A Cave of My Own

I have been really inspired by the work I’ve seen on the Cartography Guild’s website, and I”m starting to look at maps and cartography in a different light.  I was able to go back to some of my inspirational artists (Like Jared Blando) and look at their work in a different way, with a lot more appreciation.

For example, I have learned that doing a Neat Line (the alternating color boarder that helps indicate the map’s scale) is not an easy thing to do, depending on the program one is using.  I played around and figured out how to do one, but I never realized how much time they take.  And a compass rose–those are as unique to each map and indicatory of the flavor of what you’re seeing as a thumbprint, I think.  So much of a map’s artistic style is indicated in the packaging of it,  and all those things are “content” that I hadn’t really paid attention to.

I started to develop a map of my own because I couldn’t not do something with all the inspiration I was getting.  I plopped down to a fun session of map-making last night, and drew a touch sketch of a cave.  As the drawing started to evolve, I still had no idea what might be in there–what kind of  creature would use it and for what purposes.


I started to plow forward trying to create a pretty “packaging” that would at least flesh out the visual aspects of the map.  I added shading, a grid, crosshatching, some textures, a background…  And while I was doing that, I  finally started wondering what this subterranean cave might contain.  And a story started to evolve.  The parchment textures I was applying to each layer informed me that I should make things “watercolor-ey”, and bleed out some of the colors into different areas.  And that was the key to figuring out the story behind the map in my head.


I started to realize that not only did the cave itself have a story, but the map of the cave also had a tale.  That the map probably started out in the hands of its makers to serve a very different function than the purpose the latest holder had when it came into his possession.  I think this map was stolen by a dungeon delver of some kind, and over time it has developed notations over the top of the original markings made by the map’s original makers.

So that meant I needed to make “original” symbology,  and then be prepared to layer over the top of that the scrawled notations of the man who stole it away.  And I realized it could tell a bit of a story, this map.  It’s history could inform how it is used by the current band of adventurers to whom it has ended up.


So there are several things I want to do at this point.  I added a border, but I don’t have a neat line yet (well, what I think is called a “neat line”…  I may be getting terminology mixed up there…). Nor do I have a compass rose yet, or title block.  But I’m wondering if all those things have been added after the fact by the ones who came to posses the map after it was stolen.  I wonder if this map isn’t a couple decades, if not a hundred years old…

Regardless, it’s a start.  It has taken me about 3 hours to develop this so far (I’m relying upon a lot of Photoshop tricks and brushes and layering effects) so it’s moving along at a steady clip.  Still don’t have a name for this yet, but we’ll see what evolves.  I plan on putting in more details, so I think the name of the cave is actually going to come from the man who stole it, and that might have to do with some of the details he remembered and wrote down on the map after he escaped with it.  We’ll see.  🙂


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