To create great artwork or cartography requires some things.
- You need tools or programs you can use. Like a pencil, or ArtRage 5.
- Some skill. It doesn’t have to be a university level degree.
- A basic understanding of physics (such as light and shadow). For example, the same light can’t hit both sides of a roof unless it’s top-down without some variation.
- Time. Don’t rush it.
That last one. Yeh, time.
There’s a simple equation to the positive reactions elicited from the final creation of a piece of cartography and artwork. And it’s the most important one.
(I’m clever, me).
Like Shoeless Joe Jackson said, “Build it, and they will come”.
He didn’t say, “Take your time to build it, and they will come.” I did, and I stick by it.
There’s lots of way to save time, like copying and pasting the same icon repeatedly. But it stands out like a sore thumb in most cases and messes with the suspension of disbelief. You don’t tend to have that luxury when drawing traditionally by hand anyway — unless you have a tendency to stipple (which I do) and have access to a Cuttleola Dotspen.
Do I use shortcuts, hell yes — sometimes, but I try to make them as difficult to spot as possible with hue variations, random rotations, slight scale adjustments, etc. Generally speaking, if you look for shortcuts you undermine the wow factor.
The first step is don’t rush it, don’t try and make a self-imposed deadline. Tackle it in stages if it’s looking like a bigger job.
If you spend ALL DAY (8 hours) drawing a map it will look really nice. If you spend 5 days (8 hours a day) it will look fabulous.
Try it. Let go of time as a limitation. It’s probably holding you back.