I can’t put it more concisely than that. It’s done.
The Tremjara map is finished.
Three years. It’s taken longer than a novel does for many. If I count all the early, more crude versions then it’s been eighteen years. It took a year just to paint the map to provide it with vibrant color.
Trial and error was my primary technique. First I tried using free land feature brushes that were available online. Whoops, my version of Photoshop was too old and wouldn’t accept them so I had to learn how to make my own. That required drawing, for instance, multiple versions of mountains and mountain ranges.
Good gosh, the same was true for hills, volcanoes, buttes, deciduous trees, evergreen trees, grasslands…
I learned to work with layers (and how to forget which layer I was working on). How to make rivers and lakes standout against similarly colored grasslands? Yeah, I had to figure that out. How to differentiate between the various forests, grasslands, or swamps? Yup. And then I had to find a way to make the seven ora’ean forests of the west each unique.
Some inspiration came on the fly, like the northern ice wall, which only appears in the colored version. While painting I added the river/barren land contrast of the Rocklands in the south-central region, and then added chasms too. A favorite is the sinking sands of the Juka Desert (again, only in the color version). Near the end came the jagged islands of the southeastern Boiling Wastes and—near and dear to my heart—the Tri-Islands of the northeast.
Then there were the unexpected trials. The land is already white, so why bother to paint it white? I found out in a hurry when I went to darken the coastline. Speaking of coastlines … I must have tried half-a-dozen different ways to make it standout (the first was a disaster and took forever to fix). In the end, the simplest solution turned out to be the best. Go figure.
As is so often my approach, the map is really half art, half map. No doubt a true cartographer would snicker at the shifting perspectives. I don’t care, it serves my purposes this way.
Oh, I mentioned layers…
SO many layer names. Deep Water, which is actually only the ocean coloring. Land, which is strange because it’s deleted parts expose the water. Flora and Land Features required learning about brushes.
By far, though, most of the layers are devoted to the colorization of the various regions: Carrdia, Forstava, Mythwyll, Primagon, Northern Wilds, Frozen Lands, Key River Region, Boiling Wastes, River Pax Region, Northeast, and Tri-Islands.
The largest region? Key River. The smallest? Tri-Islands.
There are advantages to all the painted layers! Here, I’ll show you…
If wanted, I can highlight a region by turning off the color in all the others or even reducing their color (in other words, I can adjust their saturation from 0-100%).
There are also advantages when it comes to making changes. The small disadvantage was blending where two different layers meet (most often at rivers or mountain ranges). Near the middle of the map on the Rift River near Beacon Peak three different layers collide at the same point. That was tricky.
The sheer size of the map accounted for the amount of time I had to spend on it. To make it possible to upload it, you’re seeing the .jpg version (no layers) at 25% scale (if you view it on a monitor at full size). Officially, it’s 3200 x 4800 pixels.
There are reasons the map is so big. It allows for considerable detail so I can zoom in and not have the features breakdown into their pixel selves (which is actually where I spent most of my time working). Too, because I can zoom in, I can use this map to create smaller maps that will be labeled with towns and roads.
I mentioned pixels…
When I worked, most of the time it was while zoomed in. When coloring mountains, etc. I usually worked at about 500% to 800% so I could be precise, but still identify shapes. When I was removing the color bleed on rivers, lakes, and the coasts I worked anywhere from 1200% to 3200% depending on how intricate the area.
This map has been such a huge part of my world for three years, but never more so than during the coloring phase when I devoted a minimum of one hour per day.
For as much work as it was, and as tedious as it was, it was also relaxing. I had some bad days when I spent 4-6 hours on it. It was often therapy.
Where do I go from here?
Well, there’ll be tweaks to the areas beyond Carrdia as stories dictate. That happened in the Tri-Islands and my short stories, but I doubt there’ll be large, noticeable changes. Too, I still find tiny problems. For instance, there was color that bled over onto the rivers and lakes. I went through and removed all of it, BUT then I darkened the river banks and—surprise—it revealed some bleed that was too light to see beforehand.
Note to self: Darken banks first and then remove the bleed. *sigh*
Labeling. All there is at present is what’s located in the bottom left corner. It’ll be minimal for this version, but there are smaller maps to make almost right away. The first is Carrdia where the novels take place (for now). The other is the Tri-Islands in the northeast where I so often place my short stories.
So, I guess, there’ll be lots of fun stuff to do in the future—and more stuff to figure out. My sincere thanks to all of you have tagged along on this mapmaking adventure. There’ll be other versions and other maps, but none could possibly be as special as this one.