View Full Version : Help for my first map

01-21-2014, 10:34 AM

I try to do a map for my home world and I have a problem with color and textures of landscape. I saw on the tutorial but I don't find what I want. I try to copy the style of these two maps : http://www.cartographersguild.com/cartographers-choice/22943-selvarin-max.html and Sapience - Commission by Ramah-Palmer on deviantART (http://ramah-palmer.deviantart.com/art/Sapience-Commission-284444842).

For the moment, all colors that I had tried, give some lightly color and I can't find the good color.

Please find my work below and do some comments and advices !
Thank you !

60509 60553

01-21-2014, 01:22 PM
Hi there. :)

I *think* I understand what you're asking. Unfortunately, there's only so much help anyone can give you. To be able to blend colors well, you have to develop an eye for what colors go well together, and for light/shadow.

The only tips I can give you on that is that 1) It takes more than 2 colors to blend well. 2) Colors should be very close to each other, but not necessarily so close that you can't see the difference. and 3) Colors should get lighter closer to a source of light. With a top-down view, this light would (presumably) be the sun, so colors would be *darker* for low ground, and *lighter* for high ground.

What you also want is for someone to say "Fill the red spaces with THIS color, and the white spaces with THAT color," and so on, and hope that it will blend perfectly. No matter what colors you choose, that won't work. Your lines are too rigid, and it would take many irregular layers to blend properly.

I'll show you a mock up (Using part of your image). It won't look great, but it's the *basic* process.


I pretty much just scribbled everywhere, but it's still a pretty pink mountain :)

If you just want a place to *start* looking for your colors, a fairly natural green that I start with, and usually change, is #2d5f2d. Remember... keep the colors in the same range... the crosshairs on the color selector in GIMP are a good guide if you're new at this. You can just click along the line to find your next shade :)

As for your map... All I can make out here, really, is your land vs water areas. What I see is a very interesting shape, but the edges look... i don't know.. too rounded?

I like the islands (the ones you colored) ... not sure what the white circles are around them but it's a little distracting.

I think you're off to a good start, but I'd focus on developing your map before you work on the coloring :)

01-22-2014, 05:34 AM
So, in fact, you say I use bad color and my map is too rounded. And the white circles are funny. :P

In fact the color you see on my own map is not color that i want to use for my final version. It's a draft. They're only here to define the limit of each land (desert, plain, forest, mountain - the red is for the tray... not the best ^^). I want to use some drawing mountain and tree to fill these land. But for plain / desert / toundra / iceland... I want to use some color and some sand dune (or other icons). But I don't find good color. They are only bright.
Thank you for the green color. I start with that and I see what I can do.

For the rounded island, my map is one an half hemisphere so it's very big island. But I try to make more fractal costline.
For the white circle, in fact is blue but I can try without the small island to see if they look better. The island is very small island and rock. nobody live on it.

01-22-2014, 08:11 AM
If the map is realistic (i.e. has the standard terrain...containing objects like mountains, forests, cities, nothing wacky) the colors are not that intuitive. Is red your mountains? Is brown your mountains? What is the yellow (my best guess is farmland)? I cannot figure out what the blue region in the bottom represents - lakes? Tundra?

I don't think the coastlines are too rounded. All maps simplify the areas they represent in some way, and you say these islands are continental scale. Maps on that scale shouldn't necessarily try to show every cape and gulf in the shore. I say keep the coastlines.

Two geographical concerns.
First, if the main islands are very large, where are the rivers? Unless all the land is arid, there must be some way to collect all the runoff from precipitation.
Second, clusters of uniform, evenly spaced islands are pretty rare. I'm trying to envision what the land would look like without the sea there, and it looks like a bunch of mesas, of equal size and spacing, sticking up from the seafloor.

By the way, what program are you using to create this?

01-22-2014, 09:56 AM
For the moment, I don't draw any rivers and lakes because I need to have mountain to do lakes and rivers. And before including mountain and trees, I want to color the background on my islands. Perhaps, it's not the good way to progress on my map ?

I use GIMP to make my map.
For the colors : Brown (mountain), Red, (tray), Green (forest and swamp), Blue on island (toundra), White (iceland), yellow (desert and savannah). But the color you is just a random color to symbolize where I want to put the land. Not the final color.

I attached a new map on my first post without any color. My "final" map is only that for the moment.

Zach, I'm not sure I understand what you said here : "Second, clusters of uniform, evenly spaced islands are pretty rare. I'm trying to envision what the land would look like without the sea there, and it looks like a bunch of mesas, of equal size and spacing, sticking up from the seafloor." (english is not my born language) For you, my islands are too tidy ? It's because the size of the picture perhaps. I needed to pu in order each island to put them on the map.
I don't had imagined the seafloor except beetween the two biggest islands. You have a lot of volcanus activity on this part of the sea and at this latitude.

01-22-2014, 11:37 AM
Ohhhh that makes much more sense!

And... no I wasn't saying it was bad! :)

I wasn't talking about the round-ness of the continent, I was referring to the land areas (and the water areas) separately. "This circle is a group of islands" and "This oval is a desert".

But, as you say, you were only using the color to guide you in *where* you were putting things, so that's not a problem :P

And I was referring to this:


What is it ? Islands? Mesas? Areas of the water that you want to be darker/lighter than the rest?

Whichever it is... these are also the areas I was thinking of most when I said it's too round... When you said about volcanic activity, did you mean these were all volcanos? Volcanos tend to rise on a path... not in a whole area... probably something to do with tectonics, but I don't know for sure.

ANYWAY I still don't know what you meant by :
But I don't find good color. They are only bright.

If you are having trouble with that, I made a picture of how I start looking for my colors :)

(I know, it's the best tutorial ever! :blush: )


If that's not what you meant, then I simply don't understand. Maybe if you showed a screenshot of the problem you are having?

Sorry if this is not much help~!

01-23-2014, 08:37 AM
Jalyha, thx for the tips !

I try something like the map below for the background color of island. I don't draw the particular land (mountain / tree / swamp / desert).
I change the "white circle" in blue. For me, the circle is the same as you can see around some archipelago. I think my result is not good for the moment on this point ^^

01-23-2014, 01:05 PM
Oh that's looking MUCH better.

The effect is good, but I still think the archipelago looks a little too crowded/evenly spaced? not sure... maybe it's just me.

I like your color choices now!

I'm glad you found some that aren't too bright :)

You're doing really well!

(PS I don't know why but i keep seeing pictures in the continents, like when people see shapes in clouds... and in your main continent it looks like a dancing penguin. I think I watched Happy Feet too many times :o )

01-23-2014, 04:07 PM
I have a suggestion for the island clusters. I would expect that between all the little islands the sea would be fairly shallow (continental shelf) and there aren't super-deep trenches in between all of them. You might want, just in those areas, to modify it so that the light blue shade is continuous between islands, and the awkward areas that look like deep water would be gone.

Of course, if I'm wrong and there are in fact deep trenches between the islands, then disregard all this.

01-24-2014, 04:19 AM
I work on the color. I think is better now.

For the two pack of islands, I do what you say Zach. I delete the dark blue and I work on the circle around island

Jalyha, the two packs of island are differents :
- the pack on the left is a real archipelago. A lot of small island with life on it : forest, people, town, etc...
- the pack on the right is a small island without any life, is only rocks and volcanus. Perhaps, this one need to have only reefs between island. But when I draw the map, I don't know how I can symbolize reefs.

My last map :

01-24-2014, 06:10 AM
I don't necessarily think you need to indicate the reefs, depending on the size/scale of your map.

I'm not sure how big your continent is, so I can't really tell.

but... usually, they follow a line... not a straight line, more of a curve, but they wouldn't clump together.

For an example, here's a snapshot of Rottnest Island/Reefs from Google maps:


I just want to say one other thing - You don't have to change anything on your map just because someone says you should. Every single person here has different tastes and opinions and preferences. I've seen some really great cartographers here agreeing to disagree over some fine point or another.

I can't even make my own map yet. :P

All I can do is tell you what *I* see, and how it feels to me. Someone else will have a different opinion. When it all boils down - it's your map. It's *literally* your world, and you should do whatever you feel is best. :)

I say this because it seems as if you might be getting frustrated, and you shouldn't. :) People just want to help you make the best map you can, and only YOU can actually do it. :)

That being said - I like the look around the islands, now, but did you change something about the color of the rest of the map too? It looks more solid now. :)

01-24-2014, 06:24 AM
I know this is my map but I come to have some advice to have a better map. And I think Zach and you give me some good advices. So I follow them ^^ You mention things that I want to change : reef and the circle, color of background. It's difficult to adapt my world on this map to obtain what I want.

My map is an half of hemisphere of the Earth. So I don't need to mention of all reefs. But, this one is a big pot of rock and volcanus and I want my players see it on map. Perhaps, it's not the best way to represent the reef on my map. If anyone have some idea to represent them better. I take ^^

For color, I think it's the better quality of picture. First is a jpg and here is a png. And the color change in the south island. I delete the two lines you can see on the first map.

My next challenge is : mountain and forest !

01-26-2014, 04:26 AM
I come back with my new version of my map ! I do all mountain and 2 forest.

01-26-2014, 09:35 AM
Wow, nice mountains. Those look a lot better than I am aspiring to draw right now.
The trees, though...I'm not sure I like the trees. For one, a lot of your trees are as tall as the smaller mountains. Also, you have to figure out what you want the azimuth of the light source (the direction from which the light comes) to be, otherwise everything looks weird. The mountains would seem to indicate that the light is coming from the left. The trees' shadows, however, make it look like it is coming from the upper right. The shadows also overlap, which looks odd. I don't really think the trees need to have shadows, if you draw individual trees and not one big forest.
Remind me again why there is a gradient to white in the bottom of the map?


01-26-2014, 10:02 AM
That's looking a lot better! :D

and I like your mountains and forest..

I might still darken the area of your reefs a little more and maybe blend it a little (like you did with your land colors/textures) but that's just me. It looks really good! :)

01-26-2014, 12:57 PM
Yes, the trees are too big regarding the mountains. I'm searching a new brush for tree more hand draw perhaps. I'm not really satisfied of the trees. I want change them.

For the reefs (and the circle around big island in the same way), I search a new color. In the same way of the trees, I'm not satisfied but I don't find better color for the moment.

Zach, the map is a half of hemisphere (or near). It represent a part of a world and this map is on the south hemisphere. So the south is Antartic and the north is near equator. At the south, you have snow and ice island.

01-28-2014, 10:38 AM
I come back with new forest ! The forest represent only the normal forest (and not all). The coniferous forest come in few days.

I have two questions :
- I want to add color on my mountain and forest. How can I do that ? I think two solutions : * first : add color below the forest/mountain or * second : add color on mountain and forest. But for the second, I think, I must add color tree by tree and mountain by mountain... very hard job.
- I want to have mountain and forest more dark. I don't find any filter to do that. I want both have a draw mor darken.

I try to do river and road... It's not a success for the moment so I don"t show you this work.


01-28-2014, 11:03 AM
For the mountains, maybe adding a layer and colloring how you want, applying some layer effects and blurring/ smudging the foot to get some transition. At this point you can work with black and white for shadows and highlights
when i do, i like to color the icons before apply in the map.

I have a observation about you borders, maybe it can help with you borders, Chashio helped me alots:


aquartis, have you ever read the Imager Portfolio series by L.E. Modesitt, Jr? It has some similarities to your setting. And it's quite a good read.

01-28-2014, 07:03 PM
Speaking of borders, you might want leave some space between your mountains and the coastline, specifically on the leftmost isle and the bottom continent, it almost looks as if the water is overlapping or that the image is somehow cut off/under a layer. If you see what I mean.

01-29-2014, 03:11 PM
I had follow the different advice and below the result.
I had changed :
- a blur on all the map for the background
- border had changed
- add some forest and rivers.

01-29-2014, 03:28 PM
Oh that looks wonderful!! :)

01-29-2014, 08:53 PM
Nice, I like the changes so far! Keep it up man!

01-30-2014, 04:32 PM
Oh, nice! I like the change from the hard water lines to the blurred ones. Makes it stand out less while still giving a clear sense of where the shallow water is.
Also, the forest has vastly improved since my last post.

01-31-2014, 05:29 AM
I am liking it.

2 observations that i want to say.
- Maybe is a good idea, you add some "feathering" in you borders, if you are using PS. It will cut the edges in ur shape, maybe will looks better.
- Still in borders, if you are using inner/ outter glow to define ur coast line, i recomend you use a lower brush, like 2 points and some high opacity.

Guess with this 2 points you will get a smooth transition btw the coat line and the rest of the map imho.

02-01-2014, 03:38 AM
Thx for your congratulations !

My new map :
- add new forests, mountains, rivers
- add lakes, deserts and savannah
- cut some mountains to change them on volcanus.

For volcanus, I want to materialize them. I will try with smoke on their head or with red lava. I don't know.
My next change is : add some toundra and add some elements on my both deserts (1 erg and 1 reg).

Aquaris : I tried to do what you said but I'm a beginner and I wasn't suceed. Have you an example ? Perhaps, if I see the result, I can reproduce them. Sorry, my technical is very basic for the moment but this WIP help me to progress.

02-01-2014, 02:26 PM
Something I just noticed about the rivers:
All of the rivers taper and lose width as they approach the ocean. Rivers collect more water as channels and tributaries, including little creeks or brooks too small for maps, flow in. As a result, they don't grow narrower as they get closer to the sea, they grow wider.

02-03-2014, 04:39 AM
No !!!! It's a mistake... I need to draw all the rivers again :(

02-03-2014, 05:27 AM
Weel, we are in the same ship :D

Lack of skills here too, but i will try share some info that i got. Some of your doubts i passed in the beggin, if you want go to my thread, you can find some links, coz i write everything that i learned in one central thread to get a history of my learning.

03-29-2014, 08:41 AM
I come back with my new map. I draw again the river in the good way.
I add color on mountain, some road, some cities, some borderland, some swamp, some text.

Aquarits, I try your tips but I don't complete it. I failed between when I apply feather. I'm on GIMP and I don't find this item.

Thank for your comments !

PS : the blue on the south of the map is just a random color for toundra (it's the place of the toundra)