Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Art of Mapping

If you are writing an epic length novel of any genre, mapping is important. I don't know about the rest of you, but I find myself deluged in plot holes, consistancy errors and many other problems if I do not have maps.

So, I am going to share with you the efforts of the past day or two.

In order to create these maps, I used gimp 2 and a wacom tablet. This can be done with a mouse or with tracing paper and pencil. Regular paper won't work as well due to the fact I try to make 'layered' maps -- if you're really willing to splurge, you can use see through drafting paper. These *can* be done on printer paper, but it is a lot more work.

Before I start showing you the maps, please note that these are a work in progress. I'm not finished with them by any means. However, I have enough of a base to use as a guide for how I make maps.

With my current novel series, I am using a single continent and a set of islands. As this is the scope of my novel, this is all I am mapping for now. Eventually, I will add a world map. If you have a lot of sea trade, you may need your world map immediately. However, most of my novels take place midland, so the sea trade aspects of my world aren't necessary for my novel.

The first step I use to generate a map is to draw the landmasses.

Thus, Map 1 is born. This will become the base for the rest of my maps.

Map 2 is the kingdoms. I will use this to colour in political regions, economic regions, religious regions, territories of influence, etc. This map is uncoloured.

Map 3
is the kingdoms map with colour fills.

Map 4 is the religious regions. This world has broad areas of influence of primary religions.

Map 5 is the general geographic lay of the land. This elevation map is used to help me determine what resources would be found where. This is a significant map, as it really helps determine my trades. I view the economy as a very important part of a world setting.

Map 6 is an elevation map with -major- rivers. This does not include every creek in existance. These are the major waterways in the land, as well as notable lakes.

Map 7 is the elevation and river map with the coloured kingdom maps + the outline overtop. This lets me get a general view of where the kingdoms are situated in accordance to the land and terrain types.

Map 8 is one of the hardest maps to generate. This is a village / town / city map of one of the kingdoms and surrounding regions. This map is no where near done. However, there are a few interesting things to note here. First, I have laid out the route that one set of characters takes. Squares that are a yellow orange are visited locations. These are locations I need to generate note sheets for. I have done roads for locations on the route. Blue Xs are major cities, red xs are larger towns, black small x's are villages. Green squares around Blue Xs designate largest city in the kingdom, and typically where the ruler resides. Some kingdoms have several ruling parties, so each city with these parties are labeled with the green square. As you can tell, this map hasn't been cleaned up yet -- but I can see where the rivers are at, as well as the country borders. This area doesn't have any elevated major locations, so you can't see the elevations. If it was in a region with elevations, you would see those markings as well.

For each kingdom, I need to make a repeat of Map 8. This is extremely time consuming. Other maps I am planning on adding are resource maps. These will go with elevation / river maps, and denote things like trade routes.

How every person maps is different -- this is just my method of doing it.

Now that you have seen the maps, I will go into a little detail of how they are made. You CAN do all of this by mouse if you are patient, and gimp 2 is free. (See for a copy of the program I use.)

Step one:

Draw your continent. The more rough around the edges, the better. Shorelines aren't neat and perfect, so there is no need for perfect circles. Because of this, mouse work is totally acceptable. I find a wacom or other pointer device useful when drawing the elevation and river maps.. but, once again, it can be done with a mouse.

When you draw your continent or world, you should do this on a transparent layer above your background. You want your background to be a plain white background with nothing on it. This will let you adjust your maps as needed. So, add a transparent layer and draw your lines on that.

Once you have your continent, lay out your kingdoms on a -duplicated- layer of your continent map. You want the edges of your continent as a part of your kingdoms. This will make future steps easier. Draw your kingdoms as necessary.

Next, make a duplicated copy of your kingdoms layer. You can do your colour fills on here. I set my transparency at 30% or so when I fill. This just tones the layer so it can be used beneath things like your elevation maps.

Now, go back and duplicate the NON coloured version of your kingdoms layer. Move this layer ABOVE your coloured layer. This will restore your nice dark lines for visibility. Duplicate it again.

On the second duplication, colour in sections as you desire for religious factions, political factions, or whatever factions you like. You can repeat this as many times as you like.. just duplicate your kingdoms layer as needed.

To do your elevation map, you will need to go back to your continent only layer. Duplicate this and move it to the top. Now is a good time to HIDE your previous layers. Hiding is done by clicking the eyeballs in your layers in gimp 2. Don't worry, just clicking that spot again will bring them back. You can adjust your maps accordingly.

When I did my elevation maps, I determined where I wanted mountains. I used series or 4-6 elevations to represent mountains. The first elevation ring is low hills.. then higher hills.. then we're into foot hills and mountains. The basic non ringed areas are flat lands, slightly rolling hills and plains. The more rings, the more detailed your elevations. I coloured light for low elevations to dark for high elevations. Make a duplicate of your elevations map before you colour it in.

Rivers are done in the same way as elevations, except in blue. You may want to adjust your elevations (like I did in the northern section) based off of location of some major rivers.

Making the kingdom map is the hardest.

First, you need to use a selector tool to select the kingdom and some areas around it. hit control-c to copy. Go to File -> Create -> from clipboard

This will create a small file the size of your copy pasted section. Now, go to Image -> Scale Image.

Blow it up. You will have larger lines.

I work in 1600x1400 resolution typically.

Then you can work on your detailed maps. I use the same theories with multiple layers for my blown up maps.

That is how I do my mapping. Enjoy! I hope this is useful

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