Making maps

Unsurprisingly, as a fan of fantasy, I love world maps. I’ve always wanted maps in books I read, and have seen some beautiful maps in the past.

When I started writing my own fantasy stories, I knew I wanted to make my own maps. I’ve tried a variety of options, such as Inkarnate, Dundjinni, Campaign Cartographer, and countless others. I’ve drawn my own maps my hand, drawn maps in Photoshop, and used a number of fractal generators. But recently, a new idea sprang to mind.

A couple years ago, the ‘macaroni method’ for map making went viral on the internet, but it was just a pasta-fied version of the old D&D drop map, where spilling dice across a piece of paper gives you an idea of the lay of the land. Tracing the spilled dice (or macaroni) defines the shape of the landmass, then you fill it in as desired.

But if your artistic skill is limited, that’s where the line is drawn. Some people opt for color coded fields and hills, but what if you want an illustrated map? I’ll admit, my maps sometimes end up looking like childish scrawls instead of graceful cartography. I seem to be able to draw all the elements individually, but putting them all together presents a challenge, and I tend to get bored long before I’m done drawing in all the clusters of trees and rolling foothills.

Then one day I looked across my desk and saw the box of sticker paper that’s been sitting there since I decided to get myself a Silhouette Cameo 3. As I sat there staring at it, I had the most delightful idea. Why not combine the drop map method with my love of stickers? Why not make myself a map-making kit? Any time I want a map, all I have to do is pull out my sticker box and pop mountains, forests, and castles anywhere I want on the paper. No more need to redraw the symbols over and over again. No more getting bored. And it would involve stickers, and who doesn’t love stickers?

Okay, so it requires me to draw some elements before I get started, but there are other options for those who are less artistically inclined. For one great resource, I ran across Nicu’s clipart collection, which provides scalable vectors of icons for RPG maps. They’re all released for totally free use, and they look great, as you can see:

But even though they’re an awesome starting point, I think I’ll still draw most of my own resources just so they’re my own aesthetic.

I don’t know when I’ll get around to it, but once I start, I’ll make sure to share the sticker creation… and the finished maps, too.

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