View Full Version : Dispatches from a Cartographer - Larithas visits the .....

01-25-2013, 05:53 PM
It's been a while since I updated the Dispatches series, but I've had requests (well, one really - you know who you are) to get back to work, so here goes.

This is a pretty ambitious map. There seems to have been a real burst of great maps lately (I'm looking at you, Max), which have inspired this new style and large scope project. Trying to be pretty experimental, at the moment, so feedback is more than welcome.

Still have to figure out what the map is actually going to show...

01-25-2013, 06:08 PM
Hey I like the start to this!! I really like the way the islands are popping and the parchment is pretty cool. Will be following along for sure. glad your back on the horse LOL

- Max -
01-25-2013, 06:20 PM
:D Indeed a good start :) I Like the coastlines. Though I'm not a great fan of the background( too many and large stains to my taste) but I'll keep an eye on this map! :D What size is it?

01-26-2013, 02:54 PM
I concur with Max, the stains are a bit much for me. It makes me focus on them instead of the map.

Also a bit blurry?

Otherwise I really like it :)

01-26-2013, 03:29 PM
I think once there's some physical features on there, the stains will actually work well with the overall design by balancing all the (presumably to be added) mountains, cities, etc.

I agree with Thordred that it looks a bit blurry. Looking forward to seeing this develop!

01-26-2013, 10:03 PM
Thanks for those comments - pity the stains aren't popular, as I'm really liking the texture of this paper. But Diamond's probably right, they'll disappear once the land starts filling up.

The blurriness is also a deliberate feature, but perhaps it is a bit overdone?

Anyway, new update - not many changes, as I'm not a fast worker, but hopefully starting to give an idea of what's to come. Added some mountains (mostly just for experiments), some cities, a couple of labels, and cleaned up some ugly spots around the islands.

As always, CC encouraged. I'd also like to know what people think of:
A. the mountains - I don't know which style works better at this stage. The ones on the left are fancy but really slow to add; the ones on the right maybe look a bit cartoonish?

B. the city symbols - I'm going for a highly stylised city emblem (I call them medallions) with similar types for towns. What do people think?

C. the text - trying a new font. Don't know if it works. Again, comments would be great.


(by the way: Max, I think it's a bit under 5100x5100 pixels. I wanted to do it bigger, but my computer told me not to)

Freehand 5.5
01-27-2013, 02:20 AM
I like the overall idea and concept of this map and I see the work and ambition. But there are quite some details I don't like.

The 4 water lines would be okay, but when it comes to all those little islands (I like them) the number of lines disturbs the clearness of the map. It's a mess.
To me the blurriness of the background looks like it is a very tiny map that was increased to much for the dpi-quality it had.
I don't understand the city symbols. What is it? They look like comic bear faces. :)
The black of the typo and the mountains is nice and deep, the black of the coastlines is lighter and blurrier, the line of the border is even lighter but sharp again.
There should be more consistency in the line art.

The mountains in he right part don't rock me that much, but the mountains at the bottom are the hell of cool.

01-27-2013, 02:33 AM
i quite like the city symbols.

i think with regards to the water/coast/wave lines, 3 might be better. and id remove one of the ones closest to the land as they seem very tightly-packed there. other than that i quite like this, including the distressed pape, though id keep it hiddenn while working on it as its quite distracting. then you can mess around with layer styles & opacities and what not once its done to see what you can do

01-27-2013, 03:39 AM
This looks really cool!

- Max -
01-27-2013, 06:49 AM
Agree with others about waterlines. I really lile the cities icons which gives original feel. The 2 moutains will fit the map i guess. Both are nice

01-27-2013, 03:20 PM
1. Mountains - The ones on the left are fantastic. The thing that I don't like is their crispness compared to the coastlines. Since it'd be a shame to blur out all that excellent detail on the mts, I recommend sharpening your coastlines (or at least darkening them a bit more).

2. City Symbols - I like 'em. Very cool and unique.

3. Font - Pretty, but a bit illegible.

As far as the coastal rings - I like them, but Freehand's right about them messing up the clarity of the map. If you sharpen your coastlines OR lower the opacity on the rings, I think it'll balance better.

01-27-2013, 10:05 PM
Latest update.

Changes since last time:
- sharp-lined mountains removed
- detailed mountains redone, adding hills/foothills this time
- coastal waves redone (hopefully not as messy this time)
- page border tidied
- new towns, several villages, and a couple of forts (the star-shaped things)
- various tweaks to blurriness, although probably not as much as people were suggesting
- scale bar left in by accident

I'll look into different fonts later, but the current one is fine by me, for now.

I'd really like to know what people think of the redone mountains, especially now that the hills have been added. Somehow they don't look right to me - the colour doesn't quite match the paper, and the area they merge with the flat country around look wrong (the island might be too small a sample to judge, though). Anyone have any suggestions for fixing these problems?

Vorropohaiah, couldn't bring myself to hide the paper texture. I don't find it too distracting there, but maybe I'll give that a try sometime, and see how it goes.

Think that covers everything for now. Glad people like the cities, and hopefully the towns/villages/forts will also be popular.


[EDIT: just looked over it again, and finally noticed what everyone else saw from the beginning. The blurriness really doesn't look good near the crisp towns and mountains, does it? Guess I'd better do something about it pronto]

01-27-2013, 10:48 PM
My initial instinct is that there's too much white in the mountains, but as you say, it might be too small a sample to tell for sure. It seems like they're going to totally cover up the texture of the parchment though.

- Max -
01-28-2013, 08:03 PM
I like your moutains, your icons :) but....unfortunately there' sa but....Harmony is missing a bit here, not on the whole map feel, but with the several elements : coastlines, waterlines, border are (too) blurry, moutains sharp with thick lines, icons sharp with bigger lines...Imho, that's the things you may have to work on, since it attracts eye more than it would normally does! Hope it will help to achieve some improvements ;)
*Edit* damn forgot about the mountains thing : they looks good to me. Just maybe a little more colors on shadows and highligntings ( more contrast) will help to do well...

01-29-2013, 10:00 AM
I'm with Diamond on the white of the mountains, they stand out even in the thumbnail, stand back and take a look and see what you think. It might also be that the mountains are "hardlined" while the sea area is "softlined", I think there may be too much contrast between the two elements, and maybe this is where Max finds the disharmony? I like the parchment and the city symbols. This is still coming along nicely, and as we all know sometimes ya just gotta tweek stuff LOL. Tweeking is part of my life style!!

01-29-2013, 09:48 PM
Another update.

More mountains added, and some foothills. Coastlines redone. Probably the most important change is that the mountains and hills have been recoloured, so that they merge with the background a bit better. More work will be done on the colour of the hills in the bottom centre, which have too high a contrast with the rather pale background, but that'll have to wait till much later.

The stained paper texture has been (temporarily) removed, as Vorropohaiah suggested. The paper that remains was unfortunately flattened, and so cannot be removed so easily. The text has also been temporarily removed.

01-29-2013, 10:22 PM
Love the mountain brushes your using...are they your own creation? If not, mind sharing where you got them from so I can try them out?

01-29-2013, 10:57 PM
MUCH better looking coastlines! Mountain color looks great now (maybe because of the change in parchment), and I got to say, I think I like this modified parchment/background better.

01-30-2013, 01:16 AM
@anomiecoalition: all my own drawings. I try to never use other peoples' brushes because it feels kinda like cheating.

@Diamond: I also like the parchment now, but I wasn't going to make a decision until I've finished. That was, before...


I'd been working on my mountains as a smart object, and somehow they've ended up getting rasterised. I still have the image, of course, but it is much less editable now. I'll salvage what I can, but this could end the map. Even if the damage isn't too bad, the motivational blow is pretty huge.

I'll update my progress when I find out if the map can be saved. Until then, watch this space.

01-30-2013, 01:28 AM
Ouch. I know that pain all too well. If it's any consolation, the times that's happened to me and I've worked up the motivation to keep working, I've usually liked take two better.

- Max -
01-30-2013, 02:53 AM
Damn that sucks. Keep motivation and keep up the good job!

01-30-2013, 04:26 AM
Ouch. I know that pain all too well. If it's any consolation, the times that's happened to me and I've worked up the motivation to keep working, I've usually liked take two better.

so true! same with my writing.

persevere and try and at least finish it! im sure itll work out fine in the end

01-31-2013, 01:21 PM
Not good to hear THW but ironic in that my archipelago post posed the question of how to keep motivated, in my case only breaking lead, in your case poof the majik computer blaster :(. I think in your case step back from it for a day or two, talk to us here to vent the frustrations. Lord knows we need to vent every once in awhile over our stuff! I did have a motivation issue in my trading village, I had the placement issue of the manor, not really to my liking. This was a bummer at first but then I thought, hell I'm not letting this whip me, so I jumped right back on the horse to bulldoze my way to where I was. I'm not suggesting you do that, just an example of cartography response LOL. You look like you have a pretty good handle on PS to me, but you might post about your work flow and maybe some of the other PS folks can offer suggestions on how to recover with a little less time and effort.

In any case we'll all be patient and looking for the good stuff you always post up.

02-03-2013, 07:22 PM
Well, I think I've managed to catch up with where I was last week. What really cheesed me off is that, the day after the last post, I did get back to work, I redid some of the mountains, and, as Diamond predicted, take two was looking (much) better than the first. Then that layer got accidentally deleted. My fault - I thought I deleted a different layer, but that understandably vexed me considerably.

I'll try writing about my workflow, but I'm not much of a one for describing my methods. Oh well, here goes: The way I place mountains into photoshop is:
- create a new layer and turn it into a smart object (that's so I can keep down the file size)
- select to edit the smart object
- on that layer, place one mountain
- create another layer, and add another mountain
- repeat until all mountains are placed
- go back and delete the areas where mountains overlap ONE AT A TIME
- colour is added on a layer at the bottom, usually clipped to a 'base' layer (originally white, which is what Diamond pointed out) but now I use the parchment background itself

This method takes ages, has to be done not only for mountains but also for hills, forests, etc, and explains how a mostly simple mistake turned into the disaster that it did. I might spend up to 15 minutes on one mountain. I've tried Midgardsormr's (?) method of using the clone stamp (and I started a thread asking about it) but I don't think it lets me get the colour effects I want, so I'm still stuck on having each mountain on a separate layer. Which has the additional problem of taking up colossal amounts of space on my computer, so sometimes, after putting in all that work, I get the message "can't execute the action [eg saving the file] because the scratch disk is full".

Anyway, there's my workflow, as well as a fair portion of vented frustration. I think this map is mostly back on track (although I realise I need to draw more volcanoes - I have only the one icon for them - and I'm trying to figure out how to do coastal cliffs). I'm undecided about the colouring of the hills this time - less saturated/less green, but is that a good thing? I think it is safe to say this map will proceed (short of another disaster), but, as usual, at a snail's pace.


Vellum, I remember your town village and the problem you had at that time; doesn't seem to have slowed you down, though.

02-03-2013, 07:34 PM
I think the latest versions looks worlds better then the first versions.

I hope you find motivation to continue with this map, it has so much potential! I look forward to seeing how you tackle the forests ;)

- Max -
02-03-2013, 07:53 PM
I want more! :p Keep up the good job! THW I'm doing the same way for my mountains and hills ;) Takes time but I think it's the safer way to do it good and I kinda like it. I just tried the clone tool on some forests on my current WIP. Works pretty well but takes a long time aswell.
- About the mountains, I used to do the same way as yours but after the whole mountain range is ok, I merged all layers.
- About the hills, it will depend of the others colors used on the map but maybe a light brown/green?
* 2nd edit* - tired -_-
- About the cliffs, a simple way to do it is: draw the top line of the cliff. Hand draw some vertical lines/hatches or whatever you want that you need to figure the cliff, turn them into brushes, then apply brushes between the top line and the coast, erase those lines that go over the top line and over the coast. Easy, fast and convincing.

02-04-2013, 04:19 PM
I don't believe you Max. If you used the same methods as I'm doing you wouldn't be able to make such great maps as quickly as you do.

My original plan with this map was to do forests with small tree symbols (I've drawn dozens of them, as well as different forests etc.) but I did a quick sample (yet to be revealed) using a different technique, so we'll see how that goes. It can definitely wait until the mountains and hills are finished.

About the cliffs, I've drawn cliffs like you suggested, Max, but because I want them for the coasts, the upper rim of the cliff has to match the shape of the coast. Do you have any suggestions for that?


- Max -
02-04-2013, 04:35 PM
Really this is how I'm doing. My workflow: hand drawing moutains set, scanning the whole thing, making brushes, apllying one brush on one layer, repeat, repeat etc. doing it from bottom to top usually. but it depends. Then erasing all overlapping parts, then when I'm done and satisfied with it, merging all mountains into only one layer... But I don't sleep much :p
About the cliffs, just draw it with mouse (or tablet if you have) to follow the shape of your coastlines. On Green Havens, I did it this way with mouse. If I remember correctly, 2px round brush and a very light blurr on it.

- Max -
02-04-2013, 05:00 PM
Alright, here's a quick cliff I just made to show you, with the 3 steps. Really easy, as you can see. Hope it will help...


02-04-2013, 05:19 PM
Thanks for that Max, I'll definitely try out that cliff method. And I must say, I believe you about the mountains, but, sleep or no sleep, you must be a really fast worker.

- Max -
02-04-2013, 05:42 PM
No problem, that cliff method is really easy and you can do them fast. I'll hope see more of your map soon.
And yea , like I explained to Arsheesh if I remember good, I like progressing fast when I start a map. If it's one of my own or a commission that inspired me, I can work pretty fast. Well I guess that the thing that takes the most time is drawing the stuff (especially moutains) but I like it, it's relaxing and I do it as soon as I have some spare minutes. Coloring map also takes me some time... Well stop babbling, back to Kerngard! :D

02-04-2013, 07:49 PM
Thanks for that Max, I'll definitely try out that cliff method. And I must say, I believe you about the mountains, but, sleep or no sleep, you must be a really fast worker.

I really think Max is a robot the way he cranks stuff out LOL!! Good job kickin this thing in the butt and continuing to get it where you want it to be and learn new stuff / techniques, after all Larithas didn't cross the continent in a day ;)

02-07-2013, 10:27 PM
I doubt there are many robots that could keep up with our friend Max.

Well, another update. Not too many changes since last time- this has to be one of the slowest maps to be created in the history of the universe. I've started to think the slow pace is all about building suspense, so there's a silver lining.

I've put two versions of the map so far - one with the brown background, and the other with that dreaded parchment background returned.

I've done some experiments with cliffs, and have to say that Max's method does look best. I tried doing realistic hand-drawn cliffs, but they lost too much resolution when shrunk (pity - they were good drawings, if I say so myself). I might have to adapt Max's cliffs a bit, as I'm not completely convinced they suit the sketchy mountains I drew.

In these two images, I'm keen to get people's opinions about the forests and the farmland. The landmass in the south has two examples of each, and I'm uncertain which I like more. The farmland sample on the right uses a hand-made pattern (which can be flipped and rotated to double the variation), the one on the left uses hand-drawn brushes.

With the forests, I really want to get the impression of trees climbing up the slopes of the mountains. I was inspired by some sketches by someone on the forum, might have been Chashio.

Let me know what you think, and I'll try to post another update soon - 2014, perhaps?


PS: When this is finally done, I might try posting my brushes and patterns in the Mapping Elements section. Would people be interested in that?

02-08-2013, 01:33 AM
My initial impression is that I like the right-side farmland better. The linework seems to work better with what you've already got and really lets those hills show through nicely. Trees look good, but as forests you might want to make them a little denser and see how it works.

- Max -
02-08-2013, 04:15 AM
I concur with it. The right-side patterns looks better. And I like the hills and those lovely lil' trees aswell. I'm still looking forward to see how you gonna work on your forests though ;)

02-08-2013, 04:51 AM
I like the pattern on the right side. So far this map develops nicely.

02-24-2013, 02:09 AM
People might be forgiven for thinking I've abandoned this map. That isn't the case, but this might be a good time to announce my almost-complete temporary-withdrawal from the Cartographers Guild. I have just entered the final phase of university, and must begin working on a thesis (about maps, as it happens). I only say all this to explain why this map is going to change from a snail's pace to a glacier's, and probably won't be updated very often.

Because of that I wanted to include in this message the latest update. The other reason this update has been so late is because I wanted it to be significantly different from last time, to give the sense that real progress has been made.

It mightn't be as different as I'd hoped, but there are still a number of changes - the mountains are finished, and most of the hills, also. I have revised my approach to forests, including a new set of hand-drawn forest patterns (I know you said you liked the previous ones Max, but they just weren't working for me). Following the comments from previously, I will stick with the farmland design shown, although I haven't added any more since last time. The volcano smoke has also changed slightly.

Oh yeah, the grassland pattern is also a new hand-drawn pattern (I'm undecided about the bright green behind it, though).

Lastly, I'm thinking about putting a very subtle blue-green tinge on the big northern forest, to make it look colder and more like pine forests.

I'll probably continue taking sneaky visits to the CG when I should be getting on with other things (hence 'almost-complete'), so comments, as always, are strongly encouraged.

02-24-2013, 02:17 AM
that's looking nice - the mountains are great and the trees fit in too,though the green seems to have been applied a bit too liberally, particularly in the sparse trees south of the northern-most mountains. though still, looking good.

and good luck with the thesis

Freehand 5.5
02-24-2013, 02:21 AM
I still don't like those cities, but the woods and mountains are nice. I think this map is on a good way.

- Max -
02-24-2013, 05:48 AM
Good luck with your thesis! Those forests are looking interesting, probably hard to color them properly but I like the touch it gives to the map. Keep up this good job :)