.com or Dungeon Painter Studio in any way. I just frequently use the software and have enjoyed the product a lot. I’ve mentioned quite a few times now that I am not very artistic and have sought-out software that helps me in this department. This is by far one of my favorite solutions for creating detailed battle maps.

This post is going to focus heavily on the paid version which is $15 on Steam. I did not bother much with the free version before purchasing the full version as it was already recommended to me by a few other people.

While you can also build world maps and city maps with Dungeon Painter Studio I don’t feel like it really work as well as other programs out there. If you’re looking for something along those lines check out my Inkarnate Pro review. With that all out-of-the-way let’s get into the post!

User Interface

The picture below shows what Dungeon Painter Studio looks like when you first open it up. Overall it’s a straight-forward and easy-to-use user interface (UI). Nothing game-changing, but that’s a good thing in my opinion.

Dungeon Painter Studio UI

A new sheet in Dungeon Painter Studio.

There are 4 different subsections of the UI: tools and options, layers, asset selection, and the grid. You will use all 4 to varying degrees depending on how complicated and detailed your battle map will be.

Tools & Menus

Dungeon Painter Studio UI

Here you can select options in the menus or select a tool to use.

In this subsection of the UI you can select different options at the top of the screen and select different tools on the bottom section. There is a third section that pops up when you have selected grounds & floors, walls, objects, text, and tokens that allows you to customize the placement of whatever asset you’re working with. For example if you’ve selected an object you can rotate it or change its size.

You have complete control over what hotkeys are mapped to what function or tool in the program which is a big plus. You can also update your mods and asset packs that you’ve added to Dungeon Painter Studio in here. Unfortunately there isn’t a way to get new packs while you are in the program.

You also have the option to save, open, and open a new sheet. There are two different ways to export your battle map once you have finished it, but I’ll touch on the details of that a bit later.

Your controls and tools are all pretty self-explanatory. You have a simple selection tool as well as a rectangular selection for selecting multiple assets at once. I will go into more detail on the asset placement options in the next section of this post.

Asset Selection

DPS Asset UI

You can select which asset pack you want to use as well as which asset.

This section of the UI becomes active once you’ve selected a type of asset you want to add to your battle map. You can select an asset pack as well as the type of object, wall, or ground pattern using the window on the left-hand side. On the right-hand side you can select the individual asset you want to use in your map.

It also has a search function which is pretty useful if you’re like me and like to add tons of asset packs!

Layers

Dungeon Painter Studio Layers

Here you can organize the assets in your map.

If you’re familiar at all with Photoshop, Gimp, or any other graphics editing software this window will look pretty familiar to you. In the layers window you can organize the assets in your battle map. You can also group assets together in this window like I did in the screenshot. This helps with organizing large amounts of objects as they add up quite quickly in large maps.

The asset that’s at the top of the list is on top of everything else below it. That means you’ll generally want your lowest groups and assets to be your ground and walls.

Grid

Dungeon Painter Studio Grid

Here is where you’ll make your battle map.

The grid is where you interact with the program to create the map. In this space you’ll place objects, text, and tokens as well as draw your floors and walls. You can also insert templates of premade maps made by either you or other members of the community.

The grid is separated into square sections that make it easy for you to draw with. This helps with planning out the size of your battlefield as each section could be considered as a 5 ft. square for games like D&D 5e.

You can also zoom in and out of the grid to help you visualize your map. This is particularly useful for those large battle maps such as a big castle or huge battlefield!

Creating a Battle Map

In Dungeon Painter Studio, maps consist of 3-5 different elements. You will primarily work with the ground & floors, walls, and objects assets, but in some cases you may want to add text or a token to your map as well. It’s honestly very simple even for people who are not super familiar with map making or graphics editing software.

Ground & Floors

Dungeon Painter Studio Ground

Choose an asset, click on the grid, and drag to place your ground!

First, click on one of the ground placement buttons. They all do the same thing albeit in different ways, so choose the one that places ground the way you want. Once you’ve decided on your tool pick a ground asset. Finally go to a spot in the grid you want to begin drawing and simply click and drag. That’s all there is to it!

The label on the lower-right corner of your ground shows you the dimensions of the ground you’re placing.

Walls

Dungeon Painter Studio Wall Placement

This is the same idea as the ground except you’re creating a perimeter.

Just like the ground & floor placement you’ll want to start with selecting the right tool and your asset of choice. After you’ve done this click a point in the grid where the lines intersect with each other, this will place your first point of the segment. Once you’ve done that, select another spot to place your second point. There you go, you’ve created a wall!

However, you’ll generally want more than a single wall. To make walls that attach to each other just have your starting point be the ending point of one of your other walls. Rinse and repeat until you’ve created a perimeter.

Objects, Tokens, Text, and Complete!

Finished Map Dungeon Painter Studio

Here’s a map of a basement to a mansion my players might explore.

Once you’ve added the floors and walls to your map you’ll want to fill it up with objects, tokens, and text to bring it to life. This is pretty simple, you just select an asset, make sure it’s facing the right way and is the right size, and then place it. Rinse and repeat until you’ve filled in your space and created a great looking map!

My only advice is to keep grouping up objects in the layers tab. Things get out of hand quickly and it’s nice to be able to have everything organized should you need to fix a problem with your map. As you can see in the screenshot above, I like to group all of the same type of objects together. All my barrels are in a group and all of my walls are in a group.

Exporting

Once you’ve completed your map you’ll want to export it. You have 2 separate options for exporting your maps: PNG & JPG or PDF. I tend to use PNG & JPG because I play exclusively online. The PDF format is useful for people who play in person or are making map for a dungeon or adventure they’re designing.

The process is the same for both. Select what additional options you want to include in your exported map and ensure that it’s sized properly. You can also select which virtual table top software you’ll be using the map with and it will automatically scale the map to those dimensions.

Once you’ve done all this just hit the create button and the program will export everything to a folder you choose.

Automatically Scaled for Your Virtual Table Top Software

I absolutely love this feature and it was one of the primary reasons I recommend it to people who use Roll20 for their campaigns. It’s automatically scaled so you can set the page size of your map on Roll20 to the dimensions that your map was exported at on Roll20. There is no need to play with different sizes like I have found myself doing with other battle map software and maps I found on the internet.

As you can see from the screenshot above Dungeon Painter Studio also sizes your maps for virtual table top software such as Battlegrounds and d20 Pro. This is a great feature as it ensures you that your map will be properly sized and have the appropriate level of detail for your game when you upload it to your software of choice.

Additional Assets

Steam Workshop

From my experience, the easiest way to get additional assets is to get them off of the Steam Workshop. Simply load up your Steam client and go to the workshop. Here you can preview and save the asset packs that you like and they will be automatically added to Dungeon Painter Studio.

Add Your Own

You can also add your own assets by creating folders where the program is installed on your computer. Navigate to Dungeon Painter Studio’s “collections” folder on your computer. Then make a folder for the art you want to import into the program. In create three folders within this folder. These folders have to be named the following: floors, objects, and walls. From there you simply add your pictures to the appropriate folder. Use the screenshot below as a reference for setting up your custom assets folders.

Dungeon Painter Studio Custom Art

Example of what a new folder should look like

Negatives

Bugs

Closing Dungeon Painter Studio is a bit wonky. When you hit the X up at the top of the screen to close the program a pop-up saying “Continue?” comes up. If you hit cancel the program stays open. You have to hit “Ok” to close the program which makes no sense given the text. Also I feel the standard for these types of pop-ups usually has “Ok” or “Yes” on the left and “Cancel” or “No” on the right.

You have to hit OK to close the program.

Another bug is that the button to import custom assets while the program is opened only works when you have the Objects tool selected. This may not be a bug, but it’s definitely not very straight-forward. I had to do some digging to even add artwork this way at all. I found it’s easier to just add custom files through the method I wrote about earlier.

Large File Sizes

The file sizes of larger maps can be pretty huge. This isn’t a big issue, but I’ve had some problems uploading some of my larger maps to Roll20 as it doesn’t allow for files larger than 10mb to be added to a game. To combat this I’ve been using a PNG image compressor and have not had this problem since.

This does come with the territory but I feel as if it’s worth mentioning. If you’re making a large map, expect a large file to be exported. Plan accordingly if this is an issue for you.

Random Crashes

In the past there were random crashes and freezes on an infrequent basis. This latest update has seemed to fix this issue for me, but I feel that this is still worth mentioning. As with any program, be sure to save regularly!

Roll20

Since I exclusively use Roll20 for my RPGs I can speak with confidence on Dungeon Painter Studio’s scaling and features for Roll20. For those that use Roll20 you may be questioning why you should bother with this program since you can do pretty much all of this inside Roll20 itself. The answer to this for me was the amount of time saved as well as the higher level of detail you can manage.

I haven’t had to bother with resizing objects and assets. It’s cleaner and more detailed due to being able to import objects into the program rather than upload everything to your Roll20 game. There is also a ton of clutter that comes with dragging in all the assets needed to make a detailed map layer in Roll20. When you upload a file from Dungeon Painter Studio to Roll20 you can simply set it to your map layer and add all of your tokens and dynamic lighting and you’re ready to play.

If you’re interested in how to add dynamic lighting to your maps here’s my tutorial!

Conclusions

Despite its flaws I believe Dungeon Painter Studio is definitely worth the $15. The only major issue for me was the random crashes, but those have become less and less frequent as they update it. The community-driven assets in the Steam Workshop are also a major plus for its price point. Having access to a ton of great looking and pre-scaled art is an excellent perk.

If you’re on the fence about paying definitely check out the free version of the program. It has all of the basic features so you can get a feel for how everything works.

This isn’t the only D&D 5e tool or program I’ve reviewed so if you liked this post check out some more. For a list of other tools that I’ve looked at or recommend check out my D&D 5e Tools page or look at the drop-down menu above this post!

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