I am looking into how to turn a fantasy map into vector tiles so it can imported into something like Mapbox but I'm getting drowned in information and I can't find the start point in the process, what software is needed (best fit for purpose) and if it's even feasible without a massive amount of work.

So, if you had created a fantasy world and mapped it out, how would you go about turning it into something that could used by ArcGIS or Mapbox? Is an image even a good starting point? Should I be looking at GeoJSON or something similar? Do I need to add a cartographic system to it so it has actual coordinates (I'm guessing that is required) and if yes, how?

I'm a programmer by trade so using APIs and various schemas won't be a problem, I'm just not well versed in the world of cartography and maps.

  • How large is the area your map covers? What do you plan to do with it once it is digitized? Do you only need a raster, or do you want to vectorize everything?
    – Erik
    Jan 26, 2021 at 10:10
  • @Erik, thanks for the reply. In terms of land area it's large, two continents the size of Europe each. Final use is to import it into Mapbox and make it a searchable, traversable map (I saw a video where someone else did this and thought it looked cool). I'd probably prefer vector, as I understand it vectors would make the data files smaller, faster loading, better magnification and the like.
    – Steve
    Jan 26, 2021 at 10:16
  • Vector data would require you to redraw everything, unless you already have a .svg or similar data. Ideally you'd do so using the software you plan on working with later, so you can put in the required attributes while drawing the features. Still, this will be a lot of work. You could start of e.g. by scanning your existing map, georeferencing so it covers an area of about 2 times Europe, and then start the digitizing based on this referenced map.
    – Erik
    Jan 26, 2021 at 10:26

1 Answer 1


The workflow you are looking for in GIS terms is called georeferencing. It's the process going from, for example, a scanned map without any geographic reference, to a map that has the right spatial reference. The creation of polygons would be the step after you have georeferenced your map. This process would be called digitizing.

You can do both in QGIS. Here's a tutorial for georeferencing. And here is one for creating polygons. Depending on your source data you can also do the digitizing semi automated, here's a guide on how to do that.

For georeferencing you need to pay attention to what kind of coordinate reference system (CRS) you digitize your map. To preserve the shapes of your map I would suggest to digitze it to a Mercator based Projection, like Web Mercator. In the end however, as long as you don't change your CRS later it doesn't matter that much what you choose.

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