Mountain? Peter's Guide to Map Creation: How to draw mountains
Real Mountains
The features that really makes a map special are the mountains. Real mountains, when seen from a top view are not much to look at. Besides, not many people have seen them from a altitude, which enables them to get the full picture of a whole continent. Thus, when drawing mountains, I prefer to cheat a little.
Side view of mountains
Orbital view of mountains
Side View
A mountain seen from the side, is something we all recognize. Since maps are usually supposed to show where places and features are positioned, it seems silly to draw mountains seen from the side on an otherwise top - down map. Thus, I aim to make mountains that look like they are seen from a approximately 30-45 degree angle.
Photo-realism vs. Icons.
Photo-realistic mountains are hard to draw. My own preference, is a rather more simple mountain. It's simpler to draw and doesn't require that much attention. Off course, if you want to draw every mountain in great detail, that's up to you.
Drawing Icon mountains (easy)
Start out by drawing a single mountain on a scrap piece of paper (draw only the outline, drop the shading for now). Add more mountains. Draw 4 or 5 of them and add the shading. See how it looks. Do you have the right distance between them or do you need to adjust? When you have practiced enough, you can draw the mountains on your real map. Remember, that since you will be using the computer to manipulate the map afterwards, you do not have to make everything painstakingly accurate and perfect.
First sketch mountainsShaded mountains
Soft shading
In real life, mountains do not have a sharp, pencil outline. This kind of representation is a bit harder to do and for normal maps, I prefer the hard-edged kind.
Soft outline
Sun angle
Normally, I draw mountains with an imaginary sun position of less than 45 degress above the horizon. A higher sun position would blur the contours.
High Mountains
If you want to draw high mountains, just make them more pointy or larger. A good trick is to make a circle of lesser mountains around the really high ones, to emphasize the difference. Please note, that even though a pointy mountain does not look like a real mountain, it will look okay on the map.
Drawing "Realistic" mountains (hard)
Start by drawing 2 mountain ridges. Make them very craggy.
45 degree perspective view
Now imagine, that you see those lines from a 45 degree angle above and to the right of the paper. Also imagine, that the lines are not flat, but rise and fall almost as much as they go from side to side. Draw the lines from the imaginary angle and position.
Ridge lines
Add lines from the ridge towards the valleys on both sides. On real mountains, these ridges sometimes meet and form clusters of mountaintops.
Shadows
Add shadows. You are done!
End note
All the above sketches were drawn with a 0.5 pencil and scanned with rather high contrast.

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Last update on 5-5-02
 
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2002

Peter Brodt