This thread is intended for people who have little or no experience in using software to draw maps. It is meant to get you up and running so that you can draw passable fantasy maps in a short time without having to hunt through the many tutorials and tips on this site. The thread is locked to maintain clarity, but if you have any comments or additions to suggest, please do so in the Quickstart Comments thread. If you are in a real rush to get started, then just read the entries in orange text.
1. Choose your weapons.
If you have no software at all, then we strongly suggest that you download 'Gimp' which is a free equivalent of Adobe photoshop (PS for short). Another useful download is 'Inkscape' which is the free equivalent to Adobe Illustrator (AI for short). Gimp/PS are by far the most preferred mapping tools of the community although there is also a strong base of users who use Campaign Cartographer by Profantasy (CC3 for short). There is also other software, such as Fractal Terrains, also made by Profantasy which give a more realistic '3d look' similar to sattelite photographs. For now, if you have no preference between any of these packages, download Gimp.
- To download Gimp click here.
- To find out more about the pros and cons of software used by the community click here.
- To obtain a list of the software used by the community click here.
2. Decide on the document size and resolution of your map.
Whether you are drawing a map of a continent or a dungeon, you will need to decide upon a suitable resolution and document size for your map. Making the right choice is important particularly when it comes to whether you want your map to appear on the web only, or whether you want your map to print at a reasonable size and resolution.
If you are designing your map for the web, then you do not need more than a resolution of 96 ppi (pixels per inch) your document size is determined by the amount of detail you want your map to include. Too small a document size might result in 'jaggy' diagonal lines.
If you are designing your map for print, then choose a resolution of 300 ppi.
For now, if you have downloaded Gimp then open a new document of 2,000 pixels wide by 2,000 pixels high which should give you plenty of room to manoevre.
- For more information about resolution and understanding ppi/dpi click here. The explanation is quite technical and you do not have to read it to make maps. If you want to get straight to mapping, we suggest you read this later.
3. Draw your Map
Browsing the maps on this site show a vast range of different styles from very clean graphic illustrator styles, like you might find in a modern atlas to maps that look like they have been hand drawn or painted. To achieve the style that you want, find a map that has been drawn in that style and identify from the thread it appears in as to what software has been used to draw them. To replicate that style of map, the chances are you will need to download that software (or similar software) - although this is not always the case. If you like a style but are unsure of what software would be best to draw it, then just ask and members of the community (often the author of the map itself) will be pleased to offer suggestions. Two of our most popular tutorials have helped people new to mapping produce maps in an artistic style. Following the tutorials is important as it helps you learn how the software works as you follow the steps. Once you become more confident with the software, you can create your own styles. Experimentation and play is the key.
- For now use one of these tutorials (have a look at them all first and see which one works for you):
Hand Drawn Mapping (For the Artistically Challenged)
Eneini: a medieval city tutorial in photoshop
Using Gimp to create an artistic regional RPG map
Saderan - A Tutorial (Photoshop)
My Atlas Style in Photoshop
Create a non-destructive editable map in photoshop
Jeremy Elfords map tutorials for photoshop.
Fast and Easy Maps in Gimp
- There are also some very useful tutorials on youtube:
Photoshop mapping for beginers
Fantasy Cartography with Butch Curry
- Other step by step mapping tutorials are:
Atlas Walkthough (requires Fractal Terrains)
Creating Cities with City Designer (requires City Designer by Profantasy) -> pdf tutorial avaialble off site: http://www.profantasy.com/community/user_tutorials.asp
Antique-style maps in Photoshop
Gullside Tutorial (for photoshop / Gimp)
Making a Continent in Photoshop
Walkthough for overland maps in CC3 (requires CC3 by Profantasy)
Photoshop mapping with Chuck (requires Wilbur - free download)
Swiss Style Relief Shading in Photoshop
Fastest Town in the West (for Photoshop)
5. Label Your Map
An absolute 'Must Read' as to how to go about labelling your maps is linked below as a PDF.
Positioning Names on Maps
6. Post Your Map for Comments / Critique
Once you have drawn your map, create a new thread in the relevant WIP forum (Regional / City / Dungeon etc.). At the Cartographers' Guild we pride ourselves on giving constructive criticism to help people produce better maps.
7. Other Useful Tutorials
Once you have produced a map or two using the step by step tutorials, you might want to check out some other very useful tutorials:
Creating realistic coastlines- will make a convincing, fractalised coastline from a simple, basic shape of your landmasses.
Explanation of Layer Masks in Gimp and PS - understand how to use layer masks to achieve impressive effects.
Photoshop Basics - a good grounding in the more common tools of photoshop.
Basic Concepts in CC3 Explained - a must read guide for CC3 users.