This is a map for an upcoming novel called The Necromancer, by Alex Stargazer. I worked with the author's original sketch and got guidance from him during the process as to the particular details the map needed to show. I like to work through open lines of communication and provide regular "progress proof" images so that each client winds up very happy with the result.
Here is my first large, complete map of a town or village, created for the August 2014 challenge over at cartographersguild.com. I won! My prize is a shiny gold metal (made of pixels) that sits next to my avatar.
The idea of the challenge was to take an existing photograph and then imagine and map all of the stuff that's "around the bend" and not actually shown in the photo. You can see the original image in the upper left box--a waterfall near Portland, Oregon.
Because Squarespace has a way of downsampling high-res images, I'd recommend following this link over to Deviant Art where you can download the full resolution map and see all of the intricate details.
a.k.a "Where Elves and Dwarves Go to Die"
In the "backstory" for this map, the Elf and Dwarf factions are the civilized and important people, while the humans are mere tribesmen and tribeswomen living on the margins of their great conflict.
This is the finished map related to this GIF comparison: (http://xianpryde.deviantart.com/art/Finish-It-Animated-Ink-Comparison-465165307)
It was runner-up in the June 2014 challenge on cartographersguild.com -- I'm grateful for all the votes I got, and look forward to going for the win next time!
I worked out a number of refinements to my techniques in producing this map. It was a great experience. All of the artwork was produced in ProCreate on an iPad 3 with the Adonit Touch Stylus. The text labels were laid in with Photoshop.
[Important to note: not all of the work here is mine. There was a bare template of existing mountains and details that I added to, which was the point of the contest. See the comparison GIF for the look of what I was given to start with.]
I've been working on a land for a setting in my campaign, tentatively entitled the Sea of Wing and Thunder. It's a mountainous plateau named Arlath...an island in the midst of an ocean of unbroken clouds.
I have lots more little details to add to the place, but I thought it would be fun to put up an image showing the progress so far. Sometimes you just want to share something you've been messing with for a while.
I think that the last contest I won was junior high school science fair. Not sure. I don't enter a lot of contests.
A couple weeks ago I came across an on-line map-making contest sponsored by ProFantasy.com, makers of great cartography software for role-playing games. Make an island, they said, about three miles across. Something like a medieval treasure map. The contest had been open for months, but was closing in just a few days. I took a look at the submissions that had been sent in thus far, decided I had a shot at winning, and threw myself into it.
I worked feverishly, right up to the deadline, and actually ran out of time to put everything I wanted into the map. That's why there's no border around it, and no compass rose... But what I did manage to produce followed my vision. I wanted to have some storytelling elements that would blend with the drawing. Some secrets or clues that would only be available to those who looked closely. And an overall aesthetic that was vivid and eye-catching.
Of all the submissions, I felt that the Cloister Island map functioned best as both a visual information system and an inspiring illustration of its setting. Even though the cartographer left off a compass rose and scale bar, the overall work felt the most coherent and provided numerous levels of information. Like an onion, the island and story revealed themselves in layers, giving the reader an opportunity to explore deeper and deeper into an immersive world. On top of this, I’m a sucker for hand drawn isometric maps. --Mike Schley
If you're interested in my process, here is what I wrote when I posted the map to the forum:
I haven't yet been paid for my skills in this arena, so I'd have to consider myself an amateur.
Virtually all of this map was hand-drawn in ProCreate on an iPad 3 using an Adonit Touch stylus. There are a few "pattern brushes" in that app which help with things like the the jungle trees and the ocean waves, but everything else is just drawn. The shape of the island and mountains isn't based on anything other than doodling with the idea of a vaguely volcanic tropical island in mind.
The cloister overhead plan was laid out in Adobe Illustrator. It's far larger, sharper, and more detailed in the original file, with many upper floors and basement dungeon levels. The "3D" isometric extrusion of the cloister is actually just faux-3D, a technique I use in Illustrator where I take the overhead plan and rotate, squash, duplicate and move by a certain amount, and then blend. I took a screen shot of that and traced over it in ProCreate.
The last step was to bring it all into Adobe Photoshop, create a "parchment background", lay out the various pieces, and add in the text elements. Then I did save-for-web and picked settings that looked good but kept the resulting file under 2 MB.
The cloister itself is about 300 feet on one axis, making the hypotenuse around 500 feet. Since you can line up 30 of the little cloister images end to end and have them stretch from one side of the island to the other, the island winds up being about 3 miles across.
From time to time I've heard readers of fantasy lament the inclusion of a map at the beginning of a book. Such a tired cliche, they say. How sad that, ever since Tolkien and Lewis, every fantasy author feels the need to include a sketchy layout of their imagined world.
A few of these critics admit that a map might be acceptable so long as it has a real, in-story reason for being there. Witness, for instance, Thorin's map leading to the Lonely Mountain, with its nifty moonlight lettering of secret instructions. The map's mentioned in the book. So it's ok.
Here's the thing. This is Secondary World fantasy we're talking about. Fantasy that takes place in an alternate reality bolstered by a "secondary belief" that the author (hopefully) evokes in the reader. We don't need maps for narratives that take place in the space of our primary belief, do we? We don't need a map of Harry Potter's England...it's just England. Open an atlas. Go to GoogleEarth. If we're told that James Bond takes a private jet from Heathrow to Monaco so that he can play baccarat, we can picture that trip. But if we're told that Eddard Stark needs to get from Winterfell to King's Landing, we have no context without a little cartography.
We take for granted the layout of the real world, our mother Earth. We can't do that for imagined worlds. These maps are necessary details that enrich the experience of the novel.
And maps are cool.