I’ll be honest: before creating the map of Ungardia for my series, An Heir comes to Rise, I had never done this! Challenge accepted. And I’m very happy with how it turned out! (If I do say so myself).
So if you’re looking to try create your own fantasy map as a hobby or for your own novel/game I hope some of the tips in this blog could help you! I honestly believe you will be able to create something awesome with these steps no matter your creative ability.
For starters, I used an iPad Pro and Apple Pencil initially but don't think that's at all necessary for this process. A simple sheet of good quality paper and fine liner pen will do just fine! If you do go traditional, just be sure to do all your layout sketches on separate sheets until you have a final you are happy with before getting into the details.
While my original is digital, you'll see me using photos of a version I had printed and started to hand embellish with metallic gold fine liner because I'm a little extra like that.
Method to the madness!
It might not seem like it... but it's there... kind of.
Step 1- Layout
As you'll see from the photos below my concept layout changed quite a few times before I settled on what vision I liked best.
For me, a lot of it changed according to my writing and the overall plan I had for the series. The more plot I wrote or thought ahead for later books, the more destinations got added and names changed!
So my top tip for this stage is to be as messy as you like, change your mind, and change it again! Best to get it all out before you start the detail process and decide you actually wanted 6 kingdoms instead of 4 or for one to lie south instead of north and have bigger lands etc...
Break it up!
Step 2 - Borders
I like to break it up with thick perforated lines for the kingdom borders and thinner ones for tows etc within each kingdom—simple!
Step 3 - bodies of water
Once the borders are set, I lay down where I would want lakes/streams through each kingdom and how they would join to the sea around. I kinda seen this process as similar to the borders as it's another feature that can connect/divide kingdoms and towns.
Start with a shape for the main body of water, add double lined stems from it for wide rivers, and single lines for shallow streams. Lastly- add those water ripples, make it real people.
I'm yelling timber!
Step 4- Woodlands
Save yourself the bother of drawing tonnes of individual tiny trees. Trust me, you'll thank me later. I stared to at first, until I seen a reference from another map that did them in clusters that personally I think looks better anyway!
Make your shape, add vertical lines along the front/side for perspective, finish with some horizontal wavy/jagged lines to give it a shrub effect.
Step 5- mountains/hills
I have to admit, this part is strangely soothing yet tedious at the same time. Drawing tiny mountains is cute and fun. I used three different kind of mountain ranges throughout Ungardia. Again, this has a lot to do with the plot of the novel, so switch it up accordingly!
First draw a small pointed arrow shape, add a wavering vertical line down the centre, finish with short horizontal lines down one side for depth/shadow. (Vary the sizes & clusters!)
I also used hillsides and rocky terrain.
The beauty is in the details!
Step 6- Now everything is down, let's get fancy! Finishing touches is fun, I promise. You might want to include the following:-
Thick continent line followed by a thinner coast line.
Water ripples around the continent for the shores (There are various styles for this).
Castles next to location points.
Kingdom emblems (optional for if you have them).
Shadowing for depth (around the mountain ranges/ hills).
Rocks at shores/harbours
Bridges for passage over wide rivers.
Anddddd that's a map!
I'll include the full time-lapse video down below. You'll find I don't particularly follow the order of the steps above but for explanation purposes I had to make them!
The beauty of an iPad and procreate is being able to watch the madness all back: though it really does expose me as a chaotic planner. But what has come to be one of my favourite quotes:
Let your chaos explode! - Tissaia (The Witcher)
I'd love to hear if you have any of your own tips and details to share- leave a comment!
Follow me on Instagram @ccpenaranda.author for more content and announcements for the release of An Heir comes to Rise! (along with poodle pics, my love for ice coffee & the daily stresses of a writer).
Thanks for visiting my website/blog! Happy mapping :)
Chloe C. Peñaranda