The making of a fantasy map

Neat post today at tor.com, by Isaac Stewart, who creates some of those maps we find inside the cover of fantasy novels. This is a post about the map he drew for Brian Staveley’s  The Emperor’s Blades.

I wanted the final map to:

  1. Match the design of the book.
  2. Match the feel of the book.
  3. Feel like an artifact from the world of The Emperor’s Blades.

Ooh, that is a great way to start. I would love Stewart to do maps for my books.

I almost always run into the same problem each time I try to adapt a real-world cartographic style to a map meant for a novel.

Real world maps are huge and detailed.

A map meant to fit in a hardcover book (and subsequently a paperback) can’t be as detailed as a real-world map and still be legible. Even though I treat the map as a product of its fantasy world, it has to be understandable to modern audiences. Usually this means I can’t copy the exact style of my reference, but I can use it for inspiration. I decided to borrow the style of the mountains, rivers, and ocean.

Then we have a discussion about designing the border of the map, then the delineation of the land versus the water, coastline and biomes, and “texture.” National borders and labels go last.

This is a great post, especially if you enjoy maps and also enjoy a detailed look at the creation of visual art. If you have a minute, click through and read the whole thing.

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1 thought on “The making of a fantasy map”

  1. Hello!

    I’ve just started the Tuyo series and I’m totally hooked- I’m not surprised as I’ve loved everything else I’ve read by you (Griffin Mage trilogy, Mountain of Kept Memory and The Winter of I’ve and Iron).

    I was wondering if there’s a map of the Tuyo kingdoms for the first book?

    Thanks for all of your amazing worlds that you’ve created!

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