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Scott Livingston
10-14-2009, 09:12 PM
Here is a map that I first drew over a decade ago. It depicts the setting of my fantasy novel, and I'm hoping to include a version of this map in a published book some day. Several years ago, I decided to try to turn the pages of hand-drawn maps into a digital map using Photoshop Elements. I've been working on this project off and on since early 2008. This is my first computerized map and my first project in Photoshop Elements, so I have had to teach myself as I go along.

Although I consider this map basically complete at this point, I'm posting in the WIP area in order to get advise and criticism on how to improve it. When I started this project, I was unaware of the Cartographers' Guild, so I primarily used the tutorial found here: http://www.zompist.com/howto2.htm. In the later stages of the project, I was influenced by many of the tutorials and completed maps here at the Guild.

The first two attachments here show the hand-drawn maps from years ago--the first image is the original version, and the second is a composite of several regional maps that I stitched together in Photoshop Elements. The third image shows the first two images superimposed on top of each other, with a blue coastline drawn over them. I used a Wacom Bamboo for this (an inexpensive graphics tablet is a great help when drawing a map).

For the details of the coastline, I looked at satellite pictures from Google Earth and tried to mimic the coastlines of several regions on Earth that I thought were a fairly close parallel geologically to regions of Tornalia. For example, part of the northwestern coast was drawn to resemble the fjords of Norway, and the middle of the east coast was modeled on North Africa. As you can see, I also added numerous islands and changed the shape and location of others.

philipstephen
10-14-2009, 09:27 PM
Those blue lines are looking great... and the rough pencil work shows promise for the things to come.

I am looking forward to seeing how your maps take shape.

phil

Scott Livingston
10-14-2009, 09:35 PM
In these stages, the digital map is starting to take shape. I sketched rough ridgelines along the places where mountain ranges would be, then drew in rivers and lakes in the valleys (tracing those shown on the hand-drawn maps and adding many more), and filled the ocean area with a blue color.

Next, I used an airbrush to draw mountain ranges. The map's light source is to the south and west, so the south and west faces I drew in white. In order for the white to show up, I changed the background color of the landmasses to a light gray. I used a darker gray airbrush for the shadowy north and east faces of the mountains. I then switched to a finer airbrush in order to add detail and sharpen the peaks, and repeated this process several times, using a slightly finer airbrush each time. As you can see, the shape of several mountain ranges (particularly the major chain in the center of the map) changed several times over the course of the project. I wanted to make them look realistic, but still a bit stylized. During this process, I used this tutorial for guidance: http://www.zompist.com/howto2.htm. By the third image in this set, most of the mountain ranges were done, and the central one was on its way.

I improved the ocean around this time as well, using an airbrush to add a second color around the coasts (I highlighted the water area in order to avoid coloring onto the land).

Scott Livingston
10-14-2009, 10:17 PM
Next, I turned my attention to coloring and labeling the landmasses. In the first image in this set, you can see a rough color scheme for the main continent (the islands are still gray) and some regional labels. At the same time, I was tweaking the mountains, rivers, and lakes. Note the change (yet again) in the shape of the Elder Mountains, and the addition of the Zarra Sea (a salt lake) to their east.

The colors of the map represent the various ecological and climactic regions. I was influenced by this map of biomes (near the bottom of the page): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biome. The colors themselves were inspired by satellite photos and by other maps I found here at the Guild. However, this version of the map is not supposed to be photorealistic...rather, it is a compromise between more realistic-looking and more antique-looking map styles.

The next image has a lot of new labels - almost all of the places named in the original sketches now appear on the digital map, and I created many new names as well. Creating all of this detail for the map has also helped me think of new cultures and societal details.

Scott Livingston
10-14-2009, 10:40 PM
In this stage, I completely redid the terrain colors, tweaking the colors themselves and painting the continent and islands with somewhat finer detail. I added another layer for the icecaps, which had simply been left uncolored in the previous version. Now they are colored white (the layer is slightly transparent).

I also added some texture to the map by adding two new layers. One is filled with a cloud texture (Filter>Render>Clouds) and the other with a fibrous texture (Filter>Render>Fibers, horizontally stretched). I learned to do this from several tutorials I found here at the Guild, including this one: http://www.jezelf.co.uk/tutorials_map02.htm. The cloud layer is set at 5% opacity and the fibers layer at 3%. I felt that by using both, the texture looks more natural than it would with one or the other.

Also, I made one more change to the lighting of the Elder Mountains--note the southernmost spur.

In the second image, I added a legend. The scale bar was taken from the hand-drawn one in the original (composite) sketch. I digitally altered it to make it "fit" with the rest of the map. The dark color used for the scale bar and the labels is actually a very dark gray...pure black looked too stark. I also started a compass rose, which I traced from an old map of Brazil: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Capitanias.jpg

Finally, I added an additional layer to the map to darken the color of the Arvenwood, a temperate rainforest/redwood forest that is home to the Elves. In a later stage (see the next post), I would also darken the tropical rainforests in the southwest using this layer.

Scott Livingston
10-14-2009, 10:52 PM
This brings us to the present version of the map, which I basically consider complete (at least until I decide to make additional changes). I do think there is some room for improvement, which is why I'm posting it here, rather than in the completed maps section. The final changes that took the map to this point are as follows:

1. I finished and colored the compass rose.
2. I darkened the tropical rainforest (as described in the previous post).
3. I tweaked the colors, adding detail along the mountain ranges and in other areas.
4. I made the terrain color layer somewhat more transparent, lightening the colors.
5. Uncomfortable with the idea of a region called "Dornalia" in a continent called "Tornalia," I changed the name of the region to "Dornalujia."
6. I altered some of the other labels a bit.
7. I added a border around the legend box.

So...thoughts? Reactions? Ideas? How can it be improved?

I'm also thinking of making a couple of different versions...one more topigraphical/realistic, and one more stylized and ancient-looking. Those are projects for another time, and would complement rather than replace this version, but any suggestions would be helpful.

Thanks in advance for any feedback.

Gidde
10-14-2009, 11:00 PM
I like the style you've got going on here, especially the mountains. They're just realistic enough to be pretty and just stylized enough not to overpower the rest. I also really like the font you have on the terrain labels (mountains, Ricemarsh, etc.). The only thing it feels like it's missing to me is maybe a very subtle forest texture.

All in all, very nice! Have some rep :)

Scott Livingston
10-14-2009, 11:14 PM
Gidde: Thanks, I'm glad you like the mountains...they definitely took the most effort (along with the coasts). I agree with you about the forest texture, but I'm not really sure how to go about doing it. The font you mentioned is called Caeldera and is available for free online: http://www.1001fonts.com/font_details.html?font_id=2118

Ascension
10-14-2009, 11:49 PM
Pretty nice. Good colors, good rivers (as far as I could tell), nice coast. Good job.

Steel General
10-15-2009, 06:50 AM
I like it too...the coast line is quite nice.

You might consider darkening the mountains a bit, for me they get a bit lost/fuzzed out. Maybe some low opacity inner shadow or something *shrugs*.

Karro
10-15-2009, 05:22 PM
All in all, this is a very fine map. Pretty, clean style, nice work on the coasts, and everything seems, mostly to fit.

Scott Livingston
10-18-2009, 09:59 PM
I've been taking everyone's comments and feedback to heart, and have made a few changes. First, I darkened the mountains as Steel General suggested, by playing with the lighting and contrast. After doing so, I noticed some issues with the terrain color layer that weren't as obvious with lighter mountains, so I touched up that layer with the smudge tool and a Gaussian blur. I also made the ice layer a little more transparent, in order for the peaks of snow-covered mountains to show through a little more clearly.

Next, I played around with various filters, trying to achieve a subtle foresty texture as Gidde suggested. I eventually went with two layers, one with a watercolor effect and the other with a sponge-painting effect. I think I like this, but I need to sleep on it and get a few opinions before I decide for sure about this style. Forests make up a huge portion of the western half of the continent, so I think it's important to get it right. I have noticed a few issues where the forest texture layer shows up in areas beyond the forest color...I'll have to clean that up if I decide to keep the texture.

I'm also thinking of adding a few more features...things like ruins, fortresses, wonders of the world...still thinking about how to do it. I don't want to clutter things too much. So that's something to look forward to. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

Gidde
10-18-2009, 10:14 PM
I like that a lot. It keeps the stylized look while still giving the eye something to denote 'forest' :)

As far as adding details, I think this one has enough for its scale and style. I'd start picking regions and zooming in on them for new, more detailed maps.

Ascension
10-18-2009, 10:24 PM
Yep, it looks pretty well done to me and has a nice look to it.

Ramah
10-19-2009, 03:31 AM
Sweet looking map. I really like that hint of texture you've put in there.

If I had one comment on something I'd change it would be the border around the cartouche slightly. Maybe thicken your line up a little, or add another, slightly smaler box inside it for decoration. It just looks a little empty there at the moment. But then that's a nothing nitpick, it doesn't take away from the map at all. good stuff. :)

Steel General
10-19-2009, 07:07 AM
Looking quite nice.

Scott Livingston
10-31-2009, 01:21 PM
A few additional tweaks here and there...

I worked on the legend border as Ramah had suggested; personally, I like the border much more now. And I made it so the terrain color layer and the forest texture layers match up a bit better (previously I had forest texture stretching onto the edges of tundra and grasslands).

I also changed more labels, making many of the geographical labels smaller and adding a few new ones. As promised, I also added some ruins. Finally, I added a few political labels, because it wasn't clear before which cities belonged to whom. I didn't want to add borders, because in most places they aren't clearly defined. I'm curious what people think of these political labels, particularly the one about the Torlak Empire. Does it work, or does it seem out of place?

I think the next update will be the last one, at least for this version of the map.

Gandwarf
10-31-2009, 01:32 PM
Very impressive and close to finished!

Steel General
10-31-2009, 04:23 PM
Other than the fonts used, it looks like it could come out of a social studies text book.

Nice job...

MadLetter
11-01-2009, 07:25 AM
I have one criticism: Part of the Naming.

Do as I did and look up an online Thesaurus and check for alternatives to "River". It is - to me - always a bit disturbing if every river follows the "X River" schematics. It's the same as if you'd name every mountain(range): "X Mountain(s)".

Leave the River out in some places and just call the River something like "The X-Ka-Bla" (bad ex.) or "South Flow", "King's Stream" or whatever.

Minor concern, though. Looks nice otherwise.

Gidde
11-01-2009, 08:56 AM
I have to disagree with MadLetter, at least for a map this size. On a continent level the only rivers that would be visible are going to be named River because they're huge. A "stream" or "creek" etc. would be invisible at this scale, leaving you stuff like "flood" or "torrent" .... I think you're just fine naming them X River.

Gandwarf
11-01-2009, 09:30 AM
No I agree.
Madletters point is that not every river needs to have "River" in the name. I know a lot of rivers in the real word have "River" in their name, but it's also left out a lot: (River) Thames, (River) Rhine, Amazon (River), etc.

rdanhenry
11-01-2009, 09:35 PM
Well, the River part is left out of name often, because it isn't necessary in context or the river is famous and there isn't anything else to confuse it with. Just "The Amazon" can be ambiguous without context, however. Do you mean the Amazon River or the Amazon Basin or the Amazon Forest? Or that gal over there in the fur bikini with the spear? On a map, however, the labeling is clearer if the word "River" is included. It could be abbreviated to "R.", but if you leave it out, ambiguity could result. Either that, or make river names blue. I've seen that before.

wormspeaker
11-02-2009, 04:21 PM
That's a really solid map there.

Scott Livingston
11-10-2009, 08:54 PM
Extended response to MadLetter's good point about the river names: I think there are three separate issues here: rivers in which the word "River" is never (or almost never) part of the name (like the Euphrates or the Danube), rivers where the word "River" is part of the name but is often dropped (like the Amazon River or the River Thames), and cultures that have different naming conventions.

The first category is not presently represented on my map, which may or may not be realistic... The Torlak River was recently renamed in order to promote nationalistic tendencies among the subjects of the Torlak Empire. It's previous name was "The Agraz" I think, although that's not official canon yet. Also, the Dornal River was called "Dorn" or "Dornflow" back in the days when a civilization flourished on its shores.

The second category is pretty common in Tornalia...the Evinelle, Hest, Tronghai, and Evarka are examples. I made a conscious decision to label all rivers and other geographical features with their full names, unabbreviated.

Third, cultural differences: the Arven language requires that river names include the element that translates to "River." I think a number of real languages do the same. As a result, the human cultures always use the word "River" when referring to rivers that flow through Arveia. And some river names are exonyms...Burnt River is called a completely different name by the goblins who live nearby, the Tsaangkil River is called "Tsaangkil" by those who live on its shores (and "-kil" means river in their language,* so "Tsaangkil River" is technically redundant), and those who live by the Ngabu River simply call it "Ngabu" (meaning "Mother Water" or something like that). The labels on the map reflect the usage of the dominant cultures (Torlaki, Loranian, and to an extent the Arven and Valnor) rather than local usage.

Of course, the shorter and more direct answer is that I'm from North America, where pretty much all of the major rivers have "River" (or "Rio") in the name, so that's what I'm familiar with and I'm sure that subconsciously influenced me.

*no, they don't speak Dutch...

Scott Livingston
11-10-2009, 09:08 PM
As promised, here is the final WIP update for this map. Next time I post it will be in the completed section...in fact, depending on the feedback I get, it might be in its completed form now. Curious to see what people think!

Major changes in this version:

The ocean layer was redone, featuring a narrower coastal border. I also created a second version where the coasts are lighter in color than the open sea. That's more realistic, but I'm not sure I like it better. I'm posting both so that you can compare.
I blended the colors on the terrain color layer so that the borders between climate zones aren't as severe looking. Actually, the difference is pretty subtle, but I think it's an improvement. I did this by duplicating the terrain color layer twice, dropping the opacity, and using the smudge tool.
Added some color and texture to the mountains
Put brown riverbeds in Goblin Gorge and the dry or seasonal rivers


There were a number of minor tweaks as well, which I won't list here (if you're really bored, see how many you can find...)

Sapiento
11-11-2009, 12:52 AM
Fine map, Scott. I really like the style, especially the compass rose is lovely. Repped!

Steel General
11-11-2009, 06:47 AM
Neat stuff here, not sure which version I prefer.

torstan
11-11-2009, 08:34 AM
Really nice work. Love the style.

Karro
11-11-2009, 10:48 AM
Yeah, it's hard to choose between dark on light or light on dark for the shore/oceans.

I think I prefer the lighter ocean/darker shore, but I'm not sure.

Scott Livingston
11-14-2009, 03:49 PM
Finished map has been posted here: http://www.cartographersguild.com/showthread.php?t=7903

Thanks for all your help along the way!

anaxetogrind
11-14-2009, 04:46 PM
Ok I have a question. Is there a tutorial round abouts on how to make the top down mountains that you have used here? I have been experimenting but can't find a good method for doing them.

Scott Livingston
11-14-2009, 05:13 PM
I used this one: http://www.zompist.com/howto2.htm, and followed it pretty closely, although the end result looks a bit different. I did add a couple of extra layers...first, a duplicate of the terrain layer with a reticulate filter to give it color and texture, set at a low opacity, and an ice cap layer (I hand-painted these with white) set at 50% opacity.

If you're thinking of using this method, keep in mind that it was a lot of work, at least for me.