Designing Maps for Roleplaying Games
I love maps and I love gaming and I love making maps for games. I find the processes of understanding cartography and making my own maps to be mentally soothing. I want to help teach you how to make your own maps, and this series of posts will do that, soup-to-nuts.
This is a set of several blog posts of over 60 thousand words, most of which were published at the same time. I intend to keep updating this series, and will update this post (and the child posts) with new links whenever needed.
I wrote this because when I started seriously making maps for my games, I found a plethora of tutorials in a zillion places, few of which were cohesive and anymore than cursory explorations into the topic. Most assumed a significant amount of pre-knowledge, either in skills (Photoshop) or in general cartographic practices. I wanted there to be a place where new enthusiasts could “one stop shop” for techniques without having to deal with a complicated interface. There wasn’t one, and so I made it.
I have broken my treatise up into several sections, each of which has their own sub-sections and pages. Posts are intended to provide usable information and skill practice but are no means exhaustive on the subject. They are presented in a rough order, but feel free to jump around. Even if you know Photoshop backwards and forwards, I urge you to read even the “beginner” posts because I describe certain techniques useful for cartography.
You can access a full table of contents from the sidebar (which you can make sticky or not). If you find value in this, please drop a little something in the tip jar. I am also available for commissions.
This section provides an overview of the various types of maps that are used in fantasy gaming as well as covering several aspects of cartographical best practices and techniques, such as how to label mountains or coastlines.
- Fantasy Map Types – A broad overview of the various styles of fantasy maps.
- Fantasy Cartography Best Practices – Information about general cartographic practices, such as label positioning and fonts.
- Library of Patterns – A collection of all patterns used through the series.
This section will teach you everything* that you need to know about using Photoshop to create maps. You may want to skip this section and come back to it as you need to learn anything.
- Photoshop Basics – A quick set of basic tips for Photoshop.
- Photoshop Shapes and the Pen – How to use the various shape tools in Photoshop.
- Photoshop Layer Styles and Effects – How to make things look cool.
- Photoshop Blend Modes – How to make things look even cooler.
- Photoshop Typography – Managing type and its shapes.
* Not actually everything.
This section shows you how to apply the photoshop skills you learned in the Photoshop section to the knowledge you gained in the Overview section to make practical and beautiful maps.
- Fantasy Map Design Basics – Tricks and techniques used in the construction of all map types.
- Designing Fantasy Outdoors Maps – How to design large-scale maps of outdoor areas.
- Designing Fantasy City Maps – Building and designing settlements at a medium scale.
- Designing Fantasy Blueprint Maps – How to make classic-style dungeon maps.
- Designing Fantasy Isometric Maps – Quick and easy ways to make beautiful isometric maps.
- Designing Fantasy Battlemaps – Maps intended for use with miniatures.
- Randomly Generating Landmass – A technique for automatically creating realistic shorelines.
- Drawing Mountains – Several ways to draw mountains on maps.
- Drawing Forests – Several ways to draw forests on maps.
- Managing Battlemap Assets – Obtaining and managing assets for your smallest scale maps.
- Printing Maps – Crafting professional looking real, physical objects.
This section includes an ever-expanding library of techniques to use for creating battlemap assets and elements.
- Battlemap Techniques Index – Links to everything.
- Technique: Moss – How to add realistic looking moss to maps. Also works for lichen.
- Technique: Puddles – How to add puddles and create wet surfaces.
- Technique: Stairs – How to build sets of stairs.
- Tree Stumps – How to indicate trees and their stumps.
- Technique: Water – How to make realistic looking water effects.
- Technique: Windows – Buildings without windows are dreary.
- Berto Alvaro
- Gretchen Anderson
- Cary Bass-Deschênes
- Jeremy Bornstein
- Maynard Demmon
- Lindsay Duff
- Tague Griffith
- Jessica Kleinerman
- Stacey Merrick
- Zephir O’Meara
- Marc-André Pelletier
- Liam Speden
- Rafaella Studart
- Brion Vibber
- Andrew Wiles