Designing Maps

How to make beautiful and compelling maps for your games

Designing Maps for Roleplaying Games

Wherein I describe my love for game maps and teach you how to do it for yourself.

I love maps and I love gaming and I love making maps for games. I find the processes of understanding cartography and making my own maps to be mentally soothing. I want to help teach you how to make your own maps, and this series of posts will do that, soup-to-nuts.

A World Map
A World Map
An Island Map
An Island Map
A City Map
A City Map
An Underdark Map
An Underdark Map

This is a set of several blog posts of over 60 thousand words, most of which were published at the same time. I intend to keep updating this series, and will update this post (and the child posts) with new links whenever needed.

I wrote this because when I started seriously making maps for my games, I found a plethora of tutorials in a zillion places, few of which were cohesive and anymore than cursory explorations into the topic. Most assumed a significant amount of pre-knowledge, either in skills (Photoshop) or in general cartographic practices. I wanted there to be a place where new enthusiasts could “one stop shop” for techniques without having to deal with a complicated interface. There wasn’t one, and so I made it.

I have broken my treatise up into several sections, each of which has their own sub-sections and pages. Posts are intended to provide usable information and skill practice but are no means exhaustive on the subject. They are presented in a rough order, but feel free to jump around. Even if you know Photoshop backwards and forwards, I urge you to read even the “beginner” posts because I describe certain techniques useful for cartography.

An Isometric Underground City
An Isometric Underground City
An Isometric Crypt/Museum
An Isometric Crypt/Museum
A Ship Battlemap
A Ship Battlemap
Laboratory Battlemap
Laboratory Battlemap

You can access a full table of contents from the sidebar (which you can make sticky or not). If you find value in this, please drop a little something in the tip jar. I am also available for commissions.

General

This section provides an overview of the various types of maps that are used in fantasy gaming as well as covering several aspects of cartographical best practices and techniques, such as how to label mountains or coastlines.

Photoshop Skills

This section will teach you everything* that you need to know about using Photoshop to create maps. You may want to skip this section and come back to it as you need to learn anything.

* Not actually everything.

Map Making

This section shows you how to apply the photoshop skills you learned in the Photoshop section to the knowledge you gained in the Overview section to make practical and beautiful maps.

Battlemap Techniques

This section includes an ever-expanding library of techniques to use for creating battlemap assets and elements.

Special Thanks

  • Berto Alvaro
  • Gretchen Anderson
  • Cary Bass-DeschĂȘnes
  • Jeremy Bornstein
  • Maynard Demmon
  • Lindsay Duff
  • Tague Griffith
  • Jessica Kleinerman
  • Stacey Merrick
  • Zephir O’Meara
  • Marc-AndrĂ© Pelletier
  • Liam Speden
  • Rafaella Studart
  • Brion Vibber
  • Andrew Wiles

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