Usually the author happens to have a map on hand
September 14, 2015 9:40 AM   Subscribe

How exactly does one go about making a map of a make-believe place?

Worldbuilding By Map
I know what you’re thinking – those posters of Middle Earth are gorgeous. Of course a map should be beautiful. But for worldbuilding purposes a pretty map is a Very Bad Thing. Beautiful things are precious, and we tend to want to leave precious things pristine and untouched. When we’re building worlds we need to break things, and often. So, out with any thoughts that we’re making a pretty map. We’ll be making a functional map. In fact we’ll be making many maps, one after the other. In exactly the same way that your notes are not the final manuscript, a map isn’t the final world. It’s a visual notepad, and you should be crossing things out, erasing sections and rebuilding from scratch as you go along.
The Cartographers’ Guild is "a forum created by and for map makers and aficionados, a place where every aspect of cartography can be admired, examined, learned, and discussed. Our membership consists of professional designers and artists, hobbyists, and amateurs—all are welcome to join and participate in the quest for cartographic skill and knowledge."

Or go to Worldbuilding School:
Real world maps vs Fantasy Maps: Which makes sense?
22 Great Map Resources and Tutorials
posted by the man of twists and turns (12 comments total) 52 users marked this as a favorite
Two cartography posts in a row, at the top of my Metafilter.

You're killin' me here...

*ignores phone*
posted by humboldt32 at 10:01 AM on September 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

It's mentioned in the comments, but the criticism of Osgiliath is fair, but misleading - that's not Tolkien's map.
posted by Chrysostom at 10:04 AM on September 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

Fine art at art school?

It's pretty common for art schools to have different streams: fine art (or specific disciplines such as drawing, painting and sculpture), illustration, graphic design, industrial design, etc.: see OCAD.
posted by maudlin at 10:16 AM on September 14, 2015 [2 favorites]

DM Cornish's Monster-Blood Tattoo series has an incredible map to go with its fascinating worldbuilding and excellent illustrations.
posted by Rock Steady at 10:21 AM on September 14, 2015

Thumbs up from one of the nerds who had more fun world-building than actually playing D&D and the like.
posted by DigDoug at 10:33 AM on September 14, 2015

Fine art art art school?
Yes, FART School, for short.

A friend of mine has asked me geographical worldbuilding map hints for a project he has. I usually stick with very basic notions (a fault line for mountains, air masses coming from one direction trapping humidity in the mountains (letting the other side drier, etc) because there's a limit to how much one can wave off with "a land forged by magic".

Cities are double fun (I used to love designing cities in RTS games, particularly AoE2) because I had to take into account not only the geography, but also imagine the story of that city and how it expanded so that it looked believable.
posted by lmfsilva at 10:38 AM on September 14, 2015 [2 favorites]

Loving the cartography posts today!
posted by Wretch729 at 12:01 PM on September 14, 2015

And then there's Bioware, and the mysterious rivers of Ferelden.
posted by rewil at 12:27 PM on September 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

Now I want, for my urban fantasy novel, a map of the San Francisco Bay Area, done up like a fantasy map.
posted by happyroach at 1:07 PM on September 14, 2015

Well, there's this, although it's more of a regional map.
posted by Chrysostom at 1:24 PM on September 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

"posted by the man of twists and turns"

posted by salishsea at 4:28 PM on September 14, 2015

There's also r/worldbuilding, and if you want to drag computers into the mapmaking, there's r/proceduralgeneration, which frequently has discussions about using computers to generate fictional maps and terrain, sometimes 2D, sometimes spherical planets.
posted by smcameron at 6:54 PM on September 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

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