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Have you ever had one of those maps that started off so clear and easy in your head and then, for some unknown reason, you slam head-first into the brick wall of "It's not working"?

Yeah - that's me with this map.

As you can see it's a fairly easy map. I'm just illustrating an inland lake with a major river coming in from the north and a minor river heading out of it to the south. There will be a few settlements around it which I will indicate with some tower icons I used in a previous map.

Here's my problem(s):

1. I hate forests now. Caves were so much easier. I could just throw a black layer on, darken it, throw in some highlights and some texture and voila; dirt & rock. Forests, however, never seem to look right. For most of my map work they are simply expressed with "Blobby masses of dark green surrounded with a black border". This is, essentially, my way of expressing the idea of a dense forest (with a lighter green layer around it to show the less dense forests). There HAS to be a better way.

2. Labeling. I've been reading up on the forums and even found a tutorial from Torstan (his name be praised) about how to add a 'halo' effect behind the letters to pull them off the page. I totally love the look but my problem is positioning. In the above map you'll see that I have one river label on the river itself, and the other is next to it because the text is too large to fit within the boundaries.


Anyone have any handy tutorials or tips for how to render forests without going all three-dimensional, isomorphic and such? I just need a way to render 'dense' forest. I think I've gotten the hang of water and rock (for dungeons least) so I assume that there's got to be a similar technique for making 'green blobby thing' look like woods.

Any pointers for label positioning?