View Full Version : [Award Winner] Hand-Drawn Mapping (for the Artistically Challenged)

06-05-2010, 02:42 AM
I got a request to do a tutorial of how I did the Velaedin Empire map; here it is in all its (very long) glory. While the tutorial is long, it shouldn't take more than a few hours to go through the entire thing. I'm actually quite jealous of folks who use it, as I didn't discover many of the time-saving techniques in here until I had already spent months on the original. Such is life ;)

The end result sample map (using entirely the time-saving "cheater" methods in the tut), the tut itself, and the brushes needed are attached.

Note: To get the guild site to accept it, I had to give it a huge compression factor. A lossless version (42MB) is available at my DropBox site, here (http://dl.dropbox.com/u/2913734/handdrawn-fullres.pdf).

//Edit: Some credits (in the pdf, but I also should put them in the post): I used Ironmetal250's awesome hand-drawn elements tut (http://www.cartographersguild.com/showthread.php?5664-Award-Winner-Hand-drawn-mtns.-and-other-stylistic-map-elements-for-use-in-PS-GIMP) and RobA's awesome weathered-parchment tut (http://www.cartographersguild.com/showthread.php?533-Tutorial-Creating-old-weathered-paper-using-the-Gimp) for some of the techniques herein. Thanks so much to both of you for sharing your expertise!

06-05-2010, 03:09 AM
Very nice tutorial Gidde, great work.. and lots of pages ;) have some R&R :)

EDIT: gotta spread some love around - so its one R only ;)

06-05-2010, 05:15 AM
Thanks for sharing. I will add it to my TODO list :).

06-07-2010, 01:34 PM
Great tut, Gidde!

A couple of things that might either make life better or worse, depending on your perspective.

in Step 5 (page 16)

Right-click on the Mountains layer (which should be directly above Mountain Shading) and click Merge Down. Now we have one layer that has both the mountains and their shading on it. To make sure, hide the Mountain Shading layer and the whole kit and kaboodle should disappear. Unhide it, and make all of the white transparent (Layer Transparency Color to Alpha). The Color → → to Alpha defaults to white, so click ok

Try just changing the layer mode of the merged down layer to multiply. This will have the same effect as the Colour to Alpha step. The only real advantage to this is that by keeping the mountains on their own layer and white filled, you can add more mountains later that block out other mountains using the brush in normal mode, or behind by setting the brush mode to behind!

Also, I'm sure it has been mentioned, but when you get to labeling (page 26) Inkscape is a great (free) option for labeling far easier and with many more options than gimp.

Lastly, I like the ink bleed method. I usually generate a plasma map and displace using that, but this seems much easier. Thanks for the tip!

-Rob A>

06-07-2010, 06:00 PM
Thanks for the wonderfully detailed comments, RobA! You're totally right, I should have mentioned Inkscape. It didn't even occur to me at the time since Inkscape and I don't get along well at all, lol. As for the mountain layer, I had toyed with the idea of making it darken-only for that same reason, but I didn't even know Behind mode existed! You truly are the Gimp-maestro. I'll post up a couple of corrections soon :)

06-09-2010, 08:09 PM
The pdf in the top post has been revised to incorporate RobA's suggestions. Thanks again, RobA!

06-10-2010, 05:03 PM
Great tutorial, Gidde. It was really clear and easy to follow, and taught me a bunch of new tricks I'll have to remember for the future. I've used it to put together my first regional map for my campaign, which is based on an existing map (at http://vargoth.com/northmoor/map/). I haven't bled the roads or cities yet, nor have I added any labels (I'm still deciding on most of them).

Thanks for the tute!

06-10-2010, 06:20 PM
Nice work, and glad you found the tut useful!

06-10-2010, 10:07 PM
Oh, one suggestion I forgot to mention - since my lake was included as part of the sea channel, it received the same color treatment. The 15px stroke/50px blur turned out to be too much for it, and I ended up breaking it out into a separate layer with a 10px stroke & 20px (ish?) blur, though the exact values would depend mostly on the size of the lake itself. You might want to make a note of that - I noticed the sample map didn't include any lakes.

06-11-2010, 12:04 AM
Ah, that's a good point. The map I had based it on had a couple and that's how I treated them, but they were pretty big, so that could be why it worked for them. The good news is that you knew what to do when the tut didn't quite fit your map :)

Edit: Bonked you as well, for posting your first map :)

06-26-2010, 09:31 AM
This is a great tutorial but I wanted to clarify the bleed process. What do you mean by ink in that step? By that step I pretty much have all of my "ink" merged into one layer. So roads, rivers, cities , all features are "ink" at that point. The bleed also made the hard to read labels even harder to read over features (mountains). I have spent a lot of time bootstrapping Inkscape for the labels, I might just go back to GIMP to rework them, but RobA's link for http://screencasters.heathenx.org/ is a must see if you want to learn how to use inkscape.

06-26-2010, 10:05 AM
I used a version of Gidde's Ink Bleed technique on a few of my works now. Duplicate the layer, blur it a few px (5 or less) then set the opacity to somewhere around 50-70%. That makes the ink look like it's gone to the "right place" but "bled" marginally into the paper around it like a good liquid ink would, especially since metal nibs can (and do) lightly mark the paper when they are very fine.
Check out my Big WIP Project Neoseilthir in the Regional/World Mapping section.

06-26-2010, 10:47 AM
@ Hohum: the method I use for ink bleeding actually depends upon you having merged them all onto one layer (you can do it still separate, but it makes a LOT of extra layers). Basically you name that merged layer Ink, and duplicate it a few times, which makes names like "Ink Copy" etc. If I'm talking about "inking" something, I mean using the Ink tool. If I'm talking about "all the ink" I mean exactly what you just described; all of the black lines/features etc. If your labels are hard to read afterward, you may be forgetting to leave the original ink layer alone (albeit changing opacity/mode); it should still be there showing where the original pen marks were, as Jugg described.

06-26-2010, 02:02 PM
Thanks guys. @Juggernaut, I have been admiring your progress on Neoseilthir. My map is going to be somewhat in that vein. @Gidde, yeah I merged them all so I have it right. It is as I feared, my font choice/ placement etc is what the real issue is. I may just do the labels in GIMP as I am struggling with paths in inkscape. Any how I need to redo my rivers and fix a few city icons. The good part is I save everything so it won't be too hard to back track. I also want to give you kudos for the coloring technique, it looks great. In trying to make my mountain names more ledgible I used that technique using white and it worked except for the bleed layers being on top of it. I hope to post something soon. Oh yeah have some rep.

08-08-2010, 01:49 PM

Please I need some help. Several days I try to do this tut, but everytime I failed :(
No I'm at the same point as with the last try and I dunno why I'm wrong?

Can anyone have a look at the Screens and help me out?? :?:
The first describe what I should do.. and last last 2 screens show what is going on if I try this..



08-08-2010, 03:21 PM
It looks like you either drew a lot of your stuff directly on the background layer, or merged at some point by accident. No worries though, it's pretty easily fixed. Just make ALL of your layers visible, flatten the image, and then set your transparency to ignore any white (Layers -> Transparency -> Color to Alpha -- which will defaut to white so you'll be all set). Looking good so far!

08-08-2010, 04:32 PM
Hi Gidde,

thanks for your help. I tought the same but my background is empty, and I tried it now second times. :?:
Attached a screen from my "background".

I'd tried your way. But if I do this is every layer will be merged.
In your tut there is merge except Rivers, base, and background.

May I have another hint? :)


08-08-2010, 07:16 PM
Hmm ... maybe all your stuff is on your rivers layer. It's gotta be on one of the layers you're hiding. What I'd do is to still merge everything and do the transparency trick - that way you at least haven't lost all the work on your mountains and stuff. Then make a separate layer for rivers and trace over your old ones on the new layer. Then you can do the rivers step with the new layer, but delete it instead of merging it afterwards.

The key is to be really careful with which layer you're on at any given time; I constantly catch myself working on the wrong layer, it's really easy to do.

08-09-2010, 02:21 AM
I know what you mean, I catch myself doing the same... and not only once. But here... hm?
On all of the layer include exactly that what shoud be on..
Cities - only the few dots.
Roads - The realistic looking roads.
Foreast - The Forest and the shading
Mountains - The Mountains and the shading
Hills - The Hills and the shading
Rivers - my beautiful pink rivers..
Coastline - the first line a drew here..
And last is the background...

The 3 colored areas are already deleted.
Foreast, Hills and Mountains are switched to the multiple mode.

If I hide the Rivers, Coastline and the Background, I cannot see the hills, mountains and the forest. Thats wired.
Only if the background is shown I can see these as well.. But they are not at the background.
really strange -.-

My it be that I've done something wrong with the hills, mnts, forest and with they shaders? Maybe I merged in the wrong direction?
Forest Shaders -> Foreast
Foreast -> Forest Shaders

Because in you tut you have the ... shaders at the end.
In my try I have the "real layers".

grr, this is pain in the ass!!


08-09-2010, 08:55 AM
Aha! Yosh, you found a bug in the tut! It's because they're on multiply. It's something I changed to solve a problem someone was having and this step should be changed too. I'll fix it later tonight in the actual tut, but this step should have you keep Background visible before the merge, merge and then do the transparency routine i mentioned earlier.

Thanks for helping me figure it out so it could be fixed!

08-09-2010, 09:14 AM
You're welcome :)

I would never expect that I could help someone with your knowledge :D
Unfortunately I have to do the whole tut again because I've no saved map before I've done the merge.
Anyway it's a good exercise for me. Slowly but surely I'm going to be a Pro ;)


btw: I have the same issue with the orange roads as you ...

08-11-2010, 10:49 PM

First of all, many thanks for putting this together. This is helping me immensely in putting together a map for my yet-to-be-started book. lol.

I am having a problems with the rivers though. The script only seems to fill in the first 'river' i draw. Do I have to start a new layer for each river on the map? I tried adding multiple paths to the same layer and then running the script too. No joy. any advice?

Thanks a million

08-12-2010, 10:37 AM
I believe that if you are using RobA's tapered stroke path script it will only do one path at a time. So each river, even each branch has to be done separately. One thing you might take a look at is which path is selected in the paths dialog. You should be able to do as many paths as you want in one layer and then run the script on each one. I just ended up using the ink tool with little to no flow settings and started at 1 and went to 3.5 px or so in 0.5 px gradations to the sea. My map is here (http://www.cartographersguild.com/showthread.php?11335-Linlandia-Hand-Drawn-Style) for reference.

08-12-2010, 08:41 PM
Hey! This tutorial is awesome! Great work! Ive only had one problem though... Ive been able to follow all the steps easily and successfully untill page 31 with the river color. I get confused at this part:

"Switch to the channels dialog and grab the Borders layer as a selection. Switch back to the layers dialog and select
the mask for the River Color layer. Fill the selection with black."

What do you mean with "grab the Borders layer as a selection"? And i get even more confused at

"Now switch back to the channels dialog and pick up the Rivers channel as a selection." Ive looked back a number of times now and i cant find a place where we made a Rivers channel. Im new to all of this so i havent had luck making my own. If you could help i would be forever grateful. Thanks.

08-12-2010, 09:48 PM

Many thanks. will give it a spin. Awesome map, btw.

08-13-2010, 11:36 AM
@ Gothmog: Go to the channels tab, select the Border Channel, Right click and select "Channel to Selection" from the drop down menu. This should give you a selection that covers the border area. You then need to go back to the "River Color Layer", not Channel, make sure you are selecting the "Mask" and fill the selection with Black. Then you should have a "River" Mask in your channels tab. Repeat the right click selection thing. Oh I see now, when you made your rivers layer, Black on white or whatever, all you need to do is select the rivers by color select or however you like and then go to the Select Menu and "Save to Channel" hope that helps.

@ BernieB: Thanks and good luck.

08-13-2010, 05:41 PM
@hohum: trying the ink tool now. do you have a tablet, or did you just mouse them in? I'm new to GIMP and can't really figure out where to enter the grade of the river. Thanks.

08-13-2010, 06:44 PM
I bought a cheap tablet from newegg.com, Genius is the brand, it seems to work okay. I just played with the ink settings, flow etc. but started at the top with 1px and just colored down the line adjusting as I felt was necessary. If you haven't done it, really zoom in, at least 200% to do this. I often zoom in to 400% to get things the way I want around the edges or at joins between brush/nib sizes.

08-16-2010, 12:42 PM
Alright Gents,

I hit a roadblock (due to my own ignorance!). I completely skipped over the adding "sea channel" and now that I am trying to add color to my water, it's changing the whole map. Am I at a loss here and have to start over, or is there any way to revive my map? THanks.

08-16-2010, 01:00 PM
So, luckily I have saved my map at intervals and was able to go back and recreate needed channel in older version. Only problem is I can't figure out a way to import it into newer version. lol. Any suggestions?

08-16-2010, 01:13 PM
Found resolution for my idiocy here: http://lists.xcf.berkeley.edu/lists/gimp-user/2007-February/009613.html Thanks.

08-16-2010, 01:22 PM
Not sure of your particulars but you should be able to open both files, select the layer (in the layer stack by clicking and in the drawing window by hitting Ctrl-A) and copy it, move to your working file and paste. If you can't open both files for some reason (too big or whatever) just delete everything but the layer you want to copy and save the file as a new one. Then you can either open both files and do the process I suggested above or you can try the Place function (under the File menu, I believe). Hope that helps.

06-29-2011, 09:03 PM
Just read through this tut Gidde; really nicely done (very easy to follow). Repped & rated.


08-25-2011, 11:35 AM
Great tutorial, however I have stumbled upon the same problem as yosherl mentioned earlier. I looked at your replies, but I am a little confused.

but this step should have you keep Background visible before the merge, merge and then do the transparency routine i mentioned earlier.

When you say before the merge, do you mean the merging of the (for example) Hills and Hill Shading or the merging of City, Roads, Hill Shading, Forest Shading, and Mountain Shading?
Also you mention that you would edit this into the tutorial, not to sound rude but have you done it?
Again thanks for the tutorial, I have been able to make my map look better than I thought possible

08-25-2011, 12:18 PM
Gidde has been away from the guild for some time now, I'm sure once she returns she will edit her tutorial to reflect questions etc :)

11-09-2011, 01:43 PM
Hi fellows,

I'm having some problems right now. I was following the instructions in the tutorial (it is very clear and easy to follow for a gimp beginner, even for a non-native english speaker!) and I'm stuck in the border section. My problem is when I merge all the visible layers, If I hide the background layer then all the rest of the layers dissapear! (the shading layers only-mountains, hills and forests) What I'm doing wrong? Maybe is a problem of missundertanding but I feel so anxious because the results are being awesome!

Thanks in advance.


11-10-2011, 09:55 AM
Well.. I don't know what part you are at, but if the layers above the "background" layer have a layermode other than "normal", this is correct. Layer Modes "modify" the way the below layer's look... if you hide that below layer, there is nothing to modify!!! Other than that, I guess we need more information.

11-11-2011, 10:51 AM
I'm in the beginning of the Borders section, I think is pg. 23 in the pdf. I'm going to try to modify the layers to normal (multiply at the moment) maybe that could be the problem.

Thank you very much.


And as you were saying, the problem was that, the layermode, :). Thank you and I will upload the results soon!

11-11-2011, 05:06 PM
Really? That doesn't seem like desirable behavior to me. If you have a layer with a blendmode turned on and nothing underneath it, then you should just see that layer unmodified. Do you get the same result if you use Screen or one of the other additive modes?

12-01-2011, 01:56 PM

This is the map I've done following the tutorial. Actually, is my first map (well, my first not really hand drawn). Well, what can I say? Not bad, really? hehe.

12-05-2011, 11:07 PM
I to used this tut to create a map and I felt it was easy to follow and use. I did have a couple of problems here and there but overall I came to really like it.

05-14-2012, 10:24 AM
This is a tutorial everybody new to mapping should read. Great work.

05-14-2012, 11:07 AM
Thank you for the feedback!

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

05-25-2012, 06:47 PM
Hi Gidde! After many hours I've completed the map according to your tutorial. It turns out to be far more better than I expected. A great tutorial, thanks!

But I have 2 problems, which probably originate from my unperfect english. Here are my problems.

First, about the labels. I couldn't understand how I can erase the area under the labels, can you give me more spesific details. Because I didn't understand the instruction, I drew white semi opac lines with a wide fuzzy paintbrush, but it looks very bad now :/ .

Second, the same thing happened when I was trying to finalize the rivers too.

"Switch to the channels dialog and grab the Border layer as a selection. Switch back to the layers dialog and select
the mask for the River Color layer. Fill the selection with black. Now switch back to the channels dialog and pick up the Rivers channel as a selection. Switch back to the layers dialog, select the River color layer."

I couldn't understand this part :/ What do you mean by "grab the Border layer as a selection" ? I don't know if it is too much but can you give me more detailed explanation about this part that I quoted? A step by step instruction like you did at the first steps of the tutorial.

And here is my map, you can see what I was trying to say as soon as you open the file :)


05-26-2012, 12:19 PM
Ok, first the channels part. I've attached a screenshot with some pictorial instructions on grabbing a channel as a selection, hopefully that will clear that part up.

For erasing the stuff under the labels, you need to put a layer mask on the layer that has your mountains, forests, etc. (it should all be merged at this point, I believe). Layer -> Mask -> Add Layer Mask ... then select Full Opacity.

Then make sure you have that *mask* selected (click on the mask thumbnail which is to the right of your layer and should be totally white) and paint in *black* on the mask. This will make the stuff you're painting over "disappear" without actually deleting the data it represents (in case you change your mind).

Layer masks are integral for mapping; jfrazierjr has an excellent tutorial on using them here (http://www.cartographersguild.com/showthread.php?t=3143). You might want to take a detour and go through that before you continue.

Hope this helps!

05-26-2012, 02:35 PM
That's wonderful thank you, it will help me a lot. You're an excellent instructor :)

07-03-2012, 06:56 PM
I just wanted to give my thanks for this tutorial. The style of maps it creates is absolutely incredible, and matches what I had in my mind's eye almost perfectly.

07-07-2012, 12:59 PM
You're welcome, and thanks for the kind words!

Seleucus I
07-17-2012, 07:02 PM
Hey Giddes,

First off, thanks for the tutorial; I'm planning on making several maps in this vein and its nice to have some steps to follow. Also, while reading through, I realized that I think I can fix a problem you were having. On page 21 of the pdf when talking about stroking selections, you mention that:
"For some reason, every time I did this, my stroke came out orange. No idea why."
The reason why is revealed in the screenshot that accompanies the pdf on page 21. There, you have the "Pattern" circle selected. While you probably thought this indicated that you wanted to stroke the selection with your own, user defined pattern, what this instead indicates to GIMP is that you want to stroke the path with a patterned texture instead of a solid color. And the default pattern selected is an orangeish wood grain. I have made this mistake several times in the past as well, and while it is frustrating, is easily fixable.
All the best,

07-18-2012, 01:28 AM
You're welcome, and thanks!

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

08-17-2012, 12:42 AM
Thank you so much for this Tutorial Gidde! This is my favorite style of map, and I just finished my very first map, for my new d&d campaign. I couldn't have done it without your tutorial!

First Map: The Kingdom of Eleseen!

08-19-2012, 12:14 PM
This is just awesome! Thanks for popping my eyes open. This is how I will be making my maps henceforth. :D

08-31-2012, 08:49 AM
With every new map that gets made with this tutorial it becomes more obvious: this is simply one of the best map tuts ever made!

Yusaku Asano
09-12-2012, 05:39 PM
Gidde with your tutorial someone can make incredible maps! However since i don't use gimp is possible you or anyone else to make a photoshop version of this tutorial?

Anyway, the maps here are really awesome :)

04-09-2013, 10:35 AM
Hey there! I really loved your tutorial "Hand Drawn Map Tutorial (for the artistically challenged)". It really made GIMP easy for me. I downloaded the program for the purpose of map making but it was so damn complicated and none of the tutorials online hit home until I saw yours. It was really easy making maps your way.
I e-mailed to bother you of a problem I seem to face. At the point when we are merging all the visible layers keeping 'river', 'coastline' and 'background' invisible, my map isn't turning out as planned. On merging the layers the image becomes grey with only rivers and coastline visible. All the mountains,hills and forests just vanish. I don't know what to do since I'm new to the program. I was hoping you could help and guide me around this problem, if it isn't too much trouble.

Thanks a bunch!
Hope to hear from you soon!


04-18-2014, 07:51 PM
Thank you for this amazing tutorial, it helped me a lot.

I'll try to make some brushes too, very fun to play with them.

Here's the result:

07-11-2014, 11:36 PM
*SQUEE* Thank you, thank you, thank you! This is EXACTLY the style of map I want to create for one of my campaigns! You just absolutely made my day! Great tutorial!

You are my hero :)

12-07-2014, 07:35 AM
Here is my first effort with this tutorial :-)

Thanks so much for sharing this for us all to benefit from - I never thought I would be capable of something like this - and without you taking the effort to document the process I would not be!


12-07-2014, 07:45 AM
The only part of this excellent tutorial that confused me was where Gidde changed an earlier step to set a layer mode to multiply, which caused the steps on page 23 to not function correctly. Gidde corrected this step in the thread above - I have included this in the attached PDF using Gidde's instructions in the thread so that a complete PDF is available if anyone would like it.

Basically the only change is to keep the background layer visible at this point in the tutorial and convert all white to transparency after the merge.

Gidde I hope you dont mind me modifying your PDF for this step?


12-14-2014, 07:43 AM
Great tutorial. I just tried it mostly in order to improve my GIMP knowledge.
It went rather well (I didn't understand why at some point the layers mode had to be set to multiply but I did it anyway).

But I got utterly lost in the Border section.
What is the purpose ? Just to draw a black rectangle around the image ? If so why not simply draw a black rectangle ?
Anyway I followed blindly up to page 25 without really seeing what was happening because the black and yellow image outline is hiding whatever happens on the edge.

Then I had to stop at "Make horizontal and vertical guides that line up with the border by clicking and dragging ... "
What border ? The black and yellow outline ? What should I drag from where ? What is the purpose ?

I know that this is due to the fact that I have never used the GIMP guides yet but could somebody better versed with GIMP than me explain in a simple manner what I am supposed to do and why ?

12-15-2014, 02:35 PM
You'll probably see the reason for the multiply blend mode if you go into your layer stack and change one or two of them back to normal.

Typically, multiply is used to turn white areas of a layer transparent, so the background texture will show through. It's pretty common with a stamp-based isometric workflow because if you're just using brushes, then all the white areas of the brush will be transparent. When you layer them on top of each other, you'll still see the lines from brushes at the back showing through. If you instead use a stamp where the background is actually white, though, you can layer things so that they occlude one another naturally. Then you set the layer to multiply so that the white vanishes, leaving only the lines you want to see.

I haven't read this tutorial, so I don't know if that's the case here, but it's the style of map where that approach usually works well.

It's also useful if you've got an element that you drew on paper and scanned. Just put it over your image and set to multiply, and you'll have wonderfully blended lines. When I made my first map, I tried to delete all of the white areas, and it did not work out so well. Plus it took a really long time. If only I'd known I could get the same result with a single switch!