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So I've created a map of a fictional world using the guidelines established in the Creating a Realistic World Series. However, like all creative endeavors, the first few (hundred) maps are not going to look perfect. What are some mistakes that I and other amateur mapmakers and world-builders are likely to commit, specifically when drawing the continents' coastlines?

Here's the map in question in case the question comes off as too abstract:

The map in question

  • Are the islands and seas distributed in a reasonable manner, and are they too irregularly shaped? (I'm asking this since I want to have some sort of a balance between coastline and area.)
  • Are the coastlines themselves too rugged or straight?
  • Are 'reverse peninsulas' like the one in the southernmost yellow country plausible?

NOTE: I'm focusing on creating a world that abides by all natural laws, i.e. a world that could have been Earth if the the plate tectonics played out differently. A world in which magic exists would probably allow one to be more lenient with the physical constraints of our universe.

NOTE #2: Someone in the comments asked which projection I was using. While I did not explicitly design the map using the Mercator projection, I was trying to add some Mercator style distortion around the edges. The scale is 1 mm : 43 km.

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    $\begingroup$ I see Italy and Sicily! $\endgroup$ – Willk Apr 12 '17 at 16:35
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    $\begingroup$ What sort of map projection is this? Where are the poles? What are the lines of longitude and latitude? What's the scale? $\endgroup$ – Schwern Apr 12 '17 at 17:00
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    $\begingroup$ What I find strange is that countries borders are defined but the topography (mountains, valley, even rivers) are not represented. Depending on how advanced is your civilization is could be more natural to do the other way around. Borders are often defined by rivers or mountains in "low-tech" civilizations. "Higher-tech" civilizations make borders more straights (see the European borders and the USA ones). $\endgroup$ – EngelOfChipolata Apr 12 '17 at 17:21
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    $\begingroup$ Compulsory XKCD on the subject. $\endgroup$ – Mrkvička Apr 12 '17 at 18:38
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    $\begingroup$ It looks a bit much like our Earth put through a dream. I see North America, Eurasia, Africa, Antarctica, Greenland… $\endgroup$ – can-ned_food Apr 12 '17 at 23:50
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Edit: it seems there are questions already been asked for creating realistic map - landmass formation

Following the link you'll find a series of linked questions on the same theme. This will greatly help you and other map creators.


That's a good map.

Is the aspect ratio okay? Is the land to water ratio otherwise feasible?

It is okay. However you might want to consider if this is a flattened map or the exact flat-earth map. The land-to-water ratio is entirely up to you, depending on your story. Our earth has approximately 2/3 part of water, you might want to have more or less.

Are the political divisions realistic? Are there too few - or too many - countries?

Entirely up to your setting. You can even have only 2 countries.

Is it okay to have a world without an antarctic continent?

Why not? In our current world it's entirely coincidental the Antarctic ends up in the south pole. That will make your world more unique.

Are the islands and seas distributed in a reasonable manner, and are they too irregularly shaped?

You don't have geological features, like mountains, defined in your map.

World Mountain Ranges

Please research about Continental Drift, and you can add those features realistically. Your continent shorelines already fit into each other, so you just need to add the mountain ranges.

Personally, I think you can improve your map by removing the lower right part of the eastern continent.

Are the coastlines too rugged or straight?

It's fine, except the one unnaturally straight shoreline on the middle part of eastern continent.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for such a detailed answer! In order to make the question more suitable for the site, I had to narrow it down only to coastlines. It's still a great answer though, so +1. $\endgroup$ – Daccache Apr 12 '17 at 20:33
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Different coastlines have different ruggedness. They are not all the same.

So assign different fractal dimensions to different segments as you generate it.

E.g. Great Britain is 1.25 but Ireland is 1.22 and varies a bit around the island. Norway most famously is 1.52.

This should work with the geology if you’re doing that level of detail — different kinds of rocks wear differently.

Others commented on your lack of disclosing your projection. Drawing the coastlines on a plane (even if the overall shape is projected first) will not look right!

As for the sea-sized inlet you asked a about, that could very well be a rift. Expect the surrounding geography to be consistent with this. And the larger point is that particular features don’t occur in isolation, but they interact.

I wonder about the islands near the center of the picture associated with the upper-left mass: the whole thing looks like it’s a breakup of a supercontinent, as with our world. So did these flake off as separate plates or what? If sealevel is high the islands would define the shape of the piece that broke away, with shallow seas covering the middle. Your map doesn’t look like that.

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