Today we’re going to have some fun creating a map of our own fantasy world, just like the fictional story settings of Neverland, Middle-Earth or Westoros. We’ll use Photoshop’s built in tools to establish the landmass and sea, then construct hills, mountains and deserts with some simple filter combinations, before finishing off the artwork with a vintage paper texture and place names to simulate an old map.
But first, a big thank you to Envato Elements for sponsoring today’s video… So to construct your own fantasy world, begin by creating a new document in Adobe Photoshop. I’m using a canvas size of 2000×1458, but artwork can be created at any size. The larger you go, the more land you’ll have to fill. Create a new layer, then go to Filter > Render > Clouds. Add a Threshold Adjustment layer at the bottom of the Layers Panel. Activate the clouds layer again. You can use the CMD+F, or CTRL+F shortcut on Windows, to randomise the result until you see a basic layout of continents you could work with. Add a new layer, then select the Brush tool. Set it up with zero hardness, then begin to paint black around the edges of the canvas, and over any portions of land you want to erase. Switch the colour over to white, then paint within the landmass to fill in any gaps, or to join together pieces of land. When you’re done, shift and click all the layers from the Threshold to the Clouds layers and merge them together. Switch over to the Channels panel and hold the CMD key while clicking on any of the channel thumbnails to loads the selection of the white portion.
Back in the layers panel, add a new layer and fill this landmass selection with a green of #92985d using the CMD+Backspace shortcut, then deselect with CMD+D. Delete the original threshold version, which is no longer needed, then fill the background with a beige paper colour of #e3e2c8 Add a new layer above the background and fill it with a blue of #83aab1. Apply a Layer Mask to this sea layer, then set up the brush tool with reduced opacity of around 30% in the top options bar. Begin painting around the edges of the canvas to bring back some of the beige paper colour. If you erase the blue too close to the land, switch the colour to white and paint within the mask to restore the blue around the coasts. Add a new layer above this blue layer, then reset the foreground and background colours back to black and white. Head to Filter > Render > Clouds, followed by Filter > Render > Difference Clouds. Change this layer’s blending mode to Soft Light and reduce the opacity to 50%. Apply a layer mask, then paint around the coatlines to erase the texturing, so it only appears in the deeper oceans.
Add another new layer and render some clouds, followed by difference clouds. Then go to Filter > Stylize > Emboss. Change the settings to 3px Height and 100% amount. Set this layer’s blending mode to Soft Light. Double click the land layer to begin adding some effects. Start with an Inner Glow layer style using the settings black with the Soft Light blend mode, a size of around 20px and an opacity of 25%. Add an Outer Glow next with a light blue of #6ec5f2 and the Screen blend mode. Set the size to 40px and opacity to 45%. Add a new layer above the land layer and generate some cloud and difference cloud textures. Press CMD+F a few times to randomise the layout. Set this layer to Soft Light at 40%, then CMD+Click the layer thumbnail of the land layer to loads a selection of its outline.
Go to Select Inverse, then delete the excess texturing. Apply a layer mask to this texturing layer, then use a soft brush to reduce its prominence in some areas to make the land look flatter. Add another new layer followed by the clouds and difference clouds filters. This time go to Select > Color Range and choose Shadows. Set the Fuzziness to 100% and Range to 0. Hit the backspace key to leave just the lighter portions of the cloud texturing, then deselect with CMD+D. Load the selection of the land layer, inverse the selection and remove the excess. Apply the Filter > Stylize > Emboss effect, this time with 250% in the Amount field. Set this layer to Linear Light to produce a series of mountain ranges across the world. Double click the layer and add a Color Overlay effect with white and the Soft Light blend mode. Reduce the opacity to around 60% to simulate snow-capped peaks. Add another new layer with difference clouds again, then select Color Range and delete the shadows. Trim the layer to the outline of the land layer, then apply an Emboss filter, but this time reduce the Amount back to 100%.
Set this layer to Linear Light to generate some subtle hills. Select the land layer and add a new layer above it. Hold the ALT key while clicking between them in the Layers Panel to apply a clipping mask. Grab the brush tool and set up the colour to a sandy brown of #ccb991. Begin painting in some deserts and dry regions on your fantasy map. You can also add an extra clipped layer to paint the colder regions with snow. Bring the brush opacity back to 100% to paint with pure white, then use a large eraser to make the ice caps softly recede. To finish off the map with and aged appearance, download a vintage paper texture. This one from DeviantArt is linked in the description area below.
Open the image in Photoshop, Select All with CMD+A, Copy with CMD+C, Paste with CMD+V, making sure it’s at the top of the layer stack, then Transform with CMD+T to scale the texture to fit it to the canvas. Change the blending mode of the texture layer to Multiply to allow the artwork to show through, then reduce the opacity to 50% so it’s not too harsh. Use the CMD+U shortcut for Hue/Saturation to bring down the saturation to around -60 to reduce some of the vibrant orange colouring. Add a simple Levels adjustment with CMD+L to darken the shadows and lighten the highlights by dragging each respective slider inwards slightly. That’s the main map effect complete, but you might want to spend some time adding labels to your fictional places using the Type tool. Here I’m using a font on my system named Trattatello. Using a browny colour of #493f37 works well for in-land places, while #d5f3e7 is a nice light blue that stands out against the oceans.
Adding a subtle Arc text effect also helps style up the text a little. The final result is a cool old map of your own fantasy world. Ideal for story book art, table-top gaming, treasure map party invitations, or just for fun!