How to Create a Fantasy Map (Even If You Can’t Draw)

Waddup Savi Crew!

It’s the 1st of June and I feel awesome!!! Once June has arrived it’s only a matter of time before my family are I are decorating the Christmas tree, eating pastelles, drinking sorrel, singing parang and hanging up new curtains in December. Yes, the year literally flies by that fast! Plus, December has two of my favourite days in it: my birthday and Christmas.

But I digress… this month, and last month, I have been working on my YA anime-inspired fantasy novel, Keiji: Bloodlines where I’ve been doing massive world building in preparation for Camp NaNoWriMo in July. I’ve already written the first draft for this past April’s Camp Nano but that was the bare bones version of the story. I’m gonna need to add settings, sensory descriptions—basically the stuff I DIDN’T do in the first draft. Because of this, I have been inspired me to show the Savi crew members out there how to create a fantasy map even if you suck at drawing.

For the record, I am an artist who can draw, paint, sketch, do graphic work, etc. Some of my artwork and posters can be found in my Fun Stuff and Portfolio tabs—please feel free to check it out. With that shameless plug out of the way, onto the content that you came for.

Step 1: Create Map Outline.

Decide on whether you want an island, a peninsula, an archipelago, an inlet, etc. You can either sketch it yourself in a sketchpad or on a computer screen (Adobe InDesign, Canva, Paint, etc.): draw some squiggly lines connected end-to-end; land mass tends to form in a more sporadic manner—almost like someone doodled; trace an existing map from an atlas or print an existing map outline that most looks like your fantasy setting. For my example, I will be using a printed outline of Australia (see below).

1 - Map Outline

Disclaimer: Even though this is an outline of Australia bear in mind this is a fantasy map—i.e. it’s fake. As I fill out the other map requirements, please don’t come for me in the comments saying, “That’s not where the rivers are in Australia!” or “Where is the Sydney Opera House?” I’m just using the outline as a guide people; everything else is made-up. Also, the maps I will be using in my example was done as a quick tutorial for reference purposes whereas my artwork typically takes several hours of dedication before getting it right. Therefore my actual fantasy maps created for my stories will be a hundred times better and way more detailed.

Step 2: Bodies of Water.

This is where you add your rivers, lakes, canals, seas, etc. Rivers begin at a source and end at a mouth and can either be a single stream or multiple interconnected streams. Rivers can flow into ground and become dry or flow into other bodies of water such as another river, lake, canal, sea, etc. Seas typically surround the land—partly or wholly—therefore the space around your map will become your fantasy world seas. For my Australia example, I used Microsoft Paint and added the rivers with the Pencil tool (see below).

2 - Bodies of Water

Step 3: Add Mountains.

This is where you add your mountains which are usually in the form of peaks. For my Australia example, I added the mountains with the Triangle Shape tool (see below).

3 - Mountains

Step 4: Add Forests.

This is where you add your forests which are usually in clusters of trees. For my Australia example, I added the forests with the Cloud Callout tool (see below).

4 - Forests

Step 5: Add Towns or Cities.

This is where you add your towns or cities; towns are medium-sized human settlement which are typically smaller than cities. For my Australia example, I added the towns with the Pentagon tool (see below).

5 - Towns or Cities

Step 6: Create Map Labels.

This is where you add your labels to your fantasy settings. For my Australia example, I added the map labels with the Text tool (see below).

6 - Map Labels

Step 7: Create Map Legend.

This is where you add your legend (or key) to your fantasy map with each symbols and colour used in the map and what they mean. For my Australia example, I added the legend with the Rectangle and Text tools (see below).

7 - Map Legend

Okay so you won’t be seeing a map like this featuring in any prominent high fantasy bestsellers any time soon. But it’s nice to know that a non-artist can still create a fairly decent fantasy map to work with which can later be converted into an epic one à la Lord of the Rings’ Middle Earth. Anyways, I’m rambling again which means it’s time to sign off… Toodles for now.

And remember, no matter where you live, take a little time to enjoy the island life!
Happy Writing!

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Published by siosavi

Author Poodle | Black Girl Boss | Catholic Sprinkle: Big hair... Even BIGGER dreams. Love God, love family, love doggies, love writing, love life...

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