View Full Version : World Map Basics

11-15-2007, 04:45 AM
Hi all

I'm trying to get a decent base for a world map I'm putting togther for my new campaign. The idea is to take sections of the world map that are most relevant to the campaign events, magnify them and add more detail. To start with I want a simple but large map with continents and seas labelled, and only major topography included. This is my effort so far. Please give any comments, advice or criticism.


11-15-2007, 05:33 AM
Wow! What method did you use to create it? In particular, how did you get the stroke on the coastline? The colour choices are stunning and the coast fractalisation and land mass distribution is really believeable. What sort of scale were you aiming for?

The only thing is the mountains where you've got the plateau effect going (which suggests clippling on the heightmap), but it's a really minor quibble.

Did you do this in Gimp? I can't wait to see more.

You know, this is one, when you've got it finished, to definitely consider professionally printing.


11-15-2007, 06:41 AM
Hi Ravs

Thanks for the kind words. Its all done in GIMP, but the height field is done using Terranoise (Thanks Arcana for posting it). The heightfield is essential because its used on almost every layer.

First I colour select an area in the sea, udjusting the threshhold to get the right amount. I then paste that selection over a new layer containing the land texture and clear the selected area. The land texture is actually a very blurred and colourised version of the farmland texture that you posted. Its had a few noise brushes painted over it.

The sea is a layer below that is simply done using the Filters-Render-Clouds-Plasma, which creates a muli-coloured noise pattern and then colourising it to blue.

The stroke on the coastline is simply that, a 0.7 pix wide solid black stroke following the line of the selection taken from the heightfield, on its own layer.

I then applied height fields three times, firstly to the surface texture. Then I copy a section from the heightfield using the colour select with some feathering, to correspond with the middle ranges in height and paste this to its own layer. Ajust the colour levels to the selection ranges from black to white again. Another layer is used with the same selected area, filled with a brownish rock texture and then the new height field is used to bump map it. The process is repeated for the highest areas using a grey rock texture. Before applying the bump map some lowering of each layer's opacity may be necessary.

After reading and following RobA's Gimp tutorial I also make a black/white layer from the land selection, just in case. You never know when you might need a layer mask, but I havn't needed one so far on this map.

As to scale, I dont know. Big man, really big! I suppose it should be roughly half the size of the surface area of the earth.


11-15-2007, 07:20 AM
Wow, absolutely awesome, Torq. I love the style.

This is a section from a world-map? If so, can we see the whole world-map? I always like to know how to position detailmaps in the whole picture ;)

11-15-2007, 08:03 AM
Sorry Eilathen, but this is as scaled out as it gets. I suppose it cant be the whole world because it doesn't link up with itself, but I haven't done anything with a wider lens. Thanks for the compliments though.


11-15-2007, 09:05 AM
This is awesome, Torq! Can't wait to see more!

11-15-2007, 01:52 PM
It has a very relaxing palette. Also, the mountain scale works well with the area you cover - not over extended, at all.

-Rob A>

11-15-2007, 03:24 PM
I like the colors that you have used also. I do have to agree that the mountains, and even some of the hills have a bit of a plateauing look to them. However, I do love the textures, it gives a feeling to the contours of the land.

Great job so far!

11-16-2007, 04:34 AM
Here is a more detailed look at the Nort-Western section of the world map. The same technique and the same height map have been used to show more topographical detail, hopefully this has been done better this time and will get rid of the plateau effect some of you picked up.


11-16-2007, 05:54 AM
Oh my word! Looks utterly beautiful. I really like the way you've got those subtle folds of land on the plains. The mountains look a lot better too!

Even though this is a 'realistic' map, there is something really painterly about it - I love the way you have captured that feel.


11-16-2007, 09:23 AM
The only concern I have is that there are no rivers, without them you have multiple salt lakes. Of course, if the water on your world is drying up (Barsoom!) then the lack of rivers is less a problem BUT there would still be old river beds (unless the water loss was very rapid).

Stunning map though, I look forward to watching its development.

11-17-2007, 12:14 PM
This is just amazing work, Torq!

I really gots to learn the GIMP I'm telling yous.

11-18-2007, 12:23 PM
Naryt your concern about the rivers is well placed. I find that I am capable of putting maps together in most respects, except when it comes to rivers. I just dont seem to be able to get them right. Do I cut them out of the land layer? Do I draw them over the land layer? Do I stroke the river outline like the coast? On a map of this scale should rivers even be visible at all? I am really asking for help from anyone regarding any one of these plaintiff requests. I will try anything.


11-18-2007, 09:11 PM
In my experience, rivers would NOT be visible in an aerial photo of that scale (just figure out what one pixel equates to), but must be shown on a MAP.

Remember, maps are not photos, and the intent of a map is to convey information!

I have both cut maps out of the land (like in my GIMP tutorial) and drawn them on top (in my Niagara map) and I think drawing them on top gives the most flexibility in that they are not destructive (though by just erasing them via a layer mask they aren't destructive anyway.....)

I also do not stroke rivers, because it makes them look too fat in most cases. I get the best results with a tablet, and setting it to vary the brush size with pen weight. I can start up in highlands with a light stroke and carry it down to the ocean/lake with a increasingly heavy stroke.

I also like to apply a slight pillow emboss to make them look "set-in"

-Rob A>

11-19-2007, 10:15 AM
This view is great. The mountains and hills look a whole lot better. I do agree with showing the rivers though. It just looks better when you are looking at what is supposed to be a map.

11-19-2007, 10:54 AM
the height field is done using Terranoise (Thanks Arcana for posting it). The heightfield is essential because its used on almost every layer.


What were your Terranoise settings? I couldn't get anything decent like this while playing around...

-Rob A>

11-19-2007, 11:44 AM
I love this style of map - its a direction in map creation that I'd like to master myself. Just my luck, everybody (Ravs, anyway) wants me to produce only hand drawn maps - when this map you have is exactly the kind of stuff I want to produce. I can't create maps like this by hand.

As far as "Painterly" - I draw, I hate to paint and don't do it. So the only way to achieve a painterly look for me is using software.

Great job, Torq!

11-20-2007, 02:12 AM
Thanks for all the kind words. RobA, here is a screenshot of the terranoise settings. Its two heightfields, billow and ridged multi, combined using an "add" combiner between them. with a bit of tweaking on the levels.


11-20-2007, 10:04 AM

That gives me a better idea.

(too bad that it does not support spherical mapping, eh?)

-Rob A>

11-20-2007, 10:19 AM
I think it does support spherical mapping, by way of the small icons at the top of the screen.

Here is my attempt at the rivers. I tried doing them in Gimp but didn't like them at all, so I switched to Inkscape and traced the paths. I couldn't get them to work, following RobA's advice becasue nothing seemed to fit with the black stroke around the continents and lakes, it just didn't blend in. Even tried the slight pillow emboss, but that seemed to alter the colour too much. Anyway, this is what I settled on. Please feel free to give comments.


11-20-2007, 11:18 AM
Here is an example of the pillow emboss (I just used all the blue as a start, so it was applied to the water bodies as well...just pretend it is only on the rivers :) )


I made a copy of the rivers as black on white. Applied a 15 px blur.
I then created a new 50% grey layer, and bump mapped this layer using the blurred river copy. Change the blend mode of this layer to overlay.

I also duplicated the overlay layer to emphasize the effect more (but could also have done it by increasing the bump depth when applying the bump map).

This gives the look of a river valley around the river, size determined by the blur amount.

-Rob A>

11-20-2007, 03:08 PM
I just want to chime in here with my first post to show you a entire planet using this process. This style is so unique I had to step up and show you. This was done with almost the same settings Torq used, just different seeds and of course the world icon pressed.

11-20-2007, 05:10 PM
Cool Bohunk! Nice one!

11-22-2007, 06:05 AM
Thanks RobA. I used your method on the rivers, as you can see, and I'm very happy with the result. Here is the map with some of the details from the history of my campaign.


11-22-2007, 09:16 AM
No problem! I like that look on rivers myself.

And to critical, the Ezo Tezat text is blurry :)

-Rob A>

11-22-2007, 12:19 PM
The rivers appear very smooth in comparison to the coastlines. I can't help thinking of enormous water slides!

The emboss works well, though--this is a beautiful map, and I'm looking forward to further refinements.

The Cartographist
11-26-2007, 05:36 PM
No. Seriously. WOW.