When you make a map one of the hardest, and most important things, is to get a good coastline. If the coastline isn’t believable the map wont be that either. So how do you get a good coastline. I know for sure that it is hard because this is one of the things I’ve been struggling a lot with since I started to make maps.
Well not anymore, not since I started to steal them. I mean why should I create something that I can steal? Now you might start to consider my moral judgement here, I mean you are not supposed to steal, right? But when it comes to the coastline I think we can make an exception. Of course you don’t do it from other peoples work you do it from maps of the earth.
Earth has so many coastlines and I can assure you that no one will ever see that you stole it in the first place. Just stealing a part of earth, lets say the coastline of Denmark wont work, because then everyone will recognise it, and the magic of the map will disappear, it will just be an alternative map of Denmark and not your new fancy fantasy region.
To avoid getting caught, getting caught is bad due to the reason mentioned above, this is how I do it.
First of all I’m deciding on what type of map I want to do, for this little tutorial I’ll make a map of a coastal area with some Islands. Lets continue using Denmark as an example, the country has some really nice looking coastal areas that can be used.
Zoom in a bit on the map, I’m typically using Google maps for this, and start looking for some nice areas. When you find one make a screen capture of it and paste it in a new document in Photoshop. Continue in this way until you have a couple of different regions. Cut away all the uninteresting bits, the bits you don’t want to use. Paste all the parts you are going to use into a new document. In the picture below you can see the four different regions I’ve picked for my map.
Now when you have all your pieces in the same file it is time to arrange them together. Do this by rotating them, flipping them and so on until you get a structure that you like. At this stage you might also find out that you need an extra piece or that you have one that don’t work. I for example felt that I needed one more piece of coastline to get it right, so I stole another part of Denmark and added it in. When you are done you will have something that looks like the picture below.
Now it is time for the next step in the process, drawing.The first thing to do is to merge all the layers with maps from Google earth, then I change the opacity of the layer to 50%. Add a new layer and select the brush tool. Now it is time to sketch the actual coastline, I usually do this with a blue colour, that will make it easier to draw in the lines for real later, in black.
I try to just follow the coastline that I see in the merged map pictures, sometimes I do some small free hand changes, but most of the time I follow the real coast line. When you are done it is always good to hide the Google maps layer and look at the coast line you just made. Sometimes you now see things that looks strange, erase those and draw some new lines. I also like to add a pale blue colour to the sea/ocean, so I clearly can see what is land and what is sea in the map. Below you can see my coast line.
Well that is about it. Now it is time to maybe add in some mountains, rivers, forest, cities or what ever you want to fill your world with. When the sketch is done just select the brush you want, change colour to black and start drawing on a new layer.