View Full Version : First Map (Critique!)

04-06-2012, 02:32 PM
This is my first post here... so much pressure! I've been doodling maps for stories I write since I was about 8, and I really dig science (I'm just not very good at it), so lately I've been wanting to develop more realistic and plausible worlds. I created a map a few years ago on pen and paper, and it was 'okay.' I considered tectonics, but not winds or currents, the little details.

Anyhow, here I am with my first foray into serious world-making, and I'd love to get some feedback from the pros. :) The only real thing of note is that this world has a smaller axial tilt. I'm still considering currents and winds, but I'm in over my head there, and I'd like to make sure I'm off on the right foot first!

Edit: Original map abandoned, scroll down a bit for the current project =) Thank you

04-06-2012, 02:48 PM
Wow you got some nice coastlines. As to the climate, sorry but I don't know much about that... however I would imagine that the smaller axial tilt is the least of your worries for climate... and that the tectonic activity that made the cost lines the way they are might affect the habitability of the coastal areas...

I also imagine that if there is less tilt the equator area might get hotter than here on earth and so be more of a desert and the area at the top and bottom would be colder.... but like I said I am not much for climate and would also like to hear some of our pro's weigh in on this.

You have nice clean lines. I see hand-drawn elements like you might have a tablet as well... What software are you using?

Good job so far and welcome to the guild!

04-06-2012, 03:47 PM
From what I've read, there is a much more dramatic temperature gradient with a lower axial tilt, but this can (supposedly?) be addressed by the currents to create a more stable environment. But I know as much about climate as I do about tectonics, heh. From what I can guess, there would be a good bit of tectonic activity.. I'm not 100% pleased with the continents, so I may adjust them further (and hopefully lessen the chance of earthquakes where I'd planned for cities!).

I'm using PS CS3 and a Bamboo :) Thank you!

04-06-2012, 05:50 PM
Are the orange and yellow areas deserts? The reason I ask is that they appear to be rain shadow deserts on the eastern continent. They might be on the wrong side of the mountains, if your planet rotates in the same direction that the earth does. It also would depend on how your currents run, but they just seem a little close to your oceans to be that extensive. Otherwise, it looks good.

04-06-2012, 10:15 PM
Disregard OP map... I went ahead and spent the day re-doing the continents. I think I'm a little happier with them now (and hopefully I addressed the weirdness of the rain shadows and volatile tectonics!). Only the very brown/tan is desert; the lighter is dry-ish land, plains and whatnot.

04-06-2012, 10:54 PM
The orginal continents were awesome in that it really looked like they could've at one point been from the same super landmass. :D If I were you, I'd pursue both of these as separate projects. They're both off to a good start.

04-07-2012, 10:00 AM
I'm with Joshua on this one. I really like the first map (not that the second one is bad, mind you!) and I'd persue it as well. Have some rep.!

04-07-2012, 10:38 PM
You've probably got some climate issues assuming the world is spinning like Earth. Remember a simple basic premise: winds in the tropics tend east to west, and switch to west to east in the mid latitudes, with jet streams that travel west-east. That jungly looking region on the west side of the mountains probably wouldn't be all that wet, and the east coast would be soaked by rains, being both on the warmer current east coast and that close to the ITCZ. West coast tend to be drier than east coasts due to surface ocean current temperatures and cool waters equals dry, warm waters equal wet.

That desert looking area on the eastern continent is right in the middle of the ITCZ and is an unlikely location for a desert, whereas north of that in between two mountain ranges is a good bet for desert with rain shadows and high pressure zones north of the ITCZ.

04-08-2012, 02:09 AM
Thank you, Valdehar! A lot of this climate stuff goes right over my head, and it's hard to find concise info that applies to make-believe worlds :P I didn't have a chance to read your comment before refining it further, but I hope it isn't quite so off anymore (I'm sure I've messed up in some new way, though).

And thank you everyone else for your kind words and helpfulness!

Here's what I have, now. The working file is 2x as large. It's interesting how much filters contribute to a finished look!


04-08-2012, 04:05 PM
Updated.. Turned the desert in the northern part of the eastern continent into more of a savannah.. I figured despite being between two mountain ranges, it would receive sufficient rainfall for some vegetation, though it'll still be a bit dry. I've also added some major rivers (hopefully without major flaws)!

I also added dots for cities. I'm unsure about a few of them; hopefully they're realistic enough! Little plots and ideas are starting to form :) I'll begin marking territories soon, I hope.


04-16-2012, 09:26 AM
I think the new map looks great. I am sorry if you thought I meant your first land mass had too much "volatile tectonics", as I liked it very much! If you end up using the other map landmass you could explain away the volatile tectonics saying "since the last great earth shake, the crust hardened and cooled, bringing a new age of plant and animal life to the world"...

I like the way the mountains and trees look together... (it seems like I just said that about another map... humm, I will really have to try that mix of mountains and trees)

All in all the climate looks great and I think you are well on your way to a brilliant world map.


04-16-2012, 10:58 PM
Nice work so far. I know what you mean by plots starting to form - for me, physical geography spawns characters and situations.

The overall look is great, and your rationale for the rough climate areas is at least plausible. Some of the rivers seem odd, in that their upper reaches 'sneak past' high ground, flowing kinda sideways to what one would guess is the general slope. A river could start a hundred miles from one coast and flow away, some 4000 miles to the opposite coast... but you'd want some indication of why, topographically.

The city color is perfect - can you experiment with adding something to keep them from being simple flat disks? A bit of a dark outer rim, maybe? Highlights? Though I guess since you're doing other features 3-d, some sort of pictorial city glyphs would work well too.

Eager to see more !

04-22-2012, 01:03 PM
Oh I plan to do something with the cities :) Bit more of placemarkers, really, but I'm having a difficult time making icons that look nice. I suppose I'm not the most skilled artist. I had come up with a few very simple brushes that denoted which kingdoms the cities belonged to, but they don't suit the rest of the map. And I'll have another look at the rivers! It's just difficult for me (aesthetically) when there are such large areas with no water.

@rpgmapmaker - those forests were addicting to make. I kept trying to find more places I could stick some trees, and actually had to erase quite a few when I realised I'd covered nearly half the land in forest :D Oops!

Another thing I'm struggling with are finding out the 'wet' areas. I really adore fens and bogs and swamps, but I can't for the life of me figure out where any might be :P
Thank you all for your lovely comments!

04-24-2012, 03:31 PM
Here's a bit of a large preview :) I added a swamp? of sorts, and shifted around the desert and forest on the eastern continent. I had worked out some wind patterns, which I'm sure are just awful. Maybe I'll upload those a bit later.


05-02-2012, 03:16 PM
Still toying around with how I'd like to mark things. I didn't put very much forethought into this :( I'd like some feedback. Here is something I worked out:


05-02-2012, 05:58 PM
There's something to be said for simple, and it's hard to go wrong with the geometrics. These look pretty good, but I'm not sure if they match the style as well as some more representative symbols might. However, I've seen gorgeous maps that prove the exception to that rule, so go with your gut!

05-02-2012, 06:51 PM
I agree that the symbols don't seem really well suited to the style you are going for. I think it might be worth your while to either (a) take the time to hand draw some more realistic symbols (e.g. miniature towns, windmills, bridges, towers, etc) or (b) use some previously drawn map symbols on offer here at the Guild. However, if you do decide to stick with the current symbols, I'd recommend making them off-white, rather than black, as the symbols tend not to show up very well in the darker portions of the map. As to the style of the map itself, I think it looks very nice.


05-04-2012, 08:29 AM
:( I knew what I needed to do. I'm just such a rotten artist. I'm in love with Ramah's brushes, but I very much wanted to hand-draw everything myself. I have them as stand-ins currently.


The sizes are a little difficult however, and they come out looking blurry sometimes. Plus, I haven't got appropriate symbols for the forest cities. I'll be trying to create my own for awhile, I suppose, because these do look infinitely better. Ah, well.

05-04-2012, 10:47 AM
I hear ya there. If you look at my maps they *all* have dots for cities because I can't do the mini towns to save my life!

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

07-19-2012, 04:03 PM
Heh, it's been awhile. I let this kind of sit and rot while I worked on other parts of the world (and honestly I didn't get very far there, either). I'd worked out a few hand drawn markers, but they didn't really work out, so I've used Ramah's to the extent I can. They don't look terribly good small, I'm afraid. There will be a key eventually of course; the red-roofs are hamlets to villages, and the blue are larger, towns and such. The green are known elven villages, and the towers in the woods are known elven capitals. The rest, I hope, is self-explanatory.

Edit: Also, each square is ~530km sq. I double checked against the size of the planet and it seems to be relatively fair. The distance across the wider part of the eastern continent is right around 3200km, or just under 2000mi (A little less than the distance from the east to west coast in the US). Yay for accidentally doing something right! :D


I'll be working on labeling soon - any recommendations for fonts? I've done some browing and found a few I'm fond of, but none that really match the style.

Anyhow, thanks for looking =)

07-19-2012, 06:35 PM
I like those icons, though they are bit large, but that's only a small nitpick. Overall this is looking quite nice.


07-19-2012, 08:37 PM
I absolutely love the hand drawn elements! Especially the mountains and the forest...it brings a very unique and creative flavor to the map.

I think the strokes around the landmasses could do with a very subtle blurring effect. I'd say about 0.3 gaussian blur if you're using Photoshop. As it stands now, the sharpness contrasts with the very soft features of the overall map.

As for a good font, I would recommend something with curves or a little flair to it to go with the overall appearance of the map. A drop shadow for the text would make it blend nicely as well.

Have some rep!

07-20-2012, 07:21 AM
I like to stick with classic, sharp fonts, like myriad or chaparral or helvetica ... but that's just personal preference. Anyhow, for a map like yours I'd go for sth softer and more rounded ... maybe even a Cooper Black? It looks a bit cartoony, but for the large labels it might work nicely, then use something simple for the smaller labels, maybe something that looks hand-lettered or a soft sans serif - perhaps even Comfortaa or Kirsten ITC?

07-20-2012, 12:14 PM
@Lukc: You and I have similar font taste :D I like you (and I love your maps, all of 'em). Thank you for the recommendations. The map style sort of got away from me, heh.

@ExMachina: Thank you for the suggestions, I'll definitely play with the coast line stuff. I didn't even notice; any time I spent zoomed in that close was mostly on land :(

@Arsheesh: Yeah =/ I'd actually shrunk a lot of them down, too! After sleeping on it I definitely still see they are too large. Thank you for pointing it out.

07-24-2012, 08:23 PM
This font may not look very good on the hand drawn map, but for some reason my mind was drawn to Quaver (http://www.losttype.com/font/?name=quaver).