To map or not to map – Part 1

To map or not to map - Part 1
This entry is part 1 of 4 in the series Mapping Shade


As a child in the 1970s I used to take great joy in the maps of books that I loved. I remember patiently tracing the Narnian maps, then transferring them to drawing paper and carefully colouring them in. I went on to do this with maps of Middle-earth and Earthsea and then started creating maps for any book I really loved that was without a map.

Now that my upcoming novel Tempting in Shade is forming before my eyes, I find myself struggling to keep track of the locations in relation to each other. There is the slum of Blue Anchor with its dangerous rookery Nine Nuns. Then there is the wealthy suburb of Ironhome where the families make their fortunes from the workshops of neighbouring Ironforge. And my favourite suburb is called Lazy-bottoms. There are a number of other suburbs and then the giant city-in-a-mesa called Shushtar, where wizards look down upon the rest of Shade. And why is it called Shade? Well, my friends, because it resides at the bottom of a great chasm similar to the Grand Canyon

Fact is, I am really confusing myself at times and so I need a map. Cool. So where to start?

Well, back in the 1990s I had the pleasure of administering a geographical information system called InfoCAD. Maybe I could begin with a GIS? I had a look around and while there were some wonderful free GISs out there, none really gave me what I wanted.

Then I had a look for some cool terrain-generators. I had played around with Terragen ( before and really love it. Only problem with that is that I needed a commercial licence to use anything I produced from that. No. I am trying to keep my first book cheap and then use the profits to fund subsequent development.

There were also a number of fantasy map generators. But again none of these suited my purpose.

So I wondered what I could do with my old faithful – Bryce ( To be honest Bryce does seem a little out-dated amidst some of the brilliant packages out there. But it does match one of my key criteria – it is free!

I powered it up and added a terrain and then edited it. The editor is a bit weird. It is a drawing package in black, white and shades of grey. When you paint white, well that indicates a high patch of ground like a mountain-top. When you paint black that is somewhere deep, perhaps a crevasse (or somewhere to put a river or lake). Shades of grey depict the heights in-between.


Strange looking? Yes. Its looks weirder as a 3D wireframe picture.


But you can see the general forms. So what does this look like when we render?


I thought it looked pretty cool but really wanted more height to the left. I wanted the mountains to be massive. So I added a second terrain. Here is the wireframe.


You can see it in red overlapping the grey of the original. Now to render.


Cool! Now normally I would go into GIMP ( and edit it. But my beautiful wife got me the $10 monthly subscription to Photoshop for my birthday. So in Part 2 I will see if I can actually turn this render into a good-looking fantasy world map using Photoshop.

Also, I have not made a video tutorial for this. But if one or two people want me to then I will do so. Just let me know.



Series NavigationTo map or not to map – Part 2 >>