An Attempt to Chart the Uncharted, Part 3: Geographic Features, and It Actually Looks Like a Map??

8:00 AM

Hello all!

So I wasn't expecting to pick up my map again once I got to the stage that I last showed you. After all, I had worked well over 10 hours on it, you would think that I would have gotten tired of it.

Well, I must have caught some sort of map-making bug. Or maybe it was the realization that continents don't do me much good. After all, where are the borders? Where are the cities? What about all the cool geographical features?

You see, I didn't realize until too late that there is a whole geographical section in the Roll for Fantasy Map Maker. Had I realized that, and if it didn't require me to re-jigsaw the country in question back on there, and if the scaling had been right...well, there may have been a completely different map to show you.

However, I fell down a completely different rabbit hole.

You see, I couldn't really steal any of the symbols on the mapmaker. For one, that would be rather immoral (there are such things as copyrights, after all), and for another, they wouldn't transfer over very well.

And so I looked for another solution. And where did I go?

Back to YouTube and the GIMP mapping tutorials.

Now, I still didn't quite get all what they were doing with the water or the land and all the layer stuff (still a little over my head) BUT....

I discovered these little tools called "brushes" that can be used for both Photoshop and GIMP. They were like little stamps that you could stick on your picture. All you need to do is download the set, select the ABR file, and stick it in the "brushes" folder, which will be on your hard-drive under users/program files/gimp 2.8. Once you refresh the brushes on GIMP, you should be able to access them.

Anyway, when I saw how the brushes worked, I immediately looked for them. Specifically, ones that were licensed for use in both personal and commercial projects.

(Side note: it's extremely important that you check the licensing requirements for free fonts, free brushes, photographs and other media - especially if you indie-publish. The last thing you need is a copyright lawsuit!)

Anyway, there are quite a few artists that have created "brush packs" of symbols that are commonly used on maps - often called Cartography Brushes. Each set is different, but most include symbols for cities, natural things like mountains and trees, etc.

But I'm telling you now, you don't need to look further than K.M. Alexander's Free Stuff Page, which you can access HERE

Because, he has created not one but NINE brush sets. They are created from real map symbols, most from maps dating from the 1600s and 1700s. They really work well for any kind of fantasy map, and even for historical fiction as well!
And the best part - IT IS FREE. For commercial use as well as personal! And they are amazing! Seriously, the workmanship is really awesome, I'm shocked that he's not selling the things. I mean, the poor broke college graduate part of me was super grateful, but STILL. He'd make a killing if he did, I'm sure.

So I may have gotten a little obsessed, because I picked up six of the nine sets. *hides*

BUT - there is such a variety with all of them that it is really hard not to collect them. I think I spent an hour or so just playing around with the different brushes, especially the sizing of them. I will say, that if you're using GIMP, for goodness sake, use the brushes when you're in the paintbrush mode. I tried it in airbrush mode and it didn't work at all!

Readers: Okay, enough with the brushes, Catherine. We get it! We came to see MAPs?! 

Oh right, yes. Sorry. Moving on!

So the first thing that I did was to open the map up in Paint again and start to work on the rivers. I chose Paint for this step because I had better chance of matching the color, and the pencil in Paint was much easier to control. That and I could pixelate the banks of the river so they had shadows so they looked like real rivers - see, there was reason why I paid attention to these things!

I placed a lot of random river deltas, especially in the area of Jaqaru, so those were interesting to course out. Not all the rivers and lakes are actually in, even at this very moment. This is because regions and cities still haven't been plotted yet, and I really don't need a town in the middle of a future lake. I mean, that's traumatic enough in real life!

Once the main rivers were coursed, it suddenly cemented several different things. For one, Jaqaru is now proven to have a rainforest - and one of the rivers serves as a border to Shaltei. Another river-infested country proved to be Ceberlandon - but that makes sense since there is a lot of water-powered manufacturing there.

I next made the border lines to delineate all of the countries.

Okay the rivers are harder to see than I thought. But I'll walk you guys through where everything is:

On the northern continent, Shaltei is on the far left side. In between the river that stretches the entire continent and the brown line is Jaqaru. On the right side is Maisaka.

On the southern continent, Ceberlandon is made up of the island and the right side up to that brown line. The small country above it is Gwydion. To the immediate left of both is Aistaraina. And to the north is Duventoliel, the country in which our story is based in.
And then Ravndal is on the islands off Duventoliel's coast.

Now, those border lines are really ugly. And it makes much more sense when there is a physical border and not a silly imaginary line, anyway. And so, off to find what kind of physical borders I can come up with....

Shaltei got a very short length, but very tall moutain range. Jaqaru now has a rain forest, which I suppose for a country of 3 or more rivers that would make a whole lot of sense. And then on the border of Maisaka and Jaqaru, is a large desert. The palm trees close to the border of Maisaka are oasis cities that mark out where the actual border is. 

Down in the Southern Continent, there is a large mountain chain that divides Duventoliel and Aistaraina, with a partial mountain chain called the Fihells Sidabras. There is now a dense forest on the edge of Gwydion, which is the legendary Woods of Gwydion. Ceberlandon's peninsula was also densely wooded - Ceberlandon is famous for paper production. 

Ravndal then got it's mountains. Lots of them. 

After all these borders were developed, I erased all the border lines, but couldn't erase the border between Gwydion and Ceberlandon...because the border would have disappeared. 

I wasn't thrilled with the idea of more mountains or desert as a border, and so....another research rabbit hole. Specifically, one connected to the Great Rift Valley in Africa. I mean, what country has a crack in the earth as a border? None. But, wouldn't that be a hard border to come around in terms of land invasion? 

Just saying, there are no map symbol for a canyon. I call that a travesty. 

The last thing that I developed (besides the foothills of the canyon border, whoops!) was where each capital city of all the countries were....except for Gwydion, which I just noticed is missing it's capital?! *facepalm* 

As you can see, Sidabras is in the center of Duventoliel. There is another large city right at the border, which filled in that narrow area between Duventoliel and Aistaraina. Cynsige, the capital of Aistaraina, is somewhat close to the Duventoliel border. None of the other capitals are named yet. 

As for right now, this is the "final" working version of the map. I will definitely add to it as I keep developing the world of Verden, but this works for now. 

What do you guys think? Have you ever attempted map making? What feature do you like about maps? 

Scribbingly yours, 


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  1. These maps look great, Catherine! More applause for your patience and care! *thunderous applause*

  2. MAPS. THEY LOOK SO COOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. GASP! I love the way the little mountains are styled! It looks so cool and professional!

  4. This is pretty cool! I LOVE maps!!! I draw mine by hand, though. I'm not "super artistic" but I am able to sketch out where everything else - enough to help my book, anyway.

  5. These look amazing. :) They remind me a little of J.R.R. Tolkien's maps.

  6. ACK! It's so pretty!!!

    I know I say it a ton. But the fact remains. I am SO IMPRESSED with your worldbuilding skills. :)


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