View Full Version : Where to start?

01-02-2009, 09:47 AM
I'm not sure if this is even in the right place.

I've decided to take the plunge, and instead of doing derivitive maps of worlds - like my Forgotten Realms ones - I want to finally do my own in PS.

At the same time, I want to start developing my own style. I like the way my FR maps come out, but that is really someone else's art (even when I draw parts myself). I'll probably stick to the same color-pallette, because I really like bright, colorful maps, but I want to do something more akin to what Clercon did with his Etrakien Map (with the mountains and forest).

Anyhow, I've watched the great How-to video for the mountains, and the Zombie Nirvana videos (again) for forest and what-not, and then went and created a 4'x3' Map.

I got as far as coloring the Sea blue. :(

I've never started COMPLETELY from scratch before, and now I'm at a loss. Should I have drawn the continents in and then added the water color? I think that might be whats throwing me off here...

Anyhow, I drew the map first by hand - just a rough sketch that took me about ten minutes - so it's not the 'creative' end that is stopping me.

I'm just not sure of the best approach to beginning. I think giving myself the water background first may have been a mistake, but I also don't know if I should start in the middle, or toward the outside, or whatever...

This is really strange for me, because I've always drawn maps for games by hand, and never had a problem like this. I'm also an experienced PS user... but I never strated a map without something to build off of before. I'm not even sure if the size was correct for what I'm doing (but I can always change that as I go along).

Any advice? What do most of you guys do first?

Steel General
01-02-2009, 09:52 AM
I tend to do the continent/land mass first. Though you might consider where you want your rivers (if any are visible) you can always add the sea/ocean later as layers below the land.

There are several tutorials for creating world maps with PS here, Ascension's is quite good and there is a conversion of RobA's GIMP tutorial as well (can't remember who did it off the top of my head).

01-02-2009, 10:30 AM
Normally I paint the sea right unto the background, but I think doing it as a layer may work better this time out. :D

What I may wind-up doing is scanning my hand-drawn reference and settting it as a layer to trace.

I think my problem may be visualizing the continent in relation to the backdrop... it's hard to explain.

Even I don't understand it.

I have the main continent drawn, with major rivers, lakes, and mountians/hills, along with two large forests, so I have the layout all worked out. I was able to draw it so quickly because I've been running it through my mind for about a year now, and knew pretty much exactly what I wanted where.

I also have a very rough sketch - just outlines, really - of the other major continents. Do you think I should just concentrate on the main one on my current canvas, and then add the others in, or outline them all now, and then concentrate on the one?

I figured a 4'x3' canvas was good for the world map, but now I don't know if I should just use the whole thing for the main continent (which would make the eventual World Map HUGE).

01-02-2009, 11:14 AM
I also like to start with a continental outline, then play with colors until I get something that looks nice to me, then I add mountains/hills, rivers, forests, and cities in that order. Generally speaking. Since you already have a palette you wish to use, half of what I usually spend my time on is already done.

Steel General
01-02-2009, 11:44 AM
I'd make use of your sketch, even if just as a reference. Put it on its own layer then you can turn it on/off as needed or delete it once you're finished.

01-02-2009, 03:36 PM
If you need a very, very, very simple starting point, follow these three steps:

1. Create a new photoshop document. Set the background color to blue.
2. Create a new layer. Paint it green.
3. Get your eraser tool out, and start erasing the green layer.

01-02-2009, 05:30 PM
I always start with a black layer for sea and then use one of three methods for making a white land layer.
I either draw the coastline by hand, use some fractal generation (clouds->threashold in PS) or carve it out with an eraser.
The two layers are then copied, and combined to be used as base reference and also added to a new channel for quick selection and other stuff.

01-03-2009, 07:08 AM
I have my main continent on the sea background now, but I'm just not 'feeling it'.


I think my problem comes from the way I'm used to working - nearly everything I have ever worked on was built off of something else. I'm just not used to 'looking at the big picture', or rather, working on a continental scale all at once.

What I may do is start even smalller, with just the main empire that most of the campaign revolves around, and work outward from that.

I think it's because I've always been a gamer first, and cartographer second, that I have this thing where I have to work from a small central point outward (the way an RPG campaign grows).

Anyhow, I'd show a WIP, but right now it just looks like a lot of blue with some colorful blobs added.

01-03-2009, 01:46 PM
Throw it up, we'll give ya some guidance. After all, that's what many commissions look like :)