Cartography Tutorials

The Cartographer’s Guild is a wonderful resource for people who want to learn to create maps. There are some remarkably talented artists there, and they’re almost always willing to help out — critique your work, suggest new approaches, and even prepare and provide tutorials illustrating how to execute various techniques and mapping styles.

If you want to practice and learn fictional map rendering skills, register at the Cartographer’s Guild.

I’ve been meaning to mine their tutorials section for a while now, to build up my own offline collection. I decided to post links to the tutorials I like here as well.

Regional Maps

These tutorials often cover topics such as composition and techniques for several kinds of land features (mountains, forests, rivers, etc.). Other tutorials (such as my own on mountains) focus on single land features and the like.

RobA’s Artistic Regional Map in Gimp Tutorial – Revised Presentation

RobA originally wrote a tutorial “Using GIMP to Create an Artistic Regional Map” several years ago, last year wisemoon revised RobA’s tutorial for clarity and in a more prescriptive manner

Ascension’s Atlas Style

Ascension‘s atlas style looks very good indeed, and about four years ago he provided a tutorial outlining his atlas style in Photoshop. A translation was provided for GIMP users about a year ago (I think by Gidde but I’m not sure).

Map Features

These tutorials describe how individual map features (mountains, forests, etc.) can be rendered.


Arsheesh presented a tutorial on creating map borders in GIMP. I don’t often use borders on my maps, but they do add a good finishing touch.


Arsheesh presented (and has since updated) a tutorial on Photo-realistic Trees in GIMP.

DonDozone also takes a poke at creating realistic forests for regional maps in Photoshop. There is no ‘tutorial document’, the tutorial exists only in the thread itself, but it looks pretty easy to apply.

Gidde shows us another way to render textured forests in GIMP.


kjdavies (yes, me) wrote yet another mountain tutorial using GIMP. It’s due for an update, I’ve refined the techniques (or at least changed them) a bit in the three years since I wrote this, but this is still more or less my preferred way of rendering mountains.


Cirias describes a simple way to get tapered rivers in GIMP.

Encounter Maps

Troedel describes a method of creating consistent maps. I think it would be most applicable to encounter maps, and the examples he gives are largely for use in outdoor encounters, but it looks like a way to quickly handle maps in a consistent style.

General Tips

This really amounts to a single poster (Torstan — known elsewhere as Jonathan Roberts — and his Fantastic Maps blog) talking about a bunch of little things that are worth keeping track of.

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