EDIT: There is an updated version of this tutorial here.

This is a follow-up to an earlier post: Design Considerations For My Starting Area.

I’m ready to begin work on the actual map. My sketch shows the basic shape and dimensions that I want but the outline is too smooth. I wanted to rough it up to make it look more realistic. I looked through various tutorials at the Cartographer’s Guild (an excellent resource) but everything I tried distorted the original outline more than I wanted. Probably the result of my being new at this and not following the tutorials properly.

I kept at it though until I hit upon a process that I’m pretty happy with. This was done in Adobe Photoshop.

I started with my island in white and the surrounding area in black as shown in the first image.

  • Filter | Noise | Add Noise (gaussian, monochromatic, set to 100).
  • Filter | Blur |Gaussian Blur (set to 2).
  • Image | Adjustments | Threshold (adjust to taste).
  • Select Magic Wand Tool, click in black surrounding area.
  • Shift-Ctrl-I to invert the selection
  • Fill with White.
  • That’s all there is to it. Now I have the beginnings of my very first Photoshop map.


    After a bit of playing with photoshop, I have a rough map layed out, with hills, mountains, forests, swamp, and a lake. It still needs a lot of work. Everything is flat and lifeless. I need to draw things out. But it’s a start.