edited November 22 in Show and Tell

I'd like to use this software for publications I'm working on and realized I need to learn what I don't know to help make my maps look better. This particular map is for a BareBones game module, so black and white, and fairly simple are what I'm looking for. Curious on how you determine how much detail at a given scale?



  • I think it depends on the function and scale of the map. If this is for GM use, can they see everything they need to see on the map? You can make symbols and text small to cram a lot of things on the map. But, if the map is not a large size, they will have a problem seeing it.

    Since this is for publication, it may be best to look at other modules to get an idea of what amount of detail is added.

    This is not what you asked about, but on the map you uploaded, the river seems a bit off to me. It looks like you have mountains and towns in the river. ALso, the river looks the same color as the land area on the bottom right so I'm not really sure what is going on there. In any case, I think you might need to play around with things to make sure there is good contrast in your map. It is an issue with certain styles, which is why I frequently use the styles that just are black and white.

  • MonsenMonsen 🖼️ 46 images Cartographer Administrator

    The start of most of your rivers look a bit weird. Kind of looks like they simply start in the middle of the valley floor. Maybe get them all up into the the hills/mountains at the edge there, which is where they flow from I presume. The merging of the two flows of the lotus river also looks a bit too right-angle to me.

    Level of detail seems fine to me, but those settlement symbols look like they are a tad too small, they can be difficult to see in the final printed version. They are all named though, which makes this a bit less important since people will also be using that to identify them.

  • LoopysueLoopysue 🖼️ 35 images Cartographer ProFantasy

    While Julian and Monsen are both right, and you are discussing function and scale, there is also an artistic aspect of getting the right Level of Detail (LOD) in a map.

    Even in this day of technology some things are still better if they are judged by eye. Create your map to the correct CC3 scale for the area you are mapping (map units are miles or kilometers in an overland map, and feet or metres in city and dungeon maps), and paste a handful of the symbols you intend to use in that space at the default scale set by CC3 at the creation of the map (not too many - don't go overboard and start the map just yet), then render the mostly empty test map to the final size and examine it at 100% zoom, or print it the size it will be published at if you can at home - no need to get professional prints just yet.

    Judge how much larger or smaller you want everything to be so that you have enough room to show the information you want in the map, and to be able to enjoy the symbols themselves - even though each mountain or tree may end up representing several mountains or trees due to their size relative to the scale of the map.

    I don't recommend using different scales for different types of symbols in the same style unless, as Monsen points out, the settlements are a bit on the small side and not easy to identify. Pick a scale for the whole set and stick to it unless you have a rare exception (such as a world tree). Once you know what the symbol scale should be, set the default symbol scale in the Drawing Presets dialog and save the map.

    Do two more tests like this to see:

    • How thick your lines for coast and river should be, and how much detail you really need to draw in those two things. You would be surprised how messy a really accurate coastline with tens of thousands of nodes can look when printed on a piece of A4. Most maps have grossly simplified coastlines to avoid that mess and look so much better for it.
    • Set the right font and size for your labels. Labels don't need to be huge (unless you are naming a continent, in which case they would probably be quite transparent as well to allow more regular town names to show through those enormous continent labels). But they must be readable without squinting.

    It's worth the time and trouble to run a few quick tests first than to spend hours, days or possibly weeks making a fantastically beautiful map only to realise that it is a meaningless unreadable jumble when rendered to production size.

  • Mind if I ask a question or two? You don't have to answer these... they are just to give you something to think about while working on this map.

    You said this was for a publication.. Gaming Module? Article? Book perhaps? Depending on what it's for... there maybe details that should be included to bring people in.. for example: if it's for a gaming module that module would have random encounters, but there would also be a goal/quest/mission that the module is built around. Is there any hint of that in your map? If it's for a book, the book has a plot, and landmarks of areas that help the plot along. I'm seeing a region... but what is it about that region makes it special? Is there a demon worshipping cult somewhere in the mountains? A sleeping God/Goddess that needs to be awakened? An evil king that needs to be overthrown? A map for a publication should enhance the publication. How does this map enhance your publication?

  • Thank you very much, this helps a lot. I just don't know what I don't know. My mind's eye sees the terrain and valleys to show the flow of rivers, etc. and reading the comments I can see the issues better. Here's what it looks like in color. The map is just a general map showing locations for a game module. Much of the area is forested.

    Ricko Hasche
  • OK. So the very thin blue lines are the river. You are using the lighter green for a different type of terrain. That was not coming through in the B&W to me. Part of the reason has to do with the jaggedness of the light green areas around the river. It makes them look like they are the rivers and not the line.

    I would remove the light green and make it the same color as the dark green. Even in the color, I am not sure what type of terrain that is supposed to me. I would say like a river valley, but you have have it on the hills as well. There is a mountain terrain fill. I would use that to go around the mountains and/or hills.

    I would then have larger rivers and use the fractal command. They are too smooth (why I think the lighter gray areas were the river) I would probably vary their thickness of the rivers with them being thin at the mountains and thicker at the lake.

    The city symbols seem to small. Loopsue is probably right in that you should just use the default size. If that is the default size, then I would make them larger.

    The map is only going to be useful if the GM can see what is on the map. The different types of symbols can be used to show the difference in town size more than having small symbols.

  • Okay, that makes sense. I'm using the Ancient Realms Overland from annual 2015. Perhaps I shouldn't make the whole area forest but break that up more? Or even use a different symbol library. I'll play around with it more. I really appreciate the help from everyone!

  • edited November 22

    you can try fractal style on the rivers, maybe suit better.

    also trace real maps to pratice river curves.

    Monsen did a excelent tutorial on youtube to how to trace check it out:


  • I had no idea the dark green areas are supposed to be trees. I would say having that much tree coverage is probably too much.

    I am going to suggest that Ancient Realms might not be the best style if you are going to print gray scale. If you have the 2015 annual, maybe try the classic fantasy. There is also the Schley inks. Both of those are B&W so you won't have issues. In any case, even if you pick a style and then have it turned gray, I would pick a style that uses symbols for trees rather than terrain. We lose a lot of information when we go from color to gray, so you need to convey it differently. Symbols can be an easy way to do it.

  • LoopysueLoopysue 🖼️ 35 images Cartographer ProFantasy

    Schley Inks is probably going to be the clearest style if you are publishing this as a black and white map in a book.

  • There are many B&W map styles. That is what I use for anything that is going to be printed in a book.

    • B&W Fantasy
    • Classic Fantasy
    • Fantasy Illustrations
    • Landform Maps
    • Paer Lindstrom
    • Treasure Map
    • Woodcut Map does have some color, but it is minimal. It looks fine turned into gray.

    Schley Inks, is a good choice as it has the most symbols available. It is a very clean map style. You have city and overland maps, so you can have similar looking style depending on the level of the map. Paer Lindstrom also does that, plus has a dungeon style.

  • Okay, you said this map is for a game module. That means there is a quest/mission that needs to be completed. Where is this quest going to take the players? In the mountains, are there caves/caverns to explore? What about ancient burial mounds? Is there a tower somewhere the players will have to get into? Any abandoned fortresses? Any dangerous places in the region for the players to run afoul of?

    Again, these are questions you need to ask yourself. Something to remember, and it's a lesson that took me a while to learn: World Maps are basic, with just a few details. Continental maps get more details. Regional maps have more details still, and the local maps tend to have the most. Which map is this? That will tell you about how much detail you need in your map.

  • I believe I was able to fit in a lot of suggestions on this. I kept the symbol size to the default with the exception of the settlements but they are still difficult to distinguish in the final map here aside from the labels. I broke up all that forest area as well.

  • It looks a lot better. I can tell what are trees, rivers, lakes, etc. I agree that you probably need to increase the symbol size for settlements as most seem small.

    Are you applying a gray filter to the map? Its fading some of the symbols out so they look less crisp. If you need to keep the gray look, maybe add an outline (glow) to the symbols to make them crisper.

  • I don't know if I'm using a gray filter or not, where would I even look? I actually took it in photoshop to increase the black point some. I put the image in InDesign for my layout and just add labels there.

  • This version I simply increased the settlement color to more black, which helps them pop more. (in Photoshop)

    LoopysueMonsenRicko HascheMaidhc O Casainpablo gonzalez
  • LoopysueLoopysue 🖼️ 35 images Cartographer ProFantasy

    It looks loads better than the map at the top of the thread :)

  • It is probably the background you are using or something with Photoshop. You have that spotted gray background and I can see that on part of the map. So I am assuming you are allowing that background to bleed through. At least that it was it looks like. That would have to do with the layer settings in Photoshop. I'm used to B&W line art style having a strong contrast with between a bright white background and dark ink symbols. Although the mountain symbols for this style always did come off a bit muted in the black ink.

  • Oh, I see. Yeah, that's set up in InDesign (multiply) that's the layout for the module, however the final rendering from CC3+ wasn't completely black. It was done RGB as a jpg. I'm way more pleased with this version, thank you for your help. I was more deliberate in the choices I made because of it.

  • LoopysueLoopysue 🖼️ 35 images Cartographer ProFantasy
    edited November 23

    Making it darker could be as simple as duplicating that multiplied layer - the layer with the map on it, I mean, to duplicate the map layer and multiply it onto itself.

  • I like the contrast on there now, the jpg image (exported from InDesign) I uploaded I don't believe is showing its true "colors".

    Thank you for all your help.

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