View Full Version : My Map and need advice

10-28-2007, 10:15 PM
Well hello, and thanks for having such an awesome community, I am new as this is my first post, I've actually been here for a few weeks (maybe months now) but needless to say I never joined just looked, got ideas and information on things.

I've been drawning maps for a few years, nothing big just a thing here and there and making entire worlds out of them. I plan on writting novels and what not around them, I figure its easier to make a world and its background history then it is to create a story in the middle of an imaginary world.

This is the latest world I've been working on, its very simple and well I didn't know if I wanted to make it complicated by adding in a lot of islands (good bad?) Anyways I've never been good at placing things where they are suppose to, a lot of mountains where there should be grasslands, rivers when there should be deserts (hope you get the idea)

The first image is the entire Northern half of the world (plan on making a southern half some day) So The island arch next to Islands (below Isania)and Cairan's islands and the penisula of Cairan's mainland are part of the Tropical climate(Cairan has the jungle to help show, Lime Green) and the polar is from the Isania's top left penisula reaching up into the middle of Maug and through the middle of Sinala. The inbetween is temperate, so you can get the idea of what I'm trying to accomplish and maybe help those trying to help me.

The second image is Cairan, detailed out to what I just randomly threw in, I put some thought into it but once things got down I kind of just altered never fixed

Red - Region/Kingdom lines (each area is a providence belonging to a nation)
Green - Grassland
Dark green - Forest
Lime green - Jungle
Blue Green - Swamp
Blue - Water
Grey - Mountains
Hope thats all of them

Well in all I was hoping you guys could help me fix my map to make it more realistic or just simply better. Cairan is the most detailed part of the map I've done, and was wondering if its ok or if things could be fix, most of all I was hoping maybe some help on placing lakes and rivers on it.

Well I think thats what I wanted, haha I am sure I'll read this again and realize I was missing a few things but any help would be great, and any advice would be probably used or put into great deal of thought

P.S. The world is based on a medieval/ancient setting, so no nuclear, or sci-fi stuff =D, its magical and had gods nuture the land along for awhile, and then were killed off

10-29-2007, 03:46 AM
Wow, very nice! The only minor "criticism" that I have is that, if that's basically the "known world," the whole thing is a bit too square. Now I have the same problem, so it's a minor quibble- it's easy to create the world within the framwork of the 8.5x11" mindset of a peice of paper or computer screen. I've been using Fractal Mapper v8.0 and one neat feature it has is Globe View. Your map can be displayed on a spinning gloe; this really helps visualize it in terms of being on a real planet. Not useful if your world isn't round, of course.;)

Overall a very fine set of maps.:)

10-29-2007, 04:42 AM
Welcome Yandor. I believe this community is one of the friendliest, helpful and useful out there. I'm sure you'll get all the help you need, to take your maps to the next level.

I agree with Beowulf's comments. In order to give better advice it would be useful to know what program you used to create the maps. On your Cairan map I would start by suggesting that the scale of the map means the lines marking the borders should be thinner. Also the effect of only drawing some of the borders can be quite confusing, I would suggest completing them, even though the terrain features might be natural borders themselves. Also I think the map could do with more contrast between land and sea. The dark blue of the sea and the dark green of the land are IMO a littel too close. Maybe you should try experimenting with more colour contrast there.


10-29-2007, 05:14 AM
Just as an example of what I'm talking about, Yandor, here's an old campaign map (hand drawn, obviously) that displays my "inside the box/paper-shape" thinking.


My creativity got constricted by the shape of the page. Easy to do. Obviously your map is much better and more refined than my 15 year old hand drawn one, but you get my meaning.:)

10-29-2007, 05:22 AM
But let me backpeddle a bit...depending upon your purpose it may not matter. Many of us here are preoccupied with creating plausible, Earth-like worlds that "obey the rules." I recall that you plan to base fantasy novels upon your creation. I think of the maps of many very popular fantasy novels and they don't make a lick of sense when viewed from the standpoint of geology or plate techtonics. But in fantasy the sun may be a portal to the Elemental Plane of Fire and the stars may be pinholes in the curtain of night. Who's to say your map won't serve your purpose? It's a fine looking effort in any event.

10-29-2007, 06:23 AM
Welcome Yandor! I do like the internal waterways in Insania - interesting patterns. Is there a particular type of 'look' that you're going for? What would be helpful is if you could post a map from a book or the web showing the sort of style you had in mind, and as Torq asked told us a bit more about what sort of software you were using. We could then make suggestions as to how to achieve that style. Very often the act of just observing carefully the map style you want to emulate will be enought to give you a sense of direction.



10-29-2007, 10:58 AM
Hi Yandor!

Nice start on that map.

One thing I like to do (that might help, or not :) is to throw some contour lines on a map, to help decide where things should go (i.e it will be wetter on the windward side of an ocean mountain range, more desert like on the leeward side, different elevations have different types of forest/jungle, water flows downhill, etc.)

Here is a quick (possible) sketch of terrain contours on the main island:

This should give some idea on how to run rivers, etc.

It also give more insight on how to place borders and roads, as they usually follow natural terrain lines (rivers, mountain ranges, etc.)

You didn't identify brown... I'm assuming an interior desert?

Check out this thread (http://www.cartographersguild.com/showthread.php?t=641) and possibly Geoff's Climate Cookbook (http://www.cix.co.uk/~morven/worldkit/climate.html).

Anyway, hope that was moderately useful.

-Rob A>

10-29-2007, 11:49 AM
I hadn't seen the Climate Cookbook before. Good link!

Another good reference for both climate and geology is Expeditious Retreat Press' A Magical Society: Guide to Mapping (http://e23.sjgames.com/item.html?id=XRPFREE2), which is a free-to-download chapter from the larger A Magical Society: Ecology and Culture book.

(And if you like that one, try also A Magical Medieval City Guide (http://e23.sjgames.com/item.html?id=XRPFREE1).)

I like the colour of the world map--it's an interesting choice, and it's very striking. And the shapes of the landmasses tell some interesting stories all on their own. The internal seas in Insania, for instance (INSANIA! Come join the MADNESS!): What happened there to rip that entire continent in half? And the islands to the south--is that a meteor impact, or did a volcano shatter that large island? Were these two cataclysms related to one another? And if that island chain was formed by a volcanic hotspot (similar to Hawaii), what caused the tectonic plate to change its direction of motion so radically, such that the two newest islands do not follow the same arc as the older ones?

Those aren't questions that I want answered, of course. They're just the ones that popped into my mind as I was looking at those land shapes.

Just for kicks, I looked up the island of Thera, which was mostly destroyed by a volcanic eruption ~1600 BC, on Google Maps. Here's the image:

10-29-2007, 11:50 AM
Wow where to begin haha, Thanks for the welcome and thanks for the quick replys, quite remarkable for any community if you ask me.

Anyways I'll start from top to bottom.

Beowulf- I understand completely about the whole wrapping it, and well to be honest I didn't really think about it until like 3 months after I had drawn the map, so when I was "visualizing" it, it was suppose to be set on a globe, and well I don't think it would be too hard to fix, but I don't really know how to fix it with just Photoshop and nother misc programs I've picked up on, but thats the least of my concerns for the moment atleast =D Just want it to be more geologically fit, like volcanos where they should be no random hot spots etc.
P.s. If I look at my map correctly, and view it like any Earth world map the North pole would be greatly distorted, and so if my north pole is water, I don't think my map really needs to "change" so much other then maybe tilting the continents to fit the natural curve of the world.

Torq- I pretty much only have Photoshop CS2, CC2 & CC3 don't have a clue how to use them, I live with Photoshop so I know my way around it =D, anyways back to topic I just threw the colored map in to show what I've already thought out, all my handy work with details, cities and everything else is hand drawn on many papers. However I do plan to make a digital map with the mountains, forest etc, and I've already done one map (image one, all in Photoshop) So I was going to do the same, but better formations but still the idea is there. So the scale of lines and things (other then mountains) were extremely rough and not entirely drawn to perfection, actually I made it, while I was making my first post so yeah it only took me a minute or two.

Ravells- Well as I stated with Torq I live with Photoshop, so whatever style seems to fit my needs at the moment I try to achieve, so pretty much any style will work, expect shadow relief. However thats where my problem comes in, I don't have an exact look I want to achieve, the map I put up was the first initial idea I wanted to go with, but after seeing so many different ways, its hard for me to choose now. But Eric the Red, and his rich colors, simple details is the kind of look I want at this moment I guess I could say. So not a top down view but a diagonal look on it.
Erics map

RobA- Ahh the contour lines, never thought of that, nor have I thought of wind direction either. That should help a lot, and might I ask how easy is it to actually make effective contour lines, like do you make them every 100 ft? 5 miles? 200 miles? and generally with mountains how do you determine the grade? Becuase in a tropical island made with an old volcano isn't going to be as tall as like mount everest, so how would to readly determine the high points? not unless its just by random and say well this point is the peak at oh I don't know 15,000 ft? The Brownish orange thing is a desert, and thats my other problem I don't know if that really works, and if it does why? is it a shadow desert (lack of rainfall from mountains) or is it a desert zone made by the latitude and longitude of the map (forgot techincal names) etc

I love the help and I hope I answered your questions OH! scale haha well its suppose to be around the earth size, maybe a bit bigger, so Cairan from the west side to the farthest Island would be about the USA from California coast to where Maine fits on the same degree on the East side. And Insania kind of like a Euro-Asia continent, not as big or whatever but thats the "Size" which also makes me wonder if the details are to big like Torq was saying, like the mountains should be smaller or what?

10-29-2007, 12:01 PM
Wow sorry Midgardsormr I missed you post, but THANK YOU!! haha my ideas were just fullfilled I could tell you exactly how Isania was ripped apart, and yes I could tell you how the Island arch was made, just put it this way Arsegal is to blame! haha that makes me excited, anyways thank you for the link, and for that matter thanks for everone and their links, I've actually read all the posts by Calendril and skimmed the cook book, which I knew would be very helpful when I actually dove into it. Midgar I was wondering though since a chapter is only available for download, what else is actually in that book? do you know? Also thanks for the Thera picture, I just watched a special on Volcanos on the History channel =P talked about a lot of things that I learned in my geology class but with actual video visual aids, so yeah I want to fix my volcano islands and stuff but then I realized I didn't place any calderas or places yet for one, so we'll see.

Also heres my climate map

10-29-2007, 03:35 PM
Midgar I was wondering though since a chapter is only available for download, what else is actually in that book? do you know?

I flipped through it once in the local game shop, but I didn't have any money at the time, so I didn't buy it. From what I recall, it was a top-down design manual for world-building. You start with geology, determine climate and topology from that, then build the ecologies, which leads into what kinds of cultures will grow up in those environments. It also talks about what sorts of things you should expect to change when you introduce magic into the system.

The other book, Magical Medieval Western Europe, goes into economic and political systems, and how they might be different in a world with overt magic. I really need to get around to buying both those books--they're very well done.

In any case, the sample chapters are well worth reading. I can't think of another company that's put so much good and useful info into their freebie sample chapters.

10-29-2007, 04:46 PM
Well, I do really like your work, Yandor. Mine was a minor quibble, overall I like it. And Insania is really neat- I like the "shattered" look of it. By chance was it inspired by the Helloween song "Twighlight of the Gods"?

10-29-2007, 04:56 PM
Congrats, Yandor: your post has surely generated interest--and all in one day! Nice!!

Good luck trying to achieve your desired effects (and emulating Jared's map--a lofty goal!) I do have to suggest you not put in politcal boundaries until much later in the worldbuilding process; it is very, very typical that borders follow geographical lines as much as political lines.

Otherwise, I look forward to following your progress!

10-29-2007, 04:56 PM
Beowulf thanks for the complements, and isania wasn't inspired by anything other then prior map drawnings. We can say it was inspired by that song though :D, to be honest when I draw maps , I just sit down grab a pencil and start drawing wavy lines, after getting the continents connected, I go back and fix lines, redraw parts of the continent that just seem weird or could look better if an inlet was there or some gulf etc haha so no inspiration other then drawing a map is used

And Midgar I think I'll join you in buying that book, I read over the chapter and yeah good stuff

Pyrandon thanks hehe I am surprised to get this big of response too, and I'm greatful people are willing to place interest in it. And yeah Jared's maps are a huge goal, but might as well aspire to something useful right? and the only reason why I made the borders and what not was to help me get the feel of the cities, Kingdoms, nations etc and other things I needed so I could start with the general outline of my book. I made a vague map with few details at first to help work with my book, then the whole cartography interest took hold and well now I am here

11-05-2007, 12:11 AM
despite my anti shadow relief idea, haha I started to mess with the idea, the results so far... not really that "good" but gotta start somewhere

11-05-2007, 08:56 AM
The one issue I see in maps made this way (my own included) is that the mountains are really just sitting on top of a pancake of land... Like this:


And it doesn't work like that in the real world. Here is a cross section diagram (not to scale) through North America that I dug up through google:

See how the elevation changes gradually across the entire continent? This is the type of profile you need to try and duplicate.

-Rob A>

11-05-2007, 10:52 AM
yup yup, I was going to mess with that today when I got back from my history class, I just made the mountains and didn't bother messing with river/lakes, or for that matter the plains areas... but thanks RobA! I would of just randomly did it, but that should help out

11-05-2007, 04:07 PM
The real question is: short of a 3-D app OR assigning colors to heights, how does one achive that non-lumpy effect? How do you convincingly show some land is higher than others, etc.? It's ironic that I'm working on a map right now that faces this same issue now; I'll let you know if I can help--and I'll be checking back to see if you can solve it for me! :)

11-05-2007, 09:42 PM
Don -

It is a big problem with many maps that try to look shaded relief or photorealistic. The mountains just stand out like lumps.

If I come up with a good solution, I'll drop a hint or two...

-Rob A>

11-06-2007, 09:05 AM
What I'm finding in my current shaded-relief play is that the shadows are the key: eliminate all shadows on one side of the ridge and it will look like a drop off; it even helps to over-exaggerate the shadows on the ridge-side and the lower elevations below. Additionally, if you darken ever so slightly the color of the entire lower elevations, the land will seem "lower", I think, for the eye wants to see the brighter surfaces as higher up. This is my fledgling opinion to date! I'll post examples of what I mean when I get to my home computer.

11-06-2007, 10:19 AM
The other odd thing I discovered at the shaded relief site is that to "look good" you need to subtly change the lighting direction depending on the feature direction. For example, if you light from 10:00, it will shade a ridge running from 1:00 to 7:00 well, but not at all shade a ridge running 10:00-4:00. So you need to light different ridgelines from slightly different direction to optimally make them stand out.

This is "simple" when hand shading, but "hard" if trying to do it programatically.

-Rob A>

11-06-2007, 01:05 PM
It isn't that hard, but does require a little planning. At least in photoshop.

Here is an example of two ridges that use different directional shading.

The real key here is to uncheck the Global Light setting.

11-16-2007, 10:43 PM
Alright heres an updated version that I absolutely love, need to start creating the climate zones and what not (and rivers/lakes) so I can figure out what each area is, also need to do finer detail to the continents creating more valley floors and other places, instead of just a constant "hill/mountain" look. Suggestions? Tips? Idea? anything is welcome

First picture is a higher res/ more detailed section, and the second picture is my entire map

p.s. Thank you GlennZilla for your guide on how you did your map, your ideas with the clouds & difference clouds, and the color range. Ok ok so your whole tutorial helped =D

11-17-2007, 02:03 PM
So I decided to just map the colors for each section, while I started planning out climates, What do you think of the colors? and its not an elevation map, its a map with a height on it but splashed with colors for different areas

I don't know if I like the snow/ice caps but I was just thinking of doing that ice blue color as a tundra/glacial ice thing

Edited: I sat there stareing at my map with the colors just sitting there, it just didn't seem right but I changed it and I think I like this one a lot more

11-17-2007, 02:15 PM
I don't know, Hieght maps crossed with simple collors for terrain type gives some bizare terrain features, like swampy mountains.

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swamp

11-17-2007, 02:47 PM
hahah I know, don't worry about that I was just showing the colors on the terrain it self so people can see what it actually looks like, I kind of like it but I was just curious on what others thought, I'm planning on flatting a lot of areas and making plains and actual geological correct features like the swamp/mangroove or lagoons for that matter.

11-17-2007, 10:56 PM
Yandor: I'm a little confused as to what sort of advice you're asking. Can you clarify it a tad? Did you just want a general impression, or some other specific response?


11-17-2007, 11:35 PM
eh good point to be honest I'm not to sure what I was asking for, I guess it was more on impression, like are the color choices good or bad, also with the other map that I popped up there the full map and the high res pic of Cairan I was just wondering if it was a good representation of an elevation map, do the continents look good, maybe more islands anything really, just an over all impression and maybe some flaws. You guys have been making maps for awhile and have seen all sorts of styles and just wondering if you see anything that would of passed over a novice like me and you guys had caught.

11-18-2007, 12:23 AM
Your shallow water blue is "glaring" at me, you need to soften it, lighter blue I think - too much attention is drawn to the coastline with your color choice. Other than that, it seems to be working... 8)

11-23-2007, 03:47 AM
I haven't done much for this map in awhile, but I've finally put in some rivers, so I decided I'd post that and an overview of the entire world, I changed a ton of it, I tried to base it off real proportions based on our on earth. Most of that stuff is hidden for future use but yeah thats where I'm at, any comments are welcome

11-23-2007, 10:19 AM
I think for a geography map intended to convey the terrain, this is coming along wonderfully. Is that the intention of the map?

I'm not sure on the scale of this "island", but are there enough rivers to be realistic? Also, from what I'm seeing, this is a very rocky place; although green, I imagine not many lush fields, plains, or praries; is that correct?

I would also make sure to add some eye-interest to the oceans, too. Is that in your plan?

Coming along well! Keep it up!

11-23-2007, 11:48 AM
of this map yes, I am trying to convey the terrain, later I'm planning on converting the map into actual forests, jungles, deserts etc.

I was thinking the same thing with this map too, the scale on it will be fairly large, like the island is the size of the USA. However I was just thinking that maybe I can just have the main rivers show on this map (I mean literally the main rivers, just the mississippi, and ohio rivers, type deal, no tributaries but just the bulk of the river, good idea or bad idea?). As for the mostly mountain regions, I'm hoping to flatten most of it, but I was trying to get my rivers in (that actually followed the contours of the map) and then go back in and flatten some of it out, not to the extend of the river level but close enough, like any major river valley.

Eventually yes, I'm not sure how to go about it yet, ocean isn't part of my worry but I had the light blue to dark blue, on those other maps, and gameprinter said the light blue was too light, so I took it as a distraction and junked it for now.

Thanks for the quick feed back Pyrandon

11-23-2007, 12:47 PM
hmm so I went back in and calculated a bunch of things, I was planning on have the map be like the earth's northern hemisphere, what I kind of forgot is as you go farther norther the diameter gets smaller making the circumference smaller, so having that island be the size of the USA, would make the larger islands to the north be the size of Canada or most of Asia, and well having 3 or 4 Canada size Islands near the norther pole doesn't logically fit =D so, that Island I showed may be the size of India? or like United Kingdom...

Edit: yeah screw the whole idea with it just being just north america (I was hoping to make 2 mapes 1 north and 1 south hemisphere, but I'm thinking that wont work, so I'll get back to you once I figure it out =D

11-26-2007, 09:45 PM
so I tried to flatten it out to create more of a Valley, or flat lands, plains etc I don't know if I personally like the effect so far, but what do you guys think?

First photo is the original with no touch up
Second photo is the after touch up - I don't like the way I did the rivers connecting to the mountains so I'll be fixing that

Any comments are welcome!

11-27-2007, 06:37 AM
I think the general shape of the island is looking wonderful.

I think you might need more subtlety in the gradations of colour and to desaturate all the colours somewhat. There's a really loud flourescent green which is very distracting (imo).

I'm not sure why but there's been a recent shift in the Guild to this style of map!

(I blame Pyrandon, RobA and Torq!).

11-27-2007, 08:59 AM
(I blame Pyrandon, RobA and Torq!).

I blame my lack of artistic talent that prevents me from actually drawing :)

-Rob A>

11-27-2007, 11:00 AM
Thanks ravells, I was getting to that conclusion too, I've got my map sitting as my background, so I just sit and stare when I am "stuck" on what to do, and yeah the color is a bit bright, so I'll see what I can do, and I agree with Rob, its a lack of artistic talent =D

11-27-2007, 11:30 AM
Overall, I like the map, but the main river doesn't look like it works. Either it is flowing in two different directions... towards the lake and towards the sea, or else it has to flow uphill from the lake, because it looks like the lake is in a coastal plain, and then the river goes into the mountains.

As for the colors, I like them, and think that they work pretty well.

The Cartographist
11-27-2007, 04:21 PM
Beautiful map, Yandor. Nice to see how it has come along over time with feedback from the group. I'll add two cents, which I'll probably add every time I see a new map with oceans until everyone just tells me to shut up.

You might want to use different levels of shading to indicate various depths of water. Typically, the deeper the shade of blue, the deeper the water. One example is here: http://www.mapsofworld.com/world-maps/world-geography-map.html

I personally think that this makes a map look better than when not done, and it shows that world creators are working to make their worlds even more realistic.

11-27-2007, 05:09 PM
thanks everyone, and to answer questions

Iandorl - I wasn't sure how to really do that river, to be honest I just followed the contours of my map when I had them before the rivers like in this picture I posted earlier
So I just worked from there to make the rivers, I'm thinking I'll need to do something to make it more realistic, but I was just using the idea of the river was eating down the top of the mountain and it finally broke threw a lower place and eventually divided the river into 2 streams thus the fork, and why one continues along the mountains and the other drops down into the lake, but yeah this was a sort of test map to see if it looked better then before...

The Cartographist - hehe I fully agree on the different depths, but it takes that much longer to load the image (its like 4200 x 2100 it just kept growing :P) Anyways if you click the link above when I was responding to Iandorl, I've got the depths in, its just I need to turn it on, instead of it hidden...

Thanks everyone, I'll be posting more updates soon when I get a little more time to mess with it...

11-27-2007, 07:16 PM
and eventually divided the river into 2 streams thus the fork

Pet peeve alert! Rivers almost never fork. They almost always merge.

(This is my own understanding - if wrong, PLEASE let me know!)

Water is lazy (kind of like me) and will almost always take the easiest route. This means that if a stream encounters an obstruction, it will go around it the easiest way possible. If the left channel is easier than the right channel, it will take the left channel. Not to say that rivers don't split around obstructions....they just usually end up rejoining on the other side, as the terrain allows (since both channels are trying to find the easiest route).

This is amplified taking erosion into effect. Once a river has an established channel, it is rare that it will create a new one, unless it suddenly finds an easier way. This is also why streams are more likely to join up...the terrain has to keep them apart, and if they get close enough the "higher" one will find the "lower one"'s channel and flow into it.

BUT - as I have found in the past, no matter what bizarre geomorphic anomaly you can imagine, it probably exists somewhere in the real world :)

-Rob A>

11-27-2007, 07:46 PM
Thanks RobA and landorl, I'll have to fix that, I read up on rivers dividing, and they will only or typically divide after a flash flood occurs causing the river to flow faster, and when it hits an obstruction it'll fork and proved 2 ways the river can flow down hill, as you said they usually join back together, but with a few expections one the route the second river takes may be easier and will flow down a different gradient then the other side of the river. The 2 rivers are no where near the same size, one may be the original river and after the "flood" the other part of the river that divided will be a small river if not a stream. So pretty much what I had could work, but I under stand where your coming from and if I were to leave it, I'll probably just get more annoyed with it and change it anyways =P So thanks again

11-28-2007, 06:55 AM
Thanks for the info lesson on the rivers subject it should help many of us create better looking rivers.

I think you did an amasing feat with your map, if I look back from the start up to now, and I'm sure you'll find the right solution for the rivers.

12-03-2007, 01:23 AM
Quick update
Kind of made a few adjustments like you guys were pointing out, its coming a long a lot better so thanks, any new comments would be great.

Still the before and after

12-03-2007, 05:27 AM
The topography is looking so much better (although I don't know why, but something looks odd about the river that curls from north to south in the centre right of the map (or it could just be me). Colours could probably use a bit of desaturating if you're going for a more natural look?

Check out this thread (http://www.cartographersguild.com/showthread.php?t=567) for some colour ideas.


12-03-2007, 06:14 AM
The topography is looking so much better (although I don't know why, but something looks odd about the river that curls from north to south in the centre right of the map (or it could just be me).
I agree with you that the rivers don't look naturalistic. If this is an RPG map then I expect it's not likely to be a problem (as the river has to meet the needs of the game rather than the topography? I don't do any RPGing so feel free to laugh at me if I'm wrong about this).

Looking at the map, I get the impression that the rivers were set down before the mountains were added - I find it easier to develop my maps the other way around: mountains determine rivers.

Those are very nice mountains!

12-03-2007, 07:12 AM
Sorry, just to clarify: I think the rivers are beautifully drawn, it's just the shape/direction which looks off to me.

My view on the RPG vs. natural topography discussion is that you can take both to extremes - at one end one can have a completely topograhically unbelievable world with rivers running uphill, perfectly straight coastlines etc...which is fine if that's what you want, but it's not going to look 'believable.'

On the other hand you can get so wound up with tectonic plate movements, climate effects, magma flows and what have you alls that you'll probably never finish your map for the amount of calculations you have to do.

So the happy medium is in the middle. Here are the informal rules I follow:

1. The map has be reasonably believable. RPGing is after all about suspending disbelief, so as long as the world you've created seems reasonably possible that's fine.

2. The more an element in a map doesn't follow the natural laws of nature (e.g. rivers defying gravity, floating cities etc) then the more that the element will need some form of explanation - (magic, dwarven machinary etc, moles with telekentic powers...whatever).

3. I tend to choose 'visually pleasing' over 'realistic' (although of course the less realistic something looks, the less visually pleasing it tends to be - unless it's really uber, super-cool.

4. As you said, Rik, - the map has to fit the story or world that you have created. That might influence your colour choices, whether you want your map to look like it's been hand drawn or shaded relief.

5. The map has to have an internal consistency. By this I mean if you are going to (say) paint your mountains in one style, use that style throughout the map (unless there's a really good reason not to). If you decide to draw very small islands, don't just do it one corner of the map, put them where all small islands might be (again, you may have a good reason not to do this, but make sure you have a good reason and that reason is apparent to the person looking at the map). I find internal consistency is one of the hardest things to achieve. It applies to everything in your map, colour choices, scale, how your coastlines look, how your buildings look - everything. You just have to rely on your eyes and an objective sense of self criticism (something again I'm terrible at) to see where something doesn't fit. That's one of the reasons why posting maps up here and having other people look at them is so helpful.

This is a very interesting discussion and has a lot more left in it, but I don't want to hijack Yandor's WIP, so I'll make a copy of this post to the General Discussion forum and we can continue it there.


12-03-2007, 11:13 AM
haha Rav's thanks and don't worry about the hijack I think this thread has gone in so many different ways its just funny. Anyways, I'll work on the colors, I already desaturated it once, but its easily remedied. Just remember it is an Elevation map so far, nothing else to it yet. umm I'm trying to make it as close to realistic as I can, I've got an entire map to do, but I think I'll be just doing the main island I keep showing you so I'm not so bent on time.

As for the solution of the river, I'm thinking your looking at the river that bends around the little mountain like an up side down U. I was thinking of cutting it off and making it just continue northward to the ocean, and then make the mountain or hill a bit higher where the river valley was and have the mountain rivers that connect just a bit south of the now cut off river, be the continuation of the river going south.

edit- So if the solution I said works then don't worry about this, but if it still seems to not "fit" then how would I go about fixing that river?

12-05-2007, 02:27 AM
another update, took a shot at the river again, and liked how it turned out, I think I'm about done with this Island and the islands around it.

Here is the elevation map, and a political map, on the political map the think black lines are border lines, the black spots are unclaimed/uninhabital zones (mountain peaks) and the thin black line around the islands are border/simple outline

Comments and criticism is welcome

edit- oh yeah the main island plus its south eastern islands are around 800-840 miles, and the 3 islands to the left side are together around 380-400 miles, and forgot to flip on the elevation marker

12-11-2007, 02:30 AM
So... I realized the rivers don't seem to really "fit" considering how big they are and how big the scale is... So I was not to sure how to go about it, First I want to know if the rivers are an over kill (takes away from the land too much etc) If they are alright then should I have them be flat or kind of indented? I donno I'm kind of at a lose here. Another idea just as I was writing this maybe make the lines thinner, so all the rivers are uniform in size like most political maps.

Image 1 is orignal no rivers
image 2 is the indented rivers
image 3 is the nonindented rivers

12-11-2007, 09:12 AM
I prefer the non-indented small rivers combined with the indented larger rivers. But they do call alot of attention to themselves. Can you make them even thinner? (1/2 px would make them softer, as well) Or reduce the opacity slightly so that they aren't so intense....

-Rob A>

12-20-2007, 03:40 AM
I Do have to say thanks for all your help on all the previous stuff on this map, I've finished up the "elevation" part of it, which I was asking for opinions about and what not, but now on to stage two.

This is where I change the map over to a more artistic look, and I was wondering what you guys actually thought of the iconic features, the rivers, mountains, trees, and most of all the City Icon, and what type of grass too. I got the grass idea/brush from aeronox here http://www.cartographersguild.com/showthread.php?t=1278

So thank you, but whatcha guys think? Oh and don't mind the mountains on top(the non colored ones) just me to lazy to color them all in.

P.S. This is just a sample piece! the coast line isn't how I like it yet, so you know =D

The Cartographist
12-20-2007, 04:38 AM
Yandor - My personal thought is that the icons, while really cool, don't indicate towns or cities. To me, they indicate various sizes (or strengths?) of strongholds. It think towns and cities would be flatter, maybe a slight bit wider.

12-20-2007, 10:43 AM
Personally, I like the icons you created. They have enough variation to be distinct and yet are still similar enough to be obviously settlements and strongholds.

I don't think the shape needs to represent the entire city/town/village as much as emulate the dominant feature of the skyline. After all if a map of the US was done similarly with New York demonstrated with the Statue of Liberty and St. Louis with it's iconic Gateway Arch, it'd make sense and get the idea across without risking cluttering up the map.

In the end this is the "artistic" style map, so it all comes down to preference between iconic representation and realistic demonstration.

12-20-2007, 05:56 PM
well I continued on, its easy to fix everything, just what do you guys think? I'm not to sure about the forests, or the grass, something just seems to not really fit, maybe all the elements are not similar enough but anyways heres a mainly completed island

The Cartographist
12-21-2007, 02:03 AM
I think that the forests and grass look really good except for one minor issue:

The base of the tree trunks is darker than everything else on the forest. I would do something (don't ask me what) to minimize the appearance of the tree trunks. Other than that, I really like the look of it.

12-21-2007, 12:22 PM
You have a great separation between all the elements except for the forests. The mountains are all clearly separate and while they are similar it's clear they are individual objects. The trees of the forests lack this differentiation.

Maybe a slight color change at the edge of the tree's canopy to show where that tree ends and the next begins.

At first glance the forests look a bit like a continuous hedge with little feet sticking out.

12-21-2007, 09:17 PM
I agree with Glenn: put in a different way, the mountains stand out as individual items, clearly outlined and defined, while the rest of the map (aside from the icons) is painterly and combined. This could work to add interest, though, if they do not clash--and they don't. So I say keep the mountaisn that way, BUT the trees having nicely, evenly separated trunks does not work for me.

I'd say vary them and scruntch them in somewhat to see how that looks. The trees in the earlier 3 you posted do not work for me at all because they look like fuzz stuck on sticks; I'd say blotch them up a bit. I think you may wish to emulate/adapt Jared's maps' tree styles, for they are similar to your maps'; check out this thread: http://www.cartographersguild.com/showthread.php?t=1170

I also do not like in that last island you posted that the mountains appear to sit on top of the trees. This may be fixed, though, when you fix your tree style.

The color scheme you have really appeals to me. Well done! In general, I like your style and what you are building. Very impressive!!