View Full Version : Medieval map creation project, give me your thoughts

01-03-2009, 06:25 AM
I would like to hear you thoughts of the attached map I have been working on. This is still under construction and I'm currently adding more details and fixing some problems. This map is not intended to replicate real world by means of vegetation distribution etc. The main purpose is to suit into my medieval roleplaying campaign, so I have taken some liberties while creating it.
The attached map is about 1/3 of the full map I have. The full map is 4000 x 6000 pix and each pixel represents 100m. When printed, 1millimeter represents 1 kilometer.

I'm using Photoshop CS3 and each vegetation, roads, cities etc has their own layer. I have couple of problems though: You may have noticed that forests for example are not transparent, meaning that if there is a forest over the hills, only the forest is seen and hills are not visible. I have not been able to create satisfactory workaround for it so far. Another problem is that mountains look a bit like paste-ons (which they actually are).

But please let me know your thoughts in good and bad...

01-03-2009, 06:35 AM
Wow, people have been posting some great maps the last few weeks. This is another beautiful map and I have given you some reputation for it. I keep giving it out nowadays :)

I like the overall layout of your map very much, as well as the mountains, forests and different terrain types. Some small points of criticism or suggestions:

- Some of the roads seem to be on TOP of the forests.
- The city contours could stand out some more from the terrain (I love the contours, by the way!)
- Maybe add some sandy beaches. As you have already placed different terrain types it would add something I think.
- The rivers and roads are making a lot of twists and turns but to me it's not always obvious why. Some of the roads on the plains could be a bit straighter I think?

Well, it's a great map. I wasn't too sure about the texture for the sea at first, but it definitely fits this style!

01-03-2009, 06:35 AM
Those mountains are great, how did you make them?

01-03-2009, 06:37 AM
You might also want to add some pieces of ice to the water near the frozen north. Like in this map (check the bay):

Oh and the yellow area is desert? I see some rivers running through the desert to the east. Maybe add just a bit of green land around the rivers.

01-03-2009, 06:43 AM
LOL Hoel, I just noticed you gave me some reputation for the map Pasis made. Thanks ;)

01-03-2009, 06:52 AM
Well, last post for now:
I think there is a problem with the central lake. I count 4 rivers exitting it and that wouldn't normally happen I think.

It's such a large and detailed map I spent some time studying it. I kept finding new stuff to marvel at.

01-03-2009, 07:42 AM
First of all great looking map. Nice fresh style and level of detail is incredible.

The bugaboo (sp?) I have is that its a 3-D style map but rivers and roads etc. can be seen just behind the mountains, which kinda ruin the effect for me. I have seen plenty of 3-D style maps on this site that did this however and I don't know if it is wrong or not but to me rivers that flow just behind a mountain on a 3-D map should be out of the line of sight.

01-03-2009, 07:53 AM
Gandwarf: You posted while i was typing. I just scrolled up to the post above mine and klicked. Noticed it when it was too late, but pasis got his rep.

01-03-2009, 08:34 AM
My intention indeed is to add some bits and peases to make it more realistic. The tricky part is to add the details without compromising the high level look.
The aim for all terrain textures is to make them look a lot like hand drawn.

Some of the roads are so narrow that Photoshop doesn't create proper shadows etc to the surrounding terrains. I will have to manually fix them and make photoshop think that thy are actually wider. I have tried and it works, but I haven't done it to the map yet.
And as suggested I will add some ice to the water and some sandy beaches as well.

The mountains...I love them and I hate them. Those are actually taken from Google earth (most of them from Euripean Alps) and then I used "cutout" filter to make them look like hand drawn. Next step was to add "emboss" and "texture" layer properties to get some parts to come out from the mountain surface. And then lot of manual correction to fit it into the lanscape. The thing I hate is that when using real mountains as a base I couldn't make them go just the way I wanted, but I had to stick with the ones I was able to pull out.

The lightest yellow is a plain grassland, not desert. I'm not fully satisfied with the texture though...

And not to forget, thanks all for comments and ideas...

Steel General
01-03-2009, 08:49 AM
Overall I think this is quite good, some things to consider;

1) Your rivers have some strange forkings and such that are not realistically possible, however if you have a reason for this then don't worry about it.

2) A bit of blurring between your terrain transitions may help to alleviate some of that 'pasted-on' look you mentioned

3) Move your road layer below the tree/forest layer even if it disappears in spots (you can always take an eraser to the trees later)

01-03-2009, 10:26 AM
Hello, Pasis.

I must say that you've created quite an interesting map. Enough so that it has made me post in your thread.

Overall, I can only hope that in time I'll be able to create a map half as beautiful as yours. I am quite taken by your terrain features and believe you have done a wonderful job with your mountains.

I don't have anything new to add to what others have alread said as their comments should be most useful to you in completing this map.

I do like th perspective you've chosen to view the map as it allows for the viewer to get not quite a birds eye view but more of a (my term) spacial 3D view. This allows the features to be seen in their entirerty.

I would be very interested in your posting a tutorial or some "short steps" as to how you placed the major features of your map.

I look forward to the continued progress on your beautiful map.



01-03-2009, 10:47 AM
The only problem I really see with your rivers is the western exit on Pohjaton, and maybe the size of the larger island on the eastern exit. You also have some vanishing rivers in the mountains, how are those draining out? Are they dead seas gathering salt? (Possibly negated by the amount of fresh water from glacier melt not having much time to pick up many salts) or are they draining under ground?

However what was said about the lake draining to the west and east is 99.9% unlikely, it isn't 100% impossible. Personally I would get rid of the western drain because the other option is to explain how the lake straddling the edge of two watersheds and the erosion rates allow for flow change to be roughly the same in the east and west.

A bit of eraser action is easiest :P

(Or you can just make comments in your world about just how odd of a lake it is.)

01-03-2009, 11:10 AM
Regarding your tree/hill interaction: It looks to me like the problem is a matter of a conflict in apparent scale between the hills and the forests. The tufty look of the forests makes them appear representational, but the mountains and hills look more like a satellite photo.

I think what I would do would be to either find a different texture or reduce the scale of the one you have, eliminate the shadow, and reduce the opacity or change the blending mode so that the underlying texture shows through and makes it look like the forests are actually lying on top of that terrain instead of towering above it.

01-03-2009, 07:58 PM
I just want to know how the forests were done.

01-04-2009, 02:43 AM
Improvements done so far:
-Vanishing rivers corrected. It was actually a test to hide part of the river behind the mountains. It didn't work that well and I had forgot to correct it. I have alos added new rivers to run the water to the sea from lakes at the wertern mountain.
-Roads curving corrected so that roads are straighter in grass plains and other flat surfaces. Corrected also the roads being on top of the forests.
-Corrected all terrains at the edges of the lakes and seas as in some areas the terrain pattern went slightly over the coastal line. This correction added more 3-D effect to the coastal line.
-Changed the desert color and made many other small adjustments...I will post a new example later when I get few more things finished.

01-04-2009, 04:19 PM
I added some Icy waters near the norhernmost town Fangoth. I havn't drawn anythng like that before but I think they turned out alright. I also increased the contrast of the cities so that they would stand out better from the map. Fangoth is a small town, so you don't see much of the pattern it has but anyway it can be seen a bit easier now. Below is a sample picture...

01-04-2009, 04:33 PM
Looks nice.
I had a thought. Have you put the glacier(s) in a separate layer?
I think you could get a really nice effect by painting it on top of everything else. Also, you could get a natural ice flow between mountains and into the sea.

01-04-2009, 07:08 PM
Looking good Pasis, although you only gave us a teaser. Let us see some progress on the big map soon :)

01-05-2009, 11:22 AM
Damn. I mean, damn! I'm still new to this forum, but that is probably the most awesome map I have seen here. Great work man

01-05-2009, 05:01 PM
I'm with ya Xiao...it simply blows me away when I see the artistic maps and I beat myself about the head wishing I could that.

01-06-2009, 04:57 PM
Here we have the latest version of the map. I have tried to replace some of my textures especially the grass plains (the light yellow) and the hills (the brown one) without success. I will get back to them later.
As said in previous posting I have been focusing on correcting errors and blending the mountains to the surrounding terrains. In addition to that here is a list of major updates
-Floating Ice to the northern seas
-Numerous new places of interest (and some of them have special markers).
-Road curviness corrections in open landscape and highlighting the cities.
-New texture to rivers and lakes (to add more running feeling into the rivers and removing the swimming pool effect of the old lakes).

One of the nextbig tasks is to get the northern glacier finished. I'm not good in making ice, so it's going to be tought...
And apologies for the Finnish language in the map. This is due to the fact that the map is used in our roleplaying campaign here in Finland.

01-06-2009, 06:25 PM
Great job. Keep it up and it will be perfect!
As I've said before, I love those mountains.
Are you trying to get some mountans under the glacier?

01-06-2009, 06:53 PM
I still think your roads look too blocky, I personally would soften them more.
But otherwise this version is a great improvement on an already awesome map!

I love the little places of interest (and discovering them!) Very cool, keep up the good work.

01-07-2009, 02:52 AM
I have intention to add mountains and some ice formations etc to the glacier. I would also like to get the mountains really under the glacier, but I don't know yet how to do it (to get it good looking). I guess I have to study some new tricks...

Yes I do agree that when looking closely the roads are rough. There is an easy solution though because the roads are in a separate layer. But I have to be cautious while softening as the roads easily becomes too "invisible" in the printed version.

01-09-2009, 08:38 AM
Here is the latest version of the work in progress. The main addition is the northern waste/glacier and to get kind of cold feeling into all things in the north. As I anticipated, It was quite difficult to get the mountains to be buried underneath the ice and snow. I’m not totally satisfied with it, but it took so many hours to do that I’m not willing to start a new one (at least not yet).
I have also blended the roads and maybe the same thing will be done to the rivers in the future. I also added bridges to the roads and new places of interest around the map (some with special markers).

Steel General
01-09-2009, 09:18 AM
I don't think the mountain look bad at all. Keep up the great work.

01-09-2009, 09:39 AM
The mountains under the ice look great! Really!
The only thing that doesn't fully look natural to me is the rivers flowing from those icy mountains. I wouldn't expect rivers so deep in that icy area.

01-10-2009, 05:07 AM
Ooh.. nice work! I see you went with the flowing glacier too, looks super!
If there's rivers, they should be under the ice i think.
I there any chance at all to see this with translated labels?

01-15-2009, 06:26 AM
I have not had time to work on the map in the past few days as I have a game coming up on Sunday and there is a lot of things to do. But I should be able to continue next week and I'll post new map as soon as I get it ready.

List of things to do next:
- Work on the rivers in the glacier as suggested
- Start to create things further in the south
- Check if I could come up with reasonable translations with the names. Most of the names mean something and the names are there for a reason. For example the river called “Vanha kyy” is translated as “old adder” due to the reason that the water looks harmless, gentle and intriguing, but many travelers have become sick while drinking the water. The water is coming from a small marsh and is contaminated. It’s going to be tough to capture the feeling of the Finnish names and in some cases there just is no proper translation, but we’ll see…

Or actually I could post here the whole map I'm working on so you can see what is to be expected. Everything below the “Rajametsä” forest is under construction. I had to reduce the map size a bit as the database did not allow me to send the full image even though the I did not exeed the size or megapixel limitations.

Steel General
01-15-2009, 07:33 AM
Actually i don't mind the Finnish names, if you add a small english translation underneath them that would probably be good enough. For those you are having trouble getting a decent translation for post them up and maybe we can help with the names.

01-15-2009, 08:50 AM
I was just curious since my finnish is quite poor.
That expansion to the south is a bit of a surprise. A really nice one.
I hope all goes well and we'll be seeing it progress. Seriously great project.

01-15-2009, 09:02 AM
I really like your map. The mountains are really nice! The water seems a bit noisy, but this is a great work.

01-15-2009, 09:25 AM
Hello, Pasis.

WOW! What a great map. I'm really impressed with your mapping style. I do look forward to your continued work on this beauty and would hope that you'll think about writing a tutorial to document your mapping style.

Thank you for sharing your WIP and may I say it is very beautiful.



01-25-2009, 02:37 PM
I have not been able to give too much time for this project for a while, but now we should be back on tracks again. Attached is the latest version in which I'm moving on to the south. The "new" area is not completely finished yet, but right after I get it finished I'll face the next challenge; a long mountain range in the south. So more will follow in the next few days.

01-25-2009, 03:06 PM
I think you should delete the forest layer where the rivers and roads runs through it. It messes with the bevel effect. On the coast, it seems like the water is on top of the forest and sometimes the mountains seem flat under the forest. I think it could be fixed with some layer reordering

01-25-2009, 03:25 PM
Hoel, you are a sharp guy… The forest is actually not deleted under the water in the new area. I'm not sure what happened, but it has to be that I sent an incorrect version of the map as I had to remake the upload version few times due to that the map was too close of 6000pixel limit and also I couldn't upload a map converted to jpeg by progressive algorithm as for some reason it always failed to attach the map.
Sharp man you are even at this hour on Sunday ;)

01-25-2009, 03:40 PM
I'll let you get away with it this time then!
I'm playing D&D over irc right now, my hangover is clearing up and I haven't got anyplace to be tomorrow. I do my best work at night.
Please post the real deal, I really like this project.

01-28-2009, 05:21 AM
Here we have the latest updates. Corrected the mistakes in the last version and added new mountain range to the south. It still needs a lot of details and adjustments. I also expanded the sea to east, west and to the south as the previous versions were a bit too tight (larger visible seas mean that I have to add some more islands in the future as well).

In my campaign we have not gone this far to the south yet, so I have not decided how many or how big cities I will have there. Also what has to be decided is the relationship and history with the northern neighbor as it affects to the city locations, fortifications etc.
I have used all my textures already in the north and I would like to have something special in the south, but don't know yet what it could be.

01-28-2009, 06:17 AM
Looks nice as always.
One small thing thou: the small mountain range to the east of the new part seems a bit too sharp to fit. Maybe it's the texture, i don't know.
As for specialities... why not go with the classic lava land!

Steel General
01-28-2009, 06:27 AM
This is coming along great...my only real tick against it is the texture on the water - for me at least it's a little "over-the-top" and draws your eye away from the really nice land work. I would reduce the opacity (or something) on that texture.

01-30-2009, 09:04 AM
Map coming along nicely... I have been playing with the water texture, but I have not been able to come up with any reasonable improvement, so I'll need to have a new go some time later.
My intentions of the southern area is to have more dry areas along with some very humid forests and lot of hillsides. Location names, roads and symbols will come as soon as I get the main landscape in place.

01-30-2009, 09:26 AM
Hey! Good job. I still like this map.
Some minor issues:
-The mountain south of Kielletty forest has some weird double effect, like you've used two layers but misaligned them.
-The forest bevel still has some problems when they meet the north side of a mountain texture.

01-30-2009, 04:12 PM
Looks beautiful! What's the story behind the teeny tiny forest in the middle of the southern desert?

01-30-2009, 05:38 PM
Those desert mountains look totally sweet.

01-31-2009, 01:08 PM
In short the small forest in the middle of the dessert in the south has a dark history behind it. A long time a go there was a flourishing city in the coast just south from the dessert. There was also a road going to the city through the dessert and where the forest now is there was a very small oasis serving as a base camp for raiding bandits. Terrible things were done there to the passengers caught during the raids and over time the bandits became more and more bloodthirsty where money was no longer the goal for them.
Stories tell that they did so many horrible things and worshipped some unknown evil that they were all killed in the end by the very evilness they adored. Some others believe that they killed each other in the madness they dwelt.
Many years have passed and the oasis has dried out, but something evil still wanders there luring unaware travelers into the forest that doesn’t really exist and drowning them into the sand.

02-05-2009, 09:12 AM
We are finally getting to the end of this project. Here are the latest updates:
- Finalized the landscape in the south and in the middle of the map.
- Created new icons for castles, ruins and various other symbols and replaced the old ones.
- Added new cities, roads, bridges and a lot of places of interests.
- Removed some of the unnatural rivers from the glacier. I still left some though as they have a certain purpose in the campaign.
- Corrected the double effect on few mountains Hoel mentioned earlier.

Special note: There are a lot of small independent forests just north from the city Toran and the forests have unnatural shapes for a reason.

I will keep on adding details and tweaking this for few days, but I guess these will be the final times to give suggestions and affect the outcome of this WIP before I move it to the finished maps section.

Steel General
02-05-2009, 09:15 AM
Very nice work Pasis...

I still think the texture on the water is a bit much tho...

02-05-2009, 12:52 PM
I've got nothing new to add. Looks good as always!

02-05-2009, 02:37 PM
This is still an incredibly beautiful and detailed map Pasis. I love the battlesites and other details and the new icons look great. You might want to add some sort of effect to some of the icons however. Some of them look a bit flat and are hard to spot. Maybe add a subtle glow or something.

So how many hours did you sink into this beast?

02-05-2009, 04:01 PM
In short the small forest in the middle of the dessert in the south has a dark history behind it. A long time a go there was a flourishing city in the coast just south from the dessert. There was also a road going to the city through the dessert and where the forest now is there was a very small oasis serving as a base camp for raiding bandits. Terrible things were done there to the passengers caught during the raids and over time the bandits became more and more bloodthirsty where money was no longer the goal for them.
Stories tell that they did so many horrible things and worshipped some unknown evil that they were all killed in the end by the very evilness they adored. Some others believe that they killed each other in the madness they dwelt.
Many years have passed and the oasis has dried out, but something evil still wanders there luring unaware travelers into the forest that doesn’t really exist and drowning them into the sand.

Ah, thanks! An amazing amount of thought has gone into your map, with nothing placed by accident. Superb work, Pasis! You should enter this month's competition!

02-05-2009, 11:23 PM
This map is AMAZING! Here is some Rep! Your mountains are incredible! I sure would love to know how you made them!

02-06-2009, 06:03 PM
- Added shadow to some of the icons (castles and few others) to make them less flat. Some of the Icons were left as they are (not to be seen too easily) because those are meant to be found during our games.
- “Soften” the water texture a bit. Here you go SteelG it’s the best I can do without going too solid blue or changing the sea texture completely. I made the change as I shared your opinion about the sea texture.
- Added some new lakes and made few minor adjustments to some other terrains.
- Added more battleground markers to show the main battlefields of the war between south and north.
- Added the compass (actually already in the last update). I didn’t want the compass to be too fancy, but to go well together with the style of the map instead. I also added the legend and scale just to clarify things out.

Gandwarf: I have been working with this map for the last 2 months and basically the first few weeks were spent just to build up the textures and designing the overall look. I have not calculated the hours spent and I’m not the fastest guy around with photoshop so “countless hours” could be quite accurate :)

As the changes in this latest version are not that significant I will post the map straight away to the finished maps section, so don’t forget to check the thread “Bretoria at the beginning of the second time”. This map will continue living its life in our roleplaying campaign and will most likely change a bit in time gathering more details at least.

Thank you all for your comments and suggestions along the way…I’m so glad I found Cartographers’ Guild when I was starting this one up, I wouldn’t have finished other vice…