Tag Archives: Mapping

Better Coastlines with Inkscape

I just came across a very simple method for creating better coastlines in Inkscape: Use the calligraphy tool instead of freehand line drawing.

At first glance, the calligraphy tool seems unsuited to creating coastlines, because it creates an outline and not a line. So I have been using the freehand tool in the past – and it has always been problematic; the coastlines never seem to be “nice” and rugged, and while drawing the color of the line I draw is in a weird shade that I can’t see too well.

Today i was working on some fjords. I created them by drawing the basic coastline, then creating a second shape – the fjord – which I would then subtract from the first path. Let me illustrate with an example:

Better Coastlines: Before (Yes they are just boxes :-)
Better Coastlines: Before (Yes they are just boxes đŸ™‚

This rectangle represents my basic continent. There’s also a colored “ocean” layer underneath, currently invisible to the naked eye.

Okay, it’s a bit boxy. Let’s change that. With the freehand tool, drawing is awkward and difficult to see:

Better Coastlines: Freehand drawing
Better Coastlines: Freehand drawing

With the calligraphy tool, however, you just pick your color and draw away. Set a brush size appropriate to the scale you are working on – for this box I used a 25p brush width. You can immediately see that this is much easier on the eyes, if nothing else:

Better Coastlines. Calligraphy Mess
Better Coastlines. Calligraphy Mess

I tried to draw roughly the same coastline as in the freehand sample. I filled in most of the gaps but did not bother filling all of them in; you will see why in the second. Even so, I ended up with a lot, lot, lot of individual shapes; I created a single shape using the Path -> Union function.

Finally, I subtracted the “fjords” outline from the base continent box using Path -> Difference.

And this is our result:

Better Coastlines: After
Better Coastlines: After

Not only did we get much, much nicer coastlines; the little gaps left by the calligraphy tool created a lot of fairly nice-looking islands.

Of course there is also a disadvantage to doing that; it creates a path with a large number of nodes, so you’ll probably want to optimize this for large maps. Still, I think the results speak for themselves – I will try to create an entire map using this method at some point. And I wonder why I never had this idea before…

River Challenge Map

This is my entry for the Cartographers’ Guild’s “just for fun” competition for March, the River Challenge:

Cartographer's Guild River Challenge Entry

The basic template of the landmass and some pre-defined lakes and rivers was provided by the guild’s community leaders, and there are various rules on the number of rivers the map needs to include.

I honestly did not enter this one to win – the guild counts far better artists than I am amongst its members – but rather I took the opportunity to try out a “fancy mountain” style. As you can see… it still needs some work. đŸ˜‰

Thraeton and Enderra Map WIPs

I spent a lot of my spare time working on maps. Here’s what I have to show for my effort.

First off, Thraeton now has mountain ranges. I experimented a little and came up with the following abstract style, which I like a lot.


Detail view:

Thraeton Detail

I am currently working on climate – wind, ocean currents, climate zones.

In between, I revisited that world which started it all, and which gave the name to this website: Enderra. I began by recreating what geography has already been established over the past 17 years. As you can see, this is not the entire planet just yet – the entire “new world” in the west was never mapped out, so it’ll be added later.


I also experimented with drawing pretty national borders. These are very rough, and I’ll have to redraw them as the map evolved, but as a stylistic experiment I think it was quite a success:

Enderra National Borders

As always, I work in Inkscape.

Outlining and new world map

Lately, Ive been working on the outline for my ArnĂ¢ron writing project. I’m behind schedule with the writing, but after my NaNoWriMo experience I really want to nail down the outline before I write even a single line of actual story. I guess there’s no real hurry anyway. I’m on chapter 7 of 12 for my revised outline, the other 5 chapters are basically still bullet point lists.

In addition, I have been working on Thraeton, which is one of my many worlds, and intimately tied to Terra and ArnĂ¢ron. Specifically, I have been working on its world map. Currently, it looks like so:

Thraeton - Plate Tectonics

One thing noteworthy about this is that I am using Google Earth for visualization. If you ever build a world, give this method a try; the .kml files are well documented and easy to craft.

Thraeton in Google Earth

You can load the current WIP of Thraeton into Google Earth using this .kml file. Enjoy!

Elevation on ArnĂ¢ron

A bit of a follow-up because I was told off-blog that the map is a little hard to read without any explanation… the different shades represent different heights. Here’s the basic idea, not to scale:

ArnĂ¢ron – Elevation

The colors are the same as in the map.

As the oceans weren’t as deep as Earth’s, the continental rise also isn’t as deep. Still, with the greatest depth in the ocean at 1-2km, this still means at least a hundred meters for the continental rise, and that’s quite a slope. Places where this slope is greater will be natural barriers for migrations, caravans, and invading armies; locatations where the slope is not as steep, not as high, or where it has been worn down by erosion or other factors will be natural choke points where the before-mentioned can travel, and so they may be of strategic interest. Something to keep in mind when I draw the map in greater detail – and it shows the importance of thinking about such things: The more you work on something, the more ideas present themselves…

Mapping ArnĂ¢ron – Dying World, Draft 2

Here’s the second draft of the “desert world” map:

ArnĂ¢ron - A Dying World

The features are a little small, but I think you can make them out. This is the previous map, but edited – I remove the climate / terrain types again and added locations of ancient and modern cities, and I placed the global canal network (the black lines).

I am also playing a lot with “shadows” to make the map easier to read, and I think it came out pretty well if I may say so myself.

Mapping ArnĂ¢ron – Dying World, Draft 1

Here’s a first glance at ArnĂ¢ron, the desert planet.

ArnĂ¢ron - A Dying World

Pretty much all of the once world-spanning ocean has dried up. There are small ice caps at both poles. They will vary greatly over the course of the year. In the local winter they will expand towards the equator to cover most of the zones marked Taiga and Tundra.

The surface of the world is mostly covered in rock and sand – much of it is former ocean floor. In locations with water, sparse vegetation and steppes thrive. The former western continent features the only thick vegeatation on the planet, along a wide river that runs off from the vast mountain range that covers the continent.

A vast salt flat is located in the northern hemisphere, between the two continents. This is the most hostile area on the planet – the absolute lack of liquid water and the searing temperatures mean that nothing can survive here.

The map shows ArnĂ¢ron without the influences of man… which will be our next map, coming up sometime this weekend.

Mapping ArnĂ¢ron – Migrations, Draft 1

Now we’re finally getting somewhere. This is a first draft of the migration of the people of ArnĂ¢ron.

ArnĂ¢ron - Human migration

Humans evolved in the region marked by the big black circle on the eastern of the two main continents. From there, they began to spread out in all directions, first to the more fertile climates, then into arid areas as well. The whole process took about fifty thousand years. The islands in the north of the ocean at the center of the map were among the last spots of land that mankind spread to. Very few islands were missed by humans in pre-historic time.

Mapping ArnĂ¢ron – Climate, Draft 1

Alright, here’s the first draft of my climate zones for ArnĂ¢ron. I am not sure if this is entirely realist – consider it a “first guess”. I’ve made this map a little bigger… I hope you can tell what is what – I am having trouble with the colors (I am colorblind – not completely, but enough to give me serious problems when it comes to differentiating colors…)

ArnĂ¢ron - Climate Zones


ArnĂ¢ron - Climate - Legend
ArnĂ¢ron - Climate - Legend

I may revisit this. Either way I am now getting really close to populating the world with what truly matters: People.