This time I thought it was time to make a tutorial on how you can make a convincing overland map. This will be more of an overview tutorial on how I think and plan when I make a map, so it won’t be very technical. This means that you can use this tutorial regardless what program you use when you map, even though I in the tutorial will use a map made in CC3 as a reference and example.

The first thing to take into account when you start an overland map is the landmass. How much of the map will be water and how much will be actual land? This is probably the most important step in your map because it will set the boundaries for what the end result will be. So already here I’m having a quite clear view of where I want to go with the map, shall the map be land based, island based or something in between.

Below you see my map “Sagorike”, that I’m using as an example in this tutorial, with only the landmass viewable. I’ve also written some things on the map that you can have in mind while drawing the coastline.

A good thing to do before starting on your landmass is to look at the real world (Google earth is great for this). If you want a lot of fjords, have a look at Norway, Island based, look at area outside Stockholm for example, and so on. It is always good to find inspiration in the real world. It will make your map look more believable, and believable maps tend to look good.

However when I make maps of worlds the most important thing for me is that they look good and in some part convincing. It doesn’t matter if the world doesn’t work geologically or physically, as long as it looks convincing. To make it look convincing you have to get the things right that the majority of people can spot, like rivers, they will NEVER split downwards, lakes, there is always only ONE outflow, or deserts, make sure that you place them in a way that it looks probable that no rain will get there, and so on. If those small details are correct it is more likely that the viewer will believe in the whole map, regardless if everything in it is possible according to our physical laws or not.

That is all for now, in the next post we will start by placing the mountains in the map.

(Originally posted on

Recently a particularly large number of very nice overland maps has appeared on the Profantasy forum – and they were all done in the April’s Annual style by Herwin Wielink. Apparently the style is especially well-suited for creating quick and beautiful maps. Here is a little gallery:

If you – like some members of the Profantasy crew – prefer your seas more blue and balmy, here is a neat little trick to adjust your ocean color: Add an RGB Matrix effect to the BACKGROUND sheet, using the values shown below.
RGB Matrix - Blue Sea

A Balmy Ocean
Blue Sea

[Editor's note: Forum member Mateus Buffone posts about his excellent Panorica map]

Some days ago Simon Rogers asked me if he could use my map as “The Map of The Month”. When I read it, I could not believe it. I started the hobby last year and I am still learning the tricks of the trade, so it’s an honor to have a map that I made posted.

This map is named Continent of Panorica and I did the first version of it in less than an hour for a RPG game that I would begin on the next day. The first thing that I neded was a style that would fit well in a continet map and that have a “fantasy” feel, as what I wanted was a fast and “cliché” map for a fast and “cliché” world. So I choosed the CA51 Jon Roberts Overland Style that is part of the 2011 Annual.

I generated landmasses in Fractal Terrians 3 until I saw one that would fit my needs. Than I exported it to CC3 and fractalized a little more.  After that I used the Land Default tool from the style and drew the islands, then used Fractalize on them to achieve a nmore natural feel. The next step was to place the mountains ranges. I was not concerned very much with realistic geology but I did not want to explain all my world with “magic!”, so I placed them first near the coast where I thought others continents would exist if I some day did the whole world. Then I placed the central chains as I needed a desert for my game. For the first version I only needed the central region so I placed some of the major rivers of the continent and dotted some settlements near the desert to form a pseudo-Arabian/tuareg region and called it a day.

But at that point I was in love with the project and wanted to transform it in my fixed fantasy map for the kind of game that I was running (a GURPS Dungeon Fantasy campaign). So I needed other regions and more details. So I begin to really think about the whole image: what cultures lived there, their society and political organizations. I decided to made the banners of the diferent kingdoms and others political organizations. For it I used the CA15 “Heraldry” from Annual 2008 and exported then as FCW entities to my continent map. I used some symbols found on the Map & Catalog Library in the ProFantasy home page. First I had a lot of dificults to implement the shields because messing with sheets is not very easy, but when you learned what to put where they are a big time saver! For the desert, florest, farmland and scrubland terrain to work on this map I had to rescale then for just 50% of their original size (this tip was gave to me by Simon himself).

[To rescale a bitmap fill style:

1. Click on the Fill Styles Indicator, the Bitmap Fills tab, and find the texture on the Fill Style Name pulldown.
2. Reduce the Scale Width and Height (maybe to 50%) and OK.
3. Try again until it looks right.]

Another point of interest was the underwater setlements (Forte do Sino inside Terras Alagadas and the whole southeast region). I spend a big time with then and in the final I only neded of an Transparency effect. And I think that this is one of the most import aspects of CC3. When you find good effects and know how to create and manage sheets for each of your maps you can achieve very good results.

I hope that you like my map and if have any suggestion talk with me on the community.

We’ve just made the April issue of the Cartographer’s Annual 2012 available. Enjoy a beautiful new overland style created by Herwin Wielink. It’s the first time you see his art in the Annual, but it won’t be the last!

If you haven’t subscribed to the Annual 2012 yet, check out more information on this issue on the Annual website.

Here’s a preview for Sunday’s upcoming Annual issue. Herwin Wielink‘s beautiful overland style:
Herwin Wielink overland style

A little peek at the work-in-progress on one example map for the March Annual:

Also, a little sneak peek at the April issue:

While creating an example pdf for the February Annual issue, I accidentally printed it in grayscale. I thought the result has quite a charm of its own:
Black and White Example from the Annual 62

The February issue of the Annual 2012 elaborates on a style introduced in Cosmographer 3: The satellite view overland map. This large-scale, straight overhead style evokes the view a satellite might have on the landscape below. Seamlessly-tiling textures are smoothed together through sheet effects to create the image of an unbroken, natural landscape.

Example of the Annual Satellite style

The source for the textures is taken from public domain images made available by NASA through their Visible Earth website. The texture are carefully crafted from these originals and made into CC3 bitmap fill styles.

While it served as an inspiration, Cosmographer 3 is not required to make full use of this style. See the Annual 2012 site for more information on this style.

Check out this large-scale (A2) example map created in the Annual Overland Satellite style.

The February issue is available for subscribers now!

The final Annual issue for 2011 is here: A combined texture pack for Fractal Terrains 3 and Campaign Cartographer 3. Give your FT world a new look with the textured climate shader or draw climate maps of your regions in CC3.
FT3 World Map with new Climate Textures

Stay tuned for the Cartographer’s Annual 2012!

October 2011: Treasure Maps

We’ve just released the October Annual for subscribers to download: A beautiful map style inspired by classic fiction treasure maps. It allows users to easily create handouts for their game and set their players on the trail of that elusive treasure hoard.

September 2011: Military Operations

Due to after-GenCon demands and vacation times, we didn’t get around to posting about the September Annual when it was released. Here is sneak peek at the military operations type maps that can be created with its included style.

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