As my presence on here may imply, I am creating a story, and am currently working on the worldbuilding side of operations. One of the things I am trying to do is get a good map going, as my brain is very spatially-oriented. The story takes place during the late Cretaceous, so I already have a map I am running with (or at least, one that seems accurate enough and anything missing its mark I can chalk up to artistic license).

I have 2 projections of this map that I have found on the internet: your standard rectangular projection, and one that, from my somewhat limited attempts at research, appears to be a McBryde projection. Using the program G.Projector created by NASA, I punched in some numbers that felt right (very scientific I know) and I have what looks like a spiffing globe.

I am aware that I can use these two projections I have already, but each has its drawbacks: Rectangular - this is the one you hear get a lot of flak for not being scaled properly. Spoiler alert, this is totally justified. Dinosaur Antarctica looks like a massive wall on the southern edge of the planet. However, this is a very neat and clean format, it gets the job done... mostly. McBryde - as with many projections, the equator suffers the least. As for everything else, it's squished to oblivion and you feel like it's trying to play the part of both a globe and a map, but lacking the reorientability of a three-dimensional object, or the usefulness, or the navigability of a map in the more streme regions of the north and south.

My query to you, good people of the Interwebs and fellow Tolkien wannabes, then, is of the innumerable projection possibilities given to me by the good folks of NASA via their troglodyte-friendly G.Projector software (although I don't really know what half the buttons do yet), which ones have you found to be most effective at visualizing the space (heh) of your world? It is not required, but a rundown of the distortions, pros, cons, other uses, etc would be greatly appreciated as well.

Thanks, and sallamaka al-lahu wa-nasaraka

Note: it does not have to be confined to G.Projector's (freaking massive but maybe not complete I'm not sure) library of projection varieties. I have proficiency in Blender, and if push comes to bulldoze I can whip up some UVs on a sphere and be jacked up and good to go should the need arise.

  • $\begingroup$ What role will the map play in your fiction? Is this for players to orient themselves in a RPG? Does it appear in the front of your book for readers, like Tolkien's Middle Earth? Is the map an artifact owned or created by one of your characters and appears as such in the text? $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Jun 30, 2019 at 1:28
  • $\begingroup$ @Willk It is meant to be used for whatever purpose I may need it, but for the time being it is supposed to be simply a way for me to visually see the sprawl of my world so characters don't travel half the planet in a day, or so a small island doesn't have 7 cities, as examples. $\endgroup$ Jun 30, 2019 at 1:49

1 Answer 1


The three big trade offs in any projection are fidelity of shape, fidelity of area, and keeping directions lined up on a grid. The last of these is useful for navigation, and is why the Mercator projection was used for centuries, but probably the least useful for accurately visualizing the world, so we can throw out that concern first.

From your comment about travel and city placement, it sounds like fidelity of area is very important: you want to avoid, for instance, the kind of projection that makes Greenland look as big as Africa. Most map projections aim to do this in one of two ways: you can either keep the map rectangular and “stretch” out the tropics while you “scrunch” the polar regions, ala Gall-Peters or Hobo-Dyer, or you can round the corners of you map and deal with distorted shapes (but not areas) at the poles like Robinson or McBryde. Robinson is IMO one of the more aesthetically pleasing projections, but it still has the sprawling Antarctica problem, so let’s gid further.

Another trick is to ditch the rectangular shape altogether and project the globe onto something resembling an orange peel (Goode Homolosyne), a butterfly (Waterman), or a disassembled d20 (Dymaxion). Not sure if your program can do these, but they’re all good at representing both the size and shape of the continents, with the trade off being that there is absolutely no fidelity of the oceans. If you are primarily concerned with land settlements, this may be okay for you, but on such a projection it can be easy to forget, say, how close South America is to Africa, and miss an important navigational route.

The best solution is honestly probably a combination of projections that check different boxes and switch between them to stimulate your ideas. Browse Wikipedia’s list of projections (or the classic XKCD comic on the subject) and decide which projections of the present earth would be most useful to you, then try applying those to your map.

  • $\begingroup$ Well, specifically, there are four types of distortion: that in area/relative size, that in direction, that in shape, and that in distance. $\endgroup$
    – Cloudy7
    Oct 8, 2019 at 15:10

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