View Full Version : A return to making maps and an attempt to perfect a style

12-30-2011, 03:01 PM
I've been working on this map for a little while now and it marks a return to actually making maps with which I am halfway happy. Its still unnamed and in a fairly early state, but I am liking the way things are shaping up. More mountains and rivers will be added of course, and possibly forests as well. I'm using a style of mapping I've done before and I am trying to perfect and refine that style so that it is somewhat less cumbersome or at least so I get fluid enough with the drawing of the mountains that I don't drive myself loony drawing them all.

Comments and critiques are always welcome as are any ideas about spicing up the layout a little bit. Something is off about the placement or the shapes but I cannot quite put my finger on it.

12-31-2011, 01:56 AM
And a tasty style it is. I'm glad you've returned to it! Those mountains are very effective, and the rivers have about the right level of generalization for a hand-drawn period piece. The landforms are pleasing, and interesting -- all the straits and inlets make one want to know just what the locals are up to, across this landscape.

I do wonder how you'll reconcile the parchment-y sea with the flat white land - will the land get some overall texture too before you're done? I suppose a one-off map could be painted - call it whitewashed - -to get that, but printing with white ink would be a little odd. Heh - write it into your background though if you like - the look you wind up with is worth a little creative rationalization to sell :-).

"Placement off" .... well those blank seascapes to NW and SE will presumably host a bunch of legend, key, scale, cartouche, text, illustration, and whatnot, right? That may be all that makes it feel off balance right now. Or maybe it is feeling to you like there ought to be more of a topographic reason for the sharply indented land shapes - could they be calling for some ridges of at least hills, running SW-NE, to cause the coastline? It doesn't feel like there's much flat land; to me it feels like a pretty rough place.

The labeling: if it's a hand-drawn style, I can see the regional labels getting in there all outlined & blank-filled. Makes 'em legible, for sure. The littlest ones though are a style I don't remember seeing on anything made by hand - they're saying "we are typeset", not to mention expecting them to be *first* laid down with every last other element drawn around them stretches credulity. If I've misread your intent about the hand-drawn-ness, still think about what you're implying about the production method for this.

Oh. <facepalm> of course - maybe your cartographers DO have a nice opaque white ink to work with, and the labels literally ARE drawn across the top of other linework. I don't care if you have that in mind or not, I am SO stealing that rationale :-).

12-31-2011, 06:20 AM
The mountains are really nice! Any chance for a brush? I also dig the landshape.
Looking forward to where this is going.

12-31-2011, 12:05 PM
jbgibson - Concerning labeling, I'd stupidly not thought over much about production method when putting those in, going instead for readability, especially at this fairly early stage. That said, I'm now trying to figure out the 'context' in which this map was made: materials, the fictional cartographer, the purpose of the map, etc. I don't have any answers to these presently, but I'm enjoying the thinking. Also, I too like the white ink idea.

Layout wise, yeah, I plan on adding the usual scales and compasses and so on which might fix things. I'll set about doing that before I go adding another hundred tiny islands (once again, willfully attempting to drive myself loony it appears), which seems to be my default response to seemingly empty regions.


Eilathen, I'm very much afraid I can't really give you a brush per se, because the mountains are done individually and more or less by hand with a few photoshop tweaks thrown in. What I do to make these is draw the shapes of the mountains with a 7 px oval "calligraphy" brush with a tablet pen (for the pressure variations) on a separate layer. Then, I copy that layer so I can preserve my original lines, paint under it with the background land color, and merge the mountain layer and the underpainted background together. Then, I apply the cutout filter to that merged set of layers to get the mountains. This means the mountains are still a separate layer from the land-shape while still getting the best of the filter's effects. Below I've attached a small image of what the mountains look like pre-filter.


I'll be continuing with the map and hope to be able to add some significant progress in the next few day. Thanks for the critique and kind comments.

12-31-2011, 12:23 PM
The mountains are very nice indeed...I look forward to seeing this progress.

01-01-2012, 02:43 AM
I've added a few more mountains and I'm playing around with fonts and so on. I am liking the red lettering in general, though I'll probably adjust it somewhat as I go forward.

01-01-2012, 08:29 AM
I really love how you did the mountains.

01-01-2012, 04:43 PM
"tending to react to empty space with archipelagos..." ... remember a principle of graphic design, that 'whitespace' (of whatever color) is itself an element; surprisingly often an absolutely crucial one.

As far as driving oneself looney - for me, 'tis a short trip. Doesn't even take a full tank of gasoline :-).

Thanks for the mountain explanation. I dunno if I can do an equivalent process with my distinctly non-photoshop graphics app, but those nice results would be worth a try.

01-02-2012, 06:56 AM
Thanks, Sular. Too bad that i am a total klutz with PS ^^

Happy new year to everyone and i am looking forward to this WIP.

01-02-2012, 02:34 PM
I've begun some experiments on the general layout of the map, added some more mountains, and so on. I like the idea of a circular map, but I'm not wild about the way I've done it. I'd like to get a "checkerboard" pattern into the circle or something like that, but getting it to bend correctly eludes me. So, that will be on hold for the present until I think of something.

Eilathen, I'm no great hand with PS either, I sort of stumbled across this method of doing mountains by the old system of looking at PS and saying "I wonder what this does?" before pressing a button. I'm sure there are more elegant solutions to what I am doing, but it works for me.

01-03-2012, 06:52 AM
I preferred the first font - white with black outlines. It was much easier to read. Muuuuch.

Otherwise, it's looking very good.

01-04-2012, 03:51 PM
I agree that the old typeface was easier to read, but that said it wasn't the right "feel" for this map. I'm still fiddling with the typeface (its been changed to something less insane in the current version) and such things. If you happen to know of a good readibly archaic typeface that might work well, I'd be delighted to know its name.

Also, I redid the outlines and the rivers by hand to get the variable line width I prefer for this sort of map. More mountains have been added as well and I've made the texturing more visible and warmed up the color palate a little.

01-14-2012, 05:19 PM
Sorry for the lack of updates recently. I returned to work from my vacation and things are a bit busy at present. So, all in all I am not as far a long as I would like. That said, I am happy to report some progress with the map. I've fiddled with the text a bit more and I've changed the border to be a bit more interesting.

01-14-2012, 11:06 PM
This is lovely! The new typesetting is a big improvement.

I notice that the "water" colour is not precisely aligned with the landform outlines in all places. It gives a sort of hand-drawn feel to things, but I wonder if it's deliberate, or is that something you haven't gotten around to fixing yet? There's a small island just to the left of the "The" in "The Rueful Sea" that shows what I'm talking about. Just curious.

01-15-2012, 01:11 AM
barsoomcore, yes, those little areas of bad outlining are things I am planning on cleaning up. I've done a bit already (some of the gross work involving the magic wand and all) and am trying to polish a bit more as I go along.

01-15-2012, 08:28 AM
This looks awesome! Very nicely done.

01-15-2012, 10:44 AM
really digging this style. Keep it up.

01-21-2012, 12:22 AM
I've added a scale and the beginnings of a key to the map but I am not happy with the positioning. I like the key being central but that seems to cause the other elements to be unbalanced and wonky looking. Any suggestions on placement would be greatly appreciated.

06-09-2012, 03:20 AM
i do like the final version of this map - very characterful and the 2-tone colours (red/white) remind me of old-process printed maps too. very cool.

06-09-2012, 03:30 AM
This map is gorgeous! I think the font compliments it well, I love mountains and color palette too. What's not to love? This map is amazing and has a very artistic feel to it. :)

06-09-2012, 03:53 AM
Looking real cool! I am getting a bit of a "Celtic" vibe from it, which is something I can always party with. I think it's mostly due to the large number of places with "Farne" in the name, and to the fact that you have an icon for "hollow hills" which is a very "sidhe mound" kind of thing. So I like it very much. Repped!

06-09-2012, 02:27 PM
I too think the key looks great in the lower/middle area of the map. One thing you might do to improve the 'balance' of the whole thing is to move the scale bar directly beneath the key. You'd have to overlap that lower continent with it, thus covering up some details of that land mass, but it seems like the focus of the map is on the northern continent anyway. Maybe just 'generalize' the feel of the southern continent, with no mountains and less names, so the scale bar doesn't appear to cover up too much and/or look jarring with stuff poking out from underneath it.

All in all though, a very awesome map. Mountains look especially good, and varying the line width on the coastlines was a good call.

06-10-2012, 02:31 PM
Hello Sular

I think you have resolved the always hard theme of mountain ranges quite good. Maybe the name colour is too strong. We avoid the black colour for names, and for me is the most attractive.