How to Make Fantasy Maps

Caitlin Dempsey


If you’re interesting in some techniques used to created fantasy maps, Jessica Khoury, a novelist who has written Origin and the upcoming book, Vitro, has a five part tutorial entitled “Fantasy Mapmaking”.

What Do You Need to Make Fantasy Maps?

Her tutorial series used Adobe’s Photoshop.  If you don’t own a copy of Photoshop, Adobe offers a trial download from its Creative Cloud service.  Khoury also recommends using a graphics tablet such as the Wacom Bamboo Tablet.  Depending on your budget, tablets range from $20 on up to a $200.  Using a mouse to create fantasy maps in Photoshop is not recommended.

How to Make a Fantasy Map

Khoury’s tutorial series takes you through every step of making a fantasy map, starting with the very first step of setting up the blank canvas.  After setting up a preliminary layer for the ocean, Khoury takes you through the process of using a hard brush to free draw a land form.  Noting that all land features interact with each other, Khoury recommends that you study other maps in order to get ideas about land forms so that your map preserves the basic flow of the land.  The tutorial demonstrates the techniques used for creating the basic landform and coastlines.

Example of a fantasy map created using PhotoShop.
Example of a fantasy map created using PhotoShop.

The second part of the tutorial dives deeper into adding detail to the land form such as mountains and rivers.  The site offers a wide range of map brushes you can install in Photoshop to add detail to your fantasy map.  Brushes provide features such as mountains that are used to add topographic detail to the map.

The third part describes how to use brushes in Photoshop to add forests and swamps to the fantasy map.  The fourth part takes a look at adding labels and a map scale to the fantasy map.  The fifth and final segment looks at putting the finishing touches on the fantasy map to add texture to the ocean and the land as well as adding coastal vignettes.

Watch the first part of Khoury’s fantasy mapmaking tutorial below:

For more inspiration, the Science Fiction site, has a guest post from Issac Stewart on “How to Make a Fantasy World Map.”

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About the author
Caitlin Dempsey
Caitlin Dempsey is the editor of Geography Realm and holds a master's degree in Geography from UCLA as well as a Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) from SJSU.

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