My journey with fantasy map-making has been an interesting one. I don’t have a design background. Any covers, maps, videos, basically anything I needed an Adobe product to create, I had to teach myself. Maps are especially difficult because you have to know basic geography, like how rivers flow. Some of my early designs aren’t the best but they got the job done. They’re also wrong. I had to fix a few of them.
Here are a few things I’ve learned over the years.
Your landscape does not have to be “realistic” to our world. It’s fantasy, anything can be realistic. However, for me, I’d like a reason for the change other than, it’s magic. In my current work in progress, most of the world spends a good 90% of its day without sunlight. The amount of research I have to do for that is insane. Because of it, I’ve become kinda obsessed with fluorescent plants.
When I started taking map-making seriously, I studied a lot of actual maps. Read a bunch of articles on how mountains and rivers are formed. Created a Pinterest board for inspiration and tips. I inhaled fantasy map-making tutorials. This video helped me a lot.
Find What Works for you
Map-making, like world-building, requires a lot of work and research. Don’t let your background stop you. I started designing by just trying it out. Had to teach myself Photoshop. But, be honest with your skills and your time. If you can’t do something, be honest about it and find a way around it. I don’t really draw. All those trees and mountains are stamps on Inkarnate. I made the below map entirely out of stock photos.
Check out my guide on building a fictional world. These templates would help you make better a fantasy map of your villages, town, and cities.