Here are the first baby steps of my newest project, a planet map for a sci-fi setting. The art director asked me to create a planetary map and a single continent map from the planet map, with potentially other continents to follow. I havent' commenced the continent map yet.
The art director's instructions for the planet map boil down to the following:
"The planet itself is totally earth like. It was created by aliens for the specific purpose of housing humans. So the planet would have earth standard poles with ice caps, temperate zones and tropics. The ratio of water to land would be earth standard, 70/30."
Hence, the planet I'm mapping has an axial tilt of 23.5 degrees (Arctic and Antarctic regions 23.5 degrees from poles, tropics 23.5 degrees from the equator), is about 7,900 miles in diameter, is about 25,000 in circumference, and has a water-to-land ratio of about 70/30. I'm assuming climates and weather will be similar too.
Beyond that, however, I've suggested strayed a bit from Earth's random distribution of clunky land masses, creating instead a planet map with an appealing visual balance and dynamic pattern of land-mass shapes. If aliens designed the planet, I'd prefer to assume they're aliens with a sense of style.
My first step is finding a balance of land masses and ocean with a compelling visual appeal. I'm striving for a good abstract flow. I care nothing for color yet. Mountain ranges, forests, plains, swamps, and deserts are vague thoughts for later. Islands of a non-continental scale interest me only as points of balance and linear flow. Textures? What, are you kidding? All I want is a powerful interaction of negative and positive space, a sense of dynamic movement, and a touch of cadence.
I do all my mapping on Photoshop CS 2. But we're at the beach now, so I'm working on my wife's office laptop, onto which I've loaded Photoshop Elements 5. Hence, I'm missing most of the instruments I customarily turn to in my efforts to make images sing. I have no History window. I can only undo one step. I can't make quick masks to add gradients. I can't transform saved selections. On and on it goes. It's like trying to conduct a symphony with only four musicians. One has a mouth harp and a deaf ear, another an upside-down plastic garbage can and two mismatched wooden spoons, the third a metal spoon and six glasses with different levels of water in each. The fourth likes to whistle. Sometimes.
On top of that, my wife's laptop's screen desaturates colors. Maps that look radiant on my home computer look gray on this one. Hence, everything I create on this one will likely be garishly oversaturated on my home computer. If these colors prove blinding, mea culpa. I'll fix them when I get home in a week.
Here are my starts. I'm attaching 5 images with this post, more with the next two.
I began by creating a generic blue background. I then drew land masses with the brush tool. I did so organically, without any preconception of how the final image should appear. Chain-of-consciousness mapping, I guess.
By viewing the images sequentially, you can see me turning land masses, flipping their orientation back and forth, and beginning to find a sense of balance. For instance, Map 4 flips the two hemispheres in Map 3.
(All posted images on this thread are copyright 2009 Edward J. Reed, all rights reserved.)