Fantasy map drawing tips

Written by tess reynolds
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Fantasy map drawing tips
A map can give your story more depth and life. (Thumbtack in a map image by Nikolay Okhitin from

Creating a map for your fantasy world presents a considerable challenge whether you are writing a novel, a collection of short stories or just gearing up for a role-playing game. A map can provide a sense of realism, help your readers visualise the path the characters take, and allow you to keep continuity in your story. By using a few tips and tricks, you will soon be on your way to a beautiful map for your original story.

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Sketch an outline of the continents to begin your map. Make your coastline jagged and varied, avoiding straight lines and regular shapes such as circles, triangles, squares and rectangles. Occasionally dipping your coastline inland a great distance will add interest to the map. For help and ideas, refer to a real map or a globe. Always use pencil in these initial drawings; you may need to remove a city or change things around according to the way your story develops.


Create a scale for your map; this will help in plotting out points of interest. You must also decide on the amount of space you need for your story to unfold. If your characters travel on foot for two days from a town to the desert, the journey must be the appropriate distance. Also design a compass rose. Design the legend on a separate sheet of paper and add it in an available area once your map is complete.


Draw plenty of mountains, desert, swamps, forests and other desired terrain. Use textures to show these landscapes; a forest can be shown by drawing treetops with trunks around the edges; rivers generally are a solid line and desert can be shown with sparse grasses and cactus. Rivers should run from mountain lakes out to the sea. Any textures you create should also be part of your legend, making your map more clear to those who view it.


Consider your cities and draw them on the map in the desired locations and terrain. Also include castles, dungeons, port cities, ruins and small towns to give your map a realistic feeling. Insert roads in appropriate places, using a dotted or dashed line instead of a solid one so your readers can tell the difference between rivers and roads. Write in your city names as well; if you have not chosen a name for a certain area, be sure to leave an open space to fill that in later. When designing a town map, consider what the inhabitants of the town will need. If there isn't a nearby river, draw a well. If scholars live here, design a library. Other buildings could include a store, blacksmith, church, inn and tavern.


If you wish, designate the famous homelands of various creatures--elves may have a domain in the forest, for example, or dwarves may live under a large mountain. If there is a famous dragon or other monster, you may want to plot his home as well.

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