The Map, A Window into a Fantasy World

By Kathrese McKee | Feature

A map provides a window into a fantasy world, but getting the map ready for publication is a challenge.5X8 Great Gulf book 1 final grayscale 5X8 Mardan's Mark bw map

The Difficulties of Making a Map

  • First of all, there’s the matter of translating what is in the author’s head to paper or the screen.
  • Second, there are sneaky technical details that have to be considered.
  • Third, there’s the choice of which tool will work best, both for the project and the artist.

A Map is Worth the Trouble

I hope my readers agree that it was worth the wait. Here’s the map in its present form, the form it will be in the first edition of Book One, Mardan’s Mark. It was amazingly hard to figure out certain details that I realized were missing from the map in my head.

At first glance it seems complete, but I’m not satisfied. There wasn’t enough room to label everything I wanted to label.

I plan to subdivide the map into two maps — Northern Marst and Southern Marst — and zoom in for greater detail. Unfortunately, that work will have to wait until I get into Book Two, Mardan’s Anointed.

In future books, I may branch out and make the map into a two-page spread. We will have to see.

Technical Details

The CreateSpace version of the book is going to be 6X9, so I made the map 5X8. It fits great, right before the prologue, setting the stage for the story. How does that translate to pixels? Multiply inches by dpi; my 5X8 map became 1500X2400 in Photoshop.

Choosing the Right Tools

I will level with you; Photoshop wasn’t my first choice of tool, but ultimately, it gave me complete control over the look.

Originally, I bought Campaign Cartographer 3. I played around with that for several days. It was easy to use and had some pretty good, out-of-the-box graphics, but I didn’t like the way it looked in black and white.

Then I found this great set of 5 Fantasy Mapmaking Tutorials by Jessica Khoury. She made using Photoshop look easy enough to try.

Thankfully, two years ago, we gave our third daughter a Wacom Bamboo tablet for Christmas; otherwise, this project would have been impossible. If you’re interested, the tablets sell for less than $100 USD.

Photoshop, on the other hand, is NOT cheap, and it has a learning curve that pretty much goes straight up.

But recently, Adobe has begun to offer a subscription service, and I decided to try before I buy. Click the link to learn more about the Creative Cloud. I don’t get any affiliate payments, but I have to say, it’s a great idea whose time has come.

Even with lots of help from Jessica’s tutorials, I spent hours looking for help on basic skills (like how to de-select an object). For pities sake, Adobe! Can we get more cryptic?

Copyright:  / 123RF Stock Photo

Copyright: / 123RF Stock Photo

Other Helpful Photoshop Tutorials

The Photoshop user community is a lovely, sharing bunch of artists.

Thanks to Terry White for his tutorial, How to Get Started with Adobe Photoshop CC – 10 Things Beginners Want to Know How to Do.

I also found autotroph’s tutorial helpful: How to Change (or replace) Color in Photoshop CS6.

And at a critical moment, I found the little tutorial by Better Blog Images: How to remove a white background or make it transparent in photoshop.

Should you hire someone to do your map?

It depends on time, money, and inclination.

To be honest, it would be a better use of my time to hire the mapmaking work out and spend my time writing. But I loved the creative process, and I enjoyed getting acquainted with the software.

The next time around, I will probably step into the time vortex again to do it myself. However, I have a background in learning new software, and I’m not easily intimidated. This process is not for everyone.

Please leave your comments below. Thanks for reading!

About the Author

Texas author, Kathrese McKee, writes epic adventures for young adults and anyone else who enjoys pirates and princesses combined with life’s difficult questions. She is committed to exciting stories, appropriate content, and quality craftsmanship.

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