First map commission of 2023: an unlabeled fantasy map of the world Parith, for Erik Judd. This project was an interesting challenge, because both money and time were tight, but it ended up being a good example of what I can do quickly. It’s also an example of why my maps usually cost more than what folks in the TTRPG community may be used to paying.

As a freelance map designer trying to do business within the table-top roleplaying hobby, I realized right away that there’s a glut of cartographers, so I knew I’d have to differentiate and I believe I do that well with my digital found-texture style. What I didn’t anticipate was the degree of sticker shock that my prices received with potential clients—not only individuals, but also third-party publishers who should know better about the value of professional creativity.

So for Parith, I learned that I can’t make a presentable unlabeled overworld map (let alone one with names, latitude/longitude lines, scale bars, etc.) in my found-texture style within the limited time frames that my commission rates require. Indeed I took up about half my allotted time converting the client’s (very helpful!) hand-drawn sketch to a workable digital base map. After that, time constraints meant my best option for filling in the details was remixing existing image assets from my previous maps—and doing that sufficiently to make this new map unique, instead of just a copy of older work.

I was keen to see what I could do within these limits, but the project took more time (half again over budget) than what I’d estimated. I feel better about charging what I charge and am definitely keeping my original cost floor for future projects. Besides, the client liked the results. Anytime I can help someone visualize their made-up world outside of their own imagination has gotta be a win.