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Creating Fantasy Maps With Gimp: Labelling

I've been drawing maps for D&D since first playing the game in '78. Playing online requires digital maps, so I taught myself using GIMP.


After you've drawn your map, it's time to label it. Labelling the countries or the oceans is fine if you draw a straight path for the text, but what about rivers? It would look better if the lettering followed the contours of the river or road, or if the label of the mountain range flowed in a wide arc down the map.

There are other things to consider when labelling your fantasy map. Here are a few:

  • the font
  • the style
  • the colour

These are all part of the labelling experience. It is easy once you know a few tricks of the trade.


How to Choose the Right Font

Choosing the right font is difficult.

  1. It has to be easy to read at different focus levels of your map. It may look great when you are zoomed-in to a close-up view, but if you look at the whole document, the font may have blurred all together, making it unreadable.
  2. It has to match the style of the map you are creating. A sci-fi start map would not look good with gothic script labelling.
  3. Choose the right colour for your labels. The text has to be visible to be of any use. If you run into a problem with clashing colours, there are some tricks or workarounds to fix it.
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How to Label Your Map

Text to Path techniques.

  1. Draw a path with the Path Tool along where you want the text to lie.
  2. Open a Text box. It doesn't have to be near where your path is. Write in the text.
  3. In the Tool Options choose your font, colour, size and change it from Fixed to Dynamic.
  4. Right-click on the created text layer and choose Text along Path.
  5. On the Paths tab, right-click on the path created for the text. Click Path to Selection.
  6. Back on the Layers tab, select the main Text layer of your map. Choose the Paintbrush Tool and fill in the selection with the colour of the text you choose.
  7. Select - None.
  8. Delete the temporary text layer now. It is not needed.
  9. Rinse and repeat with each label.

Search the Internet, and you'll find loads of fonts you can use for your fantasy maps. Some are quite expensive, but many are free. They are easy to use, just download and move the font files into the font directory of your system.

I downloaded an elvish font and a dwarvish one for secret messages hidden in the map that shows up under certain circumstances, puzzles within puzzles created with fonts. It is also an excellent way to make a border for your fantasy map. You can put random runes around the perimeter of the document, just for the ambiance, and to make it look like something that came out of J.R.R Tolkien's world.

Another place you can use labelling for on your fantasy map is the Legend, where you incorporate the symbols you use in your map.

You could also add a text box and explain the history of the area the map depicts.

I hope this demonstration was easy enough for you to follow and helped you to make the text label follow the contours of the map you have drawn.

This article did not show you how to draw maps: for that, you need to follow so of my other offerings. Here's a partial list:

  1. Creating a Fantasy Map: A Step-By-Step Tutorial
  2. Creating Mountains for Fantasy Maps in GIMP 2.8
Created with GIMP 2.10.12

Created with GIMP 2.10.12

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