Create A Fantasy World Map Free

Create a fantasy world map for free using GIMP.  GIMP map-making techniques are the perfect fantasy world map creator that anybody can use.

I mentioned in a previous post that I was installing GIMP brushes from DeviantArt that I could use to create a fantasy world map for free with GIMP. First I found the brushes and background I needed to create my fantasy map. Next, I googled a bit and ran across this Youtube video on GIMP map-making techniques, but since my version of GIMP was slightly different, not all of the options shown in the video worked for me. Instead, I used a few basics from the video and created my own easy process of making a fantasy map with GIMP.

Making my fantasy map consisted of these main steps: (Each step consists of multiple sub-steps.)

  1. Creating a parchment background layer, north and south continent layers.
  2. Creating north/south continents, islands (i.e. land masses) on the respective layers.
  3. Adding mountains, rivers, forests, and land formations using GIMP brushes.
  4. Adding towns, villages or castles using GIMP brushes.
  5. Adding roads and country borders
  6. Adding titles to map objects.
  7. Miscellaneous cleanup.

Needed images for a GIMP fantasy map.

Paper 68833 1280
Old parchment image from PIxabay for fantasy map.

Before starting a fantasy map I needed to pick a paper or parchment background. I looked both on Pixabay and DeviantArt for paper textures. I found several I liked; the links are listed below. Ultimately I chose this one from Pixabay. (Many thanks to the author!). It had the look of old parchment which was perfect for my design. Some new map-making generators and online sites create fake maps in color, but I wanted my fake fantasy map to look like an ancient map and so chose the black on parchment look rather than creating a map in color.

Old parchment from Pixabay: <———– This is the one I use.

Old parchment from DeviantArt: <———– Nice selection I may use in the future because there was a large selection of textures and shades.

Creating land masses on a map with GIMP.

In the video I mentioned, the landmasses were hand-drawn completely from scratch. Since I tend towards shortcuts, I decided to find free continent silhouettes, trace and transform them in GIMP because I thought it would be easier. Public domain pictures is a good site to use. For me, this was a simple and effective way to create realistic landmasses. I downloaded free silhouettes of Australia and South America continents or any country that you like. GIMP’s transform tool easily modified the South America continent a bit. If you can’t find a free jpg continent silhouette the next best thing to do is get a copy of a world map as an SVG or EPS file and save continents from that as JPGs. Either option works fine.

Public Domain Pictures Australia silhouette

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Pixabay World Silhouette

Here are my beginning landmass images. Notice that it doesn’t matter what color the silhouette is.

Landmass For Fake Map

Install GIMP map making brushes from DeviantArt

Next, if you don’t have map-making GIMP brushes the best source is definitely on DeviantArt. Google “map brushes for GIMP” or something similar and you should get several links to DeviantArt although I provide a few of the better ones I used. Again, there are a lot of brush options that are free so you should be able to easily find what you need. It is a bit difficult to know whether they will work until you install and try them. Plus you will notice that the brushes from different authors need to be resized GIMP to keep the map objects and elements the proper size on the fake map. If you don’t know how to install GIMP brushes just check out my previous article here.

With the brushes I downloaded from DeviantArt (I’ve included links below), I was ready to create my own fantasy world map for free using GIMP. Here are the steps I used.

Here are a few of the many available DeviantArt GIMP map brushes I used:

Tolkien Map Brushes

Fantasy Map Brushes

Cartography Brushes (with castles, etc)

More Cartography Brushes

Once you have all the necessary items it is time to create the fake fantasy world map in GIMP. Since each step has nuances I’ve listed the basics, but you should just follow the video as it will be much easier to understand.

Step by Step Guide to creating a fantasy map with GIMP

  1. Create a layer in inches (4″ x 6″) and name it Land; Create a second layer of the same size and name it water.
  2. Open a new layer of the parchment image. Right-click the parchment image and copy then click back to the working water layer. Right-click and paste a copy of the parchment image onto the layer. Scale the parchment image to cover the entire working layer and then select the “image to layer” option to trim the image overlap to the exact layer dimensions.
  3. Next open the first continent image in a new layer. I’m using the Australia continent as my northern continent. Create a new transparent layer and place it higher above the Australia layer. Using the paintbrush set to the thickness of 4 or 5 roughly trace around the continent; you can add inlets or change the trace to make it look different. On my map I used the paintbrush to add a few islands. Hide the Australia continent layer showing only the layer with the new outline.
  4. Create a white layer that sits directly below the landmass outline. Merge the outline onto the white layer. Using the fuzzy select tool, click outside of the continent and delete the white. This is now the northern continent of the fake fantasy map.
  5. Repeat steps 1 – 4 with the second continent on to a 2nd white background layer. If you want to rotate or transform the continent before tracing it simply select the continent, click on transform and move the diamond handles to squish, expand or rotate the silhouette. Watch the video to see how this is done.
  6. When you’ve traced the second continent onto a separate white background layer and deleted the background you’re ready to merge the continents onto the parchment background.
  7. Merge the 1st continent layer down onto the 2nd continent layer. It should look like 2 landmasses on a transparent background. Select the parchment background and use the color picker to select a light shade from the background. Now select the merged Land layer and use the bucket fill tool with the color to change the white landmass to the color previously selected. (You can actually use the parchment background for this bucket fill but I chose not to so that later details would be easier to read and so the landmasses would stand out more.
  8. Now that the landmasses are in place, use the various map-making brushes to drag and drop in castles, houses, mountains, trees, grasses and other objects.
  9. Once the outline of towns, forrests, and mountains are in place, draw in rivers (thin lines), country borders (dashed lines) and roads/trails (solid lines).
  10. Add in titles for objects and any keys or notes on the map.

Here’s my video of creating a cool looking fantasy map for free using GIMP.

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Fantasy Map Pin Example

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