What would a fantasy world be without castles, turrets, and battlements? Sneaking over the walls in the dark, holding the crenellations from a horde of orcs, or landing on a turret on griffon-back – the castle wall is a staple of fantasy gaming. Here’s the steps I take when drawing a castle wall.
1. Sketch an outline of the castle wall
As with all maps, you have to design the map before you draw it. Start with a pencil, and loosely outline your castle wall. Remember a few simple pieces of castle design to make the design hold together.
- Corners are a weak point – they were reinforced with towers.
- Towers were used to allow archers to shoot along walls, so they should protrude from the wall – and there shouldn’t be large stretches of wall that an archer couldn’t overlook
- You need to get up and down from a wall – make sure you add staircases
- Defenders need to get up and down from towers – make sure you add stairs, or in larger castles, interior staircases and trapdoors.
- Later castles had rounded towers as they are more structurally robust
- As soon as cannons exist, wall thickness became more important than height
Here I’ve mapped out a simple square tower – enough for a few people to stand side by side. We’re drawing a small castle wall, so there are no interior battlements.
2. Draw the line art
Once you’ve got the design set out, go over and carefully draw the outlines. Often people hate drawing walls because they are straight lines, and straight lines are hard to draw convincingly. But if you look at medieval walls they are anything but straight. The stones are weathered, cracked and worn. Here I’ve started with the merlons (the taller piece of the battlement). I’ve drawn them larger, and then drawn in the connecting wall. By increasing the size, it highlights which piece is taller, even with no shading. An notice – the wall goes in a straight-ish line, but I haven’t had to draw a straight line anywhere.
I’ve used the same scaling trick with the staircase to illustrate the direction of the steps. Lower steps are smaller, suggesting they’re further away from the viewer. At this stage we have a usable map, that gives the viewer all the info needed. From here on in, we’re just making it pretty.
3. Adding detail
Walls are constructed. So, we add detail that shows that construction. I’ve placed flagstones along the top of the walkways – using a thiner line weight, and 80% grey rather than 100% black. I’ve also added detailing around the edges. This adds the worn corners to the stone. If you have these details right along the side of the rock, they’ll look sharp and clean. If you lay the edge details further from the edge, the rocks will look more worn.
4. Blocked in light and shade
The last step – and the one that actually can take some time and practice – is the light and shade. The overall principle is straightforward. Block in a mid-level grey to provide a starting point. I lay in a slightly darker grey on the parapets, compared to the tower. This helps place these elements further from the viewer, defining elevations.
Next up is a new layer. On this layer – I take a grungy brush and shade each area that’s lower than the area beside it. So the crenellations between the merlons, the inside edge of the battlements, and the lower side of every step. I also shade the cracks between the flagstones.
After adding the darker areas, the last step is to lay in the highlights. For this I use a low opacity large round brush. I pick out the edges of the higher areas – the top of the merlons. I also pick out the edges of the other areas – the edges of the flagstones, and the edges of the steps.
And that’s it. One quick, easy, set of steps to a fully rendered castle wall. Ready for you to siege or besieged.
A video of drawing the castle wall
This was illustrated on an iPad Pro, using Procreate, with the Apple Pencil.