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Thread: Tornalia (WIP - later stages)

  1. #1

    Wip Tornalia (WIP - later stages)

    Here is a map that I first drew over a decade ago. It depicts the setting of my fantasy novel, and I'm hoping to include a version of this map in a published book some day. Several years ago, I decided to try to turn the pages of hand-drawn maps into a digital map using Photoshop Elements. I've been working on this project off and on since early 2008. This is my first computerized map and my first project in Photoshop Elements, so I have had to teach myself as I go along.

    Although I consider this map basically complete at this point, I'm posting in the WIP area in order to get advise and criticism on how to improve it. When I started this project, I was unaware of the Cartographers' Guild, so I primarily used the tutorial found here: In the later stages of the project, I was influenced by many of the tutorials and completed maps here at the Guild.

    The first two attachments here show the hand-drawn maps from years ago--the first image is the original version, and the second is a composite of several regional maps that I stitched together in Photoshop Elements. The third image shows the first two images superimposed on top of each other, with a blue coastline drawn over them. I used a Wacom Bamboo for this (an inexpensive graphics tablet is a great help when drawing a map).

    For the details of the coastline, I looked at satellite pictures from Google Earth and tried to mimic the coastlines of several regions on Earth that I thought were a fairly close parallel geologically to regions of Tornalia. For example, part of the northwestern coast was drawn to resemble the fjords of Norway, and the middle of the east coast was modeled on North Africa. As you can see, I also added numerous islands and changed the shape and location of others.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Click image for larger version. 

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  2. #2
    Guild Journeyer philipstephen's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Vancouver, BC, Canada


    Those blue lines are looking great... and the rough pencil work shows promise for the things to come.

    I am looking forward to seeing how your maps take shape.


  3. #3

    Wip Tornalia (continued)

    In these stages, the digital map is starting to take shape. I sketched rough ridgelines along the places where mountain ranges would be, then drew in rivers and lakes in the valleys (tracing those shown on the hand-drawn maps and adding many more), and filled the ocean area with a blue color.

    Next, I used an airbrush to draw mountain ranges. The map's light source is to the south and west, so the south and west faces I drew in white. In order for the white to show up, I changed the background color of the landmasses to a light gray. I used a darker gray airbrush for the shadowy north and east faces of the mountains. I then switched to a finer airbrush in order to add detail and sharpen the peaks, and repeated this process several times, using a slightly finer airbrush each time. As you can see, the shape of several mountain ranges (particularly the major chain in the center of the map) changed several times over the course of the project. I wanted to make them look realistic, but still a bit stylized. During this process, I used this tutorial for guidance: By the third image in this set, most of the mountain ranges were done, and the central one was on its way.

    I improved the ocean around this time as well, using an airbrush to add a second color around the coasts (I highlighted the water area in order to avoid coloring onto the land).
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Click image for larger version. 

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  4. #4

    Wip Tornalia: part III

    Next, I turned my attention to coloring and labeling the landmasses. In the first image in this set, you can see a rough color scheme for the main continent (the islands are still gray) and some regional labels. At the same time, I was tweaking the mountains, rivers, and lakes. Note the change (yet again) in the shape of the Elder Mountains, and the addition of the Zarra Sea (a salt lake) to their east.

    The colors of the map represent the various ecological and climactic regions. I was influenced by this map of biomes (near the bottom of the page): The colors themselves were inspired by satellite photos and by other maps I found here at the Guild. However, this version of the map is not supposed to be photorealistic...rather, it is a compromise between more realistic-looking and more antique-looking map styles.

    The next image has a lot of new labels - almost all of the places named in the original sketches now appear on the digital map, and I created many new names as well. Creating all of this detail for the map has also helped me think of new cultures and societal details.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Click image for larger version. 

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  5. #5

    Wip Tornalia: almost done

    In this stage, I completely redid the terrain colors, tweaking the colors themselves and painting the continent and islands with somewhat finer detail. I added another layer for the icecaps, which had simply been left uncolored in the previous version. Now they are colored white (the layer is slightly transparent).

    I also added some texture to the map by adding two new layers. One is filled with a cloud texture (Filter>Render>Clouds) and the other with a fibrous texture (Filter>Render>Fibers, horizontally stretched). I learned to do this from several tutorials I found here at the Guild, including this one: The cloud layer is set at 5% opacity and the fibers layer at 3%. I felt that by using both, the texture looks more natural than it would with one or the other.

    Also, I made one more change to the lighting of the Elder Mountains--note the southernmost spur.

    In the second image, I added a legend. The scale bar was taken from the hand-drawn one in the original (composite) sketch. I digitally altered it to make it "fit" with the rest of the map. The dark color used for the scale bar and the labels is actually a very dark gray...pure black looked too stark. I also started a compass rose, which I traced from an old map of Brazil:

    Finally, I added an additional layer to the map to darken the color of the Arvenwood, a temperate rainforest/redwood forest that is home to the Elves. In a later stage (see the next post), I would also darken the tropical rainforests in the southwest using this layer.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Click image for larger version. 

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  6. #6

    Wip Tornalia: present condition

    This brings us to the present version of the map, which I basically consider complete (at least until I decide to make additional changes). I do think there is some room for improvement, which is why I'm posting it here, rather than in the completed maps section. The final changes that took the map to this point are as follows:

    1. I finished and colored the compass rose.
    2. I darkened the tropical rainforest (as described in the previous post).
    3. I tweaked the colors, adding detail along the mountain ranges and in other areas.
    4. I made the terrain color layer somewhat more transparent, lightening the colors.
    5. Uncomfortable with the idea of a region called "Dornalia" in a continent called "Tornalia," I changed the name of the region to "Dornalujia."
    6. I altered some of the other labels a bit.
    7. I added a border around the legend box.

    So...thoughts? Reactions? Ideas? How can it be improved?

    I'm also thinking of making a couple of different more topigraphical/realistic, and one more stylized and ancient-looking. Those are projects for another time, and would complement rather than replace this version, but any suggestions would be helpful.

    Thanks in advance for any feedback.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Click image for larger version. 

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  7. #7
    Community Leader Gidde's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Michigan, USA


    I like the style you've got going on here, especially the mountains. They're just realistic enough to be pretty and just stylized enough not to overpower the rest. I also really like the font you have on the terrain labels (mountains, Ricemarsh, etc.). The only thing it feels like it's missing to me is maybe a very subtle forest texture.

    All in all, very nice! Have some rep

  8. #8


    Gidde: Thanks, I'm glad you like the mountains...they definitely took the most effort (along with the coasts). I agree with you about the forest texture, but I'm not really sure how to go about doing it. The font you mentioned is called Caeldera and is available for free online:

  9. #9
    Community Leader Facebook Connected Ascension's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    St. Charles, Missouri, United States


    Pretty nice. Good colors, good rivers (as far as I could tell), nice coast. Good job.
    If the radiance of a thousand suns was to burst at once into the sky, that would be like the splendor of the Mighty One...I am become Death, the Shatterer of worlds.
    -J. Robert Oppenheimer (father of the atom bomb) alluding to The Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 11, Verse 32)

    My Maps ~ My Brushes ~ My Tutorials ~ My Challenge Maps

  10. #10
    Community Leader Facebook Connected Steel General's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Ft. Wayne, IN


    I like it too...the coast line is quite nice.

    You might consider darkening the mountains a bit, for me they get a bit lost/fuzzed out. Maybe some low opacity inner shadow or something *shrugs*.
    My Finished Maps | My Challenge Maps | Ghoraja Juun, my largely stagnated campaign setting.

    Unless otherwise stated by me in the post, all work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.

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