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I'm no artist, but I've always wanted to make nice-looking maps on the computer. That's why this mapping tutorial for the GIMP is awesome. Using it I've managed to take this:

And turn it into this:

(Click to embiggen.)

rheall should recognise it, since it's the land I used for the solo game I ran for her recently. (Actual play first half, second half , and debrief .) It's still a work in progress—the hills need to be added, roads and towns placed, and I need to do something with the moors in the lower right to make them look better. I'm really pleased with it so far, though.

(For my players on Tuesday, this is the map of the area your characters will start in and be exploring. Yeah, I know the names on the drawn map are hard to read. It's a bad photo, not even a bad scan.)

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(Deleted comment)
Thanks you! Raw comment numbers can be gratifying, but there's nothing quite like direct praise. :)

As is often the case, I stand on the shoulders of giants... well, ogres maybe, only some are that tall... anyway, other writers I've been reading. I should do a bucket of links to my current game-related reading haunts, sometime soon.

I really like the mountain effect! Might be tricky to make map markers & text legible on it, though.

The forests look like fuzzy felt. I want to pet them!

The purple for the swamp, while visually distinct, is perhaps a bit too lurid.

Nice job!


The mountains should be alright... They can be masked to keep things from disappearing into the texture, and the default style for symbols in the tutorial has them limned to distinguish them from the "pictorial" geographical style. Kind of like Google Maps' hybrid style.

I do really like the way the mountains turned out. I had to hand-smudge the slopes where they blend into the grassland, and I had to deviate from the tutorial significantly to get the look I wanted, but they work really well.

The forests are almost how I want them. The tutorial's techniques make them look too much like lichen, and my cartographic preferences are strongly influenced by late '80s AD&D maps, so I like my forests more distinct and pop-out. They're close enough now that I've moved on to other things.

The swamp I did just before posting this. I tried a few different colour schemes before I got one that was even this muted! Again, the purple is inspired by late 80s gaming maps. I'm thinking of trying a mouldery grey-green colour scheme, but I'll leave it until I get the hills done.

I could fiddle with this forever, but good enough is when different elements can be identified easily and look passable. My next map will probably be much faster and nicer-looking. :)

Nice carto effects there. Having experimented with building up fictional maps in a GIS on a variety of scales, this is probably a much easier way to go.

It's certainly not fast (yet), but the results for a first-time map maker are pretty good I think.

The basic manipulations that the tutorial explains are used over and over to make each feature, and there is lots of room for variation in the technique. I'm learning a lot about the GIMP's features, and next time it will all come much faster.

BTW: I assume you know about Campaign Cartographer, a carto program for fantasy settings? It has a pretty solid following. It is rather pricey for one of the bundles, but perhaps you only need Campaign Cartographer 3.


Yeah, I've lusted after Campaign Cartographer since I first saw the boxed first version for $100 in my favourite local gaming store back in the mid-nineties.

I've always balked at the price and the reputation for a steep learning curve before getting to the good stuff. I may yet try it, but, if I do, this venture in hand-made digital maps will serve me well for getting the most out of CC3.

The map looks wonderful so far! Is this the entire "world" that you've got in your head, or will we be able to explore outside of it at some point?

I like how you made the plains a lighter green than the rest of the map; it looks almost as if the rest of the world is under the shadow of clouds and the plains are the only ones in the sun. I like it a lot. =)

An easy way to make the writing/labeling distinct would be to stroke the outside of the words, but I haven't had the GIMP in so long, I can't remember if it can do that easily. I'm just using my silly little Photoshop terminology, hehe.

I can't wait to see what else you do with it, especially how you'll incorporate the hills. It looks excellent.

The lettering technique used in the tutorial ends up giving text and towns a glow in a layer below. It gives more of a stylised look to the non-geographical features than I'd normally go for, but I'm going to give it a try.

I think I'll still end up just giving the text a heavy stroke and light fill, though. Sparer, and closer to my '80s-inspired map aesthetic.

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