View Full Version : Can a newb actually do this?

05-11-2012, 04:54 AM
Well, as the title says, I am quite new to the whole cartography thing and wondering if it is something I'll truly be able to pick up. I've lurked around here for quite some time, but finally decided to take the plunge.

I am a mid-life guy who has been into RPGs since probably before some of the cartographers here were born (/sigh). I do work in the IT field and used to have, very long ago, some artistic background. However, the most artistic endeavors I've done lately are modifications to existing character art using Paint & Paint Shop Pro.

My few meager attempts at mapping haven't left me with a lot of hope that this is a skill I will be able to pick up as a hobby per say. The learning curves seem pretty steep and most of the decent maps seem to be done by people who pretty much do this as an all consuming passion. I wish I had that kind of time to dedicate, but with work, family, etc. I don't find myself with a whole lot of free time.

I have made a few minor attempts at using CC3 and Fractal Terrains but never got very far with it and wasn't truly happy with the results I did create. I am primarily getting into this as a means to create a world map (and hopefully later on detailed regional maps) for the ongoing homebrew world building project I've been working on for quite some time. I would also like to be able to put together some battle maps for when the need arises as well.

So, here I am. I'll be digging through the tutorial section looking for tips on how to start mapping using Gimp, until I can get my hands on PhotoShop. Thanks in advance for the welcome and the wonderful info this site offers.

05-11-2012, 08:12 AM
Yes! Welcome aboard :) I think you'll find that going through the tutorials gets you past that learning curve faster than you'd imagine. And it's great fun to boot!

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05-11-2012, 02:34 PM
even general graphics tutorials may give you something to chew on. my intro to digital art involved combining filter processes and layers in photoshop. once you've spent some time realising what can be done as such, much of the work you see is less mysterious.

05-11-2012, 05:25 PM
When you feel like you are on the outside looking in it is much more difficult than you think. These are two tutorials I would recommend, Antique/Tolkien style Map in GIMP (http://www.cartographersguild.com/showthread.php?18326-Antique-Tolkien-style-Map-in-GIMP) and Explanation of layer masks in GIMP (http://www.cartographersguild.com/showthread.php?3143-Award-Winner-Explanation-of-Layer-Masks-in-GIMP(and-PS)). I'm just a beginner myself, but I gained alot from these two tuts.

05-11-2012, 06:39 PM
Anyone can pick it up. It'll take a bit of time and effort, but the tutorials will help you immensely (and xoxos is right about doing some general graphical tutorials, it will all help). Just don't get discouraged if your first efforts don't look great. My early maps were pretty terrible.

I wonder if it might be worth someone making a a "before and after" thread where people can post some of their earliest maps compared to their present efforts. Might give people a little more inspiration.

05-11-2012, 07:24 PM
I was pretty much in your same boat when I joined. I'm also an older sort around here...grrrr. I had given up pursuing art and gone into the technical field and worked in IT. Oddly enough I had zero idea of how to do anything artistic digitally when I joined here. Have to check my info but I think it's been a couple years since I joined. Over the decades I would from time to time draw a picture just to see if I could still could but other than that I wasn't really pursuing anything in art. I got here for the same reason as you, I wanted to create my gaming world in the digital realm. LOL, I'm still meaning to get to that but I love this community and have learned a ton. I'm still using GIMP and other than really wishing I had a tablet I'm pretty happy with what I can create now.

I'm sure you will love it here. Having a bit of artistic talent is just going to make it all the more fun for you. If you want help start up a WIP thread in the appropriate location and you most likely get some great advice.

05-11-2012, 07:40 PM
If I may ask Jaxilon, why do you wish you had a tablet? I haven't really bothered to look into their capabilities, that is why I ask.

05-11-2012, 08:11 PM
If I may ask Jaxilon, why do you wish you had a tablet? I haven't really bothered to look into their capabilities, that is why I ask.

erm.. enthusiastic wacom graphire 3 owner interceding here.. imo tablets as pointing devices are significantly more ergonomic than mice or trackballs. i used to use a modular app a lot (solid years) and you can zip across the screen and do fine work all day with only as much stress as a pen. my efforts to use it artistically have failed when i try to emulate a pencil, but work when drawing as one would with a mouse, eg. by adjusting spline points.

(as a side note, i lived in a tent for a year carrying my laptop wherever i went. i've resoldered the cable once but the wacom is otherwise indestructible. somewhere a sugar ant crawled into it. the openings around the button are just big enough.. guess it must have been attracted to the electricity. i am dead serious now - for the next week, if i was using the tablet and the ant would move, the pointer would zip across the screen.. every now and then it would crawl out and race around on the top of the tablet, perhaps wondering where it's home went, and i'd desperately try to squish it, and it would zip back inside.. completely surreal, stuff that only happens when you're living in a tent)

05-11-2012, 09:37 PM
Hi mate,

Absolutely. I've been here a week and with the help of a few great tutorials I've managed to create these (http://www.cartographersguild.com/showthread.php?18653-My-first-two-maps). I'm hoping I can only get better from here. A lot of the great looking map elements come down to knowledge of some simple image editing tricks, and the skill or experience to know how to combine them to get an amazing looking maps! Give it a go. With GIMP it's not costing you anything!


05-12-2012, 06:33 AM
Thank you one and all for the comments. I did start playing around with the Ascension Atlas Style for Gimp tutorial but got stuck part way in. It references some of the steps directly from the Photoshop version that don't translate well. In particular how to create a new Gradient to add to a Transparency layer. The suggestion to create a WIP thread, I think, will be incredibly useful.

2 Quick questions though:
1) Is there a general usage sticky somewhere that tells you how to choose which is the 'correct' forum? I would assume if it is a World Map that I would post under the World Map forum? Or would I be looking to post under the Tutorial or some How-To forum?

2) I may be able to get my hands on Photoshop - would I be better to dive into Photoshop or stick with Gimp, as far as easy of use, ease of learning and availability of tutorial material? From what little I've been able to glean so far (there is SO much data here on this site it will take me weeks to sift through it all) it appears there may be a stronger percentage of Photoshop users and support than that for Gimp.

Thanks again folks! Great welcome.

05-12-2012, 09:09 AM
Go ahead and post your WIP in the WIP world/regional forum; usually if there's just a question about the tutorial you'd post it in the actual thread for the tutorial. The how to create a new gradient step is unfortunately the part that went MIA; when I had first translated the tut I created a Gimp gradient and posted that up with it but it's gone for some unknown reason AND I lost my hard drive :( Get your WIP started, and I'll chime in there with some help.

On the PS/Gimp question, I've found that both have just as steep of a learning curve, so I don't think it's any easier to learn. And we have a LOT of gimp users, so support shouldn't be an issue. Not sure about the percentages on tuts; you were right when you were talking about the MOUNTAIN of tutorials in there :)

05-12-2012, 06:10 PM
Welcome to the Guild! Like allot of folks have already replied, the answer to your initial question is an enthusiastic yes. Many of us (including myself) were not familiar either with fantasy map-making, or digital art prior to coming to the Guild. However, though there is a learning curve, with a bit of fortitude you will be able to learn enough to create decent maps for your campaigns. There are some GIMP/PS tutorials that assume virtually no knowledge at all and enable the rank novice to produce maps rather quickly. The best thing to do is to select one that yields results you like and then jump right in. It sounds like you've already begun working on Ascension's Atlas Style (translated to GIMP by Gidde) which is an excellent choice.

As to the question about which software to go with, GIMP and PS are both excellent choices, each of which has allot of support here. PS might have a bit more however, and it certainly has some features which cannot be duplicated in GIMP. So if money is no option, it wouldn't hurt to have both. But if time is limited and you only want to learn one program, look through the tutorials here and choose the one that allows you to create the style of maps that you are most interested in.


05-12-2012, 07:36 PM
I think you got it already but for me the choice was GIMP simply because I in no way had several hundred dollars to buy PS. There are evidently also some things that GIMP can do that PS cannot so it's a back and forth trade off sort of thing depending on what you like to do. I don't know PS so..

Regarding wanting a tablet check out Mouse-vs-tablet discussion (http://www.cartographersguild.com/showthread.php?552-Mouse-vs-tablet). It goes on forever but you get the idea pretty quick. I don't care for drawing with my mouse and while I can scan in my pencil work it's just an extra step I would like to bypass.