Feb 1, 2010

Lavivrus: Terrain for a Fantasy World Map

In the previous installment we looked at a technique to create interesting land masses for your fantasy world map. Now we'll see how we can put terrain textures on our map using Adobe Photoshop and Google Earth.

First I traced the shapes of the terrains on the Outdoor Survival map and filled each shape with a base color, matching closely the colors on the original map. The result came out like this:
One thing a noticed on a vacation to Kauai was how the eastern shore was lush, green, and moist, while the western shore was dry and desert like. This is also true of the continental US. I wonder if other parts of the world have a similar climate configuration?

I chose to use this climate model on Lavivrus, making the eastern shores greener than the western shores.

Now that the shapes of each terrain are defined I would like to add textures to them. I like the illustrative look of the original, but doing a map like that is time intensive. So instead I crack open Google Earth and scan the world for interesting terrain textures. Here is a sample from the Sierra-Nevada mountains I really like:
So I paste this into the mountains layer of our Lavivrus map in Photoshop. Then I scan Google Earth for other textures to get everything we need:
You'd think water would be the easy one, plenty of that on Earth, but I actually had to do an image search on the web to find a nice top down shot of ocean I liked. Google Earth worked great for everything else. For Plains I scroll over to Mongolia and find a nice little chunk of plains to grab. Desert I get from Utah, Swamp from Louisiana, and Forest from the Amazon. I thought a little frozen wasteland at the far north would be nice, what better place for that than Antarctica? Using these as overlays on each of the terrain layers I end up with this:
I softened the edges a bit on the terrain shapes, unfortunately this lost some details like those nice little forest paths, so these textures need some clean up, but it's not a bad start. Note: in describing my process I abbreviated quite a bit, because I do a lot of stamping, tiling, and fiddling with each of the textures to get them to look right. But this is something that just takes time and practice.

Next: generating fantasy names for places on your fantasy world map


  1. The Rocky mountains account for a large part of the dryness of the American southwest. Rain shadow effect.

  2. So, how did you take the image from GoogleEarth and put it into your map?

  3. Very nice! I've done similar with layers and fills/masks for my town maps.

  4. Matthew: do print screen while in Google Earth, then paste in Photoshop (or whatever graphics program you are using).

  5. Just found this post thru Grognardia. Nicely done taking the Outdoor Survival map to the next level!

    Here was my tongue-in-cheek effort some years back, locations based on the group of friends I grew up with playing D&D back in the '70s