View Full Version : Despair

10-19-2010, 03:59 PM
I have lurked on this site for a while now, and have dabbled in map-making for longer, but I am becoming totally disheartened by my lack of artistic talent and computer-related competence. I bought CC3 a few months ago with a view to making the process much easier for me, but even then, my results have been lacklustre compared to the amazing examples I see here and on the profantasy site. I tried and tried with RobA's tute for Gimp, but got exasperated by my inability to follow it. I can't even seem to manage to upload any of my attempts as I'm a technophobic luddite idiot. I am in total awe of you all who can make these beautiful maps and would appreciate any encouragement, as I'm ready to give up.

10-19-2010, 04:18 PM
My first dozen or so computer maps were pretty bad but the main thing was that I was determined to continue and make some good satellite style maps. My attempts took a few years of off-and-on experiments but I eventually got it to a place that I was happy with and that's when I "went public" with it. I've spent about as much time being public as I did being alone in my chair experimenting and I'll say that the time being public has made me so much better than sitting in my chair alone and experimenting. In my case I had a clear goal that I wanted to achieve - "I want to make a map that looks like this and I won't stop until I get it". But I'm obsessive like that and in the end I never achieved the goal but went in a different direction after getting close to what I wanted.

The thing with all software apps, CC3 or Photoshop, is that it's really easy to make crappy maps and as they say "nothing worthwhile is ever attained lightly". The learning curve of the various software can be intimidating but once you get past it it becomes second nature. Think of it like a street fight and don't let the software win. Despair is a natural side effect when one compares oneself to others so don't do it...compare your first map to your tenth map and you'll find that you're doing quite well. :)

10-19-2010, 04:21 PM
Well, the first thing to do then would be to get you to the point where you can successfully upload an image. Step one, when replying to a message, click the "Go Advanced" button in the lower right corner. You'll get a new interface with a lot more buttons.

In the top row of buttons, you'll see third from the right a paperclip icon. Click that icon once and you'll get the Manage Attachments window. In the upper right, you'll see a blue question mark, and below that a button that says "Add Files." Click that one. Yet another window opens.

By default, this window is set to upload files from your computer (you can also set it to transfer an image from another website, but I won't go into that at this time). So in the center bottom of this window is a button that says "Select Files." Click it to get a standard file browser. Browse to your file and choose it. The window will update to show the name of the file you chose, and it adds two buttons to the bottom. One of the new buttons is "Upload Files."

Click that one. Your file will upload and be placed in the Manage Attachments window. Click "Done" in the lower-right corner, and the image will be attached to your message. When you then hit "Submit Reply," the forum software will automatically create a thumbnail, and the file will be displayed at the bottom of your message.

Once you've got that down, upload what you've been working on, and the good posters here will be happy to help you out with it! Trust me: You'll learn so much more that way than you ever could trying to learn the software on your own.

edit: by the way, I just attached a random image I had available to me while I was writing the walkthrough. Pay it no mind.

10-19-2010, 04:45 PM
I was once in the same boat. My maps totally sucked. Now, they still suck... but at least not totally.

I've attached proof! The first image is my first attempt at a regional map. The second is one of my last ones I did for the CWBP. Strangely enough, the first one took longer to do...

Keep at it. You WILL get better, it's almost guaranteed. You've got to upload your works-in-progress though, and listen to the c&c.


10-19-2010, 08:49 PM
Also don't stress over not being able to follow the tutorial. I had the same problem when I was new to Gimp (I felt like I really sucked for not being able to follow it). It was my first venture into digital art so it's little wonder I had a lot to learn. After banging around in Gimp for the last several months I think I could follow a tutorial. I really should go do some of them because I'm sure I'd pick up a few tricks I could add to my collection. Just don't give up. One of the things that helped me when I was bumming about not being able to create what I wanted via software was that I would do a hand sketch, scan that in, and then manipulate it within Gimp (coloring, texturing, etc). If you can't draw that might not work for you but there are still a lot of nice random ways to get terrain.

For now look at every map you do with the goal of learning how one or two things really work. Try to understand them. Eventually you will be able to use all the things you learn to create exactly what you envision. (Or at least pretty close).

Don't give up!

Oh and if you want to see my first image compared to my last (The map is my last completed one and the smeary dragon was my first image):

10-19-2010, 09:10 PM
Yah man, don't worry, It takes a while. In the words of one astute artist, "Talent is the ability to work your ass off."

Since we're comparing first and last maps, I'll show some of my early attempts at cartography. Its amazing how far a few V shaped mountains and some text will go.

10-19-2010, 10:37 PM
I'll echo everyone else. Don't sweat it. My first tries were pretty sorry too. You've got a mini-tut above for how to post images...so start a WiP thread and post your attempt. Maybe we can help you make it better.

Also, if you're just not getting the software, don't fret too much. Get out your pen and paper and have a go with the good old fashioned way. I wasn't having a bit of luck with Photoshop on my city map, Haibianr, so I got out the drawing supplies and just did it, scanned it, and colored it. It ended up being a Cartographer's Choice. Believe me, if I'd stayed digital with it no one would have given it a second look! :)

10-21-2010, 05:53 AM
Thank you all for your support. Here's my latest try at RobA's tute for an artistic regional map. It's the best I've managed so far. God, I'm nervous about posting it, but welcome any c & c

10-21-2010, 06:09 AM
That looks pretty darn good for a first attempt! Well done, and props for 'putting yourself out there.'

10-21-2010, 06:25 AM
Well thats not bad at all. I was expecting a lot worse... something like my first maps.

10-21-2010, 06:51 AM
You also have to really enjoy the process of making the map too, fighting with the software to bend it to your will is challenging, but there are all sorts of interesting avenues you can explore. Experiment and play and enjoy actually making the map rather than fixating on the result. If you don't find the process of drawing maps fun then it's going to be a hard slog, I'm afraid.

Greason Wolfe
10-21-2010, 09:51 AM
I'll echo what others have said as well. That's not bad at all for a first attempt with GIMP. There is quite a learning curve there, and it can be frustrating. I, for instance, am still at the bottom of that curve ( I really need to get more motivated in that department ). As for the whole despair thing, try not to let it get to you. I know it can be frustrating when you work doesn't match the image you have in your head. It certainly is for me. But then I remind myself that if I get at least one piece of my map to look just like I want it, then I've made progress, and just keep plugging away at it until I get it where I want it at the end. My biggest suggestion would be not to place too much of a burden on yourself. Trying to learn everything all at once is darn near impossible, but if you learn a little something with each attempt, eventually you'll get there.


10-21-2010, 10:54 AM
And C&C you shall have. First, I concur that it's not bad at all for a first go. Second, I am not a Gimp user, so I can't offer much help with the software. On to the critique:

Typography: Consider using a consistent rule for where you place your text in relation to the icons. While this map is simple and clear enough that we immediately know which dot each label is referring to, as things get more complex that might not be the case. If the viewer can be lead to know that the label always refers to the icon to its left and a little above, or somesuch, then a larger number of icons and labels will not hurt comprehension. Obviously, that has to take a backseat to revealing features that need to be seen, so you can't always count on a hard-and-fast rule.

The text in the cartouche is a bit funky. (A cartouche, if you haven't run across that term yet, is a box or decoration that often holds information about the map, such as its title or a legend.) "The" appears to be centered, but "Golden" and "Coast" look like they're left-justified. Really, you have a lot of space up there where you've put the title; there's no reason why it shouldn't be all on one line. It's easier to read that way, and you can simply skip the alignment issues. The bevel/emboss effect you've applied to that text is hurting the legibility, and it's at odds with the rest of the map. Everything else appears to be flat, but the title rises up. It looks as though you intended it to appear cut out of the cartouche, like that's a brass plate with holes in it or something. If that's your intent, you need to also bevel the edges of the plate, so that it appear to have the same kind of depth as the text does. Also, in order to improve the legibility, you need to increase the font size, so that the thickness of the lines is significantly larger than the width of the bevel. Oh, and give some thought to the physical reality of the thing. If it is a plate, what keeps the center of the "o" and other such pieces in their places?

Texture: You have very strongly textured lowlands, and a somewhat subtler texture on that plate, but the mountains and the sea are flat. It's common to leave the water untextured, but the mountains really need something to prevent them looking like wax globs. You've got something that's effectively a height map right now—the brightest areas are the highest parts. I don't know if the following will work, but give it a try: Duplicate that layer, select its contents (so you have "marching ants" around the shape of the mountains), and fill the duplicate with a stony texture. Put the duplicate beneath the existing mountain layer and set the top copy to the overlay blend mode. The blend modes modify the pixels of the bottom layer based on the content of the top layer. Overlay works by brightening the areas where the top layer is greater than 50% brightness and darkening the areas where it is less than 50%. Anything that right at 50% is unchanged (the top layer is invisible). Overlay is therefore often used to paint in lighting information by starting with a layer of 50% grey and using the dodge and burn tools to put in highlights and shadows.

Now, I've never been a big fan of the Gimp's cloud noise filter, particularly for texture creation. There are quite a few websites with free textures that you could use. There is a sticky thread in the Mapping Elements forum with links to many of them.

Color choices: The green, ocean blue, and brown are working nicely together. The bright blue of the river, though, is a bit electric. Also, the gradient isn't a good choice. Generally, darker means lower (as with your mountains), so it appears to me as though the river is convex—bulging up in the center. I think the river should match the color of the coastal waters, so that where river meets the sea, they blend together seamlessly.

Genorra is a different color than the other labels.

Well, I've gotta run now, but hopefully that gives you some ideas as to where you can improve. Welcome to the guild, and enjoy yourself!

10-21-2010, 03:09 PM
I'll concur, it is a pretty good first try. I'm not even sure where my first map is but I have more failed than finished. The other thing to think about is what style works for you. I didn't have a lot of success until I stumbled upon the hand drawn style. Also I have had epiphanies on many of the tutorials of how I would do it next time. Next time isn't quite here yet.

Play around with your font selection and you'll get ideas. Try to get in the habit of choosing font sizes and styles to tie the work together, ie one for political features and one for physical features.
Try drawing the rivers into a mask, either separate or with the sea. That tends to look better than just drawing them on top of the land.
Get the Felimage noise plugin. It's better than the standard gimp one.

And most importantly, have fun. Try out some of the techs and see what happens.

10-22-2010, 11:30 AM
I'll Chime in.

Yes I ave heard CC3 is hard, and likely it probably is. I never had a problem with it, not because I am saying I am Great or I am Awesome, but probably because I never sat down with that mindset at the start. When I first picked up Campaign Cartographer, it was just CC2, then it became CC2 Pro and most recently CC3. Nothing has really changed in it's operation, just the features, but at the time, I simply followed the tutorials (draw a circle, draw a square, click the change color, draw another, change the fill, change a layer, select a symbol, change it's attributes. etc.). Sure it was tedious, but well, it lays the initial ground work. And sure my early maps were, well, pretty blah, but again, was simply learning.

That said, I am more than willing to help out anyone who simply asks for help on CC3. Just put CC3 in the post title so I can find/see it easily and I will help you.

Welcome to the Guild!

10-23-2010, 07:41 AM
Two thing I've found that help with overcoming the learning curve:

1. Pick just one software and stick with it until you feel proficient - jumping to new programs before you can use the previous one just makes it a much longer process.
2. Perfect one aspect of mapping at a time - work on coastlines until you're satisfied, then move on to mountains, then forests, then rivers, etc. Your first map doesn't necessarily have to be an award-winner in every respect, but make sure it's really good at one element. Then, when you start your next map, make sure it's really good at two elements. Etc., etc...

10-26-2010, 05:54 PM
Thank you for your feedback, Midgardsorner. I think I need to focus on learning the basics of Gimp and work and work at RobA's tute until I get there. Would posting a WIP of my attempts be useful?

10-26-2010, 06:15 PM
It's always worth it. You never know when someone will say something that you had no idea the software could do when they offer up suggestions.

10-27-2010, 04:12 AM
not bad at all for a first map petermac - now put it (or a new map) in a WIP thread and work slowly towards changing one thing at a time :)
And have some rep for your first upload - lets light up that little green lightbulb ;)

10-27-2010, 08:42 AM
Thank you very much Tilt