Category Archives: Tips and Tricks

After Earth Galaxy Map

After Earth – Mapping the Galaxy

It’s always fun to try something new, but in this case the something new was a sci fi galaxy map, and the client was Overbrook Entertainment, and Will Smith. The brief was to create 4 maps for the expanded universe around the movie After Earth. There are a bunch of books and graphic novels associated with the film. Those stories had been written in parallel with the movie development and each had added something to the geography of the universe.

One of the writers on the expanded universe material was an old RPG hand, and noticed that what the worldbuilding needed was reference maps – of the universe, solar system, world, and key city. And so I got a call.

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How to draw a horizontal mountain range

How to draw a horizontal mountain range

This is definitely the week of mountain ranges. I had a question on reddit on how to draw mountain ranges that go east-to-west rather than north to south. Here’s a very quick tutorial on the difference. If you want to go deeper into the north-south version, check out this earlier tutorial on mountain ranges.

The hotizontal version is very similar – with a few tweaks. Continue reading

How to draw mountains on Fantasy Maps, by fantasticmaps.com

How to draw, shade, and colour a mountain range

I’ve written up a couple of tutorials before on drawing isometric mountain ranges for fantasy maps – but never more than the pen and ink stage. I’ve had a few requests for how to take this to the next step and colour the mountain ranges.

Note that I use a graphics tablet. You can do this with a mouse and low opacity brushes, but tablets are getting good and relatively cheap. I’d recommend picking up something like the Bamboo Splash if you’re going to be playing around with illustrating maps.

Here’s a quick walkthrough of the four steps I take in my mountain ranges. Continue reading

How to draw forested hills on fantasy maps

How to Draw Forested Hills on a Top Down Map

Often hills are indicated on a map by drawing an outline, but when you have forest on top, that outline gets obscured. So how do you draw forested hills? The trick is to use the detail of the forest to indicate the hills, rather than obscure them.

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Placing icons on a map in Gimp

Placing Icons on a Map with Gimp

Nikitas Thlimmenos was asking about how to place icons on a map, so here’s the walkthrough! The map is the Iconic Island (http://www.rpgnow.com/product/110804/Fantastic-Maps—Iconic-Island) as that’s the map Nikitas is using. There’s a bare base map in the pack, and all the .pngs come as separate files that you can add. But this also works if you find the CSUAC bundle of pngs or trawl the Dunjinni forums for the amazing art assets there. You can set dress a dungeon pretty quickly this way.

So, how do you add a .png icon to an existing map? Continue reading

Simple Labeling

How to label a map
Eric Quigley asked about labeling recently and that prompted me to think a little about how I actually go about labeling a map. Often it’s the last thing to get done, but it’s also the most important. A map without labels is just a pretty picture, it’s not useful. So, it’s worth taking some care getting labels right.

This is a photoshop tutorial, but these techniques are almost identical in Gimp.

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How to use a map for worldbuilding

Worldbuilding By Map

This article was originally written for Fictorians.com and was pitched at people building their own worlds for novel writing, but the general process should be useful for a broad variety of world builders.

Let’s get one thing out of the way right now.

A map shouldn’t be pretty.

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