1. pensmightierthanthesword

    pensmightierthanthesword Member

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    My Map Making Skills Stink

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by pensmightierthanthesword, Feb 19, 2017.

    I'm trying to make a map of my fantasy world in Photoshop. I drew the world on paper and brought it into Photoshop, tweaked the map, but it looks cartoonish and I asked permission to use map making brushes on Deviant Art, but haven't heard anything back from the brush creators. I'm thinking of printing the tweaked Photoshop map out and retracing it with pen or pencil and drawing in all the trees, houses, cabins, castles, towns, etc. I didn't realize cartography was this hard. I also have separate islands to work on. I'm thinking of making this fantasy a trilogy or tetralogy but I want to get the idea of what the world looks like first. Any map making tips and tricks from fantasy writers?
     
  2. QualityPen

    QualityPen Member

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    Sure! I've made quite a few maps over the last several years. Unless you are making a photo-realistic map like one you might get from a satellite photo, it is always better to start with pencil, pen, and finally photoshop.

    If you are looking to make a nice presentable map for your readers, the best way to go about it is to get a sheet of clean white paper, preferably larger than 8x11 printer sheets. I'm going to assume you know roughly what the major landmasses are going to look like. If you have an idea of the major locations to debut in your story, think through the list of locations and chart them as dots on the map, wherever you want them to be in relation to one another. Then using pencil draw the coastlines and geographic features of your landscape. Once you have done that, add little details like trees, grass, water ripples, etc. Retrace everything in pen. Then scan this image or take a HQ photo of it and use photoshop to apply a wrinkled paper texture and separate the landmass color from the ocean color. That's the basic procedure I've found to work best.

    There are many amazing in-depth guides on Youtube for fantasy map cartography. My favorite is by WASD20 because he describes every single step fully. It's very detailed and thorough if a bit on the long side.

    Edit: Just to add, I have also made photo-realistic maps for settings before. Let me know if you want a brief guide for that.
     
  3. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin A tombstone hand and a graveyard mind Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I copied a map once from something else and just sort of doodled on it. Is the map terribly important at this point? I mean have you written enough where you need a visual representation to keep track of everything?
     
  4. Sack-a-Doo!

    Sack-a-Doo! Contributor Contributor

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    Perhaps something like this would help. Or you might Google "free map-making software." There are a few options.

    Or, if none of that works for you, use Google map or Google Earth to go to some obscure part of the world, do a screen-capture and go from there in Photoshop. And if the map is too recognizable, just flip it, mirror it or use the scale tool to morph it.
     
  5. Wreybies

    Wreybies Thrice Retired Supporter Contributor

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    This.

    In my case, I did need a map of my town. The first act of my WIP takes place there and in real life I have ZERO sense of direction. My nightmares are made of detour signs. I made use of a clever little town generator I found online and kept refreshing until I got something that looked somewhat like what I wanted. Not exactly, and it's got issues like streets that dead-end on the water front and buildings far to close to the water's edge, but none of that actually matters. All that matters is that I got a serviceable town layout where I could then name the streets and use that as a reference.

    But....

    Like the OP, I wanted it to be "pretty". I wanted it to look nice. I spent hours in GIMP playing with the map, and then taking a section of the town where the action really takes place, blowing it up, and creating a second town map of just that area. So - many - hours - spent.

    To the OP: Be careful with maps. They can be a wonderfully entertaining distraction from writing.
     
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  6. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin A tombstone hand and a graveyard mind Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Way cool!
     
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  7. Wreybies

    Wreybies Thrice Retired Supporter Contributor

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    They've since added what seems to be a beefed up version of the application as a download on the page that works on Windows and on Mac. I just downloaded it and... damnit! It does a much better job of giving a more organic looking town. Fewer streets that meaninglessly hit the water's edge, etc. I'm going to have to take heavy note of my own advice as regards getting distracted by maps. :whistle:
     
  8. Infel

    Infel Contributor Contributor

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    Shameless promotion of a friend, yet relevant to the matter at hand. Enjoy!

     
  9. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin A tombstone hand and a graveyard mind Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Haha... very cool. Your friend is, uh, spirited to say the least.
     
  10. Neovarch

    Neovarch New Member

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    I've found that the best way to help create a fantasy world map is to "borrow" designs from real-world places.

    Example, one of my continents Vonderoth, I merely took a map of Antarctica, flipped it into a "mirror image", then turned the entire picture upside down.

    The result was a landmass that look authentic with jagged coastlines and ragged shores; but was in of itself a unique look.

    Another bizarre inspiration for an island, was I looked at a photo of an amoeba, but drew whilst trembling my hand to create a more rugged coastal look.
     
  11. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Admin Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    one other point is that photoshop while very versatile is designed as a photo editor - for this you really want a drawing package like illustrator, corel draw, or one of the cheaper options like serif

    Also if its for your own use while writing it doesnt matter if it looks crap (i'm using an os map on which ive scribbled anotations in highlighter - but then i'm dealing with a post apocalyptic britain) - if its for actual inclusion in the book to help the reader understand the layout you might want to considerpaying a designer or graphic artist
     
  12. Paul Kinsella

    Paul Kinsella Member

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    THAT WAS AWESOME!!!!!!!! LOL!!!
     
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  13. rktho

    rktho Contributor Contributor

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    Inkarnate. It's free and online.
     
  14. Paul Kinsella

    Paul Kinsella Member

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    It has been two months. Hove you made you map yet? If so, may we see it?
     

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