View Full Version : My first region map - the Empire of Tel Ordan

02-16-2014, 05:24 AM
Hey guys, I've been lurking here for a long time now and since I'm finally finishing off the last touches of the D&D world I've had sitting on the back burner for probably over a year now, I've been making some maps! =D I'm trying to make a basic atlas of my world right now, and I've started with the western side of the main explored continent - following this (http://www.cartographersguild.com/tutorials-how/4084-%5Baward-winner%5D-my-atlas-style-ps-35.html) amazing tutorial I've managed to put together this as my first attempt.


Any critiques or comments are particularly welcome... I'm looking to do at least a few more maps in this style, as well as more work on this one =)

Specific things I'm wondering about:

I feel like it looks pretty cluttered with all the little cities scattered all over the place... but I feel like there's not enough detail without them. I wanted to put names in too but I decided against it - how can I make it look decently interesting in the middle without cluttering it so much with cities?

My rivers aren't as distinct as I wanted them to be but making them bigger just makes them look either weird or like little borders. Any recommendations?

For reference, this was made in Photoshop (which I'm not very good at yet =D).


02-16-2014, 06:24 AM
Not knowing if this is for a typical fantasy world or not, but unless your rivers are too small to show, towns and cities need to be located near water. So either place some more rivers or distribute your cities only where there is a river, lake or coastline (which you have already). While villages can survive with just a well, cities and towns need much more reliable water source.

It might help to use a vector application like Inkscape, Illustrator, or Xara to draw your rivers instead of doing so in Photoshop. You can create shaped lines that diminish to a point instead of an equal width painted river using a standard PS brush. Make your rivers wider - they don't look weird.

02-16-2014, 11:15 AM
It looks pretty good so far. Most of what I have to say is based off the assumption that the scale of the map is pretty big - after all, you have islands big enough to have towns on them, major rivers, and what looks like several different countries.

I second a lot of the things Gamerprinter said - it is a bit weird to have towns located seemingly in the middle of nowhere with no visible way to get water. The amount of towns isn't a problem; this is a D&D map and it is good to have a lot of waypoints between which players can travel.
The beveled coastline on the northwest archipelago looks very odd. I don't know how you got it, but to me it appears very artificial.
What is all that white stuff in the top of the map? I can't tell if it is supposed to be snowcapped mountains or just a very foggy area. (Which would be interesting as a campaign element.)
The Empire of Tel Ordan - which of the yellow-lined regions is it? Just the south two? If it is the whole center of the map (in any case it appears to be the subject of the map), I recommend you use bigger letters for it and draw it across whichever regions it covers.
Last thing - there is river splitting going on here, which (for rivers made of real, non-fantasy water) does not happen. The major northern river diverts around Sorrath. This could be a canal, but it looks awfully long and irregular for that. As people here will tell you, when a river DOES split up for some reason, it either forms a small island and rejoins itself quickly or one of the channels dries up in a matter of years.

02-16-2014, 04:58 PM
Hey guys, thanks for the feedback - once I added more rivers in, the cities started to make a lot more sense too and now the whole thing looks more full instead of cluttered, which is nice! I also made the rivers a lot more prominent in general, as well as making it more obvious that the Empire of Tel Ordan is supposed to be the entire red region, separated into orange provinces ^^

And I made my mountains look more mountainy (in my opinion). Next step: I feel like my rivers could use names but I don't know how to get the text to follow the rivers nicely... anyone know how to do that in photoshop? Guess I'll keep reading guides for now =)

updated map:


also, yes as you guessed, this is supposed to be pretty large-scale.

02-16-2014, 08:02 PM
I think I remember Photoshop having a Text to Curve feature (not sure), I know vector apps do this easily. Again, if you can get Inkscape, a free vector program, it lets you put Text on a Curve easily, plus it allows you to make diminishing river lines. In vector you draw a line parallel to the river curved to same shape that is longer than the text line. Then select both the line and text and apply Text to Curve and you're done. I think you can do this in Photoshop, but doing this in vector is easier.

02-17-2014, 01:29 AM
Nice start! Instead of large scale, you mean small scale. My mnemonic is large-scale is small-area, and vice versa.

The two little rivers north of Sorrath don't seem to follow valleys in your photorealistic mountains. For that matter, right upstream from Sorrath the big river seems to be running sidehill, but it's less obvious than the other two. You might try untexturing the rivers - the general pebbly roughness is effective at communicating rough terrain, but the water *won't* be rough.

If it's a typical D&D setting, rivers would be both a help to travel (along) and an impediment (across). Is there a reason some of your borders don't hug rivers or follow ridgelines? I'd expect some arbitrary alignments, particularly if the locals don't pay much attention to exact territorial extent. But I'd also figure some boundaries to be terrain-related.

Oh, and welcome to the Guild! A map right in your first post would be worth a smidgen of rep just for boldness, even if it weren't such a promising effort.

02-17-2014, 04:10 AM
I still think the rivers need redoing, yet again, Cyx. They seem to be wiggling like a rope in a wave-like movement. It should be more arbitrary. Also, the yellowish areas on your plain seem to be hills and the dark green lower lands. Even if this wasn't intended it works like that visually and that's ok.
My suggestion is that you run your rivers along the green blotches. Also, I suspect that that kind of mountain/sea arrangement would lead to many rivers running from the mountains but very few reaching the sea on their own. I would say you will get one of two main rivers, with lots of tributaries.
It will look much more natural and you will get get irrigated valleys where you can then plot towns and villages whose placing will look more believable.

Also, I agree with with jbgibson on two hands. Define your physical geography first - rivers, ridges, deserts - and then use some of those features to define human geography - borders, towns, commerce routes. High five for posting a map on your first post.

Overall, the basic mountains-in-north + desert-in-south is very common and pretty safe to work with. Work this map up and you'll get something very nice.