Worldbuilding #3 — Continents

Welcome to the third edition of the Worldbuilding series. I’m sorry I can get these out soon enough. I want to, but a lot goes into making these. Now I know the first two were kind of boring, that it was all informational and not about actually creating. Now we get to the fun stuff.

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Today, we’ll be doing continents. Now many maps I see for fantasy world generally are cut off, only showing a part of a continent. Others that show the whole continent, makes me wonder if there are other continents in the world. Such as Tamriel from Elder Scrolls

I am going to introduce a new tool today to help create some continents. At the end of the lesson, there will be files for you to download in case you have any difficulties so you can follow along. My goal is to give you step-by-step instructions that I strongly suggest you follow. While this is an easy process, it is a bit tedious in doing it, but trust me when I say it is worth it for the final result.

Now if you are like me, the best you can do is draw a series of squares and circles. To draw something like Tamriel is impossible for you. More than that, draw small islands, mountains, rivers, desert…it’s not happening. So what we need is a generator.

No, not that kind of generator, we need a Fractal World Generator. Go ahead and check it out. This thing is amazing…I can’t get enough of it. It creates continents for us. Might seem to take the fun out of it for us, but trust me when I say, it works miracles. I will note that there are a lot of different things on this site and may be of use if you are an RPG player or you want more ways to enhance your book.

Let us first do a walk through of this tool before we start playing around.


1. Random Seed

This box, you can put in any random (whole) number you want. From 1 to 9999999999999999999999999999999999999999999 if desired. This will take the number you chose and through some crazy algorithm, you get a different map. However, if you use the same number again, you will get the same exact result. It is quite possible that everyone will get a different result.

2. Map Projection

This relates to the final outcome of what you will get. Square just means a square map. Mercator is a square map as well, but the top of the map is stretch wide, like a globe is. The Transverse Mercator does the same thing except with a focus of the poles. The rest are practically useless to us. For this tutorial, we’ll be using Square. If you would like to see a good example of why Mercator is bad, check out the video below for West Wing.

3. Map Palette
This is an interesting setting. Thankfully you can see immediately what effect it has. You will note that some of the choices you pick will have Ice greyed out, not letting you edit that. It is a fun variety, but for our example, we will be using Landmask. Why? Atlas is already colored in for us, why not just use that? Well, you will learn in this series that it is easier to edit a map project versus a completed map. Remember for Landmask, Black is Water and White is Land.

4. %-Water
This one is obvious. The amount of water for your planet. Lower the number means more land and higher the number means more water. Our magical number is between 85% – 95%. Why so high? Any lower and the maps will be a continuous strip along the poles. We don’t want that. Later in the lesson you will see why that is bad. But also remember, that Earth is 70% water

5. %-Ice
This refers to ice formed at the North and South Poles. If you put in 10, then it will have 5% at the bottom and 5% at the top. Since we are doing landmask, this option is greyed out.

6. Image Height
This reference how big the final image will be. We want our biggest amount of 2000. For slower computers, this will take a bit to load, if necessary, set it to 1000. But remember, editing a bigger image to a smaller one is always better than editing a smaller image and making it bigger.

7. Iteration
I’ll have to be honest, I don’t know what this really stands for. I just know different numbers produce a different result. I assume that it is all the possible outcomes of the vast equation it uses…I don’t know.

8. Rotation
Now let me show you a little trick. Go to the globe and select either the most west point or east point along the imaginary equator, and click on it. The Globe will move. I discovered this by accident. It will turn along the equator, and you will notice this last box will change numbers. It is at what position along the equator the map is at.

Enough playing around, let us make a map. Now, you are welcome to follow along and do exactly what I do, or choose your own map to do. Now me, I actually combining maps together. This way I get a much bigger world to play with. For this tutorial, you will need Please refer to my article: Worldbuilding #2 — Tools

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For your reference:


1. Open up
2. Do File->New (or Ctrl+N)3. A box will pop up, set:
Width: 4000
Height: 2000
4. Select the Paint Bucket from the tools (or press ‘F’)
5. In the colors window, make sure Primary is set in the dropdown box and select black.
6. Then click anywhere on the white screen and it will turn black.

Now we have an endless Ocean. All done.

What? I have to stay until the end. Dammit.

7. Layers
Click the left most button in the little window 2 times. This is the layers button. Don’t do anything else beyond that, and don’t color them in. If you do, just undo it.

With that, you will notice checkerboard of grey and white. This is called transparent (or transparency). And it basically means exactly that, it is devoid of color and whatever other color is there, it becomes it. It will be high important for this tutorial and if you are confused now, you will see what it does for us soon.

9. Go back to the Fractal World Generator and input this information:Random Seed: 809644187
Map Projection: Square
Map Palette: Landmask
Water: 90
Ice: 0
Height: 2000
Iteration: 5000
Rotation 237

Hit create. This will fill up your page. You should be able to right click the image and hit “Save Image As”. I am using Firefox, if you are using a different browser, you will need to look up how to save images. I named this Continent 1. Be sure you saved it somewhere you can find it, might not be a bad idea of saving this in a folder for your project.

10. Continent 2
Random Seed: 350475208
Map Projection: Square
Map Palette: Landmask
Water: 90
Ice: 0
Height: 2000
Iteration: 5000
Rotation 268

Same thing as before. Is it me, or does this look like a bear on its back? Hmmmmm.

11. Open up both images in You will now see in the upper right corner of the screen 3 black images. This of course represents our 3 files.

12. Go to our first one with the big black Ocean. In the Layer box, it should have from top to bottom:

Layer 3
Layer 2

If this is not what you see, please rearrange it until it is. Then uncheck Layer 3 and Background. Now you will see the checkerboard.

13. Go to Continent 1
In the Tool, click on Rectagular Select (or press ‘M’)
If the whole thing highlights, press ESC
Now select the area you want. Note the tiny island on the bottom right side. Don’t worry about getting it exact, just try to get a box that surrounds everything.
In the Tools, click Move Select (or press ‘M’ twice). Be sure that on the upper right hand side of the toolbox, the White mouse cursor with a cross is selected. You will notice  there are 8 flashing little boxes. This allows you to move the lines so they are closer to the the continent. Try to move them so they are close to the continent (and islands) with some padding.
Lastly, hit Ctrl+C

14. Go back to the Black Ocean
I’d come up with a better name, but I just like that name.
In layer 2 (make sure Layer 2 is selected in Layers window), click in the middle and hit Ctrl+V.
Make sure the Blue Mouse is select (by default it is when you paste something in)
This image is smaller than our canvas area. Move the pic it the upper most right hand corner of our canvas (make sure that all of it, even the black parts, are visible). Use the rulers on top and to the left to make sure they are exactly on 4000 (top) and 0 (left).
Now, go to the bottom left corner of the continent, and you will find a flashing box. Drag it to the bottom and a little over halfway of the page. Drag to 1600 (top) and 2000 (left).
This is a little challenging to get it precisely on there, you don’t have to do exactly what I’m doing.
Press ESC when done.
Hit the check mark for Background in the Layers box…what do you notice?

You’ll see that the checkerboard is gone for the big image. Filled in with black. But if you look in the layers, it is still in Layer 2. Now each image that is on top of another image is the dominate image. Whatever is in upper image will always show for the bottom. Since we have a continent in Layer 2, it shows up when we turn Background on. But then why did the transparency disappear?

Transparency (for lack of a better definition) is essentially the lack of color. So, when we turned on Background, Layer 2 transparency turned back. Now say if Layer 3 was all blue and Background was still black, and we turned all 3 on, what color would Layer 2 transparency be? If you guess Blue, you are correct.

Whatever is in 3, is drawn first, then whatever is in two appears next, and lastly, what appears in Background. Now if 2 and 3 cover the whole canvas, it won’t matter what is in Background. I’m sorry if this is confusing you, but our next step will demonstrate this.

15. In Black Ocean, turn on all the layers
Now go to Continent 2, and select the continent again like you did with Continent 1. Copy it and go back the Black Ocean
IMPORTANT: In Layers window, make sure Layer 3 is highlight Blue.
Now Paste the image
You may notice, that the image in Layer 3 is now over the main continent. Layer 3 has higher priority, and thus it loads up first.
Move it over to to the left hand side where it doesn’t overlap with any of the island.
This looks OK, but I want something different.
Hold down Shift and right click on the line surrounding the image. You will notice it will start to rotate in any direction you want.
Move the image so the small area (or the bears head) is on top. Make sure it is level and let go of the right mouse button before you let go of Shift.
Now to me, that actually looks better. And look at that island to the east near its feet, doesn’t that look like a pony?

Now something I want you to remember. You see this map in 2 dimensions, and it looks like Bear continent is far from the other continent. But if this were a globe, on the other side, it is a short distance if we were to make this image 3 dimensions. So I am going to move Bear Continent closer.

I moved Bear continent to: Top (between 400 and 1625(ish)) & Right (between 150 and 1820). Press ESC when done.

One last step.

16. Merge Layers
In the Layers box, fourth button from the left is Merge Layer Down.
Select Layer 3, and hit Merge Layer Down.
Now Layer 2 and 3 are one Layer.
Select Layer 2, and hit Merge Layer Down.
Now instead of 3 layers, there is only 1.Lastly, click on the right most button for Layers, called Properties.
Change the name to Default Map.

Now do File->Save. Make sure file type is PDN. This is the project save, so at any time we can come in and continue where we left off. I’m calling it Worldbuilding Project. In the next screen, leave everything on its defaults and hit OK. You should now have an map that looks like this:


Now look at that. I mean really look at it. Look at the lakes, the islands, the land masses. I can’t draw at all and now I have a map that looks organic. That right there amazes me. It’s breath taking…yet we are only just beginning.

In our next lesson, we’ll be going over Oceans and Land, starting to design both. This will involve putting some color to our map and getting more structure to how we will do things. Some things to think about, pick where you think you will want your deserts to go. Might seem weird, but it will be very important later, or just do what I do. There should be a file below for you to download to have what I have to make the process easier, but I do recommend you play around with this to get some ideas of what you want for your map.

I thank Donjon, whoever he is, that is an amazing tool.

Download files here Must have 7zip.

Help Keep This Site Running

This site is a great achievement for me, but due to being unable to work, I may not be able to keep this site running. With your help, I might be able to.

I need $125 by October 30th, 2017. Anything you can give will help.

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