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Thread: New Mapper - What's the first step?

  1. #1
    Guild Applicant
    Join Date
    Jan 2010

    Help New Mapper - What's the first step?


    So I'm brand new to mapping and I'm working on one of my first map. In truth, I started it a few months back, got busy and have just recently returned to it. I was curious about what your first step is when creating a map? What basic steps you go about creating your map? If this is repeat question, please feel free to direct me to the corresponding thread so I can check it out!


    Ps - Here's a peek at my map. Note, it's not the greatest and I'm looking for constructive criticism
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  2. #2
    Guild Journeyer Locution's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2009


    Well I am by no means an expert and my talents pale in comparison to many others here but I have been drawing maps for many years and before I started using Photoshop I began by grabbing a pencil and scribbling an interesting shape onto a piece of paper. Nowadays I do almost the same thing but utilize different techniques with Photoshop. It all starts with a cool looking land desigh. Once I have that the shape usually inspires me to add landforms (mountains, forests, deserts, etc). I honestly don't put much thought into whether the location of these landforms are "realistic" beyond having deserts in temperate zones and forests near water. Once I am happy with my placement of these features I work on rivers and lakes, then cities and towns and finally labels.

    Like I said, however, I am by no means an expert and there are a very many talented artists on this site that can give you better guidance.

  3. #3
    Community Leader Facebook Connected Ascension's Avatar
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    Jun 2008
    St. Charles, Missouri, United States


    The first step in most of my maps is Filter - Render - Clouds Once I have that hard work done I take a break and chill out for a while then the rest sort of falls into place Pretty much as Loco said, though: landmasses, mountains, rivers, forests, deserts, plains, swamps, miscellaneous geology like volcanoes and canyons, place borders, place towns, place roads, name everything, then finish graphics like compass, title, scale, etc, and wrap it all up with any artistic treatments like grunge, folds, burns, or artistic making it look painted or inked or whatnot.
    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

  4. #4


    I usually start with what I need the map to do. That is, I have some idea of what story I want to tell, how many nations and what size of landmass I need to tell it. Then I sketch out a rough relationship map of all the geopolitical factions and their issues.

    Then I sketch the coastal outline, draw rough political borders, and drop in topographic elements where they make sense for my story. I then look at it from a geologic perspective to make sure it doesn't violate any major rules and revise based on that assessment.

    Then I scan the rough map and bring it into Photoshop to start on prettifying it.

    That's my current process. It's been different in the past, and I'm sure it will be different again in the future.
    Bryan Ray, visual effects artist

  5. #5
    Guild Adept loogie's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Strathroy, ON



    thats always my first step.. look at other maps, see what you like and dislike, and see if you can figure out how its done!
    Photoshop, CC3, ArcGIS, Bryce, Illustrator, Maptool

  6. #6
    Guild Expert Ramah's Avatar
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    Mar 2009
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    My own personal advice would be pretty much as the others have said in the order in which you create your map.

    One extra piece of advice I would give is get yourself a little notebook and if you discover a way of doing something that works for you then make sure you note it down. It can be very frustrating to have to change something and then realise you can't remember how you did things after that step.

    For instance, I have all the steps written down in how exactly I stroked, gblurred, blended, selected, pixel-cut etc. my landmass, coasts, forests and roads from my maps. Some of which I had to re-discover and then learned the "make copious notes" tip the hard way. :S
    Royal: I'm very sorry for your loss, your mother was a terribly attractive woman.

    My Cartographer's Guild maps: Finished Maps

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  7. #7
    Guild Artisan Juggernaut1981's Avatar
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    Sep 2009
    Sydney Australia


    Leelan> Step #1: Pick some software you're going to use almost exclusively (Photoshop, GIMP, etc, etc)
    Step #2: Read every last tutorial on that program. I've read buckets of them about GIMP and still try to read more.

    Step #3: If you think you're doing something new, or you are playing around with the way a tutorial says to do it, note it down and include it in your WIP posts.
    "Sacrificing minions... is there any problem it cannot solve?" - Order of the Stick

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