Creating A Fantasy Map
No story in set in a fictional world ever feels complete without a map. For Ranger of Kings, I debated how to create a map but ended up publishing the first book in the William of Alamore series without one. Immediately, though, I regretted that. Being able to see the world being described, follow the adventures through new lands, is a huge piece of any story. Perhaps it's something we can blame Tolkien for, eh?
Shortly after publishing Ranger of Kings, I started seeking out artist to create my perfect map. I had an idea in mind for the land. I've been familiar with the world of Alamore since I first met my characters at the age of 12 but now I needed to bring that world to life for new readers. But the artist I could find in my price range didn't have maps that I loved and those that I love...well, as many indie authors will know, that's often not in our price range.
That stated, I will be the first to tell any author - if you expect people to spend money on your book, you best be ready to spend money on your book to make it worth their time! Editing, covers, all of it will cost money but I couldn't quite reason a map costing upwards of $100 into my budget.
So, instead, I set about creating one and that's what I'm here to teach you to do (well, kind of.)
First things first - draw your map on paper. It's always a lot easier to do that. I drew mind out sometime back and had it on my facebook page so my readers could check it out there (sorry for the poor quality, my fine readers, I was learning and an indie author child at that time.) That's your start.
Second? Make sure you have a digital drawing app. I use Sketchbook by Autodesk for a few reasons - the first of which is that it's super easy to figure your way around (imagine early 2000s microsoft paint but on steroids) and secondly, and gloriously, Sketchbook is FREE. But, if you have access to paid art programs such as Illustrator (Which is more intelligent than I can figure my way around) feel free to use those.
Thirdly - Upload a picture of your map to this app. Add it on a new layer (if you don't know what layers are, I seriously recommend a quick Youtube tutorial on how to use a drawing app. It will do you wonders.) Once you've uploaded it to a layer and adjusted to to give your canvas (which should be size 1000 wide, 1600 pixels long) I want you to use the toggle to make that layer slightly transparent so your lines aren't super dark.
Four - create a new blank layer on top of you map layer and begin to trace your map. This can take some time. Make sure you have other fantasy maps as reference. I did three lines to signify the edge of my land, as well as horizontal lines to signify water. This now is artistic preference and research and - let me tell you - TIME CONSUMING. If you don't have the time to learn how to do this, you will struggle to make something that looks good. I've also included my map here so you can use it for comparisons.
Five - hours. Just work on this for hours. Add the detail you want, the features you like, and as you do so, consider adding these on new layers so you can add and subtract without risking other features getting erased as well.
Most of this is going to just be time consuming. People can ask a fair bit for the creation of maps because maps take a long time. That lease you to weigh between if it is worth your time or if you'd rather pay to have someone on a platform such as Fiverr create it for you.
To make things easier, I do recommend using an iPad or, if you're like me and don't have an iPad, you may want to invest in some sort of drawing pad that attaches to your computer. I bought a very small WACOM pad off of facebook marketplace and, though it took some time to learn it, I have been using it to create all sorts of art lately. Not as effective as an iPad perhaps, but it will be a budget friendly way for you to create a magical fantasy world of your own so your readers can plunge further into your story.
Hopefully some of this was useful to you. If you have questions or tips, please feel free to comment so other self published authors can learn how to best create their own maps as well.
As always, thank you for learning with me.
C. J. R. Isely