Okay, so I'm ready to start with the political geography portion of the map. Before labeling cities and drawing in roads, I wanted to define empire boundaries. So, as always, I started with a sketch:
I figure the three in the middle can be locked in war. The one in the west would probably be based on Egypt (yeah, I'm not stretching the creative muscles tonight, am I?) The northeast can be the obligatory Elven kingdom; the one in the east the obligatory Dwarven kingdom. The other three would be small, trade-based seafaring nations.
I just realized that I started the last two posts with "Okay." Note to self: word variety is a good thing.
I've finished one possible style of border, and have it in both light and dark varieties.
I had the borders in Civilization IV in the back of my mind when I made these. Generally, I think they work well. The borders with the more muted colors work better than the ones with brighter colors though. I'll need to redo this with a wider variety of muted colors.
Not sure if I prefer the lighter or the darker borders though. I think I'll wait to decide on that one until after I've placed the cities and roads and see how much they compete with the borders for real estate.
I like both, but tend more toward the more vibrant of the two. IMO, I would actually make a copy of the underlying map, turn off many of the texture layers and have the political stuff be the primary element of the map other than the general shape and terrain features. Of course, I have ADHD and OCP, so I tend to like things fairly well delineated (which goes against mapping principals since this makes things look unnatural...go figure...)
My Finished Maps
Works in Progress(or abandoned tests)
Explanation of Layer Masks in GIMP
How to create ISO Mountains in GIMP/PS using the Smudge tool
Unless otherwise stated by me in the post, all work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.
However, I think the hard line with fading glowy effect for the borders is kind of cool. On the contrary, though, I think the brighter colors work better as borders. They help the borders stand out from the terrain. The very earthy-looking Elven area border, for instance, fades into the background rather too much, making it hard to pick out. Bright red and bright blue and purple are very clear (although the bright blue obscures the rivers a bit too much, and the red blue border makes the rivers there look weird).
The only other criticism I have is about where the rivers join the ocean. Using RobA's ocean technique, the edges of continents have a very light blue, almost white color for the oceans (unless you change up the palette a bit). However, the rivers are a much darker blue, which makes for a strange and abrupt looking color transition when the river suddenly meets the pale white-blue of coastal waters. When I do up my maps, I'm also hoping for a slightly clearer land/ocean border. All-in-all, though, it looks good.
Sorry about the long MIA - real life can be rather intrusive at times.
I'm glad you like the hard line with fading glowy effect. (Is that name trademarked? I may have to yoink otherwise. )
And, here we are with the empires labelled. I really like RobA's method of using a path to curve the text. I thought it worked well.
I realize that I should probably tweak colors and fonts and such, and I certainly could add a title and a legend and whatnot, but, truth be told, I think I've gotten all the practice out of this map that I'm going to. I'm quite happy with the skills I've developed throughout this process, and I'm excited to start drawing maps that may see actual use at the gaming table.
Thanks again to everyone for their feedback!