View Full Version : Mapmaking Tecchniques

04-30-2012, 05:19 PM
As you all know, I write short stories for fun but also in the process of writing a story that could eventually turn into my first book.

I have been beating my head lately, due to my extensive and primary use of Campaign Cartographer 3. This program does help me visualize my campaigns for pseudo-D&D RPG events and for my stories. GIMP has been helping if only a bit.

One of my favorite natural environments are canyons; particularly slot canyons, like those of the famous Antelope Canyon outside Page, Arizona, USA. I know for a fact that slot canyons are fairly easy to draw on a map; a simple line and text giving its region name like Wirepass Canyon. But for larger canyons like the world famous Grand Canyon, that is easier said than done.

What techniques would you recommend for putting canyons as extensive as the Grand Canyon on your maps, regardless of program?

04-30-2012, 07:13 PM
Not really that easy to answer since it all depends upon scale. Typically, the easiest way to depict this type of thing would be some sort of forced perspective: ISO or something like that. If you take a look Djekspek has dune a number of canyons as has Torstan(and I think both have done little mini tutorials on that subject also!!) as well as a number of other artists here. I would suggest looking around first, but scale and your "viewpoint" are going to be the most important factors to determine which way to go here.

05-01-2012, 12:55 AM
Agree with jf, it depends on your style. Personally, if I was doing it I would pop up Google Earth and take a look at the Grand Canyon and come up with an idea based on that. Of course, that lends toward the style I have been working in most so that might not be what you are after.

05-02-2012, 07:06 PM
thx, guys. this will help me.

I am slowly beginning to believe that CC3 and GIMP are rather limiting my growth as a freelance story cartographer. Even though I can't draw a stick figure to save my life, I can do architectural drawings pretty well; I spent a couple of years taking CAD and technical drawing courses.

Would you guys recommend a budgeted drawing pad like Wacoms or something for me?

05-02-2012, 07:10 PM
If you can afford it, I would totally recommend getting a Bamboo (it's Wacom's cheapest tablet). It makes a world of difference. Then once you're sure you like using a tablet at all, you can think about getting one of the bigger (much more expensive) ones.

05-03-2012, 01:41 AM
Sometimes I wonder about this myself. I probably should have picked up a bamboo myself but for some reason I chose to stand out for a big kahuna tablet. Maybe because I fear that if I settle now it will be a hard to justify getting it later. As result I'm still working with paper and pencil for hand drawn stuff and using a mouse for everything else. I am getting close to picking up a Cintiq though so that is exciting (at least for me). I just hope I love it as much as I think I will. I really need to find a place where I can go test out these things but failing in that I'm just not willing to settle. If I am going to go at doing this seriously I think I should go for it all the way. Of course, I haven't made nearly enough from art to pay for this but eventually I should cover it. I'm sure that somewhere in this is some personality flaw of mine that is shining forth but whatever. :)

05-04-2012, 06:19 AM
Hell's teeth, man! A Cintiq for your first tablet? I really hope you get on with it then because that is a hefty investment for something you aren't sure you will get on with. :S It seems like total overkill to me (unless you are a professional digital artist using it for more than just maps) but having never tried one myself then what do I know?

Personally I've been very happy with my Bamboo. I do plan on upgrading to an Intuos at some future time, funded by commissions so I can justify the extra expense. At that time I really won't be able to see the Bamboo investment as wasted money because it has really paid for itself in the long run.

05-04-2012, 11:40 AM
@Ramah - This is exactly what I have been thinking about lately. Now that I'm getting in the ball park of being able to spring for it. I'm a cautious spender I guess. I do have plans to pursue more than maps with it however. I have a vision for a series of pieces more along the lines of my Bluebird or Bobcat (http://jaxilon.deviantart.com/gallery/26241720). Of course, that's saying I actually get the blocks of time to do it. In the end I hope someday to sell my current business and do art.

In the end I believe it will pay for itself....eventually. Of course, that being said, I might be just as happy with one of the Intous4 except I do prefer to draw on what I'm looking at instead of in my lap while watching my monitor. (Of course, I do that currently with my mouse). It still feels better to me to look at what I'm drawing.

I have been reading reviews of the Cintiq especially the ones who are not just screaming about how cool it is. I like the professional artists' opinions because they seem to be more balanced than the purely tech-heads who just love to have the latest thing.
What I seem to be getting is that there honestly are not any other options available. That it is over priced but if you use it then you won't be sorry for the money spent. I have yet to hear anyone who just hated it. The biggest complaints are that it eats up a lot of desk (not a problem for me) and it's hefty price.

As for price, I don't buy a lot of toys like most of my friends so when I do I try to make sure they are good. I will be very disappointed if I don't like it but it's not like I've been wasting money on stupid stuff all along. It would be one bad investment that I will remember for a long time but my wife couldn't hold it over my head.

I might still chicken out and get an Intuos but I kind of feel like I deserve this. It sounds like a jerk thing to say but I have held off for a couple years now and it's still one of those things I really desire. Most of time if you put a purchase off you tend to waver and not buy the item. It's not the case so far.

And finally, if someone can talk me out of this purchase please do because it would save me a little pile of cash :)

05-21-2012, 04:11 PM
I thank you all for your wisdom in canyon making tips and whether or not for me to get a tablet.

A new situation emerges!
I have had a habit of using Earth science in creating my maps. However, due to a new story (that has the incredible potential to become a book), I am leaning towards higher power + (Earth science / 2). I could use some help in this manner.

Background first.
I have been playing Skyrim for quite some time now and I thoroughly enjoy it. I know that the story behind the map is primarily higher power with maybe a hint of science. But the weather seems consistent with the maps shape.

How can you determine the climate through your mapmaking processes? With no clear sign of forests, deserts, and the such?

05-23-2012, 10:52 AM
I don't know what you mean but weather is effected by geography quite a bit. I'm sure mars has weather patterns and as far as I know it doesn't have forests and so on.

05-23-2012, 03:51 PM
I don't know what you mean but weather is effected by geography quite a bit. I'm sure mars has weather patterns and as far as I know it doesn't have forests and so on.

What I mean is in the prep stage of a map. You have defined your coastline and continent size. You have plans to have a variety of landscape types but no idea where to put them, just yet. As we all know, a tropical jungle cannot sit next to a desert because of obvious reasons.

05-25-2012, 05:19 AM
I'd start with plotting mountains and then give this link (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Climate_zone) a look. you can determine lots of things based on those climate zones.

05-31-2012, 11:39 PM
Basic process I would look at for determining climate is well... complicated. if you are going for pseudo-real that is. First, it is great to know your basic tectonics, this will place a great many of your mountains and some additional island chains. Then you plot out your basic wind directions and your rain shadows, with lee side of mountains drier. And note your high pressure desert zone and likely locations for deserts. Oh, and ocean currents, east coasts typically have warm water, more evaporation and hence more rain while west coasts tend to be cool waters and less rain. Note your equator, tropics lines and arctic lines, those are always good to have in mind. Also look into the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) which is a major driver of weather/rainfall on Earth. The ITCZ carries storms east to west, good to recall that. Tracking your ITCZ seasonally can also give you good ideas of where moisture is going, with the ITCZ basically following heat, and large land masses collect heat and pull the ITCZ further north and south from the equator seasonally. That's a good start anyhow.

How about that for a rambling partial answer, LOL.

Greason Wolfe
06-02-2012, 11:50 PM
This (http://jc.tech-galaxy.com/bricka/climate_cookbook.html) might be helpful. It doesn't directly consider mountains and such, but should give you a basic idea of fundamental weather patterns, most all of which will eventually have to be adjusted for the presence of mountains and so on.