Creating fantasy maps is difficult without the right tools and know how.
The internet has a lot of fantasy map programs that either look tacky, too difficult to use and frustrating to save into compatible formats. This tutorial is going to stick to Photoshop as it is highly accessible and easy to use.
First we need to draw the map
Now you need to have some kind of quick sketch that you have thrown together for your map, you can use this as a guide.
1. For this tutorial I will be using some parchment paper by Teeth-man
from Deviant Art. You can make parchment yourself non-digitally and scan it in, or you can use a variety of brushes - grunge, paper stains.
2. Open the parchment image in Photoshop by dragging the file in or File > Open.
3. Scan your sketch and drag the file into Photoshop so that it is a layer over the parchment.
4. Create a new layer over the sketch and parchment (CTRL+SHFT +N). We will now start to draw the lines for your map!
5. Use the Polygonal tool (P) to trace around coastline. Zoom in (Hold ALT and move the mouse wheel forward) so you can accurately trace the lines. Go around the entire coastline until you are back to where you began. Clicking the point you began with will activate a marquee.
6. Using the marquee tool (M) right click inside the selection and choose Stroke.
7. Set the coastline to 3px and inside border. Click Ok.
8. To add a bit of style to your coast we will add another, thinner line. Go to Select > Modify > Expand. Expand 3px.
9. Using the Marquee tool (M) again, right click the inside of the selection, choose stroke and set weight to 1px and inside border. Click OK.
10. Clean up unwanted lines with the eraser (E).
11. Now you have a basic map!
Now we need to draw the map components
You have created a fantasy world and you are not the greatest drawer. Never fear, those who find it difficult to draw may download a set of brushes that I have created for this tutorial - HERE
Otherwise, for those who are up for the challenge, I will show you how to make your own custom map components by drawing a few mountains and trees and using Photoshop to place them easily onto parchment paper.
1. Get a piece of white paper.
2. Get a 2b or softer pencil and begin to figure out what components you will need for your map. Below are some components I needed and is derived from the components of a Tolkien map. But be creative, find a style and stick to it.
3. Play around with some techniques like hatching and shading. For the mountains, I scribbled a bit of shadow to one side to indicate its volume. The trees could be have shadows, or be just a little darker underneath. The water is a squiggle, nothing more.
4. Scan them into your computer and open them up into Photoshop.
Now to brushify them.
The way making brushes works is that all of the white will be turned to 0% opacity and everything else will go to black. That means we can work on the background layer and not worry about separating the drawing from the white background.
To make brushes for each component:
1. Select the Crop tool (C) from your tools menu.
2. Make a border around the custom component and then double click the inside of the box to crop.
3. Go to Edit > Define Brush Preset... and label the component - for example: Mountain 1, Mountain 2 and so on.
4. Go to Edit > Undo (CTRL+ALT+Z) to go back.
5. Repeat steps 1-4 for the rest of the components until you have individual brushes for each.
Adding the components into your map
1. These brushes will overlap. So either space them away from each other, or if they do overlap, add a layer above and use the eraser tool to clear away the lines that overlap.
2. Below is a way to put your mountains, hills and trees together. You can arrange them into long mountain ranges and large forests and hilly plains for your map, it is up to you.
3. For dotted lines, select the brush tool (B) and choose a 3px brush. Slide the Spacing towards the right until there is a suitable distribution of dots.
1. Find a font to use. There are millions of fonts on the internet.
2. Download them and go to Start>Control Panel>Font.
3. Go to File>Install Font and go to the folder where you downloaded the font. Install the fonts.
4. Start adding in the text. A few tips for this:
a. As a rule of thumb don't have your text overlapping your mountains, trees etc. It is messy.
b. Have a heirachy with your text. Generally, the larger or more important something is, the larger the text.
c. To curve your text, go to the Text tool (T) and on the top bar there will be a symbol of a T with a curved line underneath.
5. For the purpose of this tutorial I went with the Tolkien writing, but be creative and maybe write your own text and scan it in, or even create your own font.
There you have it, a Fantasy Map.
You will achieve a better result if you make your custom components yourself and convert them to brushes.
Please post maps that you have created to help others see what is possible.