View Full Version : A Relief Map of a Fantasy World

02-18-2011, 10:31 PM
As usual, I got frustrated with my last map, where nothing seemed to be turning out, and due to the method was taking a really long time, especially when I had to redo something big. So it's been shelved, but in the 'I'm returning for you in the summer' folder. However, while playing with that map, I tested out a random idea for creating a quick, nicely detailed map in a different style. Minimal frustration, decent results. So I'm doing it with a map created for that purpose.

First of all, I had to create a base map. I like to use this handy online fractal map generator (http://donjon.bin.sh/world/) I have had bookmarked for years:


Since the elevation here was not terribly useful because my continent is not one giant hill, I had to colour all the land black, and all the water white. Now, since the map was very boxy and had rogue pixels everywhere, it had to be fixed to get a nice shape. I like to do this by creating a new layer and drawing over the map in plain bright red, going over the outlines. It takes less time than it would to go around with a black and white pencil and fill in or erase pixels to clean up the coastlines and polar regions. I'm still moving islands, creating new ones, eliminating 'ghosts' left behind by erased islands, and randomifyizing the coastlines.


Once that was done (mostly, still needs work), I planned out the landforms and climates based on the shape and location of the continents, using Mother Earth as a reference. As a fantasy world, it doesn't have to be plausible, it merely has to appear plausible (unless one adds gods and magic, then no one can argue).


But this is just the beginning. Very rough. Once the map has been prepared and processed it will be quite different.

Its 10:30 pm and I've spent a long time cleaning up the map, so it's time for a break. But I have a long weekend and little work to do, so I can actually finish some good stuff tomorrow.

02-20-2011, 02:06 AM
It has the makings of an intriguing map; the climates you've got set up make sense, and could give rise to some very interesting cultures...

02-20-2011, 07:43 PM
I'm at the repetitive part of the process now, where I generate clouds, add shadows and light spots, and then process it through Wilbur. I have redone the cloud map many times, so for now I'm sticking with what I have.


After the Wilburizing, it has some decent mountains and valleys. If I use a larger map for processing, then the details are too small and get lost with the overlays. But it's certainly better than one giant mountain like the original fractal map. Now, in le Photoshop... For colouring I used an altimetric map's legend I found on wikimedia commons some time ago. First I added a layer containing the ocean to help me keep track of the coastline. Then starting at the darkest pixels near the coastline, I used the non-contiguous paint tool and coloured the map with the colour representing the lowest altitude, moving inward, switching to higher altitude colours as I moved inland.


The coastlines are very pixelated and don't work with the map, but the ocean overlay was just a guide. I coloured everything lower than the coastline with the lowest altitude green. So, to fix the coastline I can just use the eraser on the ocean layer and expand the land outward, or add more blue to move the ocean inward.

Once that's done, I can start on the rivers. Since I used Wilbur, I have a nice guide for inlets and rivers to follow. I don't like to automate the river drawing, because Wilbur likes to make my rivers extremely wide. Besides, by drawing rivers myself, I get a chance to fix topography issues and add little details to naturalize the coasts.

02-20-2011, 10:09 PM
I'm really enjoying this, because I can see not only the progress of the map, but follow how you got there as well. Have some rep.

02-21-2011, 05:05 AM
I'm really enjoying this too! The map is looking great!

02-21-2011, 04:53 PM
Thanks :)

I decided to spend more time than originally planned fixing the coasts. I'm enlarging the map from 4000 pixels wide to 6000 pixels. That way at 100% zoom there won't be any annoyingly pixelated lines. Rivers will also look nice and thin, and won't be too overbearing.

02-23-2011, 03:38 AM
If you want to clean up the coasts, quickly removing the myriad tiny coastal lakes, the pixelization and the odd linear artifacts created by the FWMG terrain algorithm, you can do worse than to adapt Old Guy's Realistic Coastlines tutorial (http://www.cartographersguild.com/showthread.php?9056-Award-Winner-Creating-Realistic-Coastlines).

Start with your ocean mask. Use the magic wand with "contiguous" checked to select the white ocean areas. Shift select any lakes you want to keep. Save your selection to a channel. To round off some of the pixel trash, duplicate the channel and gaussian blur it slightly then use threshold to binarize the result. Better, resample up a little bit with bicubic smoother, then resample back. Or keep working big. Whichever.

The following image was the result(after a bit of experimentation) of three touches of magic wand, saving the resulting channel, upsampling to 2000x1156 with bicubic smooth then downsampling back to 1500x867. The second and third magic wand hit were to save a bit more of that big scrumptious bay in the northwest and the odd lake in the south east. I would follow this with just a touch of painting work to reconnect those two waterbodies to the ocean as god intended. That's about it.

Oh yeah. As you might expect, higher thresholds on the magic wand will tend to produce finer smaller islands while lower thresholds will produce fatter, blobbier islands. Adjust to taste.

EDIT: Photoshop cloud filters provide finer-grained noise at higher image resolutions. It can be nicer, although definitely slower to render very hi-res clouds then downsample the result. GIMP and planetGenesis can produce more detailed clouds for less cost, but I've yet to generate results with either as nice as iterated difference clouds in Photoshop. pG is better and a bit faster than GIMP noise, though.

02-24-2011, 12:53 PM
Yes, danke! I totally forgot about that method. :O Since the water map has to agree with the topo map (which is always a bit off), I still need to edit to avoid having every coastal moutain being cleft in twain or topped with a bay. But it saves a lot of time, since I can fix most areas with a couple clicks.

I've been exhausted the past few days, with insomnia, bronchitis, tests, and essays all making things difficult. But after 6pm tonight I have one week off. I'll get to work on the parts I enjoy most of all - creating the human society that makes the physical world important.

02-24-2011, 01:05 PM
If you don't mind, I think I'll take this into ps again, then over to Wilbur to see what kind of an hf I can gen up.

My sympathies on your health issues, though I'm kind of missin' the whole school thing. A little bit. Very little. Tiny, in fact.

02-28-2011, 02:37 PM
As far as the thread is concerned, the map is complete (though not perfect). I can't seem to upload the full map in proper viewing resolution. The coastlines are improved, draft rivers are in place... I'll upload it in a while at some decent size. As my second relief map ever completed, I call it a success. Room for improvement of course, but a big leap forward from the last one, which is somewhere in my deviantart gallery.

For now, here is a sample region of the map in full resolution (working resolution, larger than one would view the map).


As a 'part 2' of this thread I am thinking about working with the same world, using another style of relief map, based in grayscale with directional lighting to make the bumpy features 'pop'. I've seen it used for some maps showing historical events, like wars in the renaissance. I want to try making one of those on a slightly larger scale than they tend to be used, ie. all of Europe rather than just France. I've found one tutorial that is similar to it (http://www.cartographersguild.com/showthread.php?11273-Realistic-Land-Mountain-Texture-Made-Easy). The fourth image is what I'm referring to. I'm going to do a bit more hunting first, before I jump into it.