Jonathan at The Core Mechanic is running this month’s RPG Blog Carnival: Monsters & Map Madness. I decided to make a world map as my contribution to the carnival. I wanted to achieve a semi-realistic map using program(s) I already own. Looking at my suite of software tools, I chose the venerable Photoshop in CS4 dress. I thought about creating the map using painterly techniques, but I doubted my skill would meet my realism goal. So I turned the web to find some tutorials. I wound up at the Cartographers’ Guild, which is probably the best resource on the web for fantasy cartography. The Cartographers’ Guild is a member of the Fantaseum Alliance, which includes the world building forum, The Campaign Builders’ Guild, and the Plot Storming website. This is the description their website gives:
The Cartographers’ Guild is a forum created by and for map makers and aficionados, a place where every aspect of cartography can be admired, examined, learned, and discussed. Our membership consists of professional designers and artists, hobbyists, and amateurs-all are welcome to join and participate in the quest for cartographic skill and knowledge. Although we specialize in maps of fictional realms, as commonly used in both novels and games (both tabletop and role-playing), many Guild members are also proficient in historical and contemporary maps. Likewise, we specialize in computer-assisted cartography (such as with GIMP, Adobe apps, Campaign Cartographer, Dundjinni, etc.), although many members here also have interest in maps drafted by hand. The Cartographers’ Guild is a friendly, open community, welcoming to everyone who pursues cartographic excellence. We love to share our maps, to help one another improve our maps, and to pool our mapping resources. Please enjoy your visit, and feel free to join our ranks!
I found a tutorial created by a fellow that goes by Ascension on the guild’s forums (you must be logged in to download). The tutorial is available as a lengthy (27 page) Word document. It can sometimes be difficult to follow along with some of the layer creation/linking, but I spent about an hour tinkering with the tutorial with Photoshop and created the map below:
Somehow I screwed the hill layer up and the reef layer doesn’t look fantastic, but given a few more practice runs I think this method of creating beautiful continental maps will become one of my favorite tools in the ol’ gaming toolbox. If you’re interested in learning techniques to make some gorgeous maps, I recommend you visit the Tutorials/How-to section of the Cartographers’ Guild forum.