This was the first time I tried to do anything with Photoshop Elements other than really minor tweaking or compositing of images created largely with Bryce and Daz Studio. I think the results aren't too bad.
Here is how I did it:
First, I sketched the initial outline of the continent. It looks a bit like North America because I was using its shape and layout as an inspiration. I then scanned this, loaded it into Photoshop and started playing.
Next, I scaled everything up by 2 times -- from 11x8.5 to 22x17. If my computer had more memory -- and if I'd done it before getting to far into the project -- I may have considered scaling it up to 44x34 or larger to make it easier to extract area maps from the master map later, and to get a smoother reduced size render.
Then, I started coloring in the geographic features. This was where I began to appreciate layers. By using layers I could be a bit sloppier with my boarders and later pick the ordering that gave me the best look. In the end I actually moved some areas from one layer to another.
Before I was quite done, I put in the first couple of cities -- now the three major free cities -- and discovered that, at least by default, each shape and piece of text ends up on a layer by itself. However, they can be linked and will rise and fall together. They also appear to move and scale together.
My last step of creating the map itself was to repaint the background -- which I'd added after making the original pencil sketch invisible -- to represent the grasslands that make up the majority of the area.
My real last step was to put in the legend box. This ended up being harder than it should have when I started getting boarders on all of the boxes. I cannot remember how I solved that problem (even though that was just this afternoon), so I may run into it again.
One thing this has renewed in me a bit is the thought of taking a course in how to really use Photoshop. The local community college (Mira Costa College) has an online course -- which may be the same as the one offered by the Elgin Community College I looked at a bit less than a year ago before it looked like moving was a possibility. It is taught for Photoshop CS3 -- but would probably apply to the current Photoshop CS4 -- not a several year old copy of Elements. (They do offer Elements classes, but they are aimed at digital photographers and might work better there than for general artwork, and I'd like to think about using it for both.) This would require that I upgrade my software before I start the course. And I do not want to upgrade on my current computer. This would force me to either buy a Mac and a bunch of new software, or buy, build or upgrade to a newer windows machine. I don't know if I could do the latter for a low enough cost to offset the continued frustration with some of the problems that I seem to inevitably have with Windows and maintaining windoze systems.