Outside my comfort zone

test map dungeon
We all have our comfort zones in everything we do, and so do I when it comes to mapping. Most of the maps I do are either overland or city maps and while doing them I’m feeling very safe. I know what’s looking good and how to accomplish the things I have in mind for the map. But staying inside your comfort zone wont make you better in what you do. You have to force yourself to step outside, to do the things you feel insecure about. That is the best way to improve whatever you do to the next step.

Earlier this year, before the summer, I was asked by a Swedish RPG company to do some old school dungeon maps. I hadn’t done many before and felt a bit insecure about it but I thought I could give it a try. The maps turned out pretty well (you can see them in the book “Monster” for the Swedish RPG Fantasy!) and doing them kind of gave me the urge to do more.

I started to play around with different ideas and made a couple of test maps to see where I could get with this. Around this time I also talked to Ralf at Profantasy to see if they would be interested in me making a Black and White dungeon style for their annuals. I sent him some of the test maps and he thought it’d be a great idea, so we agreed on me making the style, to be released now in October.

evil temple

When you make a style for Profantasy you get a list of things that usually are included, so I started at the top and ticked them off when I had them done. All symbols are made in a program called Artrage that has been a great help while doing the symbols, especially the “Paint symmetry” tool. The tool lets you divide the painting in between 2 and 12 parts. Everything you do in one part will be repeated in the others. So if you for example draw a coffin you divide the painting in two pieces, everything you draw on the left side will be repeated on the right side, and this will make the coffin have the correct proportions.

Making the style has been great fun and I already want to make more symbols to flesh it out. The style includes around 75 unique symbols but as always you cannot get it all in there. You will always miss something. But I think the selection of symbols is more than enough to make it possible to do the map you want. I actually even included a couple of monsters that you can populate your dungeon with.

I feel that I really had to step outside my comfort zone to make this style, and that I have learned a lot from it. Hopefully those experiences will improve my future maps.

I hope you will enjoy the style now in October.



You can now follow me on Facebook since I’ve started a page about my mapping there. The page will mainly be used for shorter texts, showing finished maps and some work in progress pictures, so yo can follow my daily work better. Of course I’m still going to update the blog, but the blog will be for longer texts around mapping and tutorials.

What are you waiting for head over to Facebook and like my page, 🙂

Remaking a style

One of the programs I use the most while mapping is CC3 from Profantasy. The good thing with CC3 is that due to the annuals they release every year, that gives you a new style every month, there is now a vast collection of styles that you can use.

Most of the styles are quick to work with and you can produce a finished map that looks good in a rather short time. When we talk about short times and mapping, that still means quite many hours of work. But for me CC3 is usually the program I use in the beginning of my process of making a map, nearly all maps I start working on in CC3 will end up in Photoshop sooner or later.

So why do I do that? Well mainly it is because whenever I use a style there are things I like to change or things I want to enhance. One of the drawbacks of CC3 is that when you work with a style you are limited to what’s in the style. You can of course use symbols from other styles in the particular style you’re using, but not many styles work well together.

Sometimes you want more then what is offered and sometimes you just want to change the feeling of the map by adjusting the colours. Of course you can do a lot of those things in CC3 as well, but not all. And due to that my skills in CC3 are being quite limited it is much quicker for me to open up the map in Photoshop and do the changes I want there.

As an example lets look at the latest style from the Annuals, the overland style made by JT Vendel. The style is absolutely gorgeous and the mountains in it are among the best ones released. But still there are things I want to do different. For a start I have some mixed feelings regarding the water texture, so I wanted to change the texture in the map and see how the result would be.

When a friend of mine asked if I could make a map for his RPG campaign I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to test the style again, with my changes.

To do this I picked a flat grey texture as the sea, in this way it would be very easy for me to select the grey water in Photoshop and replace it with something else, in this case a paper texture that I partially coloured blue and a pattern of waves that I made. However the sea felt a bit empty now so I added some sea monsters from the July issue of this years annual. Those monsters are only in black and white, so I had to colour them in Photoshop so that they would fit into the style.

Another thing I like to do outside of CC3 are rivers. I like my rivers width to change while they flow downstream, it gives the rivers some more life. In CC3 the rivers will be a line with the same width all the way. Yes you can change the size of the line, but it will still just be a line. Also i feel like I have more control of how the river flows when I do them outside CC3, but that might just be me.

I’m very pleased with the end result and the new sea texture and sea monsters gives the map a feeling of an old medieval map, in a fantasy sort of way. I think the feeling is different from when you use the original sea, which one that is better is hard to say. It is more about what version of the style that works best with the setting you are mapping for.

The Annual September style

Two kingdoms

This month saw the release of a new overland style in the monthly annual from Profantasy. This style was made by TJ Vandel, or Schwarzkreus as he is known as over at the Cartographers guild. The style itself is lovely with a very handmade feel to it. It is quite sharp in its details and it feels like the symbols are made with a pen on paper.

In the style you have an astonishing amount of mountains and hills to choose from. This is a style that crave a lot of mountains. They feel like the soul of the style. If you’re not going to use them you can as well just use another style. This style wont come to its full potential if you don’t use mountains in it.

Apart from the mountains there are some nice textures of deserts, open plains, fields and more. You also get some really nice cities, castles and more to place in the map.

The only thing I’m feeling very divided towards in the style is the sea texture. To be honest I can’t really decide if I like it or not. The sea texture is very colourful compared to the rest of the textures and this makes it take over the map a bit. At the same time it is the seas that makes the style unique compared to other styles. I guess I’ll use it in some maps in the future, but in some others I might try something else for the seas.

The style was very easy to use and you can, thanks to the shear amount of symbols, very quickly make large mountain areas. So you can without a problem make a map in an evening if you need to, and the finished result is gorgeous. I’m definitely going to use it in more maps in the future.

In the map I picked another font though then the recommended one. I didn’t like the included one in the style, but that might just be me. And one of the good things in CC3 is that If you don’t like the default font you can just pick another one.