Drawing a City on a Fantasy Map

I’ve talked for ages about doing some map tutorials, and today I had to draw up a fairly elaborate city for one of my maps. I figured I’d break it down step by step so you get a better idea of how I do it. This isn’t the only way to draw map cities, but it’s the method I use, so feel free to try it yourself or tweak the process to suit you.

Step 1: Basic outline. I had a sketch from the client with the rough shape of the city and its buildings, and here you can see the basic outline I sketched over it. I did this using a graphics tablet and pen, and by going into brush settings > shape dynamics > pen pressure in Photoshop, which means the line’s thickness is affected by how hard you push down with the pen. I find it easier to build up a sketch this way because it’s more like drawing on paper with a pencil.

Step 2: Finish walls. Once I was happy with the sketch, I started a new layer, turned pen pressure off (to get a nice, even line) and blocked in the walls over my sketch, which I set to 50% opacity. You can still see the sketch layer beneath, but now I’ll turn that off.

Step 3: Inner Outline. I turned pen pressure back on, started a new layer and turned the city walls down to 50% opacity, using them as a guide for where the buildings should go, while keeping in mind the buildings the client wanted the city to contain.

Step 4: Finish buildings. Same as the walls step above, I turned off pen pressure, started a new layer and filled out the city’s buildings, tracing over the sketch layer before removing it.

Step 5: Clean-up. You’ll notice below, now I’ve turned the building layer’s opacity down, that it overlaps the walls in places. This step is just erasing those areas where the walls would now be hidden behind the buildings, so we don’t get any graphical weirdness.

Step 6: Shading. Once that step is done, we can turn the opacity on both the walls and buildings layers up to 100% and it should look fine – but just to make it a bit clearer, I applied some soft shading to the roofs and ground.

And there you have it, one walled city! I hope you enjoyed this glimpse behind the mapmaking curtain. If you have any questions, please feel free to hit me up!

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