Creating a Fantasy Town Map: Behind the Scenes

Published by audenjohnson on

Funny how inspiration will hit you. I had planned to go hiking on Saturday to take my new telephoto lens out for a test. On Friday, I packed my bag, charged my camera battery and portable charger, printed a trail map and double-checked my path. I should’ve checked the weather first. Cold Spring was looking at an 80% chance of thunderstorms all afternoon. Clearly, Saturday was not the day to go outside.

Disappointed, I sat in front of my computer Saturday morning and started working on The Wailing Town. It’s book 2 of The Other Investigator series. The Unburned Island is Book 1. I’ve been writing this book in pieces but now, it’s time to connect all the sections. I also need to replaced placeholders like (town name) or (hospital name) with actual names.

While describing the setting, I suddenly wanted to draw it out and make a map in Photoshop. The idea came out of nowhere. I enjoy creating fantasy maps but I don’t usually make them for novellas.

I dug out my sketchbook and started drawing.

Fantasy Map Creation

Creating this would be a bit different than making my other maps. I use the method in this video below to make my country and world maps.

But this time, I’m creating was a town map. In The Wailing Town, Kiran and co. are recovering in Shida when things go wrong.

In Shutterstock, I’ve been gathering map icons into a Fantasy Map Collection.  Now, it’s time to break them out.

But first, I need terrain. Even after creating several maps, this is still hard to get right. I usually start by searching “grass green HTML.” But, the green’s usually too dark or too bright. And, if you look at other maps, forest texture is rarely one solid color.

One thing I always do when designing, something I’ve mentions a lot of time, I search for inspiration on Pinterest. Fortunately, I already have a Map Making Board.

With Shutterstock, I get 10 downloads a month. Before I started grabbing images, I searched my folder to see if I had anything that would make a good forest floor.I found this.

I didn’t like it at first. The dark was too dark for me. I experimented with different greens and different textures. I even tried this below image but it didn’t fit with the design.

I got this image for free from Pixabay. But, I ended up trying the green background again. I liked it.Here’s how I left it Sunday morning.

Fantasy Map making in Photoshop

I populated it with map icons like these:

Fantasy Map Icons

Used up more than half of my monthly Shutterstock downloads in just a weekend. But, it renews the beginning of the month.

I worked with the blending. I love the map colors but, for me, it comes off a bit young, like it’s for a younger audience. The Wailing Town is for adults. I darkened the colors a bit. I also experimented in combining the rocky ground and the green background images above.

Here’s the “final” version. I don’t know yet if it’s complete, complete but for right now, I don’t see myself adding anything to it, just tweaking parts of it.

Dark Fantasy Book Map

I might like the brighter map better. I’ll think about it. I did all this in Photoshop.

The darker one does look better in black and white, though.

Fantasy City Map

Shida in the Otraya Crie was a haven for Others. It’s an isolated location made a perfect home for Others well before humans had “accepted” them. Others are magical beings. Even years after the town’s creation, it still sits on ancient and active wards. The protections prevent people from stumbling on the town. Those who aren’t welcome to never reach it, no matter how far they drive.

People interested in visiting or vacationing in this town must stop by an agent in the nearest city. There’s no real screening process. They get a ward placed on them and reserve a spot. The ward is time-based. It disappears when the visit is finished. If the person is still in town when the mark disappears, they will suddenly find themselves outside of town with all their stuff. They won’t be allowed back in. These precautions aren’t meant to keep people out or to be strict. The current landowners want to preserve the original wards as much as possible because they’re historic works of art.

Kiran and two others were injured during The Unburned Island incident. They’re still recovering in Book 2. They chose this place because of the wards.


Rosie Russell · July 3, 2020 at 5:31 pm

Auden, you have great map making skills. I've always wanted to learn this, too.

I'll have to check out your books soon.

Have a great weekend.

Rebecca Lyndsey · July 3, 2020 at 11:10 pm

You have some awesome tech skills! Great job!

Sandra Bennett · July 8, 2020 at 2:05 am

You are amazing Auden, I wouldn't know where to start with something like this. My answer is to hand it over to my son, he's my tech guru. Go you!

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