Remaking a style

september_map
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.

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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.

The June Annual

June annual test map

This month’s annual from Profantasy for Campaign Cartographer 3 (CC3) included a very nice looking overland style that has a comic book look and feel. I must admit that I really like it and it will definitely work perfect for maps I use when I play with my kids. So I decided to try it out.

The style itself is as I said very charming and the symbol are well done. You have a good selection of things to put in your map, even though you always want more than what is delivered. But I know how hard it is to get everything in when you make a map style, I’ve actually added a symbol or two for the styles I’ve made for Profantasy when I started making maps with them. Doing that for this style could actually be a good challenge for my drawing skills.

One thing I thought of after finishing my map in the style is that I made it a bit too wide, I thinks this style should be more dense looking to get it to look at its best. I’m still pleased with the result but my next map in it will probably be better, learning from the experience of the first one.

The style is really fast and rewarding to work in and the time it takes to make a map in it compared to the time invested in the process of making it is very good. You can say you get a lot of good looks for very little time spent.

Those with a sharp eye will also spot that I actually used another font than the included one for the map. There is actually no certain reason for it, I just wanted to test what the map would look like with another font.

I will definitely come back to this style making a map or two and the only thing I miss now is a dungeon style with the same comic book feeling as this one.

Another style coming up

Example map

Lately I’ve been working hard on a new style for Profantasy. As you can see in the test map of the style it is a black and white style that hopefully will work very well in print.

I have always been very fond of the old fantasy maps like the ones you found in the hobbit and the lord of the rings, black and white and very clean looking. Recently I’ve also made some old school dungeon maps so I thought that I’d like to have a black and white style that would work with these.

First I only had some mountains, forest and rivers and simple icons for cities/towns but when I was asked by Profantasy if I could turn it into a style for them I decided I had to expand the number of symbols and textures that could be used. I’m still convinced that you should keep things as simple as possible with this kind of maps, this is really a style where less can be more. Let the negative space in the map do its job. But now this one won’t be just for me, and there might be a million reasons why someone wants to include some symbols that I wouldn’t. So I decided to work through the list of symbols that are the most common in the styles released by Profantasy. Then everyone can decide for them self what to include.

The first map I made in the style had quite a lot of water in it, and while looking at the map I felt that the water area of the map was a bit empty compared to the land area with all its symbols of trees, mountains and hills. So I decided that I would add in some monsters like you have in old maps. The inspiration to the included monsters is from an old Swedish map called the Carta Marina. In this map the sea is full of strange and scary monsters and snakes. Of course there had to be a ship or two as well that fearlessly sails through these dangerous waters.

Making these monsters and ships has been a great challenge for me, I haven’t done anything like it before and I really had to push myself to the next step to make them. But it has been great fun and I must say that the monsters are probably the symbols I’ve enjoyed the most to make in this style. They’ve also inspired me to some more ideas for future maps, but more of that in a later blog post.

The style is not completely done yet, I still have some small things to finish up and I need to make a compass and a scale bar. But you should all be able to see the finished result this summer, if you subscribe to the Annuals.

Morcar

Morcar

I was really looking forward to this month’s annual (April, 2013) by Jonathan Roberts. His earlier ones are two of my absolute favorites.  I must say though that at first I was a bit disappointed when I looked at this month’s style. If you look at the earlier overland map annual he made the symbols are in my opinion some of the best ones I’ve seen so far published by Profantasy. Every mountain, city and hill icon are like small pieces of art, and the new symbols in this month’s annual doesn’t really reach the same standard. Still they are looking great and a there are a lot of useful symbols that I missed in the first overland style from Jonathan, like the cliff edges. The thing here is that Jonathan has spoiled us with such great maps and products that the expectations you have on a new style from him are probably impossible to live up to.

Already before I received this month’s style I had decided on making a map in the style to try it out. Some time ago I was asked if I could make a colour map of the campaign world from a Swedish old school RPG called Fantasy! (great game by the way), so I thought it would be a great way trying out the new style. In the end I however used more symbols from the old overland style then the new one, but some crucial pieces in the map are from the new one.

As always it is easy to quickly build up a map in CC3, as long as you do it in the right order. I think that one of the great advantages of CC3 is that it lets me make maps in styles I normally can’t. For me to make a map in the same style as Jonathan Roberts without CC3 would take ages, if it would be possible at all. Now I can accomplish it in about a day’s work, which is absolutely amazing.

As always when I work in CC3 I like to bring up the map in Photoshop to make it more unique and give it a bit of a personal touch. This time I’ve added some colours, especially around the area called Ankhar on the map, and I also painted the rivers in Photoshop. I wanted the rivers to be more irregular in form then what you can get in CC3.

I’m very pleased with the result and now with more symbols to use with the new style from Jonathan I definitely think I will return to this style in a not too distant future.

Making a new symbol set

Symbolset test

When I grew up one of the first maps I really remember, if you don’t count maps of the real world, is the maps in Tolkien’s books. I can still recall when I first laid my eyes on the map of middle earth in the Lord of the rings. I was on vacation in England with my parents and I was eight years old. We went to a flea market and there they were, all three books. I remember looking in them and I was lost forever. Just seeing those maps made me understand that these has to be the greatest books ever written, so I bought them for my own money. The funny thing is that I didn’t know how to read or speak English, but that didn’t matter I could just look at those lovely maps and fill them with life from my own imagination.

Since then I’ve always been very fond of black and white maps, and then I mean black and white maps, not the ones that are black, white and grey. So when I was commissioned to do a map for a fantasy world that will be printed in a book I decided to try to do a map that really looked like those old maps from Tolkien’s books. But just making a map wasn’t all I wanted to do.

As this project might expand to more maps than the first one I decided to make a new symbol set that I could use for this map and future ones. Earlier I’ve made two style sets for Profantasy and from that experience I’ve learned a lot, especially how much quicker you can make the maps once the symbols are done.

First of all when you make symbols for a map style it is good to try to write down what you need. What different type of terrain will there be? Mountains, hills, cliffs, trees, cities, villages, volcanos etc. Write them all down on paper, or in a document on your computer. Now you have a plan on what you need, next step is to start drawing them. When you’re done and satisfied with a symbol, tick it off from the list and continue with the next. Some symbols like mountains will need more than one symbol, so in this case you just make as many as you think is necessary before you tick it off in the document.

Another important step is to test the symbols. I usually have a test map where I copy and paste the symbols into, to see that they will fit together, the map in this post is a document like that. Here I’ve tested that the mountains and trees will look good together. In my first try I realized that the trees outer lines weren’t thick enough, so I went back to the originals and made the lines thicker. In this way you will be sure that when the symbol set is done everything will work together.

Making a symbol set will take some time, but after that you’re done making maps using the symbols will be so much easier.

Vadsbro

Vadsbro

In the last post I published a mind map for an adventure, now it is time to start making maps. First of all I need a campaign map of the area where the actual adventure will take place, with that one in place it will be easier to plan the other maps I need to draw.
To make the map I decided to use the style I made for the December issue of the Annuals from Profantasy. The style was made for creating campaign maps for smaller areas, so it will fit very well for this map.

The adventure will take place in the country Armadien, close to a city called Vadsbro (Littlebridge in my Armadien map). Vadsbro is situated close to the Armadien border, next to the Traal infected Skymningsskogen (dusk forest) and the Traal mountains, so there will be a lot of forest in the map.

As soon as I started on the map I realized that I had to improvise a bit with the style. The main feature in the map, except for all the forest, is the river that split up in two rivers closer to the mountains. The rivers in the style aren’t really suited for depicting a main river in this scale, so I decide to use the ocean texture for the rivers. In this way the river will look more like the dominating natural feature in the area.

The river tool however comes in handy to show smaller rivers connecting into the main branches, but I had to change the colour of the rivers to blend in more with the main rivers. When I created the style, which is based on my Truscian map, I wanted the rivers in a darker colour and the ocean in a lighter one. That works very well if you do a more zoomed out map. But if you zoom in closer to an area for a map, and you suddenly want to use the ocean textures as rivers, the colour for the river tools don’t really blend in. So I decided to change them.

It is actually quite funny how a style you’ve created yourself, suddenly needs to be trimmed when you start working with it. But I think you can say that for all styles. At least I always trim the styles so they’ll fit into my way of working.

Now that the map is done it will be easier to decide what more maps I need to do. You can say that I’m making my adventure from the maps, the story I have so far will probably change a bit with every map I make. But that is the fun part of mapping, to weave a story around your maps instead of making maps from your story.