Generating believable fantasy map shapes.
It's probably the most asked question when starting on the journey of fantasy cartography. 'How do I create the land or island shape; Where do I start?'
- Weathered paint or plaster
- Existing landmass shapes.
Weathered Paint or Plaster
Landmasses or islands by their nature are organic in shape. (There are exceptions such as man-made borders, but for now lets concentrate on the general form of the landmass).
Look at the image above, you can see the weathering and aging takes on these same 'organic' characteristics. What once was a unified coating, has broken apart, leaving fractured shapes that look, and are related; much in the same way lands can pull apart due to tectonic and seismic movements. Its quite easy to imagine the dark areas being islands surrounded by the paler ocean. This is my personal go-to if I need quick inspiration.
Try zooming into an area. You'll start to see all kinds of new worlds take shape before you. Look at the image below and you might find it easy to see the dark areas as water, the light as lands and islands, even the cracks taking on the form of rivers cutting and meandering through the land.
Or below. Are these cracks describing fields, or the roads of a coastal city surrounding a large lake?
If you do an online search for Aged plaster wall texture or Old plaster wall texture you'll find plenty to inspire you.
if you like though, you can download and try out a selection of 14 black and white weathered paint and plaster textures that i've set up by clicking here.
Since one has humoured and accompanied me this far, i do feel a reward is duly bequeathed. upon clicking here, thou shalt gain access to a set of PNG files in the shape of many countries (62 in fact), that you can use.
To Sum Up
Don't be afraid to combine the countries with the plaster shapes, or maybe you look elsewhere, clouds, moss and lichen? There's inspiration to be found in a lot of places. I think there's a fun little challenge in here somewhere. Anyway, I hope you found that useful. Don't be afraid to leave a comment with any questions or thoughts you have.
Here are the download links again: