To create a map for my setting, I took the following steps:

  1. Made a sketch of how the (then peninsula) should roughly look like using the Inkarate map editor.

  2. Took a map of the island of Hispaniola, because it had the rough characteristics I wanted: a jagged coastline with many bays, a big massif central and smaller mountain ranges nearby.

  3. Warped and distorted Hispaniola to roughly fit my sketch.
    Note that I dropped the idea of a peninsula here and went with the island.

  4. Retouched the resulting map by using the stamp brush in photoshop to copy a non-distorted texture from the original image to the new map. This resulted in the following:

    retouched version

My idea behind this process is that deforming an existing topography softly, without cutting or adding/removing features, would preserve the relation between the features of the original map, thus making the new rather believable "per default".

The tag was added because I would like to have feedback on wether the retouched map in its current state would pass as an island that came into existance in a natural way.
For the story, the following parts are crucial:

  • The peninsula in the south-east with a hilly landscape (near Urbo Gracia Granda on the sketch)
  • The small island south-east of said peninsula
  • The massif central in the middle
  • The basin south of the massif central

The basin is supposed have previously contained part of the ocean, but got landlocked in the west, so the water dried out over a long period of time, leaving a salty desert. While I am willing to alter the "salty" part here for reality's sake, I would very much like to have a hot rocky or sandy desert there, or other means of making large tracts of land unsuited for larger settlements (mostly nomads there). I am not concerned with climate or vegetation yet.

What changes do I need to make to adhere to the rules of general geography?

  • $\begingroup$ You might wanna be careful that this doesn't get put on hold, some people may think this is kinda irrelevant. I'm not gonna, though, because I feel it's more counter-productive than anything else. $\endgroup$
    – SealBoi
    Commented Apr 13, 2018 at 16:56
  • $\begingroup$ @SealBoi in what way would this be irrelevant (not related to worldbuilding)? I believe the mapmaking tag exists for exactly this reason. Do you mean putting the question on hold would be counter-productive, or the question itself? $\endgroup$
    – Orphevs
    Commented Apr 13, 2018 at 17:09
  • $\begingroup$ I mean putting the question on hold would be counter-productive and probably annoying for you. And personally, I don't believe this is irrelevant at all, it just seems that some people are a little over-the-top when it comes to what's relevant and what's not. Hopefully, though, it won't get put on hold. $\endgroup$
    – SealBoi
    Commented Apr 13, 2018 at 17:11
  • $\begingroup$ The latter question mostly opinion. although it could be summed up with most people do not know howto use photoshop. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Commented Apr 13, 2018 at 17:37
  • $\begingroup$ @John True, might remove that part. It's mostly a technique review question and not my core interest. $\endgroup$
    – Orphevs
    Commented Apr 13, 2018 at 17:38

2 Answers 2


About your map :

I think it looks pretty good so far.

Just be careful when you add rivers. I would recommend to draw the drainage basins (watershed) first. The limit between watersheds lies along topographical ridges.

Then you draw a river and its affluents inside each watershed. Rivers should never cross the limits enter image description here

About the method :

I think it works well for small territories like islands. But if you distord continents like Europe or America, people will find out easily .

By the way, the map of Westeros (Game of Thrones) is mostly based on Ireland (upside-down). It becomes pretty obvious when you remove Dorne and the North.

  • $\begingroup$ Some of the incorrect rivers in the flatlands are due to my shaky use of the stamp brush and the lacking source material. Besides that, do you also refer to the mountains? How would I best approach this in that case? $\endgroup$
    – Orphevs
    Commented Apr 13, 2018 at 17:16
  • $\begingroup$ Mountains look fine to me. I'm not saying that your rivers are wrong, but they are hard to distinguish. So if you want to add more details, you may draw the rivers. What kind of map do you want to make ? Just a satellite view, or a more practical map with roads, cities etc ? $\endgroup$
    – Ghajini
    Commented Apr 13, 2018 at 18:05
  • $\begingroup$ This geographical map will serve as the base for further economical, political, vegetation and climate maps. I'll redraw the whole thing with height lines in illustrator, probably with a follow up Q for the climate. $\endgroup$
    – Orphevs
    Commented Apr 13, 2018 at 19:35
  • $\begingroup$ Is your desert still under the sea level ? If it's the case, it must be an endorheic basin, with a salt lake or a salt pan in its lowest part. Something similar to the Lake Eyre basin in Australia. What happend in the west ? The ground rised ? $\endgroup$
    – Ghajini
    Commented Apr 13, 2018 at 22:48
  • $\begingroup$ Good point. I thought about either elevated ground on the western part (east of the small isle) due to some tectonic activity, or a lower sea level. The latter would have stronger effects on the shape of the overall coastline though, so I think ground elevation it is. What do I have to take into consideration in this case? should there be a small chain of mountains, or the like? $\endgroup$
    – Orphevs
    Commented Apr 13, 2018 at 22:54

Scale is going to be really important, "Island" is not a unit of size.

This map is great for something the size of Hawaii or England and relatively poor for something the size of Africa.

  • $\begingroup$ If you look at the picture in step 3, you'll see a scale there. I will add one to the main pic later. The island's dimension's are approx. 500x600km. $\endgroup$
    – Orphevs
    Commented Apr 13, 2018 at 17:57

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