So, you want to make a Worlda (Tutorial)

But in all seriousness, I've seen a lot of people on the board trying to figure out how the hell the Worlda maps on this board are made. I remember when I first joined the board, there was a bit of a learning curve because for your average new member it can sometimes be hard to find all the resources. Well, today's your lucky day, because I'm going to teach you a learning.

1.) Thou Shalt Always Use Single-pixel lines.
This is one of the biggest things I see on this forum among new members. For example, look at this Australia:

The thick black border is jarring, isn't it? It has to do with the fact that since the border is a few pixels thick, it looks fragmented and strange, like it doesn't mesh with the rest of the map. Compare it with this:

It's a lot less jarring, right? To do this, I just use the pencil button on my paint app, and then make sure the pixels are all smoothed out.

2.) Thou Shalt Use A Coherent Color Scheme.

The following image might be considered graphic by some users:

There's a lot wrong with this picture, but first, I want you to take this picture, and compare it to this one:


The latter picture looks a lot more professional and a lot less like a dollar store map reject, no? That's because, among other things, it is both based off of national colors (thus German Grey, French blue, etc) and uses far more pastel/cooler colors than the preceding map. I will give a caveat here. If you are going for a deliberately alien vibe, say a truly ancient POD leads to a wildly different world, you can use more striking or different colors, just make sure that they don't clash in ugly ways (and really you shouldn't color a nation piss-yellow anyway). My advice is to find a good color scheme, such as SUCK or TACOS (both found farther down on the Map Forum), but feel free to use whatever.

3.) Thou Shalt Use A Good Basemap
Here's another biggie. A lot of new people don't know where to find our Worlda's and so go with an older map or a Wikipedia map, and inevitably get frustrated at how little accuracy those basemaps have. A whole bunch of really cool people have worked together to make a database of reliable, good quality Worlda maps that can be found here.

4.) Thou Shalt Not Overuse Internal Divisions
I'm not gonna provide a map example for this one because it's super late where I'm writing this, but I see a lot (especially in election TL's and maps) that there is this overemphasis on internal divisions. This can have a lot of divisions. Unless its absolutely decisive, most people would rather know "Yorkshire voted for XYZ" rather than "Tim, who lives on 34th street in West Slough voted for XYZ while the rest of his neighbors voted for ZYX so he deserves his own place." However, this doesn't mean don't add any internal divisions at all. Add enough that a nation seems like it has depth, but not too much that it becomes cloudy. I didn't add a map here because ultimately how much is too much is a decision you are going to have to make.

5.) Thou Shalt Have At Least Some Idea For An Original Post

This one is more of a pet peeve than an actual hard-and-fast rule, but before you start out on making a map, you should at least have a good understanding of when your POD is (if any[1]) and what the world is like at the time of you making the map. This will allow you to dodge a lot of things. For one, it means that your world won't end having random butterfly failures ("So, my pod is in 1423" "then why does half of Africa have modern borders" "uuuh") and will allow you to smooth out your narrative. This is important because ultimately, the process of cartography is art. Thus, like most art, you're going to need to have a story behind it. I'll come back to this in a few points, but first, I want to touch on something. I'm going to be a bit controversial here, but honestly, I'd say think for a second before starting a map that has a POD in either WWII, WWI, or the American Civil War. These three events have had the absolute most coverage in media (ESPECIALLY WWII) and so finding original ideas for these is hard. My advice is take an idea, compare it to other works that are set with a divergence in the same time period (A good one for WWI is here, WWII are here here and here, and the American Civil War is here) and think "What does my map add that these works have not already done?" If you can't think of something, that does not necessarily mean that you should give up on the idea. For example, if you're doing "what if the Axis won WWII," you're gonna find a lot of ground has already been covered. However, if you throw in a twist, like "what if the Axis won WWII after an Italian invasion of America," you now have a completely novel idea. This brings me to my next point:

6.) Thou Shalt Not Worry Too Much About ASB's Unless Thou Art Making An Explicitly Realistic Scenario

This all goes back to the "cartography is art" thing I made a little while ago. A lot of people seem to worry that their idea is crap because it's not exactly realistic. However, I think this is kind of because the meaning of "ASB" has been kinda meddled with. At least in my opinion, ASB's are only a problem if they are made with an explicitly nationalist tune or if they harm the narrative. Take the difference between the following:

>"Italy, using the latest in Submarine Warfare which it had been working on OTL, launches a surprise invasion of North America. It quickly brings much of America under it's grip, and capitulates America upon taking Washington DC. Italy then divides America into a series of Italian client states, which are of wavering loyalty, alongside having massive rebel problems. This paradoxically means that Italy both has to constantly ask for German assistance in America to put down rebels, and yet it's control of America is what makes Italy a global superpower." *Well done map.*

>"Italy launches a huge invasion of America, using tons of tanks and planes. It slaughters all the lesser peoples in it's path until it reaches Washington DC, where it kills everyone and makes America it's client. It also conquers all of Africa and tons more land. Italy is now the 1# nation on earth, and nobody could ever dream of defeating it!" *Lower quality map.*

You can easily see the difference. The first one, while definitely not realistic, is going to still get you a lot of support from the community because of how novel the idea is, and yet still makes an effort to account for the problems an empire that had just conquered America would have. The second one just seems harsh, and poorly researched too, and the emphasis on "killing all the other peoplez" might get you sent off to Coventry. Thus, when you use ASB's, give them a reason to be used besides "I want to make this country THE BIG COUNTRY."

7.) Thou Shalt Have a Compelling Narrative

There's a reason why I am writing about this one so low in the list. The question of "can a map still be as compelling with a write up (a long, written post describing how the world came to be and giving a general overview of the world) as without one?" is one of the more controversial issues on the forum. However, ultimately, I have good reason to believe that a good write up is 50% of a good post on the Map Thread. Just check through my posts, and compare the posts made with a lengthy write up with the posts that I didn't add one on, and you'll see that the posts I added one on are significantly more popular. This is because Cartography is Art, and Art is about Stories. If you don't have a good story, it's going to take something away from the map.

8.) Thou Shalt Practice

This is the MOST IMPORTANT one. As long as you practice, you will get better. That's the cool thing about practice. Ask any member on this site and they'll tell you that their first maps were awful. I know my first maps were. However, as long as you practice, eventually everything will become second nature.