View Full Version : An Inquiry Regarding the General Order of Things

03-07-2014, 06:27 PM
Before I begin the inquiry in earnest, allow me to express how fascinating I have found this website. The variety of members and artwork is simply beautiful, and I am extremely excited to learn more and view more.

I've done maps in the past--generally quickly thrown together for fun or for a few roleplaying adventures--but have never begun a project hoping to create a world map with realistic geography, and I am wondering if there is a best way to go about creating this. Is there a Determined Order for realistic cartography?

I've currently got 15000 x 10000 pixels of raw coastline to work with. Here it is, smaller and with sort of distasteful salmon-orangey-grey oceans:


(The scale is far too small to read and can be found in the bottom left corner. The scale reads up to 1000 km)

What is the next step? Should I begin charting out tectonic plates so I can lay out mountain ranges, fault lines, and rough elevations? Or should I start with elevation and work towards plate tectonics? Should I just do a rough, unrealistic sketch of what I want where, to perfect and realize later?

Thanks for your help!

03-07-2014, 06:53 PM
Charting out tectonic plates is a good next step. Some people start at there before creating the landmass but since you already have your coasts you may as well go to that step.
With techonic plates, you can determine mountain ranges by having an idea of what directions the plates are moving. (plates moving together tend to generate mountains/islands)
A combination of landmass shapes and mountains can help you determine vegetation and rainfall patterns.
These will help you determine where rivers should go.
With that all that you can start to predict areas that would have a lot of settlement.

There is a great tutorial around here somewhere about the process I'll try to find for you.

For your landmasses, I would recommend making the three in the middle have more varied sizes and relative distances from each other but I think your coastlines and land forms are otherwise very good and dynamic.

03-07-2014, 07:00 PM
There is a really good one out there somewhere that I can't find but hopefully someone else knows it. For general questions you may want to check out this (http://www.cartographersguild.com/tutorials-how/4276-quickstart-guide-fantasy-mapping.html) and especially this (http://www.cartographersguild.com/tutorials-how/3822-how-get-your-rivers-right-place.html) for rivers.

03-07-2014, 08:54 PM
As Viking said, you can go about it in whatever way feels right to you, what matters is understanding how everything works and ensuring it makes sense. On my fantasy world I first started with the continents and then added the tectonic plates. I'm currently remaking it from the beginning, and started with the tectonic plates first this time. Either way worked fine, and gave a pretty similar result for me.

The most invaluable resource I've had for making the world is the Climate Cookbook (http://jc.tech-galaxy.com/bricka/climate_cookbook.html). Once you've worked out the coasts and mountain ranges/high altitude areas, that link shows you how to create a realistic climate. Also, there are a few other threads in this sub-forum with people doing the same thing posting updates regularly, take a look at them to see what they're doing if you feel stuck - that's what I do! One thing to note is that if you want to be able to create a 3D globe or other projections of your world (in Photoshop, G.Projector or Google Earth), the initial map needs to be equirectangular, i.e. two times as long as it is tall.

Looks like you've made a good start though, it'll be interesting to see how this progresses :)

03-08-2014, 02:59 AM
Thank you both for your advice. The Climate Cookbook, I think, will be particularly helpful.

03-08-2014, 03:01 PM
Well, welcome to the bunch first. We're quite a few creating planets right now, as Raptori said, in different stages of completion. (also in different levels of detail, different levels of magic included, different paths of development, etc)

You can go about it in a week, sketching stuff roughly or you dig deeper for ncreased detail. Since you have a 15 000 pixel map to start with, I will assume you're in it for the detail. ;)

Definitely deal with the tectonics before anything else. If you have rough shapes, that's fine, but be prepared to change them a little. This flexibility will let you imagine a plausible scenario for the plates.

Looking at your map, here's my advice: your continents are evenly spread out, this will make it difficult to find the currently active ocean ridges. Anyway, this is where you'd start. Define a couple of oceanic ridges where new crust is forming. Everything (as in land masses) will move AWAY from these areas. (on Earth, currently active are the pacific ridge, the atlantic ridge and the antartica/indo-australia ridge - and the more time you spend comparing a tectonics map of Earth with Google Earth, the better)