View Full Version : W.I.P. - Map for my novel - Would like some critiquing please

11-17-2012, 08:48 PM
Heyas guys here is my first Photoshop map I made before joining here. I have been a map enthusiast for sometime, this map is for my fantasy novel. I would greatly appreciate any and all comments about this map. Thanks in advance.


E.A.A. Vollan

11-18-2012, 05:46 AM
Interesting map.

I am sure you'll soon hear from the River Police because you have some serious river violations ;)
Personally, i think the forests and mountains are a bit too black in contrast to the map outline and background. It is difficult to see the continent outlines.

11-18-2012, 06:09 AM
I love the general layout of the map - the areas are distinct and feel natural, there many interesting places and none feels out of place. I can picture many adventures taking place here. I'd travel here any time!
I like your style as well. But besides the contrast there is the issue of semi-transparent mountains (see Mt. Ary'At). Also I suggest (with the little expertise I got) a smaller sice for the trees, and maybe more different trees of the same sort.

But since you made this map before joining, you'll certainly work wonders from here on.

11-18-2012, 04:02 PM
Thanks for the info, I will work on it later and revise it.

11-18-2012, 05:26 PM
Sorry if this sounds a bit harsh, I am trying to help though.

You've made a lot of common newbie mistakes. Maps are not just pretty pictures. They are functional things and it takes some understanding of geography and cartography them to make them work correctly.

First off, as Eilathen pointed out, you've got some seriously nonsensical rivers. Rivers flow downhill, merging together as they go (confluence). Rivers splitting (diffluence) is typically confined to floodplains, and is a fairly localized phenomenon. As a rule of thumb, if you don't want to get into riparian hydrogeology, rivers should only ever split to form small islands and then merge again, or to flow a larger body of water as a delta. Rivers should never flow from ocean to ocean. Lakes should generally be thought of as fat sections of river so they shouldn't have more than one outlet. Lakes with no outlet do occur under special circumstances, but you can't just place then wherever you want.

Compass roses, graticules (the grid), and scales all have particular meanings aren't always compatible. For a map like this, I'd definitely drop the graticule, and probably the compass. They just aren't needed unless the map is intended for marine navigation, while this one is a land oriented reference map instead.

Try to avoid covering any more area than you need to. The more of a planet you cover with a single map the more complicated things get as the curvature of the planet becomes more of an issue. Modern people are inclined to think of distances as being shorter than in the past, so when we make up fantasy world, we tend to make everything too big. So if you can scale down the geography, and then scale up the map to compensate, I'd recommend you do so (In practical terms this would amount to re-labeling your scale bar). It's also a good idea to have a clear idea of where your map is on the globe, particularly the latitude.

A bit of a personal opinion, but I find that style of scale bar particularly clashes with this kind of hand drawn symbol laden map. The few medieval maps weren't to scale at all. If you want to make a modern map look less anachronistic, I'd suggest a visually simpler scale, or a textual scale.

Your symbology could also do with some work. You are mixing really different looking symbols which draws attention to the fact that you've stamped a bunch of images repeatedly. Such stamping isn't a problem by itself (I do much the same thing with my maps) but you need to hide it if you want to map to really look hand drawn. They should have about the same opacity, anti-aliasing, line thickness, style, and level of detail relative to their size. Mixing symbols from different sources or scaling them up and down is a bad idea. That's why I usually make my own as a cohesive set. You should also aim for more variety to hide the repetition.

You also have problems where the symbols overlap. You either need opaque symbols that cover the symbols behind them completely, or you need to avoid overlap. If they do overlap, you need to make sure that less important symbols don't obscure more important ones.

Labels are one of the hardest things to get right. There are entire books on the topic and is is an extremely difficult problem for computer map generation. It's one of the main areas where cartographers need to go in and tweak things, when there is the time and money available to have people do that sort of thing.

A few suggestions though. Make sure your labels are readable. Avoid crossing symbols, and if you can't use a halo, or adjust or remove the symbol to provide decent contrast. Avoid ornate typefaces, and really avoid mixing contrasting typefaces.

In general, labels for points should be straight and horizontal, labels for linear features (like rivers and roads) should follow the feature and be repeated occasionally as needed. Labels for areas should be gently but noticeably curved and span the area along its maximum dimension. In general, labels should never have text running upside down or backwards and should never be simply rotated, it should either be straight and horizontal, or curved.

Labels should also never intersect. In the worst case, you should adjust the positioning of the letters so that one runs through a gap in the spacing of the other, if that's possible. If not, you just have to move them around. This can take a lot of time and effort to get right.

Finally, consider the materials and techniques of the notional cartographer within the world. How is the paper so distressed looking (I think you went rather overboard here) but the map features are so pristine? How did the cartographer get that smooth, even, and lightening of the land without any blemishes or imperfections and lined up absolutely perfectly with the coastline without crossing the line at all? Why does the cartouche appear to be another piece of paper, with completely different distressing, mounted on some sort of platform a few millimetres above the map?

The coastline symbol running along the edges of the map is also a bit odd. Normally the symbol would simply stop there.

11-20-2012, 12:33 PM
Seriously Hai-Etlik's comments, particularly on the rivers, as they are core to the map and not style related, but really don't make much sense at all on your map (most of your apparent rivers seem much more like straights, in which case you should make their edges appear to be part of the coastline). Generally, always consider in which direction a river is flowing - it isn't merely a line of water across the land.

Other than that, I really like the shape of the landmasses and mountains ranges. The map has potential. Keep it up. :)

11-20-2012, 08:50 PM
One thing I noticed is that the layer that you've got the text on for some of the seas (Sea of Audruith, the Dread Sea, and the Gulf of Tyrro specifically) seem to have got shifted accidentally so they're completely or partially over the land.

The map does have potential; Hai-Etlik has given his usual good and exhaustive suggestions, most of which I whole-heartedly endorse.

11-22-2012, 03:06 PM
If the map is intended to be published in a physical book, then I wouldn't bother with the parchment background. It's already going to be on paper, so why print a picture of paper with it? What is the intended size of the finished piece? I know if this were printed in a typical paperback book, most of the labels and features would be too tiny to see.

If it's intended as a digital companion piece, a coffee-table book, a poster, or simply your own reference, then those objections do not matter.

You've definitely got some evocative names. I particularly like Frostmoor; that sounds like a place I definitely would not want to visit. You might consider indicating some kind of portage or canal on the isthmus in that vicinity. It seems likely that there would be a lot of traffic there to move things from the Bay of Frostmoor up into the Frozen Seas without having to navigate all the way around that landmass.

11-24-2012, 02:44 AM
When I opened up the picture of the map, all I could say was 'Wow!' The whole map looks awesome, but because I am gawking at this thread and typing this on an ancient iPhone 3G, and it does not have very good graphics, I can't make out the details. But what I can see looks great. Keep up the good work!

11-24-2012, 07:43 AM
Nice map. I like the style. Overland maps, I think, are the hardest for 1st timers to do, and have come out real. I think you have a great start and for most self-pub books would be fine(and I assume you are going this route, since 95% of traditional publishers don't require or want maps from their authors).

BUT, if you want the map to really sing, and separate yourself from the masses. I would take the advice of the elders here. They really do know what they are talking about. In general it looks like you have 3 concerns from my newbie eyes. 1)Rivers are off, 2)Too cluttered in the symbols, and 3)Labeling is off-- All of which are explained further up the thread in better ways than I could.

Keep up the good work. Great start!