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Auth
04-02-2009, 08:11 PM
Greetings!

Attached is a map I've created for an novel series currently being worked on. I am pretty proud of how it has turned out thus far, but my main concern is that I like it from a graphic design viewpoint, and not a cartographic viewpoint. What I mean by this is that I am a graphic design hobbyist, but this is my first attempt at a fantasy map.

Obviously, there's a HUGE difference between being a decent graphic designer and a good map-maker, and since this is my first real map project, I wanted to get some good & honest critique, pointers, and opinions from those who know cartography best - you all here at the Cartographer's Guild. :)

So without further rambling, here's the skinny on what this map represents and how it was made.

Map Background:

This is the map of Valcia, the land in an upcoming novel series I've been working off/on for the past 5 or so years. I tend to be a very visual person, and wanted to make a detailed visual representation of the land in the novels to make it easier to gauge distances, travel times, etc. My sharing of this map isn't so much a ploy to garner interest in the novels (it is still a long, long ways off from being anywhere close to complete), but rather to gain insights as to how I could make the map itself better.

Map Details:

This map took me 15 days to create in Illustrator and Photoshop, working everyday anywhere from 4-10 hours/day. The entire map was originally sketched out with pencil & paper and scanned onto my PC some time ago, but it wasn't until recently that I decided to go all out with it.

I had tried to make a decent depiction of Valcia before by purchasing and using Fractal Mapper 8.0, but was displeased with the results (most likely due to my own inexperience with the program itself). I since decided that if I wanted this done right, I wasn't going to be able to take any shortcuts and needed to do it myself - by 'hand'.

I started by tracing over the sketch in Illustrator and 'hand-drew' (pencil tool & brush effects) all the lines, outlines, and details - rivers, lakes coastlines, islands, forest, and yes - even the mountains (very tedious). Once I completed all the outlines in Illustrator, I ported the data over to Photoshop to fill in the color and visual effects, and added in all the labels.

Every detail in the map is unique - meaning that every river, forest, lake, mountain, etc was individually drawn in and detailed. Also, every element in the map is original content created specifically for the map (IE no generic elements were used, such as symbols, trees, towns, etc) except for the fonts, of course.

Overall Design Goal:

The look I am trying to go for is a map that has been painted onto sandstone, but is heavily detailed. It tends to be my style to blend opposites - so hence I tried to blend a traditional, de-saturated (sepia-esque) painted map with crisp, somewhat modern lines, fonts, and effects - but at the same time causing it all to flow together very nicely for its own unique, intriguing style.

So once again, here it is: the map of Valcia. Thanks in advance for any input, and I will take every criticism with the utmost regard.

Regards,

- Auth

Ascension
04-02-2009, 09:11 PM
Fabulous map. The colors are just what I like. From a graphic design standpoint the fonts work but from a theme standpoint they don't...the hand-drawn style sort of needs a hand-drawn font. I understand that this, then, makes the outer glow look silly on a hand-written font so the paradox arises...theme font or legible labels? I haven't got my brain wrapped around this either so if you like it then keep it that way :) The only thing I will say is that some of the more scripty fonts are hard to read. The main thing distracting me is that the sandstone might be too heavy...if you could lessen the effect on the ocean it might go a long way. Lastly, I think the rivers are too dark blue, maybe something more like the ocean color would be nice...that light steel blue with a touch of green. These are very minor things on what is an absolutely fantastic artistic map so take them with a pinch of salt and please do more...many more :) I certainly learned a thing or two by looking at it and I enjoyed it as well. Very nice job, A+.

guyanonymous
04-02-2009, 09:13 PM
I agree about the sandstone/paper texture, and you may consider adjusting the scale of the texture itself; consider how big your map would be on the wall, and adjust to match that ideal.

Great job!

NymTevlyn
04-02-2009, 09:16 PM
The overall texture is too much. Use an old parchment texture as an overlay. Not as busy. The text could use some size modifications. They're too fancy and small to be easily readable.

Kingbreaker
04-02-2009, 11:00 PM
I agree about the sandstone/paper texture, and you may consider adjusting the scale of the texture itself; consider how big your map would be on the wall, and adjust to match that ideal.

Great job!


^
+1


Great work though overall:)

Auth
04-03-2009, 02:20 AM
Thanks for the quick feedback!

Unfortunately, to make the smaller fonts more legible would require me to make the map even larger than it is to fit the larger sized fonts... which I can do but the map is already pretty huge. Perhaps I can take out the smaller river names altogether, since they are the smallest text on the map, and really aren't as important as cities and landmarks. Thoughts?

And in regards to the extent of the sandstone overlay, I can definitely tone it down - thanks for the feedback! I think I'll stay with the sandstone effect (as opposed to parchment) though, since it has been my intention all along to make this a sandstone relief.

And in regards to the uniform fonts currently in place... does anyone have any 'hand-writing' styled fonts they would recommend for me to replace the current fonts with? I don't currently have any in my personal collection.

So yeah! Any other pointers? :)

Naeddyr
04-03-2009, 05:59 AM
Excellent map, and I like the personal mountains. I agree, though, about the scraggly pattern, you should really tone it down. It makes the map difficult to read, even.

Korba
04-03-2009, 06:09 AM
That's a lovely looking map. I have used mountains like that in the past and always struggled to color them but i will definitely be trying the method you have used.

I think from a realistic rivers point of view you have a couple of minor inconsistencies.

Fort Mirance and Weret Bay you have rivers that fork a long way from the coast. Rivers with two outlets are very unusual. Look forward to seeing the ext version :)

Korba

Gandwarf
04-03-2009, 06:20 AM
This is a great looking map and I have given you some reputation for it.
Like the others I do feel the sandstone texture is too much. Way too much at the moment, actually. I would consider dropping it entirely or at least tone it down a lot. You have some great looking hills and mountains for example, but the sandstone texture distracts me!

Oh, and as always, what kind of story are you writing? I am writing some novels myself, so always interested to hear about other worlds :)

Steel General
04-03-2009, 07:56 AM
Very nice work... my nit-picks are pretty much the same as those already mentioned; tone down the ocean texture a bit, try and make the fonts more legible.

Have some 'rep' *bonk*

Valarian
04-03-2009, 08:15 AM
I'm going to disagree with the consensus here because I like the map - texture, river colour, fonts and all. The thing with the fonts is that they've got to be legible even when shrunk down to paperback novel size (either a single page or dual page spread). This almost rules out most of the handwriting style script fonts. I love the texture of the map.

Don't change a thing :)
(Except maybe the forking rivers)

Karro
04-03-2009, 02:15 PM
I'm going with Valarian on the texture: I don't think it's too much. At least, not by much.

The fonts, though: they've got to be more legible. You might want to consider cleaning off the texture from where the fonts go, to help legibility, but you probably ought to consider changing the font up entirely to a legible one, even the larger fonts. For instance, this map was made in "Circa 3059 ??". I can identify Circa and the numbers well enough, but the last two letters are completely opaque to me.

I'm not sure that the forking rivers are quite a problem - normally they are, of course, completely unrealistic, but at this scale (with that 30 Mile marker) the forks appear to occur roughly 10 miles inland. This is within the range for a river delta type formation. However, if they are intended to be deltas, that's not entirely clear from context. On the other hand, if they're just suppose to fork downstream... as mentioned it remains rare (though maybe not entirely impossible) that a river splits and forks in the downstream flow.

Anyway... good luck with the novel. It's the same thing that drew me here: having been working on a novel for the last decade+ (and gone through many iterations) my decision of about two years ago to reboot everything and start from scratch on that project necessitated (in my mind, anyway) a new map, and I wanted to go digital for the flexibility that offers.

Given that this is for your novel, the question, though, is: is this map for your own personal use (as mine is) to help illustrate to yourself while you write or intended to go with the novel or otherwise for public consumption (i.e. like on the novel's website or something)? If the former, then many of these factors don't matter, as the only relevant criterion is whether the map meets your personal needs. If the latter, then the legibility and everything become an actual concern.

Ascension
04-03-2009, 05:51 PM
For fonts websites, there are a bunch of links in the reference material subforum here so that we don't all have to start plugging our faves again.

Auth
04-03-2009, 06:17 PM
Thanks for the great feedback! I have made several modifications in the attached version:

- Texture scale reduced 50%
- Texture relief reduced 60%
- River names removed
- River/lakes made brighter

After a quick search online, I couldn't come up with any 'hand-writing' style fonts that seemed to work well with the map... I will however look at any suggestions if anyone has any.

And for those who have praised this work and mentioned gleaning some ideas for your own maps, that's awesome. I am humbled that something I've created can be a source of inspiration for others.

EDIT: ...and wow. As I was writing this several more replies have been made.

Once again, thanks for all the feedback. I am actually planning on making 2 maps: 1 public, and 1 private. I originally created this map to be more my style, and although I like it, I am already planning on creating a different version for myself to blow up and get printed on a 48"x36" canvas to place in my office. So the map I'm sharing with you is intended to be the 'public' map, so I have no qualms making modifications to make it more appealing to a larger audience.

And right after this post I will be searching through the reference material subforum for fonts, thank you.

Until then, can I once again get critique on this new modified version? Thanks!

- Auth

Auth
04-03-2009, 06:20 PM
This is a great looking map and I have given you some reputation for it.
Like the others I do feel the sandstone texture is too much. Way too much at the moment, actually. I would consider dropping it entirely or at least tone it down a lot. You have some great looking hills and mountains for example, but the sandstone texture distracts me!

Oh, and as always, what kind of story are you writing? I am writing some novels myself, so always interested to hear about other worlds :)

I have a small website up with a few details about the project, and although some of the info is a tad outdated (info is almost a year old, and I'm making changes daily), you are more than welcome to come poke around.

www.awakeningsaga.com

Ascension
04-03-2009, 06:56 PM
Much better on the texture and very nice...feel like running my hand over it. I hope you don't mind but I just had to play with it a bit. I used the dodge and burn tools to create some slopes on the mountains.

Clercon
04-03-2009, 07:28 PM
I really like your map. The second version looks better then the first. still though I think that the colour of the rivers and the sea don't really blend. The rivers are a bit too blue and the sea too grey. But it's a fantastic map :-)

Sigurd
04-03-2009, 11:31 PM
The second version feels less cluttered than the first. Its a nice map.


Have you experimented with changing the colours of physical features (rivers etc...)? You might give your political labels more focus while still presenting features in an organized way. Finding a blue river name on the whole map might be easier for example.


Sigurd

Gandwarf
04-04-2009, 05:41 AM
For me the second map is a big improvement. Like Sigurd said, it feels less cluttered.
I also *really* like what Ascension did to some of the mountains. You might want to try and put in that effect.

Naeddyr
04-04-2009, 05:54 AM
The second map is oodles better, and man, now that Ascension did the highlighting, I finally realise this is the same kind of mountain-chain style I'm going to use for my current map. I also really like the forests, with the tree trunks boking out from the southern edges.

NymTevlyn
04-04-2009, 06:55 AM
That kind of shading on mountains is best done with a tablet. I would kill my wrist trying to do that with a mouse heh.

Ascension
04-04-2009, 03:47 PM
It's tedious even with my tablet...there's a whole lotta mountains :)

Auth
04-07-2009, 02:55 AM
Alright, here's version 3!

I took the advice given and have made the following changes in this version:

- Changed all the fonts to more a hand-written style, as well as applied a minor distortion to give the text even less uniformity.

- Modified the text effects to make the labels feel more like part of the map as opposed to a separate entity.

- Tweaked the color of lakes/rivers to match the sea.

- Added a sandstone overlay to both desaturate the colors even more and to add in some minor texture.

- Added in a crack to give the map an aged, worn feeling.

- Added in a lighting effect to give the map more character.

- Various other minor hue/contrast tweaks.

This version feels like an entirely different map to me. It was a little more difficult for me to work on, since pursuing this style was a venture outside of my normal style/comfort zone, but I listened to everyone's input and tried to accommodate accordingly. Plus I added in some cool effects like the lighting and the crack.

Once again, thanks in advance for any critique and pointers.

Regards,

- Auth

Jykke
04-07-2009, 03:15 AM
Nice map, have some rep.

DungeonMasterGaz
04-07-2009, 05:50 AM
This map gets better with every incarnation!

I think this version is much grittier and has a darker mood than the previous versions, and the colours are spot on for making it look aged. I think you did the right thing listening to all the great advice, and have ended up with a 1st class map.

Your mountains are stunning, much more so now you have muted the sandstone effect and they can be seen clearly. If you could shade them in a similar way to Ascension's example I think it would make the map truly outstanding.

I don't have the technical skill to be able to advise you on this map, but from a layman's observations I think maybe a very slight dark glow or shadow on the city/ruin text would make it stand out. I just found some of it tricky to read where it almost merges with the light background.

Great work.

DMG

Steel General
04-07-2009, 07:11 AM
Looking good...

Auth
04-07-2009, 07:20 AM
This map gets better with every incarnation!

I think this version is much grittier and has a darker mood than the previous versions, and the colours are spot on for making it look aged. I think you did the right thing listening to all the great advice, and have ended up with a 1st class map.

Your mountains are stunning, much more so now you have muted the sandstone effect and they can be seen clearly. If you could shade them in a similar way to Ascension's example I think it would make the map truly outstanding.

I don't have the technical skill to be able to advise you on this map, but from a layman's observations I think maybe a very slight dark glow or shadow on the city/ruin text would make it stand out. I just found some of it tricky to read where it almost merges with the light background.

Great work.

DMG

Thanks for the kind words. And in regards to the dark glow around the city texts, I actually originally had it that way, but i thought it may not look right so I took it out at the last minute, haha. Perhaps tomorrow I can put up the same version with the text outlined and see which version everyone likes more.

Thanks again!

Karro
04-07-2009, 11:28 AM
I'd definitely go back and add something of a glow to the labels, particularly in the Kingdom of Isteroth region, the Freeland of Amerys title, and the Kingdom of Erenon. The pale-colored labels mixed with a pale, sandy background make them hard to read in those areaa.

Anyway, it looks great. You've earned some rep!

ravells
04-07-2009, 05:12 PM
I'm in love with your colour palette. Simply gorgeous - have some rep!

And I can't wait until it's finished! It can't be far off!

Ascension
04-07-2009, 05:51 PM
Outstanding! I really liked the old color scheme but this one totally kicks. I'd add a thin stroke or glow of a dark brown in a few spot for the text but otherwise this looks done...and awesome. That light really adds something and the colors are smokin.

torstan
04-07-2009, 07:42 PM
Simply stunning. This is a real triumph of elegance and restraint (and yes, I am a sucker for a good hand drawn map!)

Auth
04-07-2009, 10:05 PM
Alright, here is essentially the same version (couldn't match the lighting effect perfectly, but its very close to the previous version) with a faint border around the lighter text as suggested.

And once again, thanks for the critique in advance.

Regards,

- Auth

Ascension
04-07-2009, 10:48 PM
This is so nice I snagged a copy for my "Inspiration Folder" that I keep on my hard drive. I have nothing to add so unless others see something, I'd call it done...and a masterpiece too :)

DungeonMasterGaz
04-08-2009, 06:20 AM
Absolutely perfect. Everything is clear and legible. The colours, the art, there’s not much that I can say except give up on the novel and become a professional cartographer instead!

Really hope to see more of your work in the future.

DMG

Steel General
04-08-2009, 10:44 AM
Very nice...

Karro
04-08-2009, 10:57 AM
Wow, that did it! Just a faint darkening around the letters, and now they're very clear, and the glow doesn't over-do it. Beautiful!

altasilvapuer
04-08-2009, 01:52 PM
I'm curious: how exactly did you render your crack in the map. It looks absolutely amazing! I look at it and think I'm looking at a map on an actual piece of sandstone whose caretaker has been sleeping on the job again.

-asp

Auth
04-08-2009, 04:28 PM
This is so nice I snagged a copy for my "Inspiration Folder" that I keep on my hard drive. I have nothing to add so unless others see something, I'd call it done...and a masterpiece too :)
Wow, thank you so much. And I have no qualms with you saving a copy. Hell, you helped me get this far with it in the first place so by all means enjoy it! :lol:


Absolutely perfect. Everything is clear and legible. The colours, the art, there’s not much that I can say except give up on the novel and become a professional cartographer instead!

Really hope to see more of your work in the future.

DMG
HAHAHA! I can say that working on this map was really fun, so perhaps if the novel doesn't work out (very rarely does a 1st time author make a marketable book), I can look into it. Thanks!


Very nice...
Thank you very much.


Wow, that did it! Just a faint darkening around the letters, and now they're very clear, and the glow doesn't over-do it. Beautiful!
I'm glad you like it.


I'm curious: how exactly did you render your crack in the map. It looks absolutely amazing! I look at it and think I'm looking at a map on an actual piece of sandstone whose caretaker has been sleeping on the job again.

-asp

I essentially followed this video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lC9-KBY7Pvg

Although it didn't work out as easily for me as it seems in the video; I had to go in and cut the crack out of the stock image and applied an inner bevel to make it stand out a little more. Hope this helps!

Clercon
04-08-2009, 06:10 PM
This really looks great now. great job! Love the style......makes me wanna redo all my maps :-)

Auth
04-08-2009, 08:15 PM
I made a thread in the 'finished maps' board:

http://www.cartographersguild.com/showthread.php?t=5091

Thanks again, everyone! This was really fun, and the Cartographers' Guild is one of the best online communities I've had the honor of being a part of in a long time. :)

I'll definitely be sticking around for awhile.

- Auth

Auth
04-11-2009, 09:01 PM
Hey everyone.

I was just looking through some of my old files and came across the various forms the map has taken since I first began working on it years ago and thought it may be fun to show how Valcia has evolved since its humble beginnings in MS Paint. :)

This first one (left-most attached pic) was done over 6 years ago back when I was a teenager. At the time, I was planning on the story to be a D&D campaign, so I was attempting to make it a world map.

The first revision (second pic from left) still had the 'world map' style, but I had made some changes and you can start to see some key features I ended up going with in the final version. By this point, I decided to ditch the D&D campaign and try to make a story out of it.

The third version (second from right) was the big switch from a world map to a regional map. The main reason for the big change was that although the story was large, it wasn't large enough to encapsulate a whole planet.

And the last attached version (right most pic) was made using Fractal Mapper 8.0. But once again, I wasn't entirely pleased with it so I eventually made the final version that I shared at the start of this thread.

That's it! It was kind of fun looking back and seeing how much everything had changed. Hope it was somewhat interesting for you too.

Regards,

- Auth

macarser
06-20-2012, 11:04 AM
This is a perfect map for what I'm looking at doing. May have to commission one like it.

Lyandra
06-20-2012, 07:21 PM
Nice. It is indeed interesting to see how the idea changed and developed over time...
Your newest map is truly beautiful Auth, I love the way you've drawn mountains on it. Thanks for bumping it up macarser, otherwise I probably wouldn't have found it. :)