Not just a map

Nehibia

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.

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Going Pro

I have been making maps for as long as I remember. I think my interest in maps started when I discovered the maps in The Lord of the rings. I remember how I used to sneak in to my uncles room together with my cousin to look at the maps in the book. I thought they were amazing.

When I got a bit older I started to play role playing games and making my own adventures and maps came naturally. Making the maps for my worlds was usually where my adventures ended so after a while I only made more maps for adventures that I bought.

In those days all maps were made with pen and paper,this was long before you had any powerful computers at home. But as usually happens the people you play with grow up and start moving around for studies or work so my gaming group kind of disappeared. After that I mainly made maps for myself, sometimes sharing them with friends.

But in 2008 those things were about to change. That was when I discovered the Cartographers guild on the Internet and suddenly I realized that there were a lot of people like me out there. People who sat at home making maps.

The first map I completely made in a digital format was my Etrakien map, a map that also got the Cartographers choice award on the Cartographers guild site. Something I never expected but was deeply honoured by. After some time i started to get asked if I could do commissions but most of the times I turned them down due to lack of time. When having small children it is always hard to find time for other projects then family.

But for some reason this spring the number of people asking for commissioned work has increased a lot. With my kids now being older and also due to some encouragement from my wife I’ve decided to go pro. So from this May I’m running a small one man company doing maps for the ones in need.

My main tools of trade are Photoshop, Art rage 4, Campaign Cartographer 3 with addons and not to forget my Wacom Cintiq 13hd that I’ve now invested in.

So have a look at my blog in the near future for a new page called commissions, where you will be able to find some more information about how to contact me if you like to have a map done.