Makin’ mountains and makin’ trees.

I have finally gotten started on drawing my map. I discussed in my previous post what exactly I wished to do. GIMP is surprisingly easy to get used to, particularly compared to Photoshop. I am using a tutorial that I found on the Cartographer’s Guild website and it is coming along well.

The first order of business was to make symbols. The process isn’t too hard. I made what is called an animated brush, where I can draw just like with a pencil and whatever I drew as the brush will appear on the screen in whichever line I draw.

Look at the amazingly uniform mountain range!

With the animated brushes I am able to draw multiple mountains at random. I drew about eight different mountains and saved the group of layers as a brush, setting “class” to random. Class should be the amount of different images you drew, so that way the brush will randomly cycle through them while you draw. It will come out looking like this:

I drew sort of an X. I made this mountain range with only about four strokes.

Here's another example with a few more mountain variations.


At first I was curious as to what purpose the lines beneath each of my symbols served, but after getting them down on paper it certainly gives them depth. I spent quite a bit of time making differentiating mountains and I’m happy with how they look

I made two more animated brushes, small mountains and hills. Making these three brushes took me about three hours, mostly because I’m still very new to GIMP. Once I got the hang of the process, my symbols only took me about five minutes, but I wanted to take care with how my symbols looked so I spent some time touching each one up so that it looked just right.

Here is my practice mountain range. This image includes three different animated brushes. I made about five different hills and five different small mountains. I'm quite satisfied with how well the symbols compliment each other, particularly the hills and the mountains.


Next was to make some trees. When I was making my tree symbols I was worried about their uniformity. I obviously didn’t want to make my trees look so distinct that in a forest certain ones would look out of place, but I also did not want to make each of them to same, since that would make for quite a dull looking forest. I made 10 tree images and saved them as an animated brush. Here is what they looked like:

Happy trees!

I made evergreens too.

Then I got to work on putting my forests and my mountains on the same image. To add even more variety, I can adjust the scale of the brushes, so I can make some trees smaller and others and some mountains bigger (like if I want to single one out as important or something). So I worked for about an hour while watching Star Trek: TNG. This was the result of my work:

The darkness of the green on the trees may be throwing off the rest of the map, but coloring comes later. This was just practice.Notice how I scale some of the trees at the border of the forests.

Notice at the top right corner I made some dead trees. I though those would be a nice touch to indicate some barren lands or something. I plan to design many more symbols for my map soon.

I’m definitely getting the hang of GIMP, though, and I am very satisfied with how these images have turned out. I did run into a few problems, but fixed them rather quickly. For some reason the first time I tried to save my trees as a brush it would not make multiple different trees when I drew, but I realized that on the drop-down menu upon saving I must indicate the number of images I have in both the “class” and “cell” fields. Also, I must draw from the top of the page towards the bottom, as the images will overlap and look very wrong. Other than that I haven’t experienced any serious roadblocks.


Getting started on my fantasy map – what I want, how I want it.

Seeing as how the end product of this independent study will be a fantasy map of my own, imagined by myself, possibly accompanied by some story of sorts, I must decide how I should make it and what will be on it.

I have looked at a number of maps on the Cartographer’s Guild website. Most of them were made using artistic software, especially Photoshop, Illustrator, GIMP, and some other specifically cartographic software like Campaign Cartographer by Profantasy, which are more often used for role-playing games.

I have found a number of tutorials on the forum, of which I have looked through most and found they are very helpful. There was a tutorial that used a specific style which I like quite a lot. It used GIMP, with which I am kind of familiar. The elements on the map were created using animated brushes, where things like mountains and trees are drawn yourself in GIMP and then set as a brush, so you can place multiple mountains very easily. According to the tutorial it seems like a fast and easy way to create basic maps. In a way, the elements are hand-drawn, which would give whoever used this style the opportunity to be as creative as he would like.

This is darklingrisen's GIMP tutorial sample map. It has a distinct artistic feel and the number of options to be creative, particularly with the animated brushes is very nice. Of course, it is just a sample map done in about 15 minutes, so I will definitely be spending more time on my own.

What I liked about this style was that it truly did remind me of many of the maps I would see in children’s fantasy novels, where cartographic accuracy was less of a concern and allowed the artist to give the map character, rather than just making the map for geographic reference (which is how the Dragonlance map is – it’s rather dull). However, it’s not like geographic accuracy is completely disregarded, all of the places can generally be in the right locations, but you could possibly get very distinct in your symbols for different places. One thing that I must consider, though, if I choose to use this style, would be to consider scale. Scale has a great deal to do with detail, as any geographer would know, so I probably would not want to create a world map or atlas style map using this artistic “hand-drawn” style.

Or even something like this. I could easily imagine some sort of cultural significance to having mapped these parcels as a rhino. Although I think this map artist did it for fun, the idea remains pretty relevant.

Another thing I need to consider is how I want to represent things on my map. Professor Krygier, whom I am working with on this project, showed me river symbols used in maps in Latvia, in which they did not resemble the usual representation of the jagged, meandering thin blue lines on most maps. These symbols showed the river as a thick cylinder, with multiple shades of blue (which I assume indicate depth), and other elements, like dams, underwater rocks and even flow direction were shown using specific symbols that most likely do not represent them accurately but show where they are and can be seen on the map very clearly. The way this river looked, it was almost shaped like the body of a dragon – which would be interesting if there was some sort of lore behind how rivers were represented by a particularly culture. In fantasy, dragons are commonplace, so it would make sense for a river to be the embodiment of a dragon-like spirit (I’ve read quite a bit about land and water features in China being considered spiritually related to dragons) or something, which could, in turn, be represented on a map as such. It would make for a very artistic touch which would imbed the maps functionality into the cultural aspects of the area. If I were to use this, it would be an anthropomorphic feature. Anthropomorphic maps were used quite a bit for propaganda mapping.

I considered making my map by hand, which would give me the most artistic freedom, especially since I have decided to go with a more artistic style than the more accurate, scaled, atlas style maps. I feel the ability to create my own elements at a scale in which detail can be seen but is not too close as to not provide enough geographic features to not be used as reference. It is reminiscent of the Tolkien maps, particularly the ones in the Hobbit, where not all of Middle-Earth is shown. However, the ability to edit quickly and easily on software appeals to me. I very much liked the GIMP tutorial that I found, and since I will not have a great amount of access to Photoshop, it will be the most convenient tool. Of course, I will be sketching out the design for my map as I go along.

Ultimately I want to assume the role of a mapmaker whose intention is to adhere less to the geographical accuracy of his map, but more create his map in a way that comprises cultural and even spiritual components of the land he is representing. However, I do not want to make something along the lines of an anthropomorphic map, because I do wish to provide the map reader with some referential information. It’s in the artistic presentation of the map that I want to include the cultural/spiritual factors, such as which rivers or which mountains hold specific meaning to the people that live nearby. The naming of places will play a huge role in accomplishing this subtle cultural influence – as I have learned from a number of my classes, names of places hold specific cultural, social, historical and possibly spiritual value.

Scale is probably my biggest issue. I want my map to show my artistic detail, yet I want people to be able to situate themselves, or the character, on the map as a reference to a story. The author of the GIMP tutorial provided an example of a map in which he called a RPG style reference map. The map cannot necessarily be used to physically play the game, like a celled dungeon map, but it gives the players the ability to situate themselves within the imaginary space and establish fictional spatial and cartographic relationships between places. I do not specifically wish to create a map related to an RPG, but it could definitely serve a similar purpose.