First of all, hello!
Even though I've been coming to this site for a few years, this is my first post.
This is a map I started a couple of days ago, of a region in my fictional world called "A Volia". As usual, I meant to do a quick thing and I'm sure it will drag on for ages. One of my main problems so far is keeping the style uniform. I'm quite pleased with the relief effect, but I'm not so sure how I could add forests and desert without straying from it. I spent a few hours today playing with some sand patterns, dry brushes, etc, but can't find a good looking option.
I also changed the forest. Before I had a layer with Bevel and Emboss and Drop Shadow, and was using a scattered brush that could emulate vegetation quite well. But then it was looking too realistic a forest sitting right next to that old fashioned ocean. So now I have a simple see-through green layer, but can't say I'm super pleased with it either.
So any feedback would be appreciated!
Last edited by dasneviano; 10-23-2011 at 12:27 PM.
Hi, Ian - welcome to the Guild! First, thank you for contributing right from the first post. That alone is worth a smidgen of rep (all I can offer).
Your map: yes, that's going to be a hard set of techniques to blend. The layer-cake topography is neat, but it always makes me think of a physical object, instead of a digital or paper map. Which isn't bad necessarily - I could picture a one-off display piece on the wall of a castle or boardroom, or even a battle-map style table. The ornate ocean could be justified by the map-artifact belonging to a VIP - impress the big shot, we must, or in hot water we may be, yes. So following that scenario, something you do for depicting land cover could be highly detailed. Call it inked or painted on top of those painstakingly shaped layers.
Conversely, if what you have is a "photo of an object" maybe your craftsman-cartographer could have actually stippled the surface - I think I've seen dioramas where that was used to good effect. So your digital depiction of that would be the equivalent of a gazillion little random points, casting shadows like your layers do. Colored green too, just not only color.
The way-thick coast isn't working for me. Doesn't match the ornate ocean, fancy lettering. Plus, dark blue might work better for that and the rivers. When I first zoomed in I was thinking "look at that road running right up a valley. Hmmm, no, it must be a river." You handled tributaries nicely where you put them in, that northernmost river could use more, especially if its size is denoted by the stroke width. Unless it's something like the lower Nile, transiting a desert area?
The wider rivers look like they could use more opacity - they seem washed out compared to the thinner ones. Or maybe the widest ones should be cased - that would make the slightly-translucent color work better mid-channel. What's going on with the river to the NW of Kokojoai on the large island? If you're depicting two outlets to the sea, that's implausible. If you've lurked a while you know about the River Police? I'd hate you to get a citation your first day :-)... Likewise the network on the center southern edge - unless you mean to depict something like the Sudd, along the Nile in Sudan, in which case you'll be wanting to figure some kind of swamp symbology, right?
I like most of your topography - the main thing I'm not buying is the river running the length of the long, flattish peninsula. Actually, the slightly jaggy looong spit of land would best be explained by a mountain spine along it - I'd kind of expect a flattish one to have some obvious sweeps of sandy beach in smooth curves between slightly more resistant rock or earth. See Cape Cod as an example. But it's only the anomalous river that calls attention to its plausibility.
The subtly mottled swaths of color are a good effect, if it weren't for the uniform geometricity of the circle brush you colored it with. Some blurring of those color variations might improve your look.
There's a couple of places where your layers indicate sheer cliffs along a long stretch - is that intentional? Could work, but the way its set up seems iffy.
That seems like a lot of complaints. I'm not pointing out badness, just ways you can maybe improve it -- if it were junk I wouldn't want to pore over it and analyze my reactions, I'd just ignore it :-). I do like what you've got going, and I want to see where you wind up with it. Even some of the bits askew from conventional use might be fine if you work it up right, like the reddish rivers.
Wow, thanks for the detailed reply, jbgibson! Really appreciate it!
It wasn't my original idea when I started working on this one, but after I added the relief layers I started to feel this 3Dish effect you mentioned, and quite liked it. I was going for a more inky sloppy look at first, and the the thick coastline and rivers are remnants of that time. I still like the rivers, but I think you're right about the coast. I'll make it thinner.
As for the rivers, I have no idea what I was thinking when I made the one north of Kokojoai, ages ago. Now that you mentioned it, I remember I meant the long peninsula to be lined by cliffs, with the river running in the middle, but I forgot to add those cliffs in this map. There's a lot of tweaking still left to do in the relief layers. And finally, the network, a place called "The Harp", is indeed a swamp of sorts. It only exists during the rainy season, when the river floods the area and runs along those other smaller channels. Otherwise it flows only through the thicker main course.
Sheer cliffs: when I was drawing those layers I would go "yeah, now some big ass cliffs here wouldn't look bad!" every now and then. But until you called it out I hadnt noticed that most of the western face of my desert mountains (west of Guistragu) were like that. I do mean them to be steep, but not like that.
Anyway, thanks a lot for the in-depth commentary. I think I'll go for the "picture of an object" look from now on, thanks for the idea!
Post the current WIP when I have some time to work on it again later this week!
I decided to go for the 3D object look, as if it was some sort of wooden table.
Still a lot to do though.
Any ideas on how to add the names of cities in the forests? The ones in coastal areas are fine, I can write their names on the sea, and it looks like they were painted there, like Bopantala. Not the ones in the forest though. Any insights?
It is looking good. If your forest texture is something like plaster stippled atop the wood surface, you could "scrape it flat" in little patches to permit lettering. Or if it is supposed to be roughened wood, your craftsman-carpenter-cartographer might just have left little rectangular patches unroughened, to simplify labeling. Or you could pin little scraps of parchment (simulated) atop the forest, bearing the labels...
Hi dasnevio. I think the layer-cake concept is great. I don't think I've seen it here yet. I'm going to add a typical warning of mine. Careful with red lettering on green/brown/greenish backgrounds because folks with red-green colour blindness (me) are going to be very sad pandas, who won't be able to read what it says without squinting and turning their heads around. A lot.
Also, I notice you change fonts for different regions. I suppose it's intentional, but the jump from the various "old-style" serif fonts for Bopantala and the south-west don't mesh at all with the modern verdana-like sans serif at south-east. If you're going for an old look, but absolutely want different fonts (not necessarily the best way to go, but your call), I recommend using a few different "older style" fonts - for example: minuscules, frakturs, blackletters, egyptians, book antiqua, etc. - or even some modern "fancy" fonts, like papyrus and so on - but the verdana font style is just too modern.
Otherwise, I really like where this is going