Welcome Flatrabbit! As a graphic designer too, I have no doubt your drawing and software skills will help you to achieve some epic maps
New kid here. I was just invited to play an RPG for the first time in twenty years. AD&D. Well, I'm a graphic/web designer and was asked to "draw" the map. I don't really half ass anything, so after hitting DeviantArt for inspiration, I was referred here. I'll start looking around. Any help would be appreciated. I'll be doing a combo of hand drawing and using a Cintiq 21UX with CS5.
I use to mix hand-drawn and photoshop. Best combo for me (you can check here, here and here what I'm doing with it ). I'd suggest you to start with a small and simple map with a few elements (coastlines, moutains, trees, river). Sketch it, then import in photoshop what you want to hand draw and then work on it in photoshop with textures/colors/brushes etc. Of course, a best way to achieve good maps is to look around to get inspired. Old maps are always treasures and of course you can also find here some masterful pieces...
I'm not particularily a map maker either (I do art and a little graphic design), though I like maps. And I have a Cintiq 21UX too, I love it.
If you are drawing small maps for the encounters, then doing the map based off the inch grid squares helps. I've gridded out cardstock and sketched out my preliminary maps and monster locations that way before.
For the larger map, I don't think the style of the map matters so much as that the geography fits with the general region you are roleplaying in. Depending on how large the campaign is or the needs of the group, you might want more than one map, or a map that serves a dual purpose. (Like geography + battle, or geography + treasure).
For example I once designed a campaign set on/around the Lake of Steam. Because there were a lot of forests, I got lazy and bought a forest pack so I could pull out new, random forest maps as needed. Then, I flipped over the cards and drew my encounter maps on the back for different places I needed elsewhere in various cities. My large map of the region was mostly focused on cutting out extraneous detail from the Forgotten Realms Atlas while highlighting points of interest.
Terrain that ties in with game play (tactically, magically, or otherwise) may be a factor. There was a map I saw recently at PAX, 13th Age, that took the concept of terrain affected over the passage of time, and by the very creatures in the world, to a level I hadn't seen before as well.
If you start with the simpler/functional elements first, then you can iterate the map into more elaborate designs as it comes together if you really want the wow factor
Hehe...don't you just love being "invited" for your skill sets?
BTW Welcome to the Guild, The Mappiest Place on the Web
If you are looking for brushes and other elements of mapping, you should look through our Mapping Elements forum near the bottom of our forum home page. Plenty of such stuff in there. If you are looking for guidance on how to go about mapping with PS, or in general, check out the Tutorials and WIP (Work In Progress) forums. It sometimes happens that people who are quite familiar with PS and Gimp, but not in a mapping way, just need a new way of looking at old tools to get into the swing of mapping great stuff and these two forums are great for that. Look at some of the Gimp tuts as well because most of the steps and techniques are translatable to PS.
Have fun and good mapping
Art Critic = Someone with the Eye of an Artist, Words of a Bard, and the Talent of a Rock.
Please take my critiques as someone who Wishes he had the Talent
Thanks Korash. I know what you mean. I sit n three non-profit boards that ended up saying, "Hey, you do web/design stuff, right?"
I've found those forums. I can't wait to really dig in. In fact I came into work today at 6am to clear my workload. Now... it's map time!
Welcome to the Guild Flatrabbit! Like Korash said, there's tons of aids to give you inspiration over in the tutorials section. Looking forward to seeing what you come up with.