Rosser Writes

WWB #1: Mapping Ilza Kranneg

On the first day of my 30 days of world-building, I set myself the task of mapping my fantasy setting in only one hour.

It’s day one of my self-imposed 30 days of world-building. I thought I’d start with a regional map of my setting, or at least the most critical part. Believe it or not, I’ve yet to map and reveal the whole region. This oversight is partly because of time, and somewhat because the rough pencilled diagrams I’ve created to date have been enough for my purposes.

So, my goal for the day is to consolidate all my pencilled maps, along with the handful of digital one’s I’ve created, into a new map. I will concentrate my effort on Ilza Kranneg, the setting for my two published books, and will create a classic line art map set on textured parchment.

Oh, and I’m going to limit myself to a single hour!



My tool of choice today is Pixelmator Pro, a raster and vector image app for macOS. Rest assured; however, this style of map can be created with Photoshop, Affinity Photo, or even GIMP - I happen to like Pixelmator.

A quick note about the document size. I’ll create an A2-sized canvas, 594x420 mm or 7016x4962 pixels at 300 DPI. I’ve chosen A2 because it’s easy and cheap to print here in Australia at OfficeWorks (our equivalent of Staples). It’s a good compromise between size and performance. In other words, it will look nice as a poster on my wall, while not taxing my ageing MacBook too much.

So, I’ve set a timer on my phone, and here I go!

First off, I create the document with a white background and import the shape of the island and the scale, which I created as part of my Atlas experiment. Yes, I’ll admit that it will save me a bit of time.

Landform layout on white background
Landform layout on white background

For the first fifteen minutes, I go on to important two parchment textures, one for the background and the other for the landform. I then convert the landform into a shape (vector) and use a clipping mask to colour the land. I then duplicate the land shape several times, expanding and stroking each shape to create the coastline effect I like.

15 minutes in
15 minutes in

I spent the next fifteen minutes pencilling in the major rivers and lakes using a 4px hard black brush. It’s painfully obvious now I’ve bitten off more than I chew and the map will take a lot longer than an hour to complete. So I’ll use the final 30 minutes to pencil out the significant features of the map. I can flesh it out the details in other sessions through the month.

30 minutes in
30 minutes in

I did a lightning job pencilling the elevation. I started with the same hard brush as before and drew in simple ridgelines. The idea is I’ll revisit the map later and take more time drawing them in.

45 minutes in and starting to sweat!
45 minutes in and starting to sweat!

Still, I wondered if I could create something more visually appealing with a quick and dirty layer style. So I duplicated the layer, added some colour and a simple drop shadow and inner shadow to act as shadows and highlights. It’s not perfect by any means, but it will do until I can hand draw in some mountains when I have the time and inclination.

Mountains, slightly styled
Mountains, slightly styled

Similarly, with vegetation, I splashed on some green with a colour wash brush. I can draw in forests later.

Added some vegetation
Added some vegetation

The last fifteen minutes was my chance to experiment. There’s no way I had enough time to label the map, so I played with some text styles see what would work. I also added a simple shape for settlement markers. I only got time to add a single marker, for Kas Mendoc.

I also added a blue colour wash around the coastline, to add a little contrast between the land and the rest of the parchment. Finally, I added a quick and dirty border using nothing more complicated than a coloured shape then sending the blend mode to Colour Burn.

Here’s how it turned out, about 2 minutes before the timer chimed.

The One-Hour Map of Ilza Kranneg
The One-Hour Map of Ilza Kranneg


Concluding thoughts

I bit off more than I could chew in the single hour I allotted myself for today’s world-building exercise. However, I’m rather pleased with how much I was able to do — this isn’t exactly a small map, after all. My progress is undoubtedly a beginning rather than an end, but I feel that I’ve got enough of the features roughed out. This way, I can return to the map with the confidence I don’t have to stare at the screen thinking about what should go where.

I also like the style. Yes, I know I said this was going to be line art, but I was compelled to give a watercolour look by painting in textured washes. I like this style more than the photo-realistic atlas style I attempted a few days ago with Affinity Photo.

Well, that’s one day down, and 29 to go!



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