I've been working on a story and story setting recently (based on an earlier concept that was set in the West) based on light novel, anime and manga clichés, specifically shounen demographic stuff. Yamada Tarou is an ordinary teenage boy, you know the drill... The twist is that he isn't a Protagonist (with a capital P here), he's a side-character. He's a side-character in dozens, hundreds of stories, varying from vampire settings to aliens to magic to about a gazillion street fighting variations. One of his background stories is that in middle school, he, and six other class-mates, got sucked into a pretty generic Japanese-style high fantasy world, and had to defeat the evil emperor to get back, and so forth. Yamada's schtick is that he's very competent at many things by now, and he's got some stuff left over from his trip to Elysion (including: weapon use, hammer-type; alchemical crafting magic that he tries to replicate in the real world; and a magic mirror portal back to Elysion, where he's the lord / king of one of the bits that was left over).
After creating a new Aramaic-derived writing system for one of the stories that involved western demonology, I've started procrastinating with making a map for Elysion. Currently I'm stuck on the style of mountain: every other map I've made (except one) has had stylised isomountains, this one I want to have reliefs... Anyhow.
I start making maps with black on white land areas, roughly shaped with big brushes to get a general shape based on some very vague tectonics (note the SAmerica/Africa coastline thing going on between the central and eastern continents).
I then start carving out the (black has been carved out, green hasn't) coastline with my tablet. Sometimes long stretches of smooth, a bay every now and then... The important thing is that I do any carving at all, just whittling down the coastline gives it more character than just the basic shape. In GIMP, I occasionally switch between black and white (quick-key: X) to create smaller details, like small peninsulas or to fill in stuff. But, as long as you start with a big resolution and do a lot of small scale detail, it'll look pretty good.
Anyhow, now to the meat of my current stuff, the mountain relief method...
I am basically following Ascension's basic method in GIMP: choose the shape of your range, gradient fill with intelligent shapes, modify, use that as a bump map.
My twist is that I choose the shape of my range by first drawing the river system associated with it. Create a river system, choose a shape around with the lasso, then deselect all the river pixels.
I get... Ok results.
By increasing the density of rivers, the mountains start to look less artifacty and a bit more fleshy.
I'm just left wondering if I can get good enough results with this method.
Some extra info:
Projection is equirectangular, as usual.
The world is smaller than Earth, I won't bother with realistic climes.
I am still single.
Oh yeah, and the poles were done with my Hugin method (in the tutorials forum).