View Full Version : Nonameland - An attempt

11-12-2011, 10:17 AM
Whilst I have been lurking here for a good while this is my first started thread as I wanted to try and get a map to a level where I can call it finished - so this is my first map post!

I'm going to be following a tutorial by Rpgmapmaker (http://www.cartographersguild.com/showthread.php?9911-Photoshop-7-Overworld-Map-Project) to create this map, but so far I have followed part of a Jezelf tutorial (http://www.cartographersguild.com/showthread.php?2557-Award-Winner-Making-maps-in-Photoshop&highlight=jezelf) to create this basic alpha map sketch of the landmasses I'm going to embellish.


So far I haven't gotten far, here is the map coloured and stroked


I'm not particularly choosy for the shape and layout of the landmasses for this little project but needed to do a little tidy-up of some of the coastal areas and remove some tiny lakes (these will be added differently later) to leave me at this stage:


The red area was originally a large lake that is very close to the coast. It seemed unrealistic to have such a large body of lake-water separated from it's ocean brother by such a small strip of land so I opened up a channel to allow it to flow out to the sea (or become part of the ocean as it is now). But I'm not entirely happy with it, I'd quite like it as a lake. So I'm asking for the advice of the experts: should I move the lake further away from the shoreline? Or would some sort of large river exiting the lake and feeding the sea be acceptable? (I can't figure out a way this would happen) Of course, I could leave the land as it is now, I did a quick textured stroke-map to see it in a different way:


Now, when drawn like this the lake becoming part ocean seems like the best way. I'm not drawing the map like this though, it was only to see what it would look like to help make a decision :?:

Anyhow, any opinions on what to do with the water in the red would be gratefully received. As I say I'm not overly concerned with how the land shapes end up but this little query seemed to burst out of the canvas demanding an answer!

11-12-2011, 10:36 AM
Well ... it could be a lake, but there would need to be a major mountain chain or some kind of tectonic activity separating it from the ocean ... or, it *could* be magic! :)

11-12-2011, 10:44 AM
Thanks for the reply Lukc! Yeah, I'm not keen on the 'magic' solution to things either! I think it's going to stay as part of the ocean as it is now, although there is no scale at all at the present so it could even be an inland sea with a 'chunky' outlet, either way this project is purely aesthetic so I think it'll stay as it is, I might need to shave a little of the promontory on the South shore though.

11-12-2011, 10:58 AM
The Black Sea is analogous to your lake. When the Turkish Straits didn't connect the sea to the mediterranean it was just a large lake, but now it's a stratified sea. The fresh river water flows over the denser salt water from the mediterranean. This stratification stops the upper and lower layers from mixing, and ensures that only the top layer of water has significant levels of oxygen. Makes for very well preserved sunken ruins, and in a fantasy world perhaps very alien anoxic lifeforms.

Anyways I say keep it as a lake. Could be the ocean water just broke through into the lake basin a few thousand years ago. In this case the "river" or straits will often flow backwards.

11-12-2011, 11:25 AM
Thanks Akerbeltz, just the sort of thing I was after! I'd thought I'd seen something like this in a map of Eastern Africa (although I might be thinking of Lake Victoria which is further inland) but maybe I didn't. I've just zoomed in to have a look at Istanbul, just so I've got this right, the Black Sea exits through Istanbul to the Sea of Marmara and from there out to the Aegean and then the Med? And just so my geographical knowledge is sound: there can be no other exits from the Black Sea? Just the same as a lake?

11-12-2011, 12:45 PM
There's also Lake Pontchartrain (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lake_Pontchartrain) as an example - there one certainly doesn't need mountains! It's not purely a lake, since there's some mixing of seawater, but neither is it purely an embayment off the Gulf of Mexico - its salinity varies from negligible at one end to about half that of seawater at the other end. Since you don't have any of your topography defined yet you could set up a similar situation with a large river mouth nearby, whose sediments have blocked off or mostly blocked off ocean access.

11-12-2011, 01:34 PM
Thanks Akerbeltz, just the sort of thing I was after! I'd thought I'd seen something like this in a map of Eastern Africa (although I might be thinking of Lake Victoria which is further inland) but maybe I didn't. I've just zoomed in to have a look at Istanbul, just so I've got this right, the Black Sea exits through Istanbul to the Sea of Marmara and from there out to the Aegean and then the Med? And just so my geographical knowledge is sound: there can be no other exits from the Black Sea? Just the same as a lake?Right, it flows through the Bosphorus into Marmara and then through the Dardenelles into the Aegean. There straits act very much like rivers at first glance, the surface current flows from the Black Sea to the Med, but then there's an undercurrent which flows the opposite way. Tidal shifts can cause very quick changes in the currents, which has always made the straits treacherous to pass through.

If you want your sea to function like the Black Sea then it must have only one exit point as far as I understand it. With multiple exits or a larger exit it would be more of an estuary, which would also be a very fine explanation.

11-12-2011, 09:32 PM
Divers have found burial mounds and proof that native Americans lived in the basin of the San Francisco/San Pablo bay system here in California. They surmise that the area would pick up it's share of fresh water from streams and rainfall and that some time ago an earthquake split the area of the present day Golden Gate. Once the deluge started, the constant pounding of the Pacific Ocean filled the bay. Subsequent earthquakes diverted the Russian, American and San Joaquin rivers into the SF Bay Area.

Those inland seas on your maps can be virtual gold mines of adventure for underwater campaigns.

11-13-2011, 01:14 PM
Thanks for all the good advices, I've altered it so that it is back as a separate body of water as well as touching up a couple of the smaller islands on the map.


I'll probably use a large river to attach it to the sea and place a river delta nearby. I'm not averse to altering it later as the rest of the features take shape. The area will be surrounded by a large mountainous area that would catch enough rainfall supply as well as at least one large river entering the map from the North.

My next step was to start on some of the features of the map:


The surrounding sea areas are only tentatively textured. I've used a brush to 'raise' the land up from the sea and then smudged it in to blend it but I won't start on 'lowering' the ocean floor until more of the coastline is done. The next stage was to touch it up a bit further, add some trees and employ a little gaussian blur to blend it all in and...


I'll do a bit more touching up of that area before it's all finished, as well as finishing the surrounding sea-floor and probably altering the levels but that area is essentially finished.

I'd hoped to get more done this weekend but, alas, that was it!

11-13-2011, 04:26 PM
I did manage to get a little further, starting with the islands:


The seas aren't done at all but I've tried to create the beginnings of a shelf around the line, trying to link islands under the surface where possible/aesthetic.

I've tried to make a start on the main landmass too, starting with a basic roughing and levelling of the land and continuing to make a start on the main mountain chain:


I haven't tried to make such a large block of mountains using this style before I think I'm getting there with 'raising' the mountains up sufficiently from the coastal areas.

11-14-2011, 02:56 AM
So, I've made some more progress this morning:





The final shot shows pretty much how the topography (correct word?) of the land will be, there is some touching up of most of the landmasses to do and the water hasn't really been touched yet.

This is my first map so I'm still learning a lot of the process of doing things but I think it's looking pretty good so far.

There are a couple of things I'm unsure about: I'm not sure I'm a massive fan of the river mouths and I'm unsure how to colour the lower right portion of the map. The area is supposed to gently transition into plains, possibly showing a hint of a desert further inland (and to the right).

I'm also still not quite sure on scale either, the widest rivers are roughly 5 pixels across, any ideas how wide that would probably be? (I'm guessing there are quite a number of things to consider here)

11-14-2011, 09:54 AM
I've added some texture and depth to the ocean layer:


The thing I've learnt whilst doing this is to add far more depth contrast between the different heights, most of the land was done rather tentatively. Hopefully it looks like I have improved as I've gone along, I feel the last areas (bottom-right) are better than the first areas (islands & top) which is encouraging.

I found a spare 10 mins during work to fiddle with the levels (another new skill!) and added a level to the whole thing:


I thought the sea still looked too garish and worked out how to apply a different level to each of the land and sea:


I also adjusted the brightness of the ocean as well as reducing the opacity of the land stroke and I think I'm about ready to call this one.

As this is just drawing practise the labelling will be quick and dirty although I'm keen to go through the whole process so any critique is gratefully received.

11-14-2011, 10:13 AM
That's looking top notch! My very minor crit is that if the map is representative of a very large area of land the rivers might be a bit too wide and thus kill the visual effect of the scale, suggested by the forests.

Really lovely work!

11-14-2011, 10:19 AM
I think it looks really good. I'm not sure if the rivers extending into the sea is a deliberate effect (to represent deltas?) or something else. For me they are a little distracting but only really noticeable in the latest higher contrast version.


11-14-2011, 05:50 PM
Thanks for the advice, I've tidied up the river mouths and sorted the brightness of the rivers by reducing the opacity on the eraser and using a soft brush to erase away at the rivers. I found that got more control than just reducing the opacity on the whole layer.

Here's the result with plenty of settlements and routes added:


I've also brightened the land a touch. The end has been spotted!

It's my first earnest go at adding map candy so, as always, hints, tips & error-spotting are most welcome!

11-15-2011, 12:07 AM
The settlements and routes really add a lot of interest to the map. And I like how the mountains tend to constrain the area and make it cohere without looking artificial. The national borders are hard to see, and my personal preference is against relief on underwater areas, but I think the map is turning out very well. I would have started out with more dramatic detail in the original alpha map but I can see that would have been the wrong choice.

11-15-2011, 11:38 AM
Looks great, I would agree about the underwater relief. I would prefer it to be a lot subtler.

11-15-2011, 11:50 AM
Yes I think I'm tending to agree too, I quite like the affect but it is too strong, especially when compared to the land. I did the underwater last and have improved using the brushes, whereas I was quite timid with the land. I've tried painting more strongly under the mountains to give them more height but I think it has to be done as the map evolves so will definitely be more aggressive with the land for my next project. The land looks too flat in comparison with the underwater areas so I'll have a play and see if I can soften the relief. I was trying to create a nice shelf for the land to sit on to really get them to emerge from the sea but I haven't really achieved it.

I agree with the national borders, I still haven't pinned down the best way of doing it for this semi-realistic style of map. I'm also struggling a little with the labelling as the map is getting awfully busy.

11-15-2011, 05:55 PM
So I've had a play with it and changed what I could but I think I have to call this one finished.


The relief on the underwater is more subtle now although I still think the land should be more aggressively raised up. It's incredibly busy but I'm hoping that by reducing opacity smaller settlements it blends in ok. Now that I've posted it I can see at least one settlement that has evaded naming :oops:

The title is very obviously hastily added, I'll put more work into one when the actual map involved more thought and planning.

Thanks for all the comments, they really helped to shape my learning!

Hopefully my next piece will be more interesting!

11-15-2011, 06:20 PM
Fantastic work! If that's the quality of your first map, your second is going to be a doozy!

11-16-2011, 04:52 AM
Looks really nice with all the towns and routes on it. I agree the title could be better but great for a first effort. My only complaint is I would like to see a bigger version so I could see more detail :)


11-16-2011, 09:26 AM
The title is too big, too dominant.

The rest of the map is extremely droolworthy though. ;)