As I work on completing the map of Alacantis for my next book, I thought I'd take you through some of the thought process when it comes to worldbuilding on the continent level.
Today, I will show you how I develop my mountains.
At one point I tried using cute little icons that someone had developed to create mountains, but really didn't work too well, so I looked further - at how to build a mountain from the top down.
I finally found someone talking about it online and basically, you start by drawing just the tops of the ridges. As if you are flying overhead. The basic shape is a cross or star pattern of lines. Here's the northern part of Alacantis.
You don't want to overthink this part. Land formations tend to be at the highest in the middle, so I've drawn fairly simple ridges with other little ridges coming down off the main ridges. Where there's a larger mass of land, I can put in higher mountains.
Of course none of this is written in stone (at least not until you want it to be...)
And some situations require special consideration.
Here is the section that includes the country of Tephsa (the largish island on the left.)
As long as I've written about Tephsa (and some of these stories date back 10 years or more!) I've always seen it as having an "interior" with a severe rain shadow and resultant desert. Of course, with modern techniques, they can do a bit more in modern times than they could in, say, Katja's time (about 2000 years previously.) Anyway, I had to make sure that this island had an Interior. Now, I'm actually envisioning an ancient volcano which blew its guts out - unlike the circular shape in the north where it let in the sea, the one in Tephsa did not. So, we have a ring-like ridge all the way around. It has to be high enough to block most of the prevailing NW winds that might have given the Interior moisture.
As cool as these mountains are starting to look, it's very flat. But when I use the same "light" and "dark" layers that I used in the last post, it changes just a little. (Understatement.)
Basically, I shade figuring that the light is still coming from the top left corner... So, parts of the mountains away from that are shaded darker, the parts towards are done lighter.
Obviously, you can take this a lot further than I have, but here is what it looks like with two passes of the dark (at 20% opacity) and one pass of the light. This is the Tephsa section again.
You can see how the mountains just "pop out" now!
Here is the full continent.
This is all I'm doing with the mountains today. For my purposes, the mountains don't have to be perfect. They have to fit on a book page when I'm done!!! So, details will be minimal. The main reason I do it huge is because I'm going to have to also crop around countries when I get there...
Next time, I'll show you how I design my rivers.
author/designer at A'mara Books
photographer/graphic artist for Viking Visual
now also on: Whaleshares and WeKu
Banner by @shai-hulud