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Resources : Tips On Making Good Maps
A useful manual for beginning or aspiring map-makers.
First off, if you want to make good maps, you must really take the time to do it. The first ideas you have of nations, federations, wars, etc. for your scenario usually aren't sufficient. For maps, there are major things to remember:
- A map must already be fully conceived in your mind by at least half. You can certainly modify things if you have some good ideas, but when you start your map it is helpful to have the general aspects in mind.
- Be inspired by other map-makers, and by actual historical or olds maps (XIX, XX, etc.).
Use the right materials
- MS Paint is simple, but you can make great maps as well as sober ones. Take a look at other MS Paint maps and try to be a little creative. Don’t worry about “copying” from others. All map makers (every creator, even) have been more or less strongly influenced by others.
- MS Paint is a good start, but if you don’t advance on it, I suggest you use InkScape and download Wikipedia maps in .svg. Cannibalizing existing maps can be an easy way to learn how to make your own ones.
- Advanced users can also use Photoshop and other related programs. These usually take a lot longer, but have the potential to make maps look truly amazing.
A map must be aesthetically correct and appealing
- Colour: you should preferably make use of traditional colour schemes such as the Universal Colour Scheme for a specific country. If you want to invent or use your own ones, consider how they would look on a map to the random viewer and choose accordingly. Needlessly bright or dark colours, as well as downright ugly ones are to be avoided.
- No glitches: just be careful and don't accidentally leave any blank regions, between rivers or on islands and peninsulas for example. Become a cleaning-maniac: Not one incorrect pixel must be left remaining. NOT ONE.
- Pay attention to artificial borders. Try to limit the use of seemingly random borders and study the geographical and socio-political situation some more. Use geographical features like rivers and mountains, ethnic boundaries, and historical ones in order to make good borders.
- Be precise, a correct map is a map you can find in a history book.
A map must be clear and straightforward
- Explain the situation: What makes your map AH or FH and not a random one? To do that, you have to explain this with a more or less short piece of text before introducing the map.
- You could alternatively also use a legend in your map. Take for example a map of Europe in 1945 after World War II, which shows and explains exactly who controls what, where the tensions are, who is allied to who, etc.
- Remember to provide the dates in your explanation or with the map's legend. For ancient or mediaeval times just the year(s) will certainly suffice, but for the modern era more precise dates would be advised.
- A map without a legend must be as clear and easy to understand as possible.
- Name the countries on the map, if possible.