How to Draw a Chasm on a Map

Three ways to draw a chasm on a map

In a plan view map, elevation is hard. This is especially true for line art maps, where you don’t have the advantage of shading to indicate height and depth using the cast shadows. Here’s three different styles for drawing chasms on a line art map.

1. Simple Chasm – Just Use An Outline

This version is the quickest – draw the ragged outline, starting small, gaping, and then joining back up again. The outline alone isn’t enough to suggest that it’s a chasm. You need to draw a winding line through the middle – to indicate where the chasm walls meet at the base.

Don’t try too hard to make these lines follow each other – chasm walls are rough and uneven.

2. Use Vertical Lines to Indicate Depth

Both this and the next style assume you already have a simple chasm (above). Cliffs and chasm walls are fractured, detailed terrain. When you look down from above, all that detail is foreshortened – we need an easy way to indicate that – which means a stylized shortcut. In this style I’m using simple lines going from the places where the outlines are jagged, down to the bottom of the chasm. I’m not using solid lines – you want those to indicate the clear outline – but just light irregular lines. The converging lines draw the reader’s eye into the chasm and suggest depth.

3. Use Horizontal Lines to Indicate Depth

Version 2 is very easy to read, but actually not that accurate. If you’re looking down a cliff or a crevasse – you see lots and lots of horizontal ledges. In this version we focus on those – and layer horizontal lines along the sides of the chasm. As you peer deeper into the chasm (closer to the middle, which is closer to the bottom), these get tighter as they get closer together. This serves the purpose of adding explicit depth to the chasm as the closer lines make the center darker, and thus hint at it being further away.

There you have it – three different line styles for a chasm on your dungeon map, or your regional map. Check out the rest of the tutorials over on the mapmaking tutorials page.

6 thoughts on “How to Draw a Chasm on a Map”

  1. “An open wound in mother earth, I would plug it, had I the power.” – Jaheira, Baldur’s Gate

    Hi. You have some really good and easy-to-understand tutorials, man. I love them.
    -Dan

  2. Awesome tutorials! I love these!

    Would we be able to convert this kind of lineart to portraying a canyon/gorge as well? I’d think the main differences would be that the bottom of the canyon either has a river, or it just has flatter terrain at the bottom.

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