TechMinion Mondays: Map Mania

How many authors does it take to map a world?  Too many.  At least, that’s my humble opinion after scouring the internet for tips, tricks, decent sets of GIMP brushes that suit my aesthetic, and finding options that I could settle for, but that didn’t really suit what I needed.  (Alternately, this sentence may read: Raidon is a perfectionist, and he can’t stand oversimplified drawings, but doesn’t want to spend the time to draw an entire freaking planet down to the last rock.)

In short?  Driven to distraction!!

So what’s a writer to do, especially in Fantasy, Science Fiction, and their otherworldly bastard children?  Find the right minions.  The right TechMinions, that is.  Wait, Raidon, what are TechMinions?  Simple, and I must credit Kristen Lamb with the concept in her book Rise of the Machines.  See, writers today are like Cyborgs.  We utilize technology in every aspect of what we do.  Well, that’s the ideal.  I took the concept seriously, even comparing the concept to Iron Man in my review.  To that end, I’d like to introduce my Map Minions, and the system I’ve found that works for them.


Look at this map.  It’s gorgeous!


A map most authors would be proud of, yes?  Well, for me, it’s a good start.  I know the rough topography, and the imagery is beautiful.  This is fantastic if you need just a rough idea of continents and placing.  The only issue I had is hand drawing topography, especially coastline, takes time.  Lots of time.  Hence the smoothness of the coastal edges.  That’s why I pulled up my handy photo editor as the next step.


I’ve never used Photoshop.  I guess I’m just cheap like that.  Everything I learned about GIMP came from YouTube tutorials, and trial and error.  The latter being the equivalent of, “What does this button do?”  Oh, that’s cool!

I’m in the process of turning the map above into a usable political/geographic hybrid, where each layer can be exported individually as its own image.  Here’s the progress currently.

Map Draft Capture

Easy enough to see the difference?  Well, for this coastline, I downloaded an outline map of Europe, the political variety, and used segments of line I liked the look of to create the borders and coastlines.  A long, drawn out, harrowing process, and one I’ve no desire to repeat.  The single river, however, is thanks to my newest minion.  Please welcome…


Fractal Draw Screen Shot

I found this link through a blog last night, thanks Ryan Anderson.

The program itself is ridiculously simple.  The File Menu has four options.  New, Open, Save, and Export as SVG.  All this program does is generate fractal lines or fractal polygons that easily convert to Vector Paths in GIMP.  From there, it’s a simple matter of resize, rotate, and place once the path is painted in, and there’s a gorgeous river, without having to consider every possible variable, twist and turn.  It also helps with continents, thanks to the Polys option.  If you have a rough idea of the continent shape, click and drag til the lines follow that rough shape in your mind.  Beautiful continent layout.  Also a great way to make an island chain or country border.

All that said, if any of you have ideas for a GIMP brush set built for a blended fantasy/modern world, I’d be glad to have a link to it.  What are your favorite ways to map out the world in your head?  Comment below, as I’d love to hear from you.


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