View Full Version : Thraeton Map

02-05-2009, 10:40 AM
Thraeton is the world I am currently building. I originally wanted to post the map once it is done but I realized it is a good opportunity to post it as WIP to show my work flow as well as getting some opinions before it's completed. I'll post in steps as the work on this map progresses - feedback and constructive criticism is always encouraged.

After I have a general concept for a world I would like to build, I begin with doodling continental outlines until I find a pattern that I like. I attempt to imitate features from the Earth's map for similar locations, and of course I try to be as naturalistic as possible about my coastlines. I already try to keep tectonics in mind when I do this, but the priority is on creating pleasing shapes for the landmasses.

I use a wacom tablet + inkscape, where I employ the freehand drawing tool to create shapes that I add or subtract as desired. So for example, I might have a straight coastline which I then spice up by creating a new shape that I then subtract to create a bay, or add to create a peninsula. It is a highly iterative process, and it takes me many, many hours. It seems I am just never completely happy with the continents I get.

The earliest draft of Thraeton's world's map that I still have is this map showing my attempt at drawing ocean currents:


An more recent version of the world map where I am already very close to the current layout is this:


Even though they are very different I think you can make out quite a lot of similarities between the two, so you can probably imagine how much I forced this map through the blender, so to speak.

Once I am happy with my continents, I try to work out the plate tectonics for the world. First, I place the plate boundaries - this is the step I am currently at with Thraeton. At the beginning the plate boundaries are just generic boundaries, the second step includes defining convergent, divergent and transform boundaries.

The current map looks like so, the thick black lines are the unfinished plate boundaries:


For this map, I recently converted to Equirectangular projection, because I am using Google Earth for visualization. You can sneak a peek here:


This is a new experience, but one that I find highly useful as I always had problems really imagining my maps as spherical surfaces. Drawing the polar regions is exceedingly difficult in equirectangular map projections, however, and I have to figure out a good solution for making that part easier whenever I get around to it.

02-06-2009, 01:33 AM
Alright, here we go: Now we have some rough plate tectonics in place. Red = Divergent plate boundaries; blue = convergent, yellow = transform. Black triangles mark zones of major volcanic activity; the orangy circles are hotspots. I've also started to add major mountain ranges (the brownish areas). This isn't perfect; it's fairly hard, in my opinion, to work out correct plate tectonics for pre-existing continents. There's going to be revisions as work on the world progresses, but this gives me something to start from.

02-07-2009, 12:34 PM
Here's a preliminary WIP style sample for the mountain ranges. I tried a few different appraoched and I ended up doing something fairly abstract, as I honestly can't imagine creating a height map for an entire planet at this point... (there simply do not seem to be tools for that which are user-friendly enough.)


Well, back to the drawing board!

02-07-2009, 01:08 PM
This looks good, I'd like to try that...more of a processional building up of an elevation rather than random clouds with a texture.

02-07-2009, 01:21 PM
Thanks. The random clouds have the problem that they are not at all realistic. Now, my maps are hardly scientific, but at least they are not plasma clouds. :) I had intended to create a few levels of mountains in inkscape, then use Wilbur or gimp or something to make the heightmap more detailed. Didn't try in Gimp, but it doesn't really have any tools for such work (I'd have to hand-craft everything) and Wilbur, well, it has its shortcomings as well.

That said, I am working on the colors... I've been told they look weird. (I hate being colorblind.)

02-07-2009, 02:37 PM
Fixed / improved colors for the mountains. To be honest, it looks pretty much the same to me, a little darker maybe, but I was told it's much better this way.


02-07-2009, 03:10 PM
A description of the shortcomings of Wilbur would be appreciated.

Steel General
02-07-2009, 03:11 PM
This is somewhat similar to how I do my mountains - though I use texture/pattern overlays and other layer effects, rather than just the plain colors. Yours are much more realistically shaped then mine generally are.

I'll be interested to see where you go with this.

02-07-2009, 06:07 PM
Waldronate, I had a bunch of minor issues with it, most importantly it crashed when I tried to create large files. I also kinda felt that the basic tools were a bit limited, and that pressure sensitivity would be nice.

Steel General, I am really not much of an artist; this is one reason why I go for a "simple" look. It has its advantages and disadvantages.

Anyway, I am done with the basic mountain ranges. The map now looks like so:


Detail view:


In Google Earth, it looks like this:


Now that I got the basics down, it's time to breathe life into Thraeton. That is, the next step will take me even more time than the tectonics. I'll have to figure out ocean currents, prevailing winds, and climate zones.

02-08-2009, 03:13 AM
This is looking fantastic, bartmoss. Are you still in inkscape at this stage? If you've moved to Gimp, then I would strongly suggest that you look up RobA's tutorial on creating not so precise coastlines (one of the useful tutorials for a workflow which starts in vector and moves to raster IMO). In fact I might put a link to it in my sig to save people having to search for it! The beauty of Rob's tutorial is that you keep the general shape of your landmass but impose convincing coastline detail (if that's the look you're shooting for).

Again, if you're moving your workflow into Gimp and want to give your mountains a less clean but more graduated feel, it's worth considering using the smudge tool to blend the colours a bit and then using a bit of dodge and burn to suggest shadows and highlights.

Really well thought out work bartmoss, I'm really looking forward to following this thread closely.

02-08-2009, 04:31 AM
Thanks! This is still all in Inkscape. I'll want to turn the worldmap into a heightfield at some point... but I am a little worried about doing that, too, because at usable resolutions this would mean a huge amount of work. So I'll work this world out as a more abstract vector based graphic, at least for now.

02-21-2009, 07:37 PM
Minor progress. I don't have the needed determination to force myself to work out the climate correctly and as a result I am not happy enough with what I have to call it "final". Still, basic ocean currents are done, however realistic they may be:


Here's an insight into the madness that is my climatology work - Windpattersn in local "January":


Putting that aside, here is a close-up of the "main" region with some detail added.


I actually think plain green forests work well in this case, I think it fits the fairly simple style.

The dashed yellow lines are the main connections of Thraeton's airship transport network.

02-21-2009, 08:07 PM
This is some lovely work. I really like the steady, methodological approach you are taking.

Consider yourself repped.

02-26-2009, 01:24 PM

Unfortunately I haven't had a lot of time for map-making lately. Here's a small incremental update on this map - added rivers, and edited mountains a bit.


Steel General
02-26-2009, 01:37 PM
Coming along nicely...looking forward to your next update.

02-26-2009, 08:12 PM
This looks real nice...like a super clean topographical map. Good job.

02-26-2009, 08:29 PM
I agree, very clear and concise. Looks great.

02-27-2009, 04:35 AM
Thanks guys.

Another small incremental update. I'd especially be interested whether the marshy area in the Northwest is okay, or if the color should be changed?

(Note to River Police: I know that I have a river going over a hill near the word "Highland", this is an oversight since I edited the low mountains layer after I had placed the river. It'll be fixed.)


Steel General
02-27-2009, 06:30 AM
I think the marsh color is fine.

02-27-2009, 07:58 AM
Cool, thank you.

02-27-2009, 11:26 AM
Actually, I think the color is probably very close to what you want, but maybe make it a tad lighter. Not a lot... just a tad, I think.

02-27-2009, 12:22 PM
I like it, it's very clear.

02-27-2009, 07:18 PM
Thank you for your feedback. I think I'll leave the marsh color as-is... when one is color-blind, it's not a good idea to try and tweak colors too much if they work.

I updated the .kml file and graphics on my webserver, so you can now view the up-to-date map in Google Earth again. Looks like so:


.kml is here:


PS: Yes many, but not all, of the town names are placeholders.

02-27-2009, 08:20 PM
Just keep city of glass...it makes my heart smile since I'm a glassworker.

03-03-2009, 06:16 AM
Hmm looks like I managed to lose my last reply to this thread. Anyway, no matter.

Ascension, "City of Glass" is definitely going to stay. It's basically a high tech colony (21st/22nd Century), and I figured the predominantly low-tech inhabitants of Thraeton (19th Century tech at best) would use some nickname like this for modern skyscraper architecture, and it would stick.

So here''s the current wip of the "eastern" continent, as you can see I am getting to the point where it kinda looks complete. I am fairly happy with this continent, the biggest todos are some rivers and similar details, a few additional lines for the airship transportation network (the dashed yellow line) as well as coming up with proper names for the locations, towns, etc.


The western continent needs work, but as it is mostly uninhabited by mankind it's going to be less work than the eastern one.

I've also updated the map on my webserver, so the Google Earth .kml link above uses the current map.

03-17-2009, 03:22 AM
I've not done much with this map anymore; I revisted it and tried to come up with ideas I could add or improvements I could make, and honestly all I can think of comes down to actual world-building (nations, towns, trade routes, and that sort of thing). I thus decided I'd post the current WIP and ask you guys if you can think of anything I messed up or something that needs urgent attention, otherwise I'll call this map "as done as it's gonna get". :)

Some notes:
- The world was colonized; the native sentients are primitive.
- It's a parallel Earth and the colonists are from another parallel Earth (several, in fact)
- The western continent is not settled and barely explored
- The dashed yellow lines are the primary routes of the airship trade network; airships are used because they require relatviely little infrastructure to use and maintain
- City of Glass is the highest tech settlement (21st/22nd century technology)
- Everything else is at best 19th Century
- "Maple White Land" is a jungle region with many buttes, mesas and plateaus rising above the dense vegetation; it is on these that settlements are usually built, but they are too small to show up on a world map
- I am not certain the desert on the southern continent is realistic, I might have to redesign it at some point, but for the purpose of simply creating a map it probably works as it is now.
- Since this is a parallel Earth, it is absolutely the same size as Earth; this will give you a good sense of scale.