The Arcanist’s Mill – A Wizard’s Tower Map with a Twist

I wanted to map a wizard’s tower with a twist – somewhere a mage with a little bit of a steampunk leaning could hide out and experiment. What would such a mage need? A good cover story, and a source of power. Well, mills are the heavy industry of the medieval era – and if you’re milling flour you have power to spare.

So – the hook of the map was a wizard’s tower in a water powered mill. Continue reading “The Arcanist’s Mill – A Wizard’s Tower Map with a Twist”

How to Draw a Castle Wall

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. Continue reading “How to Draw a Castle Wall”

Mapping Blackcliff Academy for An Ember in the Ashes

Sabaa Tahir had a good year. She released her debut novel An Ember in the Ashes, became a New York Times bestselling author, and got the Amazon best YA novel of the year. I had the great pleasure of creating the maps for the novel. I’ve written about the process behind creating the world map. In this article I’m going to cover the process behind illustrating Blackcliff Military Academy.

Blackcliff Academy lies at the crux of the story. It is the training ground of the Masks, a sinister force in the book, and one that must be infiltrated. I won’t go further (so no spoilers), but the different locations in the academy are quite important – as is the secret stairway. Continue reading “Mapping Blackcliff Academy for An Ember in the Ashes”

Turning a map into an aged paper handout

The key to a good map is the information it presents. As soon as you’ve done the line drawing on a map, it should be perfectly possible to pick it up and use it. Everything after that point is polish to make it pretty. But polish matters, especially when you’re trying to set the scene.

Here’s how to take a simple map on a white background and turn it into an aged paper handout. Continue reading “Turning a map into an aged paper handout”

How to Draw Top Down Mountains on a Map

Mountains are a defining piece of any world map. They are the largest features after the coastlines, they determine the borders of countries, and the obstacles adventurers must overcome. They are the home of lost treasures, dragons, and giants – as far from civilization as its possible to be.

It can be hard to convey the majesty and scale of mountains in a top down map. It’s a little easier if you can use shade, but even with lines alone, you can show the height of a mountain range. Continue reading “How to Draw Top Down Mountains on a Map”

An Illustrator’s Review of the iPad Pro and Apple Pencil

I’ve always wanted a tablet I could use for illustration. I bought the second generation iPad, hoping it would do the trick. I picked up all the art apps, and a range of styluses – from the Adonit Jot Touch Pro (my thoughts here), to 53’s Pencil – with 53’s Paper.

Paper was by far the best app for the iPad, because it threw precision out the window, and accepted what the iPad is – a sketchpad rather than a professional illustration tool. When I saw the iPad Pro come out, I was skeptical.

5 minute sketch with Pencil and an iPad Pro
A 15 minute sketch with Pencil and an iPad Pro, in the Apple Store, using Adobe Sketch

15 minutes trying it out in the store had me intrigued – so last weekend I picked it up. I was more than a little nervous. At $949 for the 128Gb iPad Pro, and $99 for the Apple Pencil – this could be a very expensive paper weight.

After a week I’m hooked. This, finally, is the device that makes drawing on a tablet painless.

Continue reading “An Illustrator’s Review of the iPad Pro and Apple Pencil”

How to Draw Roads on a Map (with the Stroke Tool)

Parallel lines are a good way to indicate a road on a map. But drawing parallel lines is next to impossible. Photoshop to the rescue – there’s a simple trick to get this effect quickly and easily. Continue reading “How to Draw Roads on a Map (with the Stroke Tool)”