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”

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)”

D&D Dungeon Maps from Game Night at

One of the wonderful side effects of living in New York is the chance to run into great people from I’m now part of a semi-regular D&D game, and I draw the party dungeon maps.

Continue reading “D&D Dungeon Maps from Game Night at”

Of Turnovers and Cities

Snapshot of a city map

It’s good to hand over final pieces. This one went out the door today – a city map for a client. The combination of detailed line art featured locations and more anonymous shadowed buildings seems to work well.

The featured locations were all drawn at many times their final size. You lose the precise detail when the locations are shrunk down, but the combination of the details provide a sense of the structure.

Highlighting Featured Buildings – Shape, Detail and Contrast

Cities and buildings come up a lot in questions. I’ll put together a software specific tutorial on buildings, but today I’m just going to go through my philosophy when illustrating a featured building like a castle or a temple. The process is the same, regardless of software. In this case – ballpoint pen on sketchbook paper.

Continue reading “Highlighting Featured Buildings – Shape, Detail and Contrast”

New Map Pack – The Iconic Town

fantasy city map pack

The town that started as a very rough sketch has now been turned into a full blown map pack, and is for sale on RPGNow and Paizo.

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The Free City of Braavos

Official map of the city of Braavos for Game of Thrones
Braavos, © George RR Martin, used with permission

Braavos is the second of the two cities to get a full map work up in the Lands of Ice and Fire (the other, of course, being King’s Landing). It’s also a city that was previously uncharted before this map – so I got to play in a wonderful sandbox whilst creating this map.

If you’re following the TV series, don’t worry – Braavos will become a major player in the plot in the future. For now, you can happily ignore much of this, but be warned – there are spoilers (and lots of detail shots of the city) in what follows. Continue reading “The Free City of Braavos”

Drawing Buildings with Dynamic Brushes

Earlier in the week I posted a tutorial on how to draw buildings with the pen tool. But sometimes drawing each building just takes too long. For whole cities, you probably want a quick way to lay in whole blocks of buildings. Photoshop can help – using dynamic brushes. Continue reading “Drawing Buildings with Dynamic Brushes”