Hey guys, I just joined the forum and am in need of some direction. I've been lurking around here admiring some of your creations on and off for a couple weeks now, and I'm very impressed with what I've seen. If anyone can help me learn how to make this stuff it's going to be you guys. I've had an interest in maps and mapping for a long time now, but my own skills are still fairly untried as yet. I've drawn a bunch of maps by hand that I mostly dislike, and have just recently begun to earnestly pursue creating them on my computer now. I've been using the Paint application and dabbling in Photoshop a bit, but also just downloaded Gimp, which I'm not entirely sure how to use yet. If anyone can suggest any other useful and free software I would appreciate it. My main interest in maps is as an aspiring author, using them as aids for the writing and creation of my own fantasy world. Unfortunately the end of my semester is looking busy, so I won't have much time to peruse some of the lengthier tutorials here for several weeks, but I could definitely benefit from your experience and any helpful general map-making tips anyone might be inclined to offer in the meantime.
Here is an early attempt at one of the smaller continents from my world. It is not completely from my own imagination; I built it by collecting several random shapes from various sources and interspersing them with some of my own make. I left some of these random shapes as they were, but stitched some of the others together to create several of the islands. It looks pretty basic right now, I still have many more features to add and work on, like more mountains and rivers all over the place. I used Paint for this map. I welcome any criticism or comments from everyone. Keep in mind that I know it is fairly rudimentary, though, especially compared to the masterpieces you all make. It is an early version for this continent, and I still hope to add much, much more to it before I will ever call it complete. I just figure that it would be easier for you all to offer tips for me if I put some of my work forward first.