We’ve asked Christian, the winner of our map-making competition, to share a few words on his map and the competition and he was so kind to oblige. Here’s what he has to say.
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A few weeks ago I was searching online for fantasy map-making contests. I wanted an assigned theme and a real deadline—something that would challenge my skills and help me generate another piece of work I could be proud of. That’s when I came across ProFantasy.com. I’d been interested in their software before, but hadn’t had a chance to use it. Now I had a chance to win it in a competition.
Make an island, they said, about three miles across. Something like a medieval treasure map. The contest had been open for months, but was closing in just a few days. I took a look at the submissions that had been sent in thus far, decided I had a shot at winning, and threw myself into it.
I worked feverishly, right up to the deadline, and actually ran out of time to put absolutely everything I wanted into the map. That’s why there’s no border around it, and no compass rose… But what I did manage to produce followed my vision. As a novelist and dungeon master, I knew I could create some storytelling elements that would hook into the drawing. Some secrets and clues that would only be available to those who looked closely, and a narrative that would marry the image to the text. I had an aesthetic that I’d been developing for maps for my novels, inspired by some of the top fantasy cartographers online. I’m passionate about making beautiful illustrations, and I’m excited to be learning new techniques every day.
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As for the hands-on process itself, virtually all of this map was hand-drawn in ProCreate on an iPad 3 using an Adonit Touch stylus. There are a few “pattern brushes” in that app which help with things like the the jungle trees and the ocean waves, but everything else was the result of pushing pixels manually. The shape of the island and mountains isn’t based on anything other than doodling with the idea of a vaguely volcanic tropical island in mind.
The cloister overhead plan was laid out in Adobe Illustrator. It’s far larger, sharper, and more detailed in the original file, with many upper floors and basement dungeon levels. The “3D” isometric extrusion of the cloister is actually just faux-3D, a technique I use in Illustrator where I take the overhead plan and rotate, squash, duplicate and move by a certain amount, and then blend. I took a screen shot of that and traced over it in ProCreate.
The last step was to bring it all into Adobe Photoshop. I had created a “parchment background” from some rendered clouds and a bunch of filters, so I laid out the various pieces on that background and added the text elements. Then I did save-for-web and picked settings that looked good but kept the resulting file under 2 MB.
The cloister itself is about 300 feet on one axis, making the hypotenuse around 500 feet. Since you can line up 30 of the little cloister images end to end and have them stretch from one side of the island to the other, the island winds up being about 3 miles across.
As we wanted to be as impartial as possible, we’ve asked fantasy cartographer Mike Schley to be the judge for our January competition. He took his job very seriously and came back to us with the following results:
First, I would like to thank Profantasy for inviting me to serve as judge for this mapping challenge. When approached by Simon to decide the results of this competition I jumped at the chance. Then, upon seeing the work, I realized how difficult the task would be. Assessing each entry in a logical manner and narrowing the field to two pieces would require making tough choices on the narrowest of margins.
My methodology for examining the submissions came directly from my own cartographic practice and relied on the three criteria by which I judge my own work. These measures include aesthetic appeal/creativity, visual readability, and usefulness of the information provided. Given the straightforward parameters set down for the competition, “create a map of an island, less than three miles wide” scoring the entries by these criteria made for a process that, though difficult, was fairly straightforward and analytical.
So without further delay, the winner is… entry #17 Cloister Island, followed closely by the runner up, entry #15 Smugglers’ Island.
Of all the submissions, I felt that the Cloister Island map functioned best as both a visual information system and an inspiring illustration of its setting. Even though the cartographer left off a compass rose and scale bar, the overall work felt the most coherent and provided numerous levels of information. Like an onion, the island and story revealed themselves in layers, giving the reader an opportunity to explore deeper and deeper into an immersive world. On top of this, I’m a sucker for hand drawn isometric maps.
Choosing a runner up was probably the hardest part of the job since there were a number of maps that I felt had quite a lot going for them. I selected Smugglers’ Island mainly because it’s design and presentation of information felt more unified than the other entries. The visual details work well together and the cartographer’s choice of font, embellishments, and patterning add up to a striking, if somewhat cluttered, image.
Finally, I would like to thank everyone that contributed work to the competition and encourage them to keep at it. Designing worlds is something dear to my heart and it was a joy to see so many thoughtful approaches to the assignment.
So the winner of the competition and the new holder a full ProFantasy Patron License is xianpryde. Congratulations!
The runner-up, dfahr, receives a ProFantasy store voucher worth $100. Also congratulations.
And thanks to everybody for their submissions. Your work was all wonderful!
These are the entries for the January competition. Scroll down below the gallery for the detail images.
#1 Cinnamon Island
#2 Drakken Isle
#3 Skull Island
#4 Isle of Breva
#5 Fort of the Frost Duke
#6 Hobb Island
#7 Gulguthee Island
#8 Sci-Fi Island
#9 The Island of Belmore
#10 Harper Island
#11 Chan Turix
#12 Fulger Island
#15 Smugglers’ Island
#16 Last Hope’s Landing
#17 Cloister Island
#18 The Islands of Sorrenport
#19 Timecorps: Project Deadalus
#20 Hujan Island
#21 The Isle of Quelivos
Interested in the history of cartography and the quest of mapping the earth’s globe on a flat piece of paper? Want your imaginary world to have a touch of realism or believability? Than the March Annual issue is for you. Check out more than a dozen new templates, showing different map projections, and instructions on how to convert these into your favorite mapping style.
If you are an Annual subscriber, log into your registration page to download it. If not, you can subscribe to the Cartographer’s Annual 2014 here.
Dear Cartographers, welcome to the February newsletter!
- Check out The January collection of community maps, again including great artwork from our users.
- Download the Symbol Creation Guide for Character Artist 3. It provides a detailed tutorial on how to create and import your own bitmap symbols to use in CA3.
In February last year, Mark Fulford and I flew to Phoenix to meet CAD guru Mike Riddle and expert programmer and ProFantasy mainstay Peter Olsson. Serendipitously, cartography Mike Schley lives in Phoenix, so we agreed to meet.
By this stage Mike Schley was developing an overland map style for use in the forthcoming CC3+, but as a result of our conversation we also agreed that he would create an entirely new symbol set, too. It’s an unashemedly fantasy-oriented dungeon-bashing style, with the complete set of symbols you get with DD3 and Fantasy Floorplans.
We’ve kept this one under our hat, but we are now ready to announce, The Dungeons of Schley!
We’ve still got to do some work perfecting the effects to make it look just right, but here are some sneak peaks:
Click on the main dungeon map and symbol selection for a higher res version.
As many symbols as Character Artist 3 contains or how many we may add in the future, the incredible variety of role-playing games, settings and campaigns means there will always be need and room for more.
The obvious – but not always simple – solution to needed symbols is to create them yourselves, either by drawing them from scratch or adapting existing artwork to your own requirements. Because the Character Artist 3 catalogs and symbols have a pretty specific setup, we are offering this guide to their creation. It takes you through the steps of adjusting existing png artwork for use in CA3 and importing it as a symbol.
Download CA3 Symbol Creation Guide mini-installer (contains pdf and support files)
Download CA3 Symbol Creation Guide pdf
It’s time for the monthly parade of user maps posted to the ProFantasy forum – again we have some lovely work to show off, thanks to the community!
As described elsewhere, TolrendorDM finished off his 2013 Annual Challenge with this map of the “Barrens of Gorak” in the 1930′s travel guide style.
Continue reading »
We love getting customer feedback but nothing is as satisfying as when happy CC3 users send us the maps that have been important to their gaming. Like Nick P. does with these words:
“Hi! I love CC3 so much! I spent a long time making the attached map. It’s no masterpiece, but I’m proud! I had to do the text in Photoshop to make it bendy, but just wanted to drop a line to let you know I love your product – it has helped bring my latest campaign to life.”
He can certainly be proud. I love the whimsical detail of the map and the great care all the symbols have been placed with.
And I was happy to to provide a little tech support too: Curved text can be done in CC3 with the “Text along a curve” command (found in the Draw menu or by right-clicking the text button).
Thanks for map and the kind words, Nick!
The February issue of the Cartographer’s Annual 2014 has been available since Saturday (log in to your registration page if you are a subscriber). It contains pre-assembled paper figures to use in your games. Created with the new Charcater Artist 3 add-on, a selection of generic heroes is opposed by a wealth of stock monsters. Character Artist 3 is not necessary to enjoy this issue, but it also contains the CA3 source files so you can quickly create more variations if you do.
You can subscribe to the Cartographer’s Annual 2014 here.