View Full Version : The Aralor Empire and the lands to the north-west

05-19-2013, 06:15 PM
I'm a bit late to write a "member introduction" - my first visit to this fantastic site happened slightly more than a year ago :oops: Still I think its better late than never :)

Inventing worlds and drawing maps was my hobby since childhood. I used to play RPGs with my friends, but nowadays I don't meet them often. Several years ago I decided to take the best from each world I had made and make a new one from these parts. (Sounds funny :lol: ) Of course I needed a new map. I made several sketches untill the main idea was clear. Then I decided to make a computer-made map. I didn't have much experience in digital map-making: as a child I preferred using pencils. So my first attempt at map-making began.


The work stopped, when I found this site. The amount of different map-making stiles (and tutorials!) here absolutely overwhelmed me. So I abandoned my map and started playing with Photoshop and Gimp, trying different methods.

So you see where my work has stopped. The map is unfinished and it has serious flaws.
1. Resolution is too low. You cannot zoom in and look closely at the details without seeing pixels.
2. The mountains and forests were drawn by hand (using a mouse :shock: ). It was absolutely exhausting - and that is one reason why the quality leaves much to be desired.

These are 2 main problems that are most difficult to overcome. Of course, there are also many minor defects. And it well may be I don't see more fundamental drawbacks.

Now I don't know what to do with this map. On one hand it would be better to start from scratch and to use the knowlege found here on this site from the very beginning. But... It would be really great to find some tricky way to make a decent map out of this.

Can something worthy still be made of this map? Can it be fixed? Or is it just a waste of time?
Should I finish this map or start a new one?
I cannot decide. Please, help me.

P.S. May be some kind of extremely worn-out map can be made from this low-quality image?

05-20-2013, 10:39 AM
Well I think the resolution issue would depend on how much you want to be able to zoom in, and how good a graphics computer you have. At 1400x1600 px this is not bad for a regional map, but if you want to be able to zoom in on each town and see a layout, I hate to tel ya, it is way too small. That sort of goal will be almost unobtainable. I would suggest that at this level of map, that you just place the towns and cities using symbols of some sort and then do layouts of the cities/towns as you need them. If you want to double the res. (I am not too sure what the res is on your working map) Gimp does allow you to change the resolution and size of the map (Image>Scale) and I believe that PS can do the same, and I don't think it would take too much of your detail. This will of course greatly increase the size of the file.....

As foe the map itself, I do like the layout of the mountains and you river network.....with the exception of your southern rivers. They do seem to "gather" a bit too much. If you do increase either the size of the map, or the res. (I would suggest doing the size and res. or just size)I would either try to make brushes of your mountains or look for some that you like in the Mapping Resource forum to compensate for a slight blurring of those images.

I wish you luck with this project. :)

05-20-2013, 11:15 AM
1) as Korash said before - resolution depends on how crazy you are and how much detail you want to get into the map itself. if your'e only going to label nations and maybe capitals, i think this is good enough. if not, making it bigger might be a bit troublesome as if you just double the size its gonna get pixelly. i just tent to increase the size to something i want and then add a new layer and trace it with a pencil/brush tool.

2)the mountains are fine for a first go though like you said, it gets exhausting making each individually. a method that's commonly used is to make a set of mountains (often handmade on paper and scanned into the pc) with various sizes and orientations and then copy/paste or clone them from that onto another mountains layer. youre still placing them individually though as your not drawing each one-by-one is saves more time and lets you concentrate more on the layout

EDIT: also, i sugest copying this thread (or getting a mod to move it) to WIP so you can get some more input

05-20-2013, 02:41 PM
EDIT: also, i sugest copying this thread (or getting a mod to move it) to WIP so you can get some more input

Yeah that just might be a good idea VP :) consider it done

05-20-2013, 02:56 PM
Thanks for your comments :)

I think I'll continue working with this map. You (both) are right, I have planned too much detail for it. I hope the map will look ok, if i place only the main cities and names. May be I'll even make it a bit smaller than it is now - I hope it helps to improve the quality a bit.

As for the map itself, I do like the layout of the mountains and you river network.....with the exception of your southern rivers. They do seem to "gather" a bit too much.
I also had doubts about those southern rivers... You're right. I'll turn some of them into new riverbeds. Anyway, as a law-abiding citizen, I have no choice, but to obey the River-Policemen ;)

also, i sugest copying this thread (or getting a mod to move it) to WIP so you can get some more input
I'll definetly make a new thread in WIP - but only when I really have some progress.

Thank you again!

05-20-2013, 07:17 PM
I changed the rivers - I hope its better now:

05-20-2013, 08:07 PM
Oh BTW, this thread is already in the Regional Maps forum...(just in case you didn't notice). And I think those rivers do look a bit better arranged the new way.

05-21-2013, 09:44 AM
I think it looks like a nice update. I like the new geography a lot.
Don't be afraid to start from scratch, or import your old one and use the outline, etc. The tutorials are great for deciding how you like to map and teach you some useful skills.

05-21-2013, 08:17 PM
I hope I'm crazy enough for 2400x2400px :) And the res is 300 px per inch. Are these settings ok?

I tried to make a hi-res coastline, but it seems I overdid the fiords. More than that - it seems I do not understand fiord geograhpy. So the north-eastern coast isn't finished yet...

05-21-2013, 08:49 PM
I believe that the setting you have should be okay as long as you realize that the map will be 8 inches x 8 inches if printed out 1:1. As long as it doesn't slow down the computer you should be good. Now, in order to know how much detail you can put on that map, try and figure out a scale (ex. if the map is 2400 miles north/south, then 1 inch equals 300 miles and each pixel is 1 mile) and that would tell you what you can do as far as details go. Using that example, most small towns would fit inside the 1 pixel and would most likely be represented abstractly if at all (either way is good, just be consistent - maybe showing important towns but not necessarily all of them). All this to tell you that a scale goes a long way to making a believable map.

05-23-2013, 08:22 AM
What do you think of smth like this? (I've got 2 variants...)

Is the coastline ok? Should I improve the colors and textures somehow?

05-23-2013, 03:05 PM
I tried to play with different mountain brushes... Even tried to make some... Now my wrist aches :?
They just don't look good, when i place them on the map.
They seem too dirty... too complex... (especially when the image is zoomed out) I think I should simplify them a bit. Or do I miss smth else?

05-23-2013, 03:09 PM
to me the brush seems to big for the map size... i'd try even half that size, and i'd make an entire range not just some random bits.. with the mts they look best together, not apart. not sure if these brushes are hollow in the non-black parts, but it's best to overlap the mts, back to front, close together, breaks up the repeating brushes and allow you to build new shapes. as far as how it looks, it'd be hard to tell without more use.

05-23-2013, 04:07 PM
not sure if these brushes are hollow in the non-black parts, but it's best to overlap the mts, back to front, close together, breaks up the repeating brushes and allow you to build new shapes.
Of course their going to overlap:

...and i'd make an entire range not just some random bits...
You are right, that is the point i missed, and I hope that will help. I'll try to make some mt ranges in next few days. So more wrist pain awaits me :)

05-23-2013, 04:28 PM
wrist pain? welcome to cartography :) digital and pen/paper, we all suffer from that :P

05-23-2013, 08:04 PM
There is another variant. I thought: the mountains will be TINY on the final map. It means they should be simple. Yes, I know, that the 1st version of the mountains wasn't good. But, after all, this is my first map and it definetly won't be a Cartographers' choice. :) And I don't want to die before i make my 1st map.

Remember, that this is only a part of the map. Whole map is going to be about 8x8 inches - this part will be 4x3 inches.
Either i leave the mountains like that - without shadows at all, or i try to make the shadows better than in the 1st version.

05-23-2013, 08:37 PM
I actually really like the mountain brushes you made above, although they could definitely use some refinement. I have a feeling that you're pretty good with a pencil; if that's true, then consider drawing some nice mountains on paper, then take them to Kinko's and have them scanned. Unless you have a scanner at home, of course.

Some more smudgy shading rather than detail would probably be a good course to take, given the scale issue.

I feel I should point out that your coastline looks an awful lot like Middle Earth.

edit: I just noticed you're in Moscow, so you may or may not know what Kinko's is. If not, it's a shop that offers printing, binding and mail service. I assume there are businesses with similar services in Russia.

05-24-2013, 08:08 PM
I've tried to reduce the amount of detail a bit. Used some rubber. Still they should look like pieces of one puzzle - definitely not like Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves all put in one big barrel.

And it seems I'm not so good with a pencil after all :D I made this with a pencil, photoghraphed it, and then used it as a sketch in Photoshop (trying not to implement too much detail). I think now there too little detail... And they're too dark... I'm no artist:

- Max -
05-24-2013, 08:29 PM
If you're not going to use more textures/color work on lands, more simple outlines will match better in my opinion. More detailed mountains are harder to blend with a light and pale color texture/background. You can try a simple outline (like the one you did in post #16) with a very few diagonal hatch lines to simulate shaded side.

05-24-2013, 09:20 PM
The darkness is easy enough to fix: Just turn down the opacity a bit. I agree with - Max -: at the size you're going to be showing these, the simpler icons will work better. Do a Google Image search for Pete Fenlon and check out his hill symbols. His mountains are a bit complex, but his hills are so beautifully simple.

I do still like those sketchy mountains, though, especially the gently sloped ones with the smudgier details. They may not work for this map, but I hope you find a place for them in another.

05-25-2013, 07:26 AM
If you're not going to use more textures/color work on lands, more simple outlines will match better in my opinion. More detailed mountains are harder to blend with a light and pale color texture/background. You can try a simple outline (like the one you did in post #16) with a very few diagonal hatch lines to simulate shaded side.
Do you mean something like this? Did I overdo the shadows again?

They may not work for this map, but I hope you find a place for them in another.
If the mountain won't come to Muhammad then Muhammad must go to the mountain. :) If the mountains don't fit the map, I'll make a map that fits the mountains. But I'd like to finish this one at first... And you are right - Fenlon's hills are the type that best fits this map.

- Max -
05-25-2013, 07:58 AM
I think you're on the right way. Those mountains looks better. But you can also go on a light way ot hatch : just 4 or 5 kind of neat diagonal lines (solid on the edges and a bit erases at mountain feet) can do the trick.

05-25-2013, 05:26 PM
Are these mountains better?

- Max -
05-25-2013, 06:19 PM
Looks good to me. But the most important is that you like it and feel comfortable Ith to fill your map with ;)

05-25-2013, 06:54 PM
I like those latest mountains! But like Max said, the most important thing is that YOU like them.

05-25-2013, 07:20 PM
Of course :) But I'm new to cartography and it means that i don't have educated taste (yet). It is very important for me to know the opinion of profs :) I wouldn't have done half as much without help from you all. It's very stimulating to have a forum, where you can show your maps and have comments - it's a completely new experience for me. So please excuse me for spamming a bit. Of course, I shouldn't ask you how to do every step. Now I'll make the next post when I have some real progress with the mountains, I promise :)

- Max -
05-26-2013, 05:46 AM
Feel free to ask advices and opinions, that's a good way to improve and that's the right place to do it! That's true comments/critics are always motivating so don't forget to comment maps of others co-guilders aswell ;)

05-26-2013, 12:02 PM
Yeah, I think you're on the right track with those. Now I want you to take a look at something, just for your own edification. Take a look at the image with your first set of mountains in post #12 and compare the line quality of the mountains to that of the coastline. See how the coast is kind of "crunchy," but the mountains are smooth? Compare that to the last image you posted, where the coast and the mountains are similar in quality. That's something you want to try to maintain, or some elements will look really out-of-place.

I suspect that the difference between the two is that you used the Pencil tool for one and the Brush tool for the other. The Pencil adds no anti-aliasing to a line, which means the pixels it creates are either all the way on or off. The Brush, on the other hand, adds some translucent pixels along an angled line or curve that help it to blend in with its surroundings and appear more smooth.

05-26-2013, 07:41 PM
the coast is kind of "crunchy"
I haven't changed the coastlines yet, but I'll do it later, I promise : - )


05-26-2013, 07:59 PM
I think you are definitely cooking with gas now :) looking good

05-27-2013, 09:02 AM
That's starting to look really good. I think that if you get the coast to be more like the thin lines of your mountains it might look pretty cool.

05-28-2013, 07:01 PM
I changed changed the coastline and also the geography a bit. I hope the land no more "looks an awful lot like Middle Earth". At least not an awful lot :P And I hope the coast and river lines look compatible with the mountains.
And I also played with the textures a bit.

- Max -
05-28-2013, 07:14 PM
Rivers looks a bit noisy or pixellated but overall that's pretty good. I'd try some thinner rivers though to see how it goes.

05-29-2013, 08:25 AM
It looks like the Maps in Fantasy Novels, and capture the feel for me. The size is always a matter of what amount of time you want to spend on the map. Some smaller maps can be sketches for bigger ones. I am using mostly Mapsizes from 5-12.000 Px. But you see, I seldom finished one this year :D

05-29-2013, 08:04 PM
I remade the coastline and the rivers in a hi-res file. Also had to remake the colours and textures (not sure if they are better, worse or the same).

05-29-2013, 11:55 PM
I liked the previous colors and textures better.

05-30-2013, 09:34 AM
You are right. I was just too sleepy when I finished the rivers yesterday night. :)
Now the next big problem is the forest...

- Max -
05-30-2013, 10:20 AM
Way better with new coastlines and rivers :) Forests, a problem? :D

05-30-2013, 07:42 PM
Forests, a problem? :D
Yep. They are a big problem. So big that I won't make them at all. I'm afraid they're above my abilities.

05-30-2013, 09:10 PM
This map is really starting to look nice! Keep it up Gallien! Forests can be tricky. There are a few different ways to go though. I'm sure you'll figure something out :)

01-26-2014, 05:22 PM
OK, a year has not passed yet and here is the new update :)

1. I have finished the mountains (or at least close to that).
2. Still playing with the colors...
3. You can see some forest samples on the western coast.
I think I'll make the forests using something like the ones to the right. The forests have to be quite simple to match the simple mountains, I think. And simple is also easier to make.

01-27-2014, 11:00 AM
So these are the alpha-version forests

- Max -
01-27-2014, 11:23 AM
Looks pretty nice so far Gallien. Though I'm not sure that the forests style match the mountains outline work you did. Looks good zoomed out but less good zommed in :D

01-27-2014, 12:18 PM
Yes, I am also not sure, that is why it is called alpha-version. Still experimenting. Probably I should use just an outline of a tree as a brush instead of a whole tree silhouette... I'll try something like this:

- Max -
01-27-2014, 12:37 PM
That works for me :) I think you have your beta version ;)

01-27-2014, 12:38 PM
That looks 1000 times better. :P

01-27-2014, 03:56 PM
(I'm still experimenting with different methods and brushes)
Has anybody tried to make forests using the stained glass effect in PS?
This was generated almost automatically. I used some rubber on the edges, plus I played with blur to soften the angles.

- Max -
01-27-2014, 04:38 PM
I still prefer the beta version atm :D

01-27-2014, 06:32 PM
I like the beta version better too, but that stained glass filter... that's a very good idea. I'll have to play around with that.

Also, good to see you working on this again.

01-28-2014, 04:58 AM
Well, I'm discovering your work and it's a good one !

I vote for the beta version too, though I would place the trees in a less sparse manner.

01-29-2014, 01:14 AM
Yes, I am also not sure, that is why it is called alpha-version. Still experimenting. Probably I should use just an outline of a tree as a brush instead of a whole tree silhouette... I'll try something like this:

Iisn't "Alpha" the finished product, while "Beta" is the in-development version? ;-)

About those forests: why don't you try putting them closer together? They could even be overlapping for a more 3D-ish feeling (which you already have in your mountains). Personally I kinda liked the full-black versions even better than the white-in-the-middle ones, but that's purely me!

Apart from that I'd like to say: I only just stumbled on this map, and I must admit I was pretty amazed! Beautiful land shapes you have there, Gallien!!

02-02-2014, 02:11 AM
In software development, Alpha refers to in-house testing in a controlled hardware environment. Beta is an external test. Thus, Alpha is even earlier in the development cycle.

When the software is actually released for manufacturing, it's referred to as "Gold."

03-29-2014, 05:52 PM
First, I want to thank everybody for your attention! I have not visited the forum for a long time and I've just read the last comments.
Now I do not have much time for mapmaking, because I'm finishing my last year at the university - that is why I visit the site very rarely.
But it definetly does not mean that I'm not working on this map :)

As for the forests...
Ilanthar and Caenwyr - my first idea was to make "tolkien-style" forests. That is what you reccomend, if I understand you correctly. (3D-style, overlapping trees.) Probably this would be the best choice. But it proved to be too hard for me: you have to clean all the mess, that comes from overlapping tree brushes. I avoided the same problem with the mountains by just drawing them all by hand. I also tried to draw the forests by hand and I won't ever try it again :) At least in the nearest future. I'm no artist.

I decided to use the first version (the black trees). As Max said the trees looked good zoomed out, but not so good zoomed in. That is why i made them much smaller - now even zoomed in they look like the first version zoomed out. In fact a single tree now has the same width as the lines of the mountains and rivers.


Now I have to finish placing the forests - and then the naming and labelling comes, I believe. The countries and cities etc.
I hope I'll finish the map in the end of April or in May (I don't think I'm going to have much free time until then).

P.S. I don't want to call the last version of the forests the Gold version. I'd rather call it Gamma version :)

04-04-2014, 12:35 PM

So this is the last version. And I think I'll stop here for now. The map is not finished, of course, still I don't think I wasted my time doing it. And I'm very grateful for the help I got from all of you!
I realised that my concept of this world is too vague now so I have to make a systematic history of the world before finishing the map. And I will probably need some basics of a conlang (for geographical names). The process of namemaking is worse than hell...

As for now, I will probably try to make a global map of the same world in another style. If (or when) I really begin to do something, I'll start another thread.

04-05-2014, 08:31 AM
Truly a good map already. I'm very surprised and have mixed feelings about your forests. It looks awesome and works very well with the rest when zoomed out, but feels very different when zoomed, imo.

04-05-2014, 08:50 AM
That turned out very fine! I like the final (?) version of your forests, and the mountains are pretty well done and fit this map style a lot better than some of the more elaborate brushes.

I would like to know how you did the paper texture though... I like it very much and I am always looking for new inspirations on that point.

04-05-2014, 10:58 AM
About the paper texture.
I used Adobe PS functions :)

1. I chose the main color - R 193 G 185 B 147 (you can change that of course).

2. Then I use the options of the Filter menu.

A) Filter/Texture/Texturiser
You need some texture to work with, something you will adjust later. There are 4 textures uploaded in PS by default (in my version) - brick, sandstone, canvas and sackcloth (I hope these are the right words, for I use the russian version). I used the sackcloth, but even the brick texture can be used, I think.
The only thing that matters now is the scaling and the relief. They define the final contrast of the paper, the size of grain.

B) Filter/Brush Strokes/Spatter
This step creates the texture itself. You have to adjust the spray radius and smoothness. The contrast of the result depends not only on these parametrs but also on the initial texture relief.

C) I blurred the result with Gausian blur (Filter/Blur/...). Later I thought that the texture is too blurred, so I went back to the Texturizer tool and used the Canvas texture with relief set to 1 (minimum). (You can compare the last map with the previous one.)

You can play with the settings on all the steps, depending on the size of the picture and on the contrast you want to have. You can also try to Spatter the texture twice for a more smooth paper texture. There are many different ways to use the PS Filter tools.

3. And the last point. I used 2 layers with black&white clouds. (Filter/Render/Clouds) (One layer for small-grained clouds and one for much bigger ones.) I set both layers to Multiply and turned the Opacity down to 5% or 10%.

04-05-2014, 12:35 PM
Cool. Like Freodin I was hoping you'd share that, so thank you.

04-05-2014, 02:19 PM
Really like this map, sad that you're not going to carry on with it :(

Completely agree that name making is a lot of effort, definitely not my favourite thing.

04-05-2014, 04:58 PM
Just experimenting. :)
I used Wind-Blur-Sharpen on the Mountain and Forest layers, and I used Diffuse-Blur-Sharpen on the Names, Rivers and Coastline layers.
I thought the result is funny and can be interesting for somebody.