Welcome back, mappers! I hope by now you’ve read the through the blog article series up to this point (part1, part2, part3a, part3b) because we have still more cover! Last time we talked about planning each city district’s road network, understanding your symbol catalog and deciding on your district’s style. We also talked about how to draw your inspiration from real cities. In Part 1 we also talked about deciding whether each district is “Functional” or “Residential.” In short, we should now have a solid foundation for most of our city’s stylistic elements and each district’s purpose. This article is the first part about how to tactically execute on these, on a large city scale. So put on your hard-hats: we are talking street construction!

The Random Street Tool is your Friend

If you’ve tried building a city in CD3 or followed any tutorials, you probably already know about the Random Street tool. This tool is going to help us establish the basics about each district we work on which will express to the map-viewer what kind of place this is. There are two parts to this: one, roof styles and colors, we’ve already discussed; the second is your “street configuration” – i.e. the settings in your Random Street tool (right click the icon to open the settings panel).

There are four Street settings that I believe will make the biggest difference in giving your district unique character:

  • Building size range
  • Building spacing
  • Roof style mix
  • Building shape mix

1 Random Street

There are other settings such as the distance from center of the road and street width which you should absolutely play around with. But those four are the ones I’ll cover in greater detail.

Distinguishing your District

Before we enumerate each set of those options, let’s examine in detail a subsection from the map of New Cassia:
2 District

The above subsection contains four distinct districts: Blackbarrow (poor, non-human races), Mages’ Academy (wizards in training), Thornesville (main residential district), Steelpointe (primarily military).

Take a close look at each. Notice the roof styles and colors are different mostly. But also notice that the buildings in Blackbarrow are typically much smaller and much closer together – conveying a sense of a more cramped district. Thornesville is somewhat cramped too, but with larger buildings – conveying the sense that New Cassia is a packed city, but at least this section has a bit more living space. There are also trees and parks in Thornesville, which Blackbarrow lacks.

Blending District Styles for Smooth Transitions

Also notice that the Mages’ Academy and Steelpointe have somewhat similar styles. This is intentional: sometimes at the edges of a district, I will blend in the style of a neighboring district so make a smoother transition. Here is a slightly clearer example from the town of Abbasi where the Minar Market District (orange) style blends with the Ellerin District (blue):
3 District Border

Finally, looking back at the first image of New Cassia – notice how Thornesville and the Mages’ Academy have a few T-shaped and L-shaped buildings; Steelpointe has one U-shaped one. In contrast, Blackbarrow is exclusively rectangular buildings. This is meant to convey a more dynamic range of economic diversity in the other districts, as opposed to Blackbarrow which is mostly poor.

Hopefully this helps you get a feel for how street configuration can affect district style.

Setting your Street Configuration

Let’s talk about each of the four components I mentioned above:

Building Size Range

This will probably be the first thing the viewer’s eye catches on to if you juxtapose two districts with different sizes. Here’s another example:
4 Building Size

The houses in Emerald Gardens, a rich nobles’ district, are about double the size of those in Hearthsdale (mercantile/craftsmen district) and Marblegate (government/officials district).

When setting the building size, think about how the measurements of the room or house you’re sitting in should compare to the typical building size (this relies on you having chosen a 1:1 scale of CC3+ units to your real-world units [feet or meters]).

In some towns, a house length of 25 feet across might be pretty typical, but in a more upscale (or less dense/rural) neighborhood house lengths of 50-100 feet would be more reasonable to see. In fact, this is similar to my size settings for Emerald Gardens (length: 30-40 ft, width: 21-24 ft) and Hearthsdale (length: 20-26 ft, width: 12-18 ft).

One important note: I often forgot which dimension was which. Obviously length is typically the longer direction – but a better mnemonic I’ve found is that the length is the dimension that spans along (i.e. parallel to) the street; the width is what I would typically think of as the “depth” or how far the house extends away from a person standing in the street.

Be sure to conform to CC3+’s recommendations that the max width should be less than or equal to the minimum length (also, the maximum length should be less than or equal to the street width). Play around with the settings here and lay down streets until you find a sizing that you like for the district.

Building Spacing

This setting is probably the biggest control you have as a city designer in determining how crowded, dense or open a district feels. In the above image, Emerald Gardens has a spacing of 10-15 feet between buildings, while Hearthsdale has a spacing of 4-8 feet.

Now, this is one place where it’s maybe not so realistic: 4 feet between buildings is really narrow. But I found that I liked these settings visually – probably because if the shadows and glows present on buildings. What’s important is that you experiment with each district till you find a spacing you like.

Roof Style Mix

As I mentioned, we discussed in Part 3B how roof styles and colors can be used to convey different feelings. Well, you don’t have to have just one style in a district! You can mix it up! Here are the settings for each district above:
5 Street Settings

Choose however many roof styles you’d like to mix – I would recommend 1-3 roof styles for most districts (you can do up to 4 at once). Start with dividing the percentages equally, and look at the preview window, and see how that feels. If you are unsure, draw a sample street. Then mess around with the ratio.

I also like to mentally assign some rough class of building to each color/style. I typically thought of red roofs as merchants, blue as artisans/crafters/specialty stores throughout the city. Though in Hearthsdale, I used gray for artisans and in Marblegate I used gray to mean government or city-official buildings. This doesn’t mean that every gray building in Hearthsdale is an artisan and every red building is a merchant – surely there are some residences and other types of establishments – but I found that it helped me think about my roof style ratio mix to do so.

Building Shape Mix

Similar to Roof Style Mix, Building Shape Mix is also about ratios that convey a sense of diversity (in my head it is typically synonymous with economic diversity, figuring poorer folks couldn’t afford materials to build interesting shaped buildings).

You have 5 choices for your shape ratios:

  1. Length-wise rectangles (longer side parallel to street)
  2. Depth-wise rectangles (longer side perpendicular to street)
  3. L-shape
  4. U-shape
  5. T-shape

Because the last 3 can typically be harder to fit in an average street, almost all of my districts which use the Random Street tool are between 80-100% rectangle shape. I tend to prefer length-wise rectangles be a bit higher percentage than depthwise because I like that style, but you might find your tastes are the reverse!

Here are the mixes for the above districts:
6 House Shapes

Note – these shapes do not include building symbols which you manually place – those might be a range of different shapes.

Save Your Street Configuration!

7 Saved SettingBy now you’ve played around a lot with these various settings and hopefully you’ve found something you like, and maybe you’ve even actually drawn out a few streets of your road network. Once you’ve settled on something for your district, click the Save button below the “Street settings” list and give it a name – either a name of your district, or the type of style it represents.

You can always vary the settings later, even within the district – but you will likely want to be able to come back to the settings you’ve worked so hard to establish.

Straight vs. Smooth Streets

I’ve already talked about road networks in Part 3A but one additional piece is the notion of Straight versus Smooth roads. To see the difference, look at the roads in Hearthsdale vs. Marblegate – or, scroll further up to the first image and compare Halfling Hill to Ghushnun. In both cases, the styles are similar or the same, but whether the roads are straight, grid-like and orderly versus curvy or windy differs.

We already know that this subtle decision may have some reason we can ascribe to our city’s history (Planned districts? Hills? More orderly or more chaotic?). But one other aspect is the ability of the Random Street tool to conform to these roads.

Somewhat paradoxically, Smooth roads tend to work better with Random Street – buildings will be drawn to conform to the curve. Straight roads with right angles (grid network) work well too. However Straight roads with non-right-angle bends in them will typically not get all buildings drawn with the Street tool – and you will end up having to manually draw in houses that it missed. It’s not a big deal, but could be a little more work.

Next Up: District Details

Now we understand how to make the Street tool do our bidding in styling our district. In the next article, we’ll discuss more about district construction, specifically about ways to accent each district and give them detail, flair and flavor. Until then, Happy Mapping!

Ari Gilder is a software engineer, and has been interested in maps for a long time. He spent seven years working on Google Maps, working on features like local business search, Google Maps and Navigation on mobile, and studying the way users understand maps. He even proposed to his wife using maps. He often spends hours staring at maps in fantasy novels, and in 2013 starting putting together some of his own dungeon and battle maps for a D&D campaign. After a hiatus of several years, he recently dived back into cartography with CC3+, tackling more overland and city maps in preparation for a new D&D campaign. He is a father of two, and has recently introduced his older daughter to cartography, both hand-drawn and with CC3+ where she insists that black and purple varicolor trees must surround everything.

Isometric Town
Download the CC3+ file here. Note that you need the Annual 2019 installed to view it properly.

Mapping with the Isometric Town Annual

Now THIS was a challenge as I find city/town maps a personal struggle. Here is where the Mapping Guide comes in handy. Often, with an Annual, I am guilty of just diving in and figuring things out on my own as I go, occasionally referring to the mapping guide, but not usually. This time, since I do struggle in this area of mapping, I stuck with the Mapping Guide provided, as far as the steps in creating this little town and followed them along.

Also, quite useful when mapping with a style you aren’t very comfortable with is deconstructing the multitude of maps that are often provided along with each Annual. In this instance I was able to copy a few of Sue’s Effects from her Corvallen map and Ralf’s Menzberg map, in particular Sue’s brilliant use of the RGB Matrix. This effect is worth a dive into as it can produce some great color results on your sheet effects.

Some of my own favorite effects to use are the RGB Matrix, the Hue/Sat and a big favorite of mine, Texturize. The last one I often put on the entire map. On this one I used a common texture that everyone should have concrete. The textures I use can be found in the CC3+>Filters>Images file, though you can use just about any fill with some kind of texture. I love the look I can get on a map with just the right settings and the fill to texturize. Try it!!

I also was unable to recreate Sue’s lovely parchment….well, I probably could if I really sat for a while, but I wanted to map in a way that the average mapper would, not someone with some sort of artistic skills on the manual side, rather than digital, so instead I created a legend on the bottom of my map – I think it’s a fine substitute if one is unable to recreate, copy and paste the scroll or just doesn’t want the look of scrolled parchment on their map – either way it’s just another variation. I do, of course, use my dear friend’s lovely parchment fill she provided for this Annual. Text/Labels are pretty standard here, with no special flair, and naming wasn’t anything special either….with the exception that I DID get the name of the town from Sue’s beautiful willow trees provided with this Annual. I LOVE willow trees, on a personal note, and these are just so pretty, so Willow Field it became. I hope you enjoy it and find it useful for your own mapping needs!

About the author: Lorelei was my very first D&D character I created more years back than i’d like to remember. When I decided to venture into creating maps for my and others rpgs, I thought I owed it to her to name myself Lorelei Cartography, since it was her that led me to the wonderful world of tabletop gaming in the first place. Since then I have been honored to have worked with companies such as WizKids, Pelgrane Press, and ProFantasy. You can view some of my work at www.LoreleiCartography.com

Perspectives 3 is a great add-on. It can be really rewarding to see your building appear in all it’s 3-dimensional glory.

There are some interesting challenges when mapping in the isometric view offered by Perspectives 3 however, and that is based on the fact that while the drawing might look 3-dimensional, it is actually still a flat surface. What Perspective does is to use angles in such a way as to make things appear 3-dimensional when it is not. As long as we can use the premade tools, we don’t have to worry too much about this, but these tools have their limits. For example, they are great for creating a house with, but there aren’t any easy tool to draw a ruined, crumbling wall. And it is a this point we need to start drawing some elements ourselves, and that can get a bit tricky when working in the isometric perspective.

In this article, I’ll discuss how to draw various elements to make a convincing ruin. It is based on the keep I made in this thread.

This article is also available as a video.

Continue reading »

In this series, Christina Trani will explore all the different drawing styles available in the Cartographer’s Annuals, starting with Volume 13 (2019).

SUB2019 Worlds of Wonder
Download the CC3+ file here. Note that you need the Annual 2019 installed to view it properly.

Mapping with The Worlds of Wonder Annual

As a digital cartographer, I am not overly fond of overland mapping. I prefer the confines of a floorplan, a dungeon, or I’ll expand my horizons to lovely, little villages. But, occasionally, I am encouraged to map in an overland style. My latest was done in the Worlds of Wonder Annual style. I love it.
Now, since overland mapping gives me anxiety….all the details that geologically accurate minded cartographers have apoplexy over when not done correctly can give me hives, so most often I just “wing it” and to heck with geology – it IS a fantasy world, so why not?

This time ‘round I decided to grab a continent from Fractal Terrains, since my coastlines, in my opinion, are the pits. After generating a landmass I was happy with I exported it to CC3, deleted all the fluff and left myself with a landmass that I copy and pasted into a new map started in the WoW (not Worlds of Warcraft, lol) style. I then began mapping out where my mountains would go….this I did by referring to my original FT map, which shows all the wonderful elevations that I normally have NO idea where to place. I did the same for rivers, to avoid the stress I’d normally have trying to figure out “where they looked best” or “where they should go”. If you don’t have Fractal Terrains, and ARE stressing about your map being geologically accurate, there are a multitude of references out there…but I really recommend just making this fantastical world your own and do what pleases you.

Once my mountains are placed, along with a mountain fill behind them and lakes and rivers, I begin placing my forests. Now, this map has more forests then I normally would place, but that has everything to do with the name… Larothell, The Republic of Songs. So I got the name from one the many online generators I have bookmarked. I use them often as a DM of a homebrew campaign having to constantly come up with original names to people and places, often on the fly. So, the name came up, and I immediately though of elves, glorious elves with a magical world of melody, perhaps that fuels their magic? I don’t know, but I just went with it…and with elves, come forests. I also enjoy mixing shades of greens in my forests, so for this map I mixed the two green trees that came with the annual, but I certainly recommend playing around with the colors and creating your own custom palette.

Of course, naming my cities and towns was easy once I had a theme to my fantasy realm. When labelling cities, towns, key locations, etc. I like to play with different fonts. I have an assortment of hundreds upon hundreds of fonts. Searching some of the free font sites is a great resource – just be sure to note any restrictions on commercial uses as noted by the creators. Along with fonts I am a fan of playing with color of the font and outlines – preferring to having a contrast, usually the map title and the cite labels.

Always remember, stepping out of your comfort zone can produce some amazing work that might even surprise yourself! Go experiment and have fun!

About the author: Lorelei was my very first D&D character I created more years back than i’d like to remember. When I decided to venture into creating maps for my and others rpgs, I thought I owed it to her to name myself Lorelei Cartography, since it was her that led me to the wonderful world of tabletop gaming in the first place. Since then I have been honored to have worked with companies such as WizKids, Pelgrane Press, and ProFantasy. You can view some of my work at www.LoreleiCartography.com

Welcome to part 4 of the Shore and Ocean Effects for Overland Maps series.

The example map for this part may already be familiar to you, since it is Arumnia, which was used in Part 3 to demonstrate Rhumb lines.

This time I will use the same map to show you a fast and easy way to add beaches, and a couple of alternative ways of using a drop shadow effect.  The FCW file for this version of the map will be available at the end of the article. Continue reading »

Welcome to the third part in the Shore and Ocean Effects for Overland Maps series.

In this part we well be focussing on adding rhumb lines to beautify a relatively smooth ocean texture.

Arumnia, the example map used in this tutorial, was drawn in the John Roberts overland style, which was recently included with the core CC3 app as part of Update 25.  If your software is up to date you do not need to own any of the annuals or add-ons to make use of the FCW file included in this blog. Continue reading »

Welcome to a brief article about the creation of Orde-on-the-Rock (or just Orde for short), in which I will be attempting to answer most of the questions I have been asked about this map since it was first released last year as a new example map for City Designer 3.

Orde was designed as a map to demonstrate what could be done with CD3 without using any additional add-ons or extra art assets.

Over the years I’ve been using CD3 I’ve done lots of cities using only the assets that come with CD3, so to make it more of a challenge for myself this time I decided not to use any of the regular Bitmap A house symbols.  In their place I used buildings generated by the Building and Street tools, and added a few shaded polygon constructions for variety. Continue reading »

Dear cartographer’s, we hope you are all still safe and healthy and being able to carefully ease out of the lockdown measures all across the world. We’ve had a lot of articles on the blog last month, check below whether you have missed any of them!


  • The May Annual issue – “Ryecroft Town”, a city style by Glynn Seal- has been released



We’ve live-streamed two more mapping sessions with CC3+ over the last couple weeks, as announced on our Facebook page. The videos are archived on YouTube, so you can watch them at your leisure.

Mapping with the Jon ROberts Overland style from Update 25

Introduction to CC3+ and the Mike Schley Overland style

Dear Cartographer’s, thank you again for sharing all the wonderful work you do on the community forum and in the Facebook group. We can’t do justice to them all, here is just a small selection of the beautiful maps we’ve seen last month.

Mateus has been especially prolific last month, sharing many amazing maps. This one, the Ilha Rasa is just one of this works, created with the Dark Realms style from the Cartographer’s Annual 2016.
Ilha Rasa Continue reading »

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