Attached is a map I've created for an novel series currently being worked on. I am pretty proud of how it has turned out thus far, but my main concern is that I like it from a graphic design viewpoint, and not a cartographic viewpoint. What I mean by this is that I am a graphic design hobbyist, but this is my first attempt at a fantasy map.
Obviously, there's a HUGE difference between being a decent graphic designer and a good map-maker, and since this is my first real map project, I wanted to get some good & honest critique, pointers, and opinions from those who know cartography best - you all here at the Cartographer's Guild.
So without further rambling, here's the skinny on what this map represents and how it was made.
This is the map of Valcia, the land in an upcoming novel series I've been working off/on for the past 5 or so years. I tend to be a very visual person, and wanted to make a detailed visual representation of the land in the novels to make it easier to gauge distances, travel times, etc. My sharing of this map isn't so much a ploy to garner interest in the novels (it is still a long, long ways off from being anywhere close to complete), but rather to gain insights as to how I could make the map itself better.
This map took me 15 days to create in Illustrator and Photoshop, working everyday anywhere from 4-10 hours/day. The entire map was originally sketched out with pencil & paper and scanned onto my PC some time ago, but it wasn't until recently that I decided to go all out with it.
I had tried to make a decent depiction of Valcia before by purchasing and using Fractal Mapper 8.0, but was displeased with the results (most likely due to my own inexperience with the program itself). I since decided that if I wanted this done right, I wasn't going to be able to take any shortcuts and needed to do it myself - by 'hand'.
I started by tracing over the sketch in Illustrator and 'hand-drew' (pencil tool & brush effects) all the lines, outlines, and details - rivers, lakes coastlines, islands, forest, and yes - even the mountains (very tedious). Once I completed all the outlines in Illustrator, I ported the data over to Photoshop to fill in the color and visual effects, and added in all the labels.
Every detail in the map is unique - meaning that every river, forest, lake, mountain, etc was individually drawn in and detailed. Also, every element in the map is original content created specifically for the map (IE no generic elements were used, such as symbols, trees, towns, etc) except for the fonts, of course.
Overall Design Goal:
The look I am trying to go for is a map that has been painted onto sandstone, but is heavily detailed. It tends to be my style to blend opposites - so hence I tried to blend a traditional, de-saturated (sepia-esque) painted map with crisp, somewhat modern lines, fonts, and effects - but at the same time causing it all to flow together very nicely for its own unique, intriguing style.
So once again, here it is: the map of Valcia. Thanks in advance for any input, and I will take every criticism with the utmost regard.