This is the second part in my overland mapping tutorial. If you want to read the first part before continuing you can find it here. As usual this is my view of mapping and you might agree to it all or just parts of it. The important thing to remember is that this is one view of mapping, and not the only one.

Ok back to the map. We have some landmass, islands and seas so what’s next. At this stage I always try to place mountains and hills. If you desire you can try to work out where you would have tectonic plates and from that information decide where to put the mountains. I never do that, I’m more going for the “if it looks good it looks correct” path here.

First of all I often try to use my mountains to divide the landmass into different areas. It is an easy way of making natural borders in the map that you later can use when it is time to decide where to put the borders between different countries.

Secondly I try to make my mountain chains curved. If you make them straight the map will, in my opinion, look a bit stiff, which will give you a less good looking end result. When I say curved I don’t mean that they should look like circles. Curved mountain chains will give more life to the map, it will get more fun to look at.

Also try to break up the mountain chains at some points. It will give you some interesting valleys and passes that can trigger the beholders imagination in a good way. Is there really a more interesting place for a campaign then a mountain valley full of orcs or strange creatures, maybe a deserted watch tower or an old haunted burial ground.

Around the mountains I place some hills to make the transition from mountain to field look more natural. A good idea might also be to put some hills between two mountain areas that are quite close to each other. It will connect them in a nice way.

When you’re done with your mountains it is time to start on the rivers. The basics when it comes to rivers are that they flow from high ground downwards, they don’t split downwards, but they can have more than one starting point. Usually they also try to get to the sea the shortest downhill way. If you try to follow those two rules the rivers will look more naturally.

Another thing to think of is that the straighter the river is the faster the flow of the river will be. Most rivers tend to be straighter and faster in the beginning and closer to the sea they usually will slow down, which means more curves. When I put rivers in my maps I tend to do them quite curvy. It will usually look better, straight rivers just don’t get the right feeling, at least that’s my opinion.

Originally posted on

The upcoming July Annual contains a host of new bitmap artwork, hundreds of new textures and symbols for your starship floorplans. They will be released on Sunday for the Annual subscribers.

But perhaps best of all, they are accompanied by a series of new video tutorials by the master of CC3 videos, Joseph Sweeney. These videos are freely available to anyone, and you can already view them on Joe’s YouTube channel or download them from the July Annual page.

Joseph Sweeney has posted a couple new video tutorials on his YouTube channel. These cover some more advanced techniques like creating your own symbol catalogs from PNG bitmap files and adding new catalog settings to your buttons in CC3.

Creating Symbol Catalogs

Adding New Catalog Settings

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

Up to now we’ve mostly been working inside the city walls, where space is short and buildings necessarily packed

Historic map of Oxford in 1643 showing buildings near city gates

Historic map of Oxford in 1643

closely together.  We’re now going to turn to the area outside the walls.  In this installment, we’re going to turn back to some theory.

First we need to talk about why businesses decide to set up outside the walls of the city.  After all, they are forgoing the protection that walls bring, so there must be some good reasons for it.  It turns out the reasons are pretty simple:

  • Avoiding authority:  This is monetary, avoiding taxes, but also includes regulation, attention of the town watch, even to avoiding the prying eyes of neighbors.  The city’s authority ends with the city walls, and some people find their business flourishes where there is less oversight.
  • Accessing markets:  Gates into the city are notorious choke points for people entering the city.  The gates typically only open at certain times, guards ask questions, and just the physical size of the gate all conspire to leave large numbers of people waiting outside to get in.  And where there are large numbers of people waiting or stranded, there is money to be made selling goods and services to them.
  • Space:  In many cities, space is at a premium.  So businesses that require lots of space such as cattle markets, or that need space from neighbors, such as tanners, will often set up outside the city walls.
Historic map of Bristol in 1582

Historic map of Bristol in 1582

What this leads to is a mini city just outside the city walls, where crowds are most likely to form.  This is where taverns and inns, and potentially more reputable shops can be found as well.

As you move away from the gate, more space opens up and larger markets and establishments have more room.  Typically these spread out along the main roads leading away from the gate.  Over time, some side roads may form if the population of the city continues to grow.

You might guess that citizens of the city are unlikely to approve of markets being established outside their walls.  They will object to being undercut on price, object to the less savory businesses that occur outside the walls, and complain about customers journeying to their city experiencing the underside of the city before coming through the gates.

Over time, as the city outside the gates grows, the city will expand its limits to incorporate land outside the walls.  Then the pressure will grow to expand the walls to encompass the new land.  Once funds can be raised to build the wall, the city will expand and cannibalize the old walls.

Next time we will run through using CC3’s automatic building tool to populate the area outside the walls.



Originally posted on

In this post we will create the outskirts of the city, farmlands and the ruins. First of all you have to decide what parts of the city that will be farmland and what part will be ruins. In this map I wanted to create the feeling that the city is situated in the middle of an old ruined city. The two closest islands to the east and west of the city will consist of farmland. Those areas are close to the city and will be easy to protect as well. On the north part of the western island you can also see that a part of the old city wall has been taken into use again, to protect the city from whatever hides outside.

When I create farmland I always start by putting in all the roads and houses. Usually you will have a cluster of houses just outside the city gates, the further away you get from the gates the more space you will have between houses. I then select the city hedge drawing tools and start to mark out the area where the fields will be. I’m actually using the same technique here as I do when I’m making smaller towns. For a more thorough explanation on how I draw the fields see my Mapping a small town part 4 post over at my mappingworlds blog.

When I’m done with all the fields the map looks like the picture below, so still some ruins to place.

To complete the fields in the map I also export a map from CD3 where all the land is yellow. In this way I can combine them in Photoshop and paint in some yellow fields among the green ones. This will give you a more natural look than if the fields are just green. See my Mapping a small town part 6 post for more info on how to do this. The yellow version of the map looks like the picture below.

You can of course add in all the yellow fields in CD3, but I’ve found that to be a lot more time consuming then doing it by combining the two pictures above in a third party program. This program doesn’t need to be Photoshop, use the program that you feel comfortable with.

The next step would be to add in some ruins in the picture. Here I must say that CD3 didn’t really have any good styles to work with to get the look I wanted, so I had to make something up myself. Creating a completely new style wasn’t something I felt I had the time or knowledge to do, but I think a good ruined city style would be a great style add on in a future Annual. Sure you have some ruins in the program that you can use, but for me a ruined city mainly consists of the foundations of the houses and maybe some larger, more intact, buildings.

So I decided to draw in some random roads and houses using the CD3 B Ruins Grey buildings. They’re not perfect, but they are a good base symbol to continue working from.

When I’ve put in all the roads and larger buildings in the map I’d export it again from CD3. This means that I now have three different versions of the map, which I’m going to put together in Photoshop, the two different ones with yellow and green fields and this one with a green background and ruins in the outskirts of the city.

At this stage I had to work on the ruins a bit in Photoshop to make them look more like ruins. If you put the map with ruins in one layer and put it on top of a layer consisting of the map with green fields. You can start to erase bits and pieces from the top layer, when you do this the layer below will be visible instead of the top one. In this way I erased all the inner parts of the buildings, which left something that looked more like the foundation of a house. I also erased parts of the larger buildings to make them look more like ruins with broken roofs and missing walls.

In the picture above you can see a part of the map where you have the ruins as they look in CD3 on the left side, and how they turned out after some editing in Photoshop on the right side. In my opinion the right side looks more like ruins then the left side. Or at least more like the ruins I wanted in this particular map.

For the second part of  starship design, we’ll be focusing on filling out the living, eating and washing facilities on deck 2. This is the largest deck of the ship and once it’s finished, the rest of it should fall into place with relative ease. The “Big Three” locations all ships need for their crew and passengers are: a place to sleep, a place to eat, and a place to,… clean up, after oneself. To begin, we’ll start with the overall look of deck 2, then move into sleeping, eating and restroom areas.

All Aboard

The one thing I noticed right away about my rough sketch from part 1, was its similarity to a boned fish; while this was unintentional, it illustrates how fluid  designing a starship can be, and because of that,  I decided to change the shape a little.

Deck 2 is the largest and most physically active section of the ship; the focal points on this deck being, the primary ship’s access area and troop living spaces.

I began by selecting the Hull, Sleek Silver mirrored polygon after right clicking on the Draw Hull button, a custom Snap setting of 5 foot, 1 snap square grid was created. Instead of the original, half moon shape, I decided to create a hull that was somewhat triangular in shape,  suggesting forward movement.  The deck was drawn next, by selecting the Deck, Lattice  mirrored polygon. The Snap for it was changed to a custom 5 foot, 5 snap square grid  so there would be a one foot gap between the edge of the hull and the deck. The   Bulkhead, Default 0.5′ was selected for the exterior and interior bulkheads and it followed the same Snap setting as the deck. In the picture to the right, the Deck Sheet has been hidden, as I found it visually easier to place bulkheads and symbols at this scale.

The custom snap settings were created by right- clicking the Grid button in the lower right part CC3s drawing window and selecting New…, then selecting 2d Rectangular and applying the settings needed.

The first render of the carrier was ridiculously over scaled (it was nearly 700 feet/210 meters long), and the drop ship place holders were the size of a small building (they should be closer to a city bus). Once the ship was rescaled to a more manageable size (pictured above, about 300 feet/91 meters long), it was time to decide on a starting point. Since all crew/troop entry happens at the “nose” on deck 2, I decided to start there, and branch off to the troop living spaces; the main corridor needs to accommodate 150+ people coming and going with the ship docked and the width was set  to 10 feet/3 meters.

 You want me to sleep where?

The main corridor and living areas on deck 2  on the working render (above) show a large, dormitory style, bay for troops  to sleep in, and the design of the ship called for marginal crew comfort, since they’d be living on board for weeks or months. This meant a modification was needed. I decided to separate the room with a wall; from a narrative standpoint this also adds to passenger safety: If a portion of the hull is breached the loss of life will be lessened. With the basic room layout complete furniture placement was the next step.

The rooms  numbered 1-4  show the progression of furniture placement:

Room 1 (left). This room had 7 single bunks, each with a gear locker, and 2 small chairs along the wall with a large table for a common area. This was a messy, cramped effort with little efficiency and a poor design.

Room 2 (left). 8 single bunks were placed toe to toe and the large table and two chairs were removed, in their place, 2 desks (for writing home) were added and the lockers were set along one wall. Less cramped, but room to improve.

The first two rooms also had the door exiting to the main hall; during an emergency or troop deployments, the hall would fill  quickly and confusion would run rampant. The doors for rooms 3 and 4 were moved to the side hall that accesses the drop ship dock area.

Room 3 (right).  The single bunks were moved to the outer walls, the lockers split the room and one table and chair for writing home was removed. Getting closer, but still a lot of wasted space.

Room 4 (right). Moved the single bunks to one end  of the room and the lockers to the other. A couch for lounging and 8 small chairs for dressing were added.  Better yet, the chairs suggest a wall that separates the sleeping/dressing areas. I also placed Deck, Plastic Irreg  for a little visual distinction.

The final room design was broken up into three spaces (below).  The sleeping area is separated from the common and dressing area by a wall (inspired by the chairs from room 4) . The single bunks were replaced with double bunks, increasing the occupant count from 8 to 12,  and scaled down to 95% of their original size.  While this room layout is cramped, it is a military ship after all, I feel that it is much improved from the poorly designed first layout. Once I was satisfied with the room layout I simply used the Mirrored Copies command (accessed by right clicking the Copy button) to quickly duplicate the rooms (Mirrored Copies is a great solution if you have symmetrical ships or buildings with rooms that need to be duplicated across a central point).

Using the method described above: creating a room, placing symbols and rearranging them for best use of space I then created:

The dining hall, details include (clockwise from tables and chairs) seating for 129 people, steam tables for serving food, a dishwasher, sinks, stove tops and ovens, a walk-in refrigerator and an elevator to travel to the storage area on deck 4 and the crew mess on deck 1.

Shower and toilet facilities for officers and enlisted personnel. The enlisted shower facility details include (clockwise from upper left) 8 showers, sinks and toilets, lockers and benches (created by stretching the rectangular table) The smaller officer’s bathroom and lounge were combined to conserve space. Drawing bathrooms is about as much fun as cleaning them for me, there’s no way to make showers and toilets interesting!



With the “big three” completed for deck 2 (pictured below), Deck, Plastic Irreg was added for all sleeping/common areas, by right clicking the Deck Plan button, to create visual interest and  to assist viewers with identifying different areas easily. Next time, we’ll be completing the remainder of deck 2′s amenities, including enlisted lounges, armory and firing range, officer quarters and ships operating systems, creating deck1, reviewing how to mirror copies, and the creative mixing of Cosmographer 3s symbols.

First buildings added along road

First buildings with effects on

Ok, we’re going to spend time today filling in a block section with houses.  We’re going to be using the House command from CD3 extensively, so you should be an expert in it once we’re done.

The house command is in the House toolupper left corner of your toolbar and looks like a roof seen from  the top – a screen shot is to the right (you can see the “House” tooltip as well):






We won’t spend a lot of time going through the different options, but I recommend that you review two sections of the online help (Help>Search):

  • House Shapes:  Good information about what each shaped house is, and the order CC3 expects corner points to be placed.  Generally you will place two points that define the long axis of the roof, but the interpretation of the third point varies from shape to shape.
  • Roof Types:  Gables and styles of roofs.

Scrolls through the House settings part of the dialog to look at available styles.  I recommend that once you have found a style you like, place one or two buildings and scroll out until the map is roughly the size that you will use.  Some of the house styles have wonderful detail that looks great in-close, but which compresses to a black blob when you scroll out a long way.

I’m using the CD3 B Fantasy varicolor symbols.  The roof lines look great at medium resolution, and I plan to not show the individual buildings when I am using a city-wide map.  Varicolor means that the building will pick up the currently selected color – this gives you flexibility to change colors periodically to add some needed variation to the buildings.

Start with rectangular buildings – they are most common in real houses, and easiest to place.

City block in progress, almost done

City block almost completely filled in

I like moving along a major road, placing one building after another.  Here are some tips:

  • For a medieval city, don’t worry too much about getting each building front exactly lined up with the buildings next to it – there will be variations in real life.  But do use the “Parallel To (F11)” and “Perpendicular to (F12)” snaps (Tools>Snaps) to ensure that buildings square to the road or to each other.
  • The roof line will run parallel to the first side you draw – so for most buildings you will want to put your first point at the street and the second point well back from the street so that the line is perpendicular to the street (the F12 snap is made for this – put your first point, press F12 and select the edge of the street, now your next point is constrained so the wall must be perpendicular to that street).
  • If you are using varicolor symbols, set the color slightly darker than your landmark buildings and change the color a little from time to time.  It will give your city a subtle but more realistic look.
  • Use a small number of building types and roof types – it will make the city look more cohesive.
  • Every building will need access to the road.  Better establishments should have two ways to get to the road (e.g. a front door for visitors and a back door for trash and other things).  Access can be circuitous, through an alley, but a building can’t be used if no one can get to it.  But don’t worry too much if you block access to an occasional building.  You have several ways to explain it:
    • The building is no longer used.
    • The building has been annexed (one of the adjoining buildings is connected through to it) or is associated with one of the nearby buildings and is accessed through it.
    • There is a passageway – a covered street or entryway leads to the blocked building, the passage is just not visible on the map because it is under the other building’s roof.
    • Block with buildings filled in
                                                Block with buildings filled in, some details and effects on

      Work a little way down the street, then put a gap in the buildings.  This will be aplace for an alley.  Start putting buildings away from the street to continue defining that alley.

    • If you followed the approach of roughing out each block, eventually you will find a situation where you have an irregular space.  This is the perfect place for a V-shaped, Skewed rectangle (called a four-sided building in the dialog), or a many-sided building.   These buildings are infrequent in a real city, so see if you can find a way to fill the space with one or more rectangular buildings. But if not, enjoy placing these unique buildings.
    • Do put in occasional squares and open spaces, whether they have trees in them or not.  Even if these are in back alleys, they will visually break up the city sections.
    • Save often.  I like to use “Save As” with a file name that ends with a number – each time I save I add one to the trailing number.  That way if something goes wrong (artistically or technically), I have something to return to.  Save often enough that you could endure losing work, e.g. if you can endure losing your last 15 minutes of work, you can back up every 15 minutes.

Next time we will fill in a few more details in this section and talk about rendering effects – they turn the most mundane map into something wonderful.  Then for a break we will turn to mapping some sections outside the city wall, where the CD3 automatic tools really can shine.

The Continent of Israh Map
This beautiful world has been created in Fractal Terrains and Wilbur and then been tranformed into a true map artifact in Photoshop by Brian Stoll.

Not only has he painstakingly crafted this amazing work, but he also provides an extensive step-by-step explanation how he used Fractal Terrains to make the world as detailed and realistic as possible.

Israh Globe

Read up here, how he created the basic world, added rivers and erosion, exported world and regional maps and finally added different styles in Photoshop.

And check out the new release of Fractal Terrains 3 here.

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