Star Map – Final Version – And a Look Back

So, I’m finally done. I created my own star map, covering Human Space as I will describe it in my science fiction series.

Final Star Map: Overview
Final Star Map: Overview

This image was scaled down considerably; the original is at 200dpi – 6622×4677 pixel. It’s 72MB in size as a PNG file. Here are some 800x800px crops from the main map:

Star Map: Region around Terra
Star Map: Region around Terra

Star Map: The Sword Worlds
Star Map: The Sword Worlds

Star Map: Empire
Star Map: Empire

Star Map: Federation-Imperial Border
Star Map: Federation-Imperial Border

Star Map: Seals
Star Map: Seals

I’ve worked on this map on and off for three years, taking some detours in between. In the end I learned a whole lot, and I think i can honestly say, improved as a mapmaker and graphics person. I will never compete with the true professionals, but just consider these early versions of the map:

First Version: The Milky Way Galaxy. This was actually a trace of a NASA image, and I was really just experimenting.

How it all began: At first, I attempted to draw a basic Galaxy…

Second Version: Zooming In. An entire Galaxy is an awful lot of real estate. So I began to zoom in on the Region around Earth. It was still a very crude map.

Spiral Arms: Closing in on the Target
Spiral Arms: Closing in on the Target

Third Version: The Orion Spur. At this stage I began to nail down the setting. You see an early draft of the political situation in this image.

Orion Spur
Orion Spur: Early design of the interstellar nations

Fourth Version: Human Space, Revisited. As the old map wasn’t really working out, and was ugly to boot. I started a new version from scratch. It was based on a solid timeline and a detailed setting design. At this stage, the map was very basic.

Human Space: The Next Generation
Human Space: The Next Generation

Fifth Version: Let there be Color. The next two images are just later versions of the above; as you can see I added a great deal of detail over time. The second map probably has 200 named star systems – that’s a guesstimate, I did not recount them.

Human Space 2c
Human Space: With Colors

Huamn Space 2j
Human Space: Colorful and detailed

Sixth Version: Near Space Distraction. At one point, I began to doubt my design – and decided to go more small scale. I began to map out individual star systems near Earth based on Hipparcos data. In the end, I abandoned this approach – the setting wasn’t bad, but I felt it did not really match what I had in mind.

Near Stars
Near Stars: A New Attempt

Near Stars: Overwhelmed by Data
Near Stars: Overwhelmed by Data

The Near Star Map’s styletests, of which this was the last, showed me that I wanted a map that was not just functional. Working on the style tests taught me a lot.

Near Stars: Style Test v7
Near Stars: Style Test v7

Seventh Version: Back to Square One, Just Prettier. After I discarded the Near Space idea, I reset certain things, changed some assumptions, and experimented with a galactic map. This was the result.

A New Galaxy
A New Milky Way Galaxy

A New galaxy Closeup
A New Milky Way Galaxy Zoomed In

Eight Version: Full Circle. I liked the techniques I was starting to develop, but as in the very beginning, decided that an entire galaxy was just too much space. I zoomed in and concentrated on the Orion Spur. The rest, as they say, is Galactic history. Here is an early version of the map that I completed this week:

Orion Spur, Again
The Orion Spur, Again

And the future?

This map is done – but that doesn’t mean I won’t work on it. The settings needs to be built, detailed maps for at least some regions need to be produced, and of course the entire thing will continue to evolve. In another three years this map will probably not look the same.

Update: Welcome, Reddit users – thanks for the compliments, you have no idea how happy it makes me that someone enjoys my work!

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6 thoughts on “Star Map – Final Version – And a Look Back


  1. I love love love the 7th version! It totally looks like something straight out of BSG. I can imagine this being framed on the wall in Admiral Adama’s quarters – like a naval commander reminiscing on the Pacific Theatre. Or an army general spending hours of his retirement just staring at a worn old map of Sherman’s March. And you think you’re not a pro? Slap your mouth!


  2. Well, thanks for the compliment – but I am not even close to being a pro. I think you know the cartographers’ guild – there’s some genuine pros there.

    But that said, yes I liked the galaxy map, too. It’s just not what the setting needed. Too much territory to cover. Plus I thought that the purely black & white map looked too bland when zoomed in. That’s why I went for color. I’ll probably have to go for b&w anyway for regional maps, since it’ll be way too expensive to print color illustrations.

    The BSG maps shown on the show were indeed an inspiration, by the way, a good catch on your part. :)


  3. Yes I most certainly do know the carto guild. I love that place/site! I was cruising it again yesterday just for poops and giggles. I think you’re as good as some and better than many. I mean that.

    And I understand completely about biting off more than you can chew. That’s kinda what killed my first world. I started with an area roughly the size of Texas…..then I went map crazy and 8 continents rose up from beneath the waves. Now I’m wondering what to put on all of them. That’s why your magnitudinal star system is so impressive. Worlds upon/within worlds. Good on ya!


  4. Well, I am better than I was a few years ago. I’ll acknowledge that.

    Anyway, building a galaxy – or even a tiny segment of one – means you’ll have to abstract and compress your setting, so to speak. You can’t hope to cover it in any deep detail, so I am not even going to try… Continents are really the same, except your level of compression is a different one.

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