Making a quick border in Photoshop

Sometimes when you use Photoshop you discover ways of doing things that you didn’t even know were there. One tool I’ve used a lot is the fill tool (edit/fill), usually to just fill areas with a colour. But the other day I discovered that you actually can do a lot more things with the fill tool then just fill in colour. One of the new cool things you can do is to make quick borders.

To make a border with the fill tool you start by clicking edit/fill so that the fill window opens. In the Fill window under Contents/Use you select pattern from the drop down menu.

This will extend the window with a new option called scripted patterns. From the new drop down menu you select picture frame and click OK.

A new window will open where you can change the settings for the frame you are just about to create. I prefer the frames that start with the number 34 and up. Simple ones that fit well with maps. The other ones are a bit too intricate for my taste, but they might work well if you want to add a frame to a photo or something. When you are satisfied with the way your border looks just click OK.

And this is how the finished result looks

It is always fun when you discover new ways of doing things, especially when they are as easy as this.


Mouse Guard


One of my favorite comics is Mouse Guard by David Petersen. Everything in the comics from art to story are done to perfection and it is a real treat to read the stories about the small mice and their adventures.

Some months ago I learned that there also is a RPG based on the books. Since it seems to be impossible to get a hold of the rules in a physical copy I had to make do with the pdf. But that worked out ok as well.

The rules in the game are very good and straight forward and quite quickly I felt that this might be something I could play with my children. I probably have to simplify the rules a bit for them, but playing as mice battling snakes and bats could make up some great stories for them.
The biggest problem though is that the game is in English, so I have to translate it for them. The first thing to do of course had to be to make a map of the Mouse Guard world in Swedish.

The map in the post I entirely made in Photoshop and is based on the original map by David Petersen. It was great fun to make and translating all the names into Swedish was a bit of a challenge.

Now I just have to convince my children that we have to play this, and of course I also have to finish simplifying the rules. Or I might just switch the rules to something that is already available in Swedish that we can use.

Photoshop brushes

overland sketch test

As you might know from reading my blog I’m drawing all my maps digitally, especially since I acquired my Wacom Cintiq. An important key while working digitally are brushes. Good brushes is usually the key to a great map. Well that is not completely true some talent for mapping is usually quite good to have as well.

The default brushes that are included in Photoshop are good to work with to a certain degree. But after a while you start to notice that you wish that they behaved differently from what they do. Especially what I miss is how they respond to pressure. Or simply put they don’t respond in the same way as a real pen or pencil does.

But the other day I found some great brushes over at the site They have two interesting brush sets for Photoshop for sale. One is a set of brushes for inking and the other one is pencil brushes that are great for sketching.

After downloading the two brush sets I tested them out and I must say that I am very please with how they behave. Especially the the pencil brushes are great and really give you the right feeling when it comes to pressure. I can really recommend them and at the top of this post you see a quick map I made with one of the pencil brushes. Nothing fancy really, but I can certainly see a great potential in the brushes, and I suspect I’ll be using them a lot in the future.

The One Ring

The other day I bought the RPG The One Ring from cubicle 7, which I kind of fell in love with. Growing up with Tolkien on my bedside I was really thrilled finding this game that really nurtures the world of middle earth, really showing respect to the heritage.

Well I’m not going to talk about the rules of the game, that I kind of like as well, but more about the maps. I think the maps in the game are absolutely fantastic. I like the simple lines that gives a very clear picture of the place it depicts, but at the same time leaves some parts to your imagination.

One thing I’ve realized while making maps is that sometimes less is more when it comes to mapping. Leaving out details can actually in the end give you the feeling of more details in the map. This is a thin line to walk and it’s not always the right thing to do. But for the setting in The One Ring I think that the maps are absolutely spot on.

Inspired by the maps in the game I decided to try out something similar. This is a map of a small village divided by a ferry crossing. Nothing spectacular but a quick and simple training map. And I think I will continue down this path because something grand might come out of it in the end.

Where it all started


Well we all start out somewhere, and this is where my trip down the digital mapping lane started out, some ten years ago. It might not be exactly ten years ago, but something like that is probably true. But in one way this trip started out even earlier than that.

I still remember when I was 15 years old and I bought the adventure Svavelvinter (Brimstone winter) for the Swedish RPG Drakar och Demoner (Dragons and Demons). It was the first part in a series of adventures that told the story of the fifth conflux, a specific moment in time that would give the person who controlled it the power to change the order of the world.

One of many places that the adventurers visited in the series was the city Tricilve, the capital of the country Trakorien. A large city that was as corrupt as Rome ever was during the Roman republic. So a very good place for some great adventures.

Some years later, you have to fast forward some 15 years, I got to know Erik Granström, who once wrote those adventures. From him I learned that he was writing a book in the same setting as the adventures. After some discussions we agreed on that I would make a map for him of Tricilve that he could use as help while writing the book.

At this moment in time I didn’t really know much about digital mapping, but I had an old Wacom tablet that I used and a copy of Photoshop. As you can see in the map it is quite crude, and I do wish that I one day would have the time to do a new version of it, just to see the progress of my mapping skills.

But the map filled its purpose, Erik had some great help of it while writing the book, and since Fria ligan (a Swedish RPG company) released the RPG Svavelvinter, based on the book that is based on the RPG adventure, there is actually an updated version of the map. However I’m not the one who made it, but I wish it was because it is a very lovely map.

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.

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.