C. Create/Define Your Countries/Nations/Empires
Nations are often separated by geography, such as mountain ranges or large lakes. For instance, a mountain range may be full of mines that are rich in precious metals or gemstones. In such a case, two empires might share these mountains, with each nation staking equal claim to them (the southern part of a mountain range may fall within one empire and the northern part in the other). The same might be true for a lake used as drinking water. However, empire lines may be also be arbitrary. It’s up to you.
Start by creating a new layer (arrow 1) and calling it something like Empire Lines (arrow 2).
Select the Brush Tool and choose a pixel size a fair amount wider than the border of your landmass. Now choose any color you want the empire lines to be and draw your first empire line. Afterwards choose a different color. Then draw the next empire line. Continue this process until all of your empires are defined. Here is an example of three empire borders (red, yellow, blue).
Now let’s make the borders look nice. Select the Empire Lines layer, right click, and choose “Blending Options…” Then under “Blending Options: Custom” move the slider on “Opacity” under “General Blending” to around 50% and then the “Opacity” under “Advanced Blending” to 50% as well. This will give the borders more of a glowing see-through look.
D. Create Your Cities/Towns/Villages, Etc.
When creating your cities you can either draw the images yourself (if you have the skill) or you can import images from various clip arts, pngs, bmps, jpegs, or whatever. Just make sure they are not copyrighted. Remember to put major cities near a source of water. Small towns and villages may get their water from underground wells instead of a river or lake. Here I’ve added a few cities to the map.
E. Add Roads Between Cities and Important Places of Travel
In order to get nice dashed lines to make our roads in Photoshop we need to do a few steps first.
1. Start by picking a Square brush shape (preset manager >brushes>square brushes). Reduce the Roundness to get the horizontal dash and also increase the Spacing to see the spacing between dashes.
2. You’ll notice in the preview area that the dashes are not oriented along the direction of the curve. This can be fixed by going into the Shape Dynamics section. Change the Angle Jitter’s Control to Direction. Notice how the preview has changed to align the dashes along the curve.
3. Now when you draw something with your newly created brush, you’ll get dashed lines.
Once you’ve got your brush set up the way you like it, choose a brown color and draw in the important roads that connect your cities.
F. Label Your Continents, Biomes, Empires, Cities, Roads, etc.
Choose names for all the various parts on your map, then create a separate text layer for each individual label. Decide on an appropriate font, then label away. To keep things organized you may want to create groups for your layers (one group for continents, one for empires, one for cities, one for biomes, etc. – see map below).
G. Add Navigation Lines (optional), Compass and Scale.
If you want to create navigation lines (portolan chart) I would suggest checking out this guide. If you want to know more about portolan charts go to Wikipedia and read up on it or you can do a search for “navigation lines” on the Cartographer’s Guild to learn all you might ever want to know.
For your compass and scale you can either create your own or find one you like online by doing a simple search.
H. Fine Tune, Fix Various Problems, and Continue to Add/Build.
From here on you can continue to add things as your world grows. Play with your map and fine-tune it as your cartography skills improve. You may even add a parchment around your map to lend to its authenticity. Hope this guide helps and may you enjoy the process of map-making and bringing your world to life.