How to draw a river in detail with Inkarnate, the fantasy map program? Here are some tips!

After explaining how to use the various background and foreground levels and how to color water and soil, let's move on to something slightly more advanced! inkarnate (which we talked about Thu) has a lot of potential and, as you will see, it can be used both to draw maps on a very large scale, and smaller maps.

However, the small-scale maps, like that of a city and its surroundings, present difficulties other than large-scale ones. In fact, they require more details and greater attention to the naturalness of the details.

Today, in fact, I will explain how to draw a river on a small scale, always using Inkarnate!

It should also be specified that the map that we will outline in this article will be the basis for the more detailed one, in which we will explain how to create the map of a village.

The places that we will design will appear in our campaign for Pathfinder, The book of invasions, which we have presented Thu and whose setting we presented Thu. The book of invasions can be found on our Patreon!

Background and foreground: how to trace the river with Inkarnate

First of all, we specify that, for this tutorial, we will use the paid version of Inkarnate, which allows you to make larger maps and has more tools.

Even before starting, it is important to define the levels of background e background: how much of your map will be covered with water and how much will it involve from the ground? In our case, having to draw only one river, we must expect a predominance of land over water. So, I would recommend filling the map with the background of earth, setting our "trowel" at the top left with the drop-down menu in add.

At this point, you must draw the river, which is obtained by subtracting the earth: always remaining on the icon of the trowel, choose subtract from the first drop-down menu.

A matter of grid: long live the hexagons!

However, now you have to choose whether to draw the river with a circle brush, or with a square or hexagonal one. Personally, I find it more comfortable to work, at least initially, with hexagonal brush: having a reference grid helps me maintain the proportions of the map.

To define the width of the river, and in general the scale of the drawing, it is important to set the size of your brush by adjusting its Size. Using the hexagonal grid, the size of the individual hexagons can also be useful for adjusting with the map scale: the smaller the hexagons, the more territory will be included in the map. To change the size of the hexagons, you must go to the penultimate icon on the left, that is the one that controls the grids.

To represent this river, we will need one medium scale. Then, in the upper bar that appears, set the Size at 55, which will give us medium-sized hexes.

At the center of the map, therefore, subtract hexes to form the river, returning to the trowel icon and selecting abstract. In this case, the river's path will see a sharp central curve, such that the river almost surrounds and makes an island a piece of land. We will then make this piece of land raised and host the gnomic village of An Inse, which looks almost like an island surrounded by a river.

Scrub those hexes away!
Scrub those hexes away!

Let's refine the banks: add and subtract!

Now that we have the path of the river, we must refine its banks and remove the woodiness of the hexagons from them. This process will take place in two parts: one of subtraction of background is one of insertion of background.

First, set the trowel to subtract, in shape circular and size relatively minute: Size 20/25 is optimal. In fact, we are outlining the bank of a river: it is not too linear and a little precision is needed, but we must not make it too rough banks (it is not a mountain stream!).

With your trowel, gently follow the edges of the hexagons, subtracting ground for smooth the corners. Apply a slight horizontal wobble to your mouse to make this smoothing slightly irregular - it's okay it's a plain river, but it's not even ruled out! If you have a little shaky and shaky hands, don't worry about the swing: you are already doing it very well!

Munch those hexagons!
Munch those hexagons!

After this step, you will have a river with irregular edges but, you will notice, with the very concave sides, as if the river had found very little resistance while munching them away with its current. This is good, but not too much: adding convex surfaces also gives the design more variety and realism.

Then, set the trowel to add, always circular in shape and with one size slightly less than what you used before: for example, I will drop it from 24 to 22. Now pass it on the parts of the banks that seem too straight or too gnawed and harmonize the line.

We kindly file the corners!
We kindly file the corners!

At this point, do you think you have added too much land and narrowed the river too much? No problem: re-set subtract and gnaw the bank again, then add soil and remove it again until everything seems coherent.

Remember that the river's course is determined by the obstacles it encounters. Consequently, if you make it curve around an obstacle along one side, make sure the other side follows the curve and widens to compensate.

With a more coherent course, let's insert the obstacles of the river!
With a more coherent course, let's insert the obstacles of the river!

The obstacles that shape the river

Now, having made a river with many bends, we must enter the obstacles that give it this somewhat tormented course.

Going to the icon, on the left, of the gods tool (the one with the castle), select the element "Select object". In the long series of objects that will appear, towards the beginning you will find the cliff, ie the cliffs, the end of a vertical drop. These cliffs will help us to give the idea of ​​raised ground that acts as an obstacle to the river.

The crags of Inkarnate!
The crags of Inkarnate!

Select the cliffs that most they adapt to the shape you have chosen, then, after selecting them by clicking on the icon Select at the top, change its size by adjusting the size stairs. Remember that this measurement will also determine the height of your elevation gain; for this map I chose an average scale, 60%.

Place all the cliffs along the edge of your obstacle, not worrying too much if the edges do not always coincide perfectly. Add soil where it is needed and remove it where it is in excess. In some cases, try to keep some ground under the cliff to create a small beach.

The edges of the river give a completely different look!
The edges of the river give a completely different look!

How to apply the color?

Now let's move on to soil and river coloring. Theoretically, the river would also be fine in its structure, but adding some particular shade of color will also give it more realism. The grid will not be needed for this task, so you can also remove it by going to the grid icon and setting the opacity to zero.

Since this map will be the base for a city in our Irish countryside, we will go to the brush icon and, keeping the already selected background, we will take the brightest green in the palette (BIOME-04), coloring the whole map like this.

At this point, to make the different consistency of the rocky slopes from the rest, we select the BIOME-02 palette, a slightly more subdued greenish color. Keeping a Softness it's a Opacity of 1, we trace the edges of the gradients. To make them instead lower banks and, supposedly, muddy, you can use a more earthy palette, like the LAND-04, taking care to diversify the thickness of the sides. To quickly outline the small area of beach that we had set before, we can use the color LAND-05, with an Opacity medium, to give it a yellow complexion.

At this point, we can also add some details to the color of the river water by selecting background in the first drop-down menu.

First, select a dark blue (OCEAN-01-BLUE-05-SL) and, decreasing the Opacity to about 0,25, trace the center of the river. This will add depth to the watercourse. To increase this depth, we will go to by contrast lighten the edges of the river, where the water is supposed to be lower. Keeping the same Opacity, select a light blue (OCEAN-01-BLUE-01-SL) and trace the edges of the river, on both sides.

River ended: we can move on to the rest!
River ended: we can move on to the rest!

At this point, our river is over and we can move on to the rest of the map!