Not just a map


What makes up a great map? That is a question I often ponder on. When I make my maps I always try to make more than just a map, I try to make a story. One of the first fantasy maps I came in contact with while growing up was the map in lord of the rings. And just by looking at that map you could see stories unfold. You could follow the rivers, the forests, mountain ranges, everywhere strange names. It took some time between me finding the map and me reading the book. But before starting on the book I already knew a lot about the world, just by looking at the map.

That is how I want my maps when I make them, I want them to tell stories. The more you look at the map the more things should start to unfold in front of your eyes, make you follow the rivers, finding the kingdoms, the wastelands. I want my maps to be like a library of imagination.

Another challenge is when someone else want you to make a map for them. I’m always flattered when people contact me and they want me to do that. They are actually trusting me that I shall make a map of something from their imagination, and of course I want that to be as good as possible. It is always hard to create something that someone already might have a clear view of what it should look like. Usually you have to meet somewhere in between, and it is always easier to make a map if you know a bit of the story. And if you know a bit of the story you can put that into the map.

The map at the top of this post is a commission I made for the Chronicles of Lo-Hin, you can read more about that by visiting their homepage. The client had a clear view on what he wanted and after a while we agreed on using Jon Roberts Overland style from Profantasy’s March annual in 2011. Personally that style is my favorite overland style that has been released for Campaign cartographer 3 (CC3). All symbols in the style are absolutely gorgeous, so when my client asked me to do some custom symbols that would fit into the style I nearly freaked out and thought, that wont be possible. But I gave it a try and I must say that I’m quite pleased with the result. Can you spot them?

I worked quite a lot on getting the style the way I and my client wanted, I’ve tweaked the style a bit in Photohop by applying some filters and textures to give it the feeling we were after. This is also the first map where I decided to make the rivers in Photoshop instead of CC3. The reason for this is that I wanted the rivers to look more natural. If you make the rivers in CC3 you get a curved line that has the same width all the way. I wanted the width to differ in size, that would make the rivers look more alive.

Also I wanted the map to have a lot of details that you had to look for, details that together would want your imagination to start telling you a story. So it wouldn’t be just a map but something more. Did I succeed with that? Well that is for you to tell.


6 thoughts on “Not just a map

    • Thanks Harbinger Zero, I’m glad you like the map, and what the towers do or what the big tree is I don’t really know actually. Those things the client asked me to put in.

  1. What caught my eye first were the towers.
    Are they guarding the southern lands against a threat from the north, or are the towers themselves this threat?

    What I like most about this map are the forests sweeping up the mountainsides in a beautifully natural way.

    • Thanks, yes the forest turned out very well in the map, actually better ten I expected 🙂
      The towers, I think is some old force field protection or something. It was really fun map to make, and hopefully there will me more maps for this world.

  2. Hey! I’m a brazilian young writer and I was looking for in the internet some ways to draw the map of the story I’m about to publish and I found your blog! Your maps are really awsome and you are very talented! I was wondering if you could tell me what the software that you used (I already have CC3 installed in my pc) to draw, for example, this map If you’re not too busy, I could show some maps drawn by hand (: Thank you

    • Hello Diego,
      I mainly use three different programs while making my maps. First of all I use CC3, the map you are linking to is made in CC3, and its add-ons CD3, DD3 and cosmographer 3. I also use Phostoshop and Artrage when I draw by hand, using my Cintiq tablet from Wacom.
      If you want toi use CC3 to make some overland maps I strongly recommend that you have a look at the yearly annuals that Profantasy releases. That is where the truly great artwork and styles are hidden.
      Good luck with your books and world creation.

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