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C.C. Hogan

Tutorial: Creating a Fantasy Map

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Geography is the bedrock of civilisation

The Tools

I use two main tools, Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop.  I am on the Creative Cloud programme which is possibly a bit extreme if you do not play with Adobe tools for a living, but there are other programmes out there and you can also get older versions (CS2) for free directly from Adobe by clicking here.  If anyone has any other programs they would like to suggest, please comment at the end of the article.

The two programs have distinctly different uses. Illustrator is a vector graphics program which allows me to zoom in and out of the map without worrying about degradation to the image within the program. For planning purposes, this is absolutely invaluable as I can go into the finest detail I want - I can map out an entire continent and then zoom in and draw a map of a town if I wish. There are limits, but for my purposes it is fine.

Photoshop, on the other hand, is primarily a raster graphics program. 

Raster images are far more flexible when it comes to artistic manipulation, painting in other words, but they do not scale very well. So if you are working on an entire continent, you will not get very fine detail, but it will be prettier!

There are advantages to both programs to be honest. It is a little like Google or Bing maps. In the normal map mode, you can get a very technical and accurate view of the world and find your way around easily. In Earth of Birds-eye mode, you cannot get in quite so close, but the experience is more immersive and you get a better feel for the environment.

With my current project, my working map is in illustrator, but now I have my world detailed out, I have moved it to photoshop and smartened it up, just to give me a little more creative input.

I should also point out that another great mapping tool is probably a huge blackboard or vast whiteboard - if these books are successful, I think I might try that next time!

But, let me start with what I am trying to achieve.

Next: The importance of mapping »


  1. Tutorial: Creating a Fantasy Map
  2. The Tools
  3. The importance of mapping
  4. Your Working Map
  5. Using Your Map for Planning
  6. Pretty Maps

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