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Cartography and Fantasy Maps

I started this project with the intention of answering 100+ questions about how my world would take shape. I think the best way to do this is to create a world map. I will map out the world to depict the answers to questions like “How much of the world is ocean?” and “Are there forests etc?”

The problem was that I don’t know anything about making maps so I decided to look at maps from video games and in literature.

I started with the maps in The Witcher 3, since the game is the basis for my pecha kucha and main research on World Building.

These maps are incredibly detailed, just like the world they represent. Not only do they map out the oceans, rivers, forests, mountains and towns etc it also shows smaller details and points of interest like merchants, monster dens and treasures.

I know I don’t necessarily want my maps to be as detailed as this, and I want an element of hand drawn imagery so I have also looked at maps from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit.

Tolkien's Map of Middle Earth


These are the sort of maps I want to create, hand drawn and coloured showing only the most important landmarks in my created world. I want the finished piece to belong in the front of a book where readers can refer to it. I also want it to look as though it would be at home in the world it represents. I want it to be a believable, tangible object, a link between the viewer and the created world.


Thorin's Map from The Hobbit


Since I want the created world to be a believable place I have also looked at cartography of the real world. I am interested in a little of the history of map making, because I think by learning the history of this discipline I can create a thematically appropriate map.


“People have created and used maps to help them define, explain, and navigate their way through the world. Earliest archaeological maps include cave paintings to ancient maps of BabylonGreeceChina, and India. They began as two-dimensional drawings, and for some time at least in Europe, the Earth was thought to be flat. Nowadays maps can be visualized adopted as three-dimensional shapes on globes. Modern maps of the old and new worlds developed through the Age of Discovery. In the 21st century, with the advent of the computing age and information age, maps can now be digitized in numerical form, transmitted and updated easily via satellite GPS and apps like Google maps, and used universally more easily than ever before.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_cartography )


Clay tablet with map of the Babylonian city of Nippur (ca. 1400 BC)


Google Map of Part of Wrexham


I have looked at maps through out history and fantasy maps and I now have a really good idea of what I want my map to look like. I have also spent some time sketching out ideas for how to represent the different types of land on the map.

The images are above are the original sketches I did for he terrain designs, I like the overall look of these but they do need work. When I come to do my final map I will make the lines narrower and the features of the landscape will be coloured.

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©2020 by Emma Ford Illustrator and Concept Artist.