View Full Version : A comprehensive map of Avani

01-07-2009, 11:41 AM
Hello Everyone!

After trolling the forums for the past year and lots of work refining my methods on various test maps, I finally decided it was time to create a serious and extensive map of a fantasy world. This is my first map and my also, my first post!

My world is called "Avani." My work is done in Photoshop exclusively. Iíve used Photoshop extensively in both work and school so I am somewhat well versed in the program. It never ceases to amaze me how much more a person can dig and learn with a program. The things that people have done here on this site are nothing short of amazing.

So to contribute, I present my work in progress. Currently consisting of more than 75 layers in Photoshop ranging in text layers, to texture layers, to color, layers and more I have a map that I can still completely rearrange without starting over from scratch.

Iím relatively pleased with the result thus far, but have found it exceedingly difficult to continue on the map as the details get smaller and smaller. I am currently working on labeling of cities, seas, inlets, rivers, landmarks and everything else I can. I am also considering adding roads or paths between the major cities.

At this point Iím looking for some advice. First and foremost, how am I doing? Are there things I should be considering doing that Iím not? Are there major mistakes that I've made? How much detail should I be adding? I'm also looking for suggestions as to how I can more clearly differentiate my deserts and plains. The textureís Iíve played with have not worked well and I havenít found any custom brushes that have fit the style and what Iím trying to do either.

My goal for the map is to create a complete world that can lead to other projects such as providing a setting for short stories, campaigns, and possibly even a novel. Once complete I will be writing an "encyclopedia" for the world as well to assist in the various methods of storytelling. The level of detail needs to be rather extensive for this reason. There is no doubt that writings will lead to more content as well which is why I have so many layers to work with, modify, and expand upon.

I've sank a lot of time into the map already and currently find the most difficult part to continue simply naming the geographic regions, rivers, lakes, inlets, channels, and so forth. Perhaps it is because I wish for the names to hold more meaning than simply making things up.

As you can no doubt tell, I'm a bit on the anal-retentive side of things and itís been making progress a bit tedious. For this very reason, I feel it is important to turn to the community for support and feedback.


The "final" versions of this map may be found on page 3. Thanks!

01-07-2009, 12:13 PM
You're doing a marvelous job! On this style of map, I think the large labels are sufficient to delineate your plains and deserts. Based on the locations of the mountains and water, I have little difficulty seeing where the desert would leave off and transition to grassland.

The coastal glow might not be right for this map--I think you should probably either find a way to make it look less regular, as if it were watercolor, or switch to a different style that looks more hand-drawn. Ghalev's woodcut effect might work well. http://www.cartographersguild.com/showthread.php?t=547

01-07-2009, 12:14 PM
Let me be the first to rep you. You have done very well!
I really like the handdrawn look & feel of this map and you picked a great font.

As for adding details: don't overdo it. Maybe name some of the bigger cities, but certainly not every hamlet! The map will get bogged down with labels and symbols otherwise. Don't overdo terrain types either. I think it's great as it is.
You are not using any colors and it will get tricky to represent desert for example - you don't want to add many more symbols. So don't go overboard and try to add deserts, swamps, icy terrain, etc.

The only thing I might do to this map is smoothen the landmass borders a bit (not too much!). They have some jaggies, while the mountains, trees and other symbols are more smooth.

Also, I have found the best way to name places is to just write stories about them. You will name the places along the way and the names will really stick. If you are going to sit down one night and just name 50 different places a lot of those names won't have any meaning at all. I have breen creating a fantasy world for over 8 years and it took me years to name everything. I still lack names for mountains, rivers, etc. I make them up when I need them.

Good luck!

01-07-2009, 12:16 PM
Something I did use for my fantasy world, the fantasy name generator:

01-07-2009, 12:25 PM
Great map so far. I'd agree that the outer glow is a little overpowering. You could drop it back a bit or turn it to a line effect to merge it into the map a bit more. My other minor crit is the compass. It looks like it has been shrunken in the vertical direction and as a result the 45 degree arrows look like they are more like 30 degree arrows. This, coupled with the very linear form of the compass, makes it stand out as probable clip artt on an otherwise lovely map.

Are you going to add settlements to this?

Great first post and welcome! Good to see another lurker coming out of the closet.

01-07-2009, 12:38 PM
Welcome, great first post and great map. I studied it hard and could only find one thing and I am not even sure about that. So for everyone, is 'Straights' as in 'Straights of Gibraltar' = Straights or Straits cos I thought it was the latter though there have been numerous double spellings of stuff in the past.

Very nice map and I would agree with previous posters, theres a certain limit to what can be labeled at a certain scale. You may need to create sub maps with larger scale for more detail. You have to put information on the map that relates to the scale of the map. For a world map then sectors of a city don't mean anything until your in a city etc.

Rep heading your way :)

Steel General
01-07-2009, 12:54 PM
Very nice I'd say, I'll echo some of the earlier comments about the 'glow' around the land masses I'd just 'tone it down' some maybe add a bit of blur, but I also like the idea of the woodcut. It seems to work very well for this kind of map I think.

Keep up the good work.

I dub thee newly repped *bonk*

01-07-2009, 01:03 PM
I have to say, I like the glow. But then again, I am a non conformist. On the other hand, the woodcut effect would might look nice also if done at the proper scale..

01-07-2009, 01:27 PM
Originally, I had intended to make the map large enough to split into 4 different maps. I still could with relative ease. That was the rationale for the extreme high level of detail on the map. What I’ve come to find is that the more and more detail added, the more cramped the map began to feel. Sadly, one of the only things I really can't change very easily is the native resolution and size of the map due to the fact that it is all drawn with brushes and textures instead of vectors. One thought I had was to do a "less" detailed overland map and take my existing landmass and chop it into 4 sections where I could get far more detailed. That still may be the route I take which would mean that this overworld map is far closer to finished that I had previously expected.

The biggest complaint seems to be the outer glow for the landmass. I'll admit that it has been slightly problematic at times and has made some of the narrower channels and lakes more difficult to name. I'll run a few different filters and textures tonight and see if I can't tone it down a bit. I've always loved that woodcut look, but have been relatively unsuccessful in replicating it sufficiently. I've give it another go.

I have been planning on adding more cities and settlements throughout the map but naming has become more and more problematic. I'm probably going to take Gandwarf's advice and do some creative writing for the regions and see if I can come up with meaningful names a little more easily.

Also, I've gone back and forth with the compass. I zipped that one off real quick as it is so angular but it certainly doesn’t have any pizzazz. I could probably make it look more natural using a displacement map or something but it will do little to alleviate the underlying problem. I've had another idea to try that will be far more involved, but it’s probably the right time to move forward on it.

I think you are absolutely right that it is nigh impossible to sit down and come up with some fifty (meaningful) names just by sitting and thinking. I've been scribbling down various names and places from my browsing and perusing of Wikipedia, Dictionary.com, various encyclopedias, and other resources. Still, the problem there is my notes are scattered about and the names that I do have I'll need to look up over again to find out their intended meaning.

By writing some regional histories, short stories, and other literature I should be able to come up with far more meaningful names and far easier ways to remember why they are meaningful.

Thanks for the critiques and advice!

01-07-2009, 04:55 PM
Great map. If you want to up the size of the map, then just up the size of the brushes (I noticed that many of the symbols repeat so that indicates brushes, shapes, or a scanned piece that has been copied). The only real problem with upping the size if that the landmass will not look as good...there will appear to be far too many straight places and not enough curvy or pointy bits. As for the desert, maybe add a bedouin tent or a camel or pueblo thingy or oasis in the middle...more of a style element but once seen it cannot be unseen and will lend a certain flavor to the area. IN the end, though, I think it looks pretty much done as is (taking into account above posts) and would second the notion of chopping it up for more detail. Nice job and git crackin on the bigger/detailed versions :) Oh, and I almost forgot, might want to change the font to something more legible...I've used this font myself many times because the style seems way cool but it's not easily readable.

01-07-2009, 05:11 PM
Wow that is real nice, I think I would just about cry if you made your incredible trees, mountains (and cities, simple but elegant double circle symbol) into photoshop brushes.

01-07-2009, 11:22 PM
Ascension, you are correct that the mountains and trees are all brushes, but after a few smaller trial forests, I determined that it was too time consuming to place each tree with a brush. I tried different spacingís and variables for the brushes themselves but they still looked too repeating, so instead if did created a pattern from my brushes.

Using the offset filter and a variation of the some twenty tree brushes I ended up with I created a fairly large pattern that I was unable to detect any perceivable pattern. Also, instead of simply pouring the pattern into the foreground, I actually created a new fill/adjustment layer with the pattern. That way I can actually change the size of the pattern at any time and simply paint in the trees where needed. This lends to far more flexibility than static layers. I could even change textures on the fly.

The mountain ranges were painted after the placement was determined. They are also brushes and were painted individually. I was unable to create an acceptable mountain range pattern and since there are considerably fewer mountains than trees, that was just fine by me.

A note about the font. The one I'm using is primarily is called Zothique Demo which is certainly difficult to read in many cases. That's why I'm also using one called "Treasure Map Deadhand" which is far more legible but still has many of the same overall characteristics. You can see a distinct difference at the bottom middle of the map. "The Horn of Avani" is in Zothique Demo while the "Sea of Minawara" is in Treasure Map Deadhand. I was reluctant to use two fonts, but Zothique Demo is just such a beautiful font when large enough to read I couldn't resist.

Nomadic, I can try to put together a brush pack at some point. I've got a whole slug of them at this point. Not all of them made the cut for the map. I went thru various styles of mountains before arriving at these. I modeled these after the ones used on the Ystraad map by Bohunk (which is most certainly the inspiration for this map.)

I've probably got some 120 brushes at this point made up. Of which only about a third are any good. When it comes right down to it, custom brushes are incredibly easy to make. What I've found especially effective is creating a 1 inch by 1 inch blank white canvas in photoshop with a resolution of 600 Pixels and drawing your trees, mountains, and other doodads with a brush between 3 and 13 pixels. When you shrink them down you can both cover your mistakes (as they are so small at that point) and also get a wonderful softness/crispness/detail balance.

Keep in mind that I now have over 35 mountain brushes made, but only used some 7 of them in the map. That means a LOT of trial and error.

Thanks again for the comments!

01-07-2009, 11:32 PM
Are you using Photoshop or GIMP or something else?

01-08-2009, 12:16 AM
Photoshop exclusively. It's what I've used for years and its what I'm comfortable with. At this point I really don't know any other programs.

Also, I uploaded an additional map with a trial run of the Woodcut. It is posted next to the current version in the first post.

I'm going to work on a new compass that should be considerably more fitting to the map when i get a chance. Didn't get a chance to do much of anything tonight I'm afraid.

Obviously I'll have a few text things to iron out before the woodcut is really complete, but I thought I'd get some feedback on it before I spent a lot of time making it look pretty.

Steel General
01-08-2009, 08:20 AM
I really like the woodcut version, but the shadowing (or whatever) seems very heavy. Is that a result of using the woodcut (I've not used it before) or something you intentionally put in there?

01-08-2009, 09:16 AM
Photoshop exclusively. It's what I've used for years and its what I'm comfortable with. At this point I really don't know any other programs.

I was asking because one of our members (RobA) had created a random density script for GIMP which fills in an area with a brush in a randomish pattern. But, since you don't use GIMP, it's not much use for ya.

Those brushes are really nice. If you have any you wish to share, I know tons of people would be thankful. If so, post them up in the Mapping Resources forum.

01-08-2009, 09:58 AM
I had actually looked for a similar script for photoshop. I kept looking for a way to alternate brushes "on the fly" and have it keep switching up the variables. I was unsuccessful. Ultimately, creating a fairly large pattern that I can make adjustments to thru the fill/adjustment layer provides me with more flexibility. At least it seems like it does.

I have to admit the woodcut looks better than I expected. It is really a first run with it on there and I'll need to make some adjustments to make it work. It messes with a lot of my text areas which will require fixing as well. The beauty of it all is that I can keep my other layer with the glow in a separate layer and completely change the style of the map should I decide to go back. I'll keep messing with it and see what works best. I really do like the simplicity of the border with the slight glow. I messed with those settings too and could easily tone it down a bit.

It’s all trial and error.

I'll try to get a brush and texture pack together once I've got the map finished. I just really want to finish the map and to make and effective brush pack will take some time. The original images for the brushes are all really large and for the little bit I did, I just keyed in the resizing as needed. To actually make a custom brush pack, I'd probably go the extra mile and make sure they default to a reasonable size and have the proper alternating variables.

01-08-2009, 10:13 AM
I have to admit the woodcut looks better than I expected. It is really a first run with it on there and I'll need to make some adjustments to make it work. It messes with a lot of my text areas which will require fixing as well.

I assume you probably have a channel/mask which limits the scope of the woodcut effect? I would probably just mask off using that channel and wherever you have text, just manually "paint" the mask so that the woodcut effect is lessened under the text.

01-08-2009, 11:05 AM
That's where I'm heading with it. This trial run was actually done a lot simpler than that just by copying the landmass layer to a new document and giving it an exceptionally large glow then switching the mode to bitmap with a soft line texture and upping the dpi to 2200 or something big. Then resizing the image to match the original and pasting the new layer into the existing map and switching to "multiply." It literally takes a minute or two to do it that way but provides me with no way of altering it once in place.

The channel/mask is the way to go because it will provide all kind of flexibility, but I just didn't have a chance to mess with it yet. I'll probably still have to change some of my text around but at least I’ll be able to go "around" it for the most part.

01-08-2009, 02:19 PM
And now that the digital look of the coasts has been ameliorated, the labels jump out at me as being obviously computer-generated. A slight blur and a little bit of texture would probably help match the labels to the features.

01-08-2009, 02:54 PM
Trust me, thats coming, but i wanted to get all my text created first because you can't apply filters to text in photoshop that isn't "rasterized." If I rasterize the type, then I can no longer change the font size or other characteristics.

Basically, once I'm done adding text, I'll be able to rasterize and flatten all the text layers into one and then applying various filters to make it look more natural. It will be one of the last things to finish the map.

01-09-2009, 01:28 AM
Posted three new versions. Biggest difference is the new compass which i think looks a lot better. You'll see various degrees of the woodcut between two of them and one that is back to the old single line with the outer glow, with the glow considerably toned down.

I also added the directional "pinwheel" from the compass for fun on a few. I'm not sure I really like it, but it was fun to try.

I still need to fix a little bit of text, and I really struggled with the woodcut. These were some of the best ones I came up with. They are much more subdued. To the point where I'm afraid they don't look realistic. I s'pose they don't really need to.

Steel General
01-09-2009, 07:41 AM
Even though I love the wood-cut affect, I think the fifth one is the best one so far.
Great job!

01-10-2009, 01:31 AM
I like the 4th one...woodcut without the sun rays in the background. Has my tongue "Wag"ging...heh, yeah I'm a dork.

01-10-2009, 12:14 PM
I'm with Ascension. The fourth image is my favourite. Very nice job on the compass rose, too. We don't see too many 128-point compasses.

01-10-2009, 08:21 PM
Yeah, i wasn't sure what to do when making the compass. I wanted to individual degrees to line up with the points of the rose, so it ended up with fewer "degrees" than a standard. I guess it's not a big deal. It is all "Fantasy" after all.

I still can't decide which version I like better. The non woodcut version looks a lot cleaner to me so I might stick with that for the overworld map. When I do regional sup-maps I think I'll use the woodcut more liberally. Still... not 100% sure. We'll see I guess.

01-11-2009, 12:00 AM
Ok, so I think I've taken this map as far as it needs to go. My "final" version is the last one (Avani09.jpg if you're looking.) As much as I like the woodcut, I think this version provides a better "overworld" than the other. I have included the woodcut version as well, but I didn't change my text to accommodate so there are parts were the woodcut drowns out the text.

There are very few changes from these versions to the previous ones. Mostly the names and places have been sufficiently named, and the text softened.

Oh, and "Straights" changed to "Straits" (thanks Redrobes!)

If anyone has any other suggestions, or fixes please let me know. I'm all for improvements ;-)

On to regional maps and Creative writing!

Thanks for the input and kind words!


01-11-2009, 07:18 AM
Absolutely wonderful. All the symbols look great and I love the faded look.

01-11-2009, 08:56 AM
Well, this map is coming very close to a masterpiece. I am reserving that title for a future map that blows me completely of my socks, but this one is coming close. It's one of the best I saw on the guild forum. Really professional quality.
And I see you named all the locations :)

01-15-2009, 01:23 AM
Well, thanks everyone. Things are progressing nicely on the next map. I'll start a new thread that will be dedicated to that map when I get a chance. I'm starting with the Island of Gershom and lands beyond in the west.

Here is a very (VERY mind you) rough draft. I'm going to try to add a little dose of color (forests, compass, mountains, valleys) to spruce it up slightly. It will all be very subtle and understated if it makes it in at all. It will be a much "harder" style and more handrawn instead of printed look.

Again, a very rough first draft.

*Edit* Added 2nd draft with improved mountains, parchment, and subtle colors. Still a very rough draft.