Fantastic Maps and How to Make Them

An instructional, in-depth look into the worlds of fantasy cartography.
By Craig Simpson    Twitter

Welcome back to another look at making your own maps. We looked at islands and how you can form them. This week we will be looking at how to add forestry.

To begin with, I will be showing you different ways to portray your tree symbols for forest areas. This is very important because not only will it depict what is on the island (in a simple form), but it will also give a flavour of the island too. Imagine you were given a map of an island and the trees were symbolised by wilted trees, you can already get an idea of what to expect. From a campaign perspective, it could also indicate what type of monsters might appear here. Although my sketches are currently in black and white, we will eventually move on to colouring your map in different ways. With this in mind, if you now imagine that wilted tree is in an electric blue, now what do you think might be there? If the other forest areas are coloured green, it is a clear sign that there is something occurring in this blue forest. There are so many really simple way you can pour flavour into your map and I am excited to show you each stage of the process.

In the above image I have drawn a simple teardrop styled tree. Starting with a 2H pencil to get the outline, I then went over the sketch with a HB Pencil. Once the outline was completed, I then added some shading with the 2H pencil to give it more flavour and a slight 3D illusion.

[Note: Be sure to add your shading on the same side of each of your trees, this is so it doesn’t confuse those that look at your map.]

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In this second image, I have given you some examples of other styles of forests, using a mix of these symbols will really make each island, state, continent or whatever you choose to use stand out from each other. I have also included a couple of ‘alternative’ symbols to show you how you can really start to experiment with this technique.

The next thing I would like to start showing you is how to implement these into your designs. Firstly, where are you placing your forest? Remember that trees need water (depending on your campaign setting), so it is best to place forests near lakes or remembering to add rivers to give it a bit of realism. This is not a hard and fast rule, however it is worth thinking about these small touches as it will add more realism to your maps. Again, I strongly urge you to go on YouTube and find a documentary on forests, swamps or jungles. The information you can gather is unbelievable and you can do it on your way to work or doing homework.

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In the above image I have circled where I would like to place one forest, a snake-like trail where I want the other and drew accordingly. Once you have circled the area you would like to place your forest, start adding trees into the area, you don’t have to stay within the lines, just in the general area. The more trees you add to the area, the more dense your forest will appear. It is important to think about the size of your forest in regards to the size of your island or continent because you don’t want to consume most of your landmass (maybe you do, it obviously depends on your campaign setting).

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I hope you enjoyed this article. The winner of the previous article was Island D. Thank you to everyone that participated in both polls. There will be another poll this week to pick your style of tree! Next week we will cover mountains, which will hopefully peak your interest.

Until next week, Carpe Geekum my friends,



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