View Full Version : Problem with being satisfied with my maps

04-01-2013, 03:26 PM
So, I've been trying to make a world map for my headworld Majy'sa, but everytime I try to make a map, either I'm not happy with the landmasses, nor am I happy with the style that the map's in, the projection's off/wrong or there's always something else wrong with the map I've made. I've tried doing Israh's style of map, Saderan's map style, and a hand drawn map style. But no matter what, I'm not happy with it. I've been wanting to do it from the tectonic plates up but have never been happy with the landshapes that way nor have I been able to get the projection right, or by generating shapes in Fractal Terrains (Been using 2.3 but I might have to buck up and buy FTP 3).

I'm just wondering, has anyone else had this problem as well? I don't know what to do about it.

04-01-2013, 03:42 PM
I feel your pain. I have the exact same problem. There are maps i really like, for example by Diamond, torstan or Max. But the maps i make myself? I am never satisfied...not even close to satisfied. To be honest, i think i never will be...and that is quite frustrating :-/
So, no, you're not alone. Unfortunately, i have no solution either.

04-01-2013, 03:56 PM
I totally sympathise! When I started out thinking about mapping my world for my book I used Fractal Terrains but couldn't get the landmasses right. Then I switched to Campaign Cartographer 3 and the result didn't feel right, then I started with the Saderan tutorial but again was not satisfied. After that I toyed with doing my map in Ascension's atlas style but picked the antique style in the end. Even then, I had niggling doubts about many elements and then when I look at other maps by torstan or Max I think I wish I could do that. I'm fine with the antique style I've chosen but I really don't think there is a solution. You just have to keep trying until you settle on a look that just feels right and looks reasonably OK, although that's easier said than done.

04-01-2013, 04:30 PM
Hmm, I used to think like that: I was never happy with the results I got, every time I draw a map I had to erase it because I didn't like its shape, took me hours (even days) to get a nice result. For the style was the same thing, I wanted to get something like Diamond's or Ramah's style, but all I got was a five year old child sketch :(.

I started drawing random maps (so that I wouldn't get that worried about the shape) to try new styles and improve my skills, and I can say it worked - and it is still working. My mapping skills have grown a lot, but of course I'm not even close to "perfection".

All I can suggest is that you should maybe stop for a while your project, at least the map part, and start drawing maps just to improve skills, get into Lite Challenges. This worked out for me on the map style "side of the coin", on the other side, the landmass, it also helped a bit, but what helps more for me is to look at others people maps and get inspired by them - sometimes you have just to forget the thing you have been trying to solve, to get the right answer.

Good luck ;)

04-01-2013, 05:08 PM
I basically had my own style of maps, even after first coming to the Cartographers' Guild. Though I will definitely state that my style improved or at least gained more practice participating in the monthly Map Challenges (there was no such thing as Lite Challenges when I first joined). After winning a couple challenges, I started getting commission requests from various publishers like Dog House Rules and Iron Crown Enterprises. I had even taken on a map object commission for ProFantasy software creating 189 modern symbols for the Modern Symbol Set which was finally released. Probably my most paid and higher end map design was creating the capital city of Kasai, for the Jade Regent Adventure Path by Paizo Publishing. However, most of the time, I've been developing my own setting, supplements and modules featuring my maps for the Kaidan campaign setting published by Rite Publishing. In reality, Kaidan is my Intellectual Property, and it's dominated my work over the last 2 years.

At no time, did I try to emulate anyone else's current style or any historical style (though members like Diamond weren't even members yet). Many members here preferred my hand-drawn work, simply because good hand-drawn work is not so common, and that style dominates for me. I see many posters in this thread point to Torstan's work or Diamond's work, and really if my style even looked like another's style, I would deliberately change it, so it doesn't match. I don't want my maps to look like anyone elses. I'd much rather someone look at a given map and recognize it as my work and no one elses.

Creating my own style is far more important than emulating anyone elses. I don't see the attraction to do work like someone else - at any activity.

04-01-2013, 06:17 PM
I agree with GP. It's a matter of finding a style that works for you. However - your work will look like yours at the end of the day. Illustration styles are like handwriting. I can spot Mike Schley's work or Jared Blando's immediately. You'll find your style.

For every piece I work on I can look at it afterwards and see all the pieces that I want to fix and know I'll never have time to. You spend more time looking at your own work than anyone else's. You'll inevtiably see the flaws in your work, because you were there when you made the mistakes. The best solution is to put your work up on the Guild and get feedback. And challenges are good for that. Not only do they get you feedback, but they'll also force you to finish things to a deadline. This can be a great way to get past cartographers' block.

A deadline requires you to make decisions, and that'll help you move forward. Some decisions will be bad, others will be good, and others still will result in happy accidents. I'd never get anything finished without deadlines, and the eternal dream of a map that I'm happy with will always remain that - an unattainable dream.

On a slightly more practical note - I know precisely what you mean about levels of finish. There's a difference between the polish in a map that you see in many publications and a personal map. When I'm working on a new style there's always that point where I look at what I'm working on, and at the reference I'm using of where I want to be and see a huge gulf. Mine looks like a bad drawing and that looks like a map. The only way to get passed that is to push through. The odds are that you're one level of detailing away from where you need to be. Jump back in at 100% zoom, add a new layer, and start digging in. Don't be afraid to colour sample from reference and keep a copy of what you're working towards right beside your image.

And as for mimicking the style of others? Lots of illustrators learn by trying to recreate the work of people they like. You'll learn things as you go along. But using it as a learning exercise is different from subjugating your own style to someone else. Take what you can from each person and integrate the things that work into your own work flow. Ditch the rest.

04-01-2013, 10:37 PM
I want to thank you all for the responses, and it's good to know I'm not alone out there. I'll definitely have to try the challenges and probably just take a break from my worldmapping for that particular project for a while. Any time I had been making a map, it had gone for that world, and I was just never satisfied with it. So maybe I'll just create some random maps and happen along one that I like a lot. You all are wonderful people and thank you so much for the advice. I'll definitely have to give the challenges a shot too, as I've never done them.

04-01-2013, 10:59 PM
I"ve found that I'm always more critical of my own work than other people's work. If you've got the time and energy, try doing several different maps and post them in the Work In Progress section here. Many folks are likely to offer advice and at the very least, a different perspective will help you out enormously.

Unless you're like me with a titanic ego and low tolerance for criticism; then you'll have a bit of a harder time with comments...

04-01-2013, 11:19 PM
If you've taken a look at my Tropan thread, you'll see that I'm one of the 'worst offenders' around here at not being happy with landmass shapes, map styles, what have you. :D Sometimes all you can do is keep on going, trite as that sounds. I will say that I hope I'm NEVER totally satisfied with my own work, because that'll mean I've stagnated and am not growing creatively anymore...

04-01-2013, 11:51 PM
being a painter as well as a mapper, i'd have to say it's an artist thing... i find especially with my paintings... i HATE them... in pretty much every way, i find things didn't turn out good enough... Something I've found is fairly successful is to just take a break... for me it seems to be the longer i take away from the painting, the more i like it when i look at it again... I think we just get fixated on the piece, and see all it's flaws.. which no one else ever sees... taking time away allows me to forget what it looks like, what i was striving for, and to see it how i would see another artists work... try it! you'd be surprised how a little makes a big difference!

And also remember, no one is as hard on your art as you!

04-02-2013, 02:32 AM
Years ago someone here asked about mapping their own worlds. Most of us have one in the back of our mind's eye. Maybe it's the game world we use for an RPG with friends, or maybe it's a world we write novels about. The interesting thing was that even our best artists here were saying things like, "I don't think I'll ever map my main world". The reason given was they felt like they could never do it justice. I have this problem myself now, I did try it once a while back and I keep meaning to go redo it but well, it will never be as good as I can visualize it in my mind. It sounds like this is what you are bumping up against. What works well for that is to just do as others have mentioned and go make some maps that are not a part of your world. You'll get skills from that and you can be free to explore odd ways of doing things which will free up your creativity.

All artists should be able to look at work they have done and know they can do better next time. That just means you are improving.

If you try to copy someone else's style you will never be as good as they are at it and you will always feel like you don't measure up. Find what you do that's different and embrace it.

Someone said, "let your art determine where you go with it" rather than trying to control it...or something along those lines.

I know I can get frustrated when I can't artistically convey an idea I have because for whatever reason my skill set isn't good enough. That just means I'll have to keep working to improve.

04-03-2013, 01:02 PM
Here's the view of one of the leading lights of illustration on just this question:

Muddy Colors: 10 Things...Word List (http://muddycolors.blogspot.com/2013/04/10-thingsword-list.html)