View Full Version : [WIP] First map - Keris

07-03-2012, 09:14 AM
Hi guys,

I signed up a couple of days ago, and was advised to post a workthrough of one of the tutorials for critique etc. I was having a lot of fun playing with options I didn't even know existed, so I didn't get around to posting until now. I've already scrapped my actual first attempt, but it did give me a good template for the second. :D

I'm working through this tutorial (http://www.cartographersguild.com/showthread.php?10655-Hand-Drawn-Mapping-(for-the-Artistically-Challenged)&highlight=ARTISTICALLY+CHALLENGED). Gidde's brushes are amazingly time-saving, and since I don't have a lot of luck with most visual endeavours they really helped flesh things out. I also used RobA's tapered lines script for the rivers.

The map is of a region in a world I've used for several D&D campaigns, and I initially drew maps to make a frame for fleshing out the culture. The upshot of this is that I have names for regions in the world, and a few of the largest cities, but I mostly know more about the culture of the people than the names of where they live. I'm taking a break from the map now to get on with constructing the basic vocabulary for a naming language, so it seemed a good time to get critique on what I've done so far.

A couple of things to note: the huge area of mountains and hills to the west are not naturally formed, so they deliberately look a bit strange. I'm still not sure about having so many hills around them on the map, except that's exactly how I imagined they are in "reality". I'm also not entirely happy with the marshes. I've got some ideas on how to improve them, but if you have any, then please shoot.

So, after all that, the map of Keris:

07-05-2012, 04:01 PM
I find it rather difficult to comment on this map. I guess others have the same problem - that's why this piece gets so few (hah, no!) responses yet.

First things first: I don't think it is a bad map. I think it might be quite difficult to do a bad map with Gidde's tut, and there are no real problems with the way you used it.

But somehow it does not look right... and I have a hard time to find out why.

Some ideas:
- the idea with the crossing mountains in the west looks quite good... but as I zoom in, this effect disappears. That gave me the hint: your symbols are spaced to far from each other. You might want to bring them closer together, form real mountain chains and forest clusters.
- related with that: the relative scale of icons seems a little off. The trees are slightly too big in relation to the mountains... this again makes the image seem unbalanced.
- again with the relative size: the relative size of mountainous areas, river-deltas and swamps seems to be off. Depending on the size of that whole island / continent, the swamps would span whole counties.
- lastly, regarding the rivers: this is a personal preference - I don't like the tapered river script in this style. It results in very clear and very mathematically curvy lines... too digital for my taste. But I found it rather simple to hand-taper rivers, even without a tablet.

But don't that list discourage you! This is a good start you had here.

I hope some of the more experienced mappers will chime in now and add their opinion.

07-05-2012, 05:32 PM
Thanks for your response Freodin. I've been reading up on river principles and a few other bits and pieces of map design, and I've realised a few things about the map. First of all, despite the interesting geography of the area, it is really an unremarkable map so far. There's nothing that really marks as better or worse than anything else, and it's largely done with someone else's groundwork, so that's why I figured I had no feedback. I'm working on the next stage to upload, to see if it's any more interesting by that point.

However, you've given me some useful things to think about.

The first time I made this map, I had the symbols much closer together, and I didn't really like the effect. There's a lot else wrong with the map, but with regard to the symbols, what's your opinion?


I'll pay more attention to the scale next time I do this too. I've already noticed it's quite hard to map an area that supposedly covers more than 10,000,000 square miles on this scale: cities fade into the background unless you make the symbols ridiculously big. I think I need to a) revise my thoughts on the size of the area I'm mapping and b) map areas in the right scale.

Yes, the river deltas are enormous, and my river placement is skewed as a result. I actually wanted a swamp measuring something like the pre-drained area of the Mesopotamian marshland: over 7000 square miles, which is over a fifth of some modern countries. I can't find any figures for how big the Everglades were pre-drainage, but there are references to the sale of an area over 6000 square miles and multiple sales of 2000ish square miles, meaning it must once have been immense. That's the kind of thing I'm aiming for on the east, at least. But, nonetheless, the placement of them is weird and I still don't fully understand the hydrological processes behind the formation and evolution of wetlands.

I will play around with hand-tapering rivers next time around too, see if it gets any better results.

I also had some other thoughts: I'm choosing a really absurd area to start mapping. I have subterranean mountain dwellers, men who live on stilt houses in the marsh, a completely unnatural mountain range (or 3), and cliff and elves who literally grow their homes (and their navy) out of living trees in the middle of a forest which they perpetuate with fiercely guarded magic, all which make for entirely unorthodox maps, especially on an economic level. I'll finish this map, because I have a nasty habit of leaving things unfinished for long periods of time, but perhaps after this I ought to go with something more normal to get the hang of what I'm doing, and how these things would really play out in a realistic world.

07-05-2012, 05:45 PM
I like the new spacing and scaling a lot better. It seems more consistent now... the large mountain chains in the west are recognizable as "mountain chains" now even when you are at 100% zoom.

And I don't think there is anything wrong with absurd. It's more a problem of habit and perception on the viewers side. If your mountains are that form... then they are! If your marshland is that large... it is! You build this world, and as long as you have a concept of why each and every feature is this way... it is fine.

07-05-2012, 05:59 PM
Well, some features have explanations, and some don't yet. My point is more that I feel I ought to understand the rules before breaking them. Here is where I've got to with city and road placement. I'll go over this all again when I remap the area with better scaling. From what I've got so far, can you see any issues with the layout of the cities and such at the moment?


07-06-2012, 03:23 PM
I'd say the layout of cities is quite logical and fitting.

07-08-2012, 01:06 AM
The city and road placements are perfectly plausible. The city symbols are a bit indistinct - there's enough other busyness going on that the little constellation of dashes almost disappears.

I'm unclear what you mean with all the dashes in so many areas - they're lowering your contrast, making the rest of your symbols convey less information.

There *are* styles of old maps that have widely separated symbols like you have, so if that's the style you're shooting for, it's fine. It does have the effect though of making the mountains seem like individual separated peaks rather than a range. Overlapping the symbols carefully would better show a linear feature instead of a hundred point-features. Even if you just crowd a string together that's another distinct antique style.

The center-north to mid-southwest river has issues. Think about how that path manages to be downhill all the way from source to delta. Take that dead-center set of hills. In general, the slope of the land has to be downwards from there to the sea to the northwest. Sure, that's the *average* slope, and a sufficient ridge right at the coast would "keep the river from running into the sea" there. But you don't show such a ridge. Water flows downhill alone (duh) so it would hardly be flowing *sideways* across any real terrain. Look up the "How to get your rivers in the right place" tutorial - it's stickied so it shows up at the top of the Tutorial forum.

The eastern swamp would be a sight more believable without the explicit stream channels. What's your scale? You wouldn't have to show what would be alternate paths to the sea over too vast an area, if you just showed a few rivers entering the swamp. See that eastermost river leaving the swamp? It goes from what your smbology implies is pretty much sea-level swamp, through drier woodlands, which one would presume were drier because they're *higher* than the swamp... don't want to be showing water running uphill, do you? :-).

It's got promise - keep dinking with it and it'll turn out okay.

07-08-2012, 06:53 PM
Thanks for your feedback, jbgibson. I read through the entire length of the river thread a couple of days back, and came to the conclusion that a lot of my rivers on this map need rethinking. I hadn't any idea how to show wetlands properly though, so this is useful feedback on that front. As to the confusion with the scale, I honestly don't what scale I'm using. I thought I was using the scale recommended in the tutorial, 40mi/50px, but really, it's so hard to make the cities show up at that scale, I've found, especially when they're in mountains or forest. I'm also thinking I might need to leave a lot of detail of this map and save it for smaller scale maps of the same area.

07-09-2012, 08:12 PM
You might find the visual effect more pleasing if you put the shading dashes attached to instead of/in addition to around them. Right now your symbols are kind of floating in space, and some attached shade lines might help anchor them. However, all in all I'd agree with the previous posters; it's got good potential, keep at it :)

07-17-2012, 11:26 PM
Good work so far, looking forward to seeing more.

07-19-2012, 09:50 AM
Hi, your map starts out pretty good. Try some more variations in your mountains area, like clusters and valleys.