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Mapping Your Fantasy World February 3, 2009

Posted by pacejmiller in Fantasy, Novel, On Writing.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
A sample fantasy map from Fantasy Mapmaking 101 (I can't do anything this good)

Sample fantasy world map from Fantasy Mapmaking 101 (I certainly can't do anything nearly as good)

Why map your fantasy world?

A common theme for fantasy novels on shelves these days is a map of the fantasy world inside the front cover.  To be honest, as a reader, I don’t usually give them more than a cursory glance.  But as a writer, I find such maps can be quite useful.

A good map of your fantasy world can help you visualise it a lot better when you are writing, especially if your fantasty world is vast or your story includes a lot of moving around from place to place (as mine does).  It can also assist you in defining your world and plot.  Where does a particular character come from?  Where are the battles fought?  What type of terrain do the heroes have to overcome?

It might not be for everyone, but I found creating a map for my fantasy world very fun, and it was satisfying when it was finished.

Ways to create fantasy world maps

There are several ways to create a map of your fantasy world.

By hand

If you believe your drawing skills are up to it, you can always give it a shot by hand.  This website named Fantasy Mapmaking 101 provides a crash course to fantasy cartography.

By hand and computer

People skilled with both hand-drawings and computers can certainly make visually appealing maps.  This website called Peter’s Guide to Map Creation teaches you how to do that (note: the computer part is limited to Photoshop only).

By computer

If you have a drawing program like Photoshop or even something as simple as Microsoft Paint, you can try and draw your map that way.  Personally I found it insanely hard to do from scratch.

By specialist map-drawing programs

My personal recommendation.  With my utterly shithouse artistic ability (that has not improved since the sixth grade), any hand-drawn maps of my fantasy world that I attempted were simply pathetic.  With my slightly better Microsoft Paint skills (I don’t have or know to use Photoshop), my computer-drawn maps were not much better.

Fortunately for me, there are some specialist map-drawing programs out there, thanks largely to RPG game geeks.

The most popular one I know of is called AutoREALM (designed for RPG game maps) – can be downloaded for free here.  It takes a little bit of time getting used to, but the link I provided has some great tutorials to get you on your way.  It has special tools to help you create maps that look just the ones inside book covers or in RPG games.  It’s really easy once you get the hang of it.  If you feel like it, you can even take things a step further with this program and start doing maps of towns or floorplans of buildings.

Once the map is done, you can sit back and enjoy the beauty of it.  Even if you don’t end up using it, it’s still a pretty cool feeling to know you just created a map of your fantasy world.


1. Update on Fantasy World Building « About Writing - The Personal Blog of An Aspiring Writer - February 6, 2009

[…] trackback Just a quick update on my earlier posts about building/creating a fantasy world and how to create a map of that […]

2. ricky - March 3, 2009

hi.. thank’s brother for your info. from free download software utilities end games2 the best ok

3. Anastasios - May 5, 2009

I just created a map (or at least the outline, because everybody knows, ALL fantasy worlds are enormous single continents ;) ) by merging together several real maps in photoshop.
I used Haiti, Venezuela, China and some Indonesian Islands to create the perfect continent for my Neivetian Republic to be seated on.

4. 7zethlen - June 5, 2009

I’m creating this made up world called Zoe Angeles. I’ve gotten alot of stuff goin. first, my story is a blend of fantasy and sci-fi. second, i’ve finished my OUTLINE of my world. in my world, there are elf-like creatures called Lokaizhiians. (Lo*ki*she*ans). They have psychic powers that enable them to control the elements- water, earth/nature, fire, and air. the people of the world are called Zethlens. they spek Zethlen (duh). most of the writing is like this: Azhiikei sadakiiei Moxzh accioulei dasszhiazio vazhuizei mazhecki> yipzha? (Can someone please turn off the light, it’s really bright?) So ya.

-7zethlen P.S. drawing things in your world would help you by making things more elaborate.

pacejmiller - June 6, 2009

Hi, thanks for sharing! Sounds like you’ve got it all figured out.

5. online stock trading guru - January 10, 2010

I usually don’t post on Blogs but ya forced me to, great info.. excellent! … I’ll add a backlink and bookmark your site.

I’m Out! :)

6. Chris - August 22, 2010

Wow, surprised you didn’t mention the Cartographers’ Guild website. They have people who use almost every conceivable bit of software from MS Paint to Photoshop to GIS software and everything in between to create fantasy maps. If you are looking to delve into the world of digital (and even hand drawn) cartography, you need to check out http://www.cartographersguild.com. There are tutorials there as well as a vast community of people who will help you with your maps in pretty much whatever program you have to make them in.

pacejmiller - August 22, 2010

Cool, thanks for the tip!

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