Top-down cliffs 

In this short step-by-step tutorial you’ll learn how to draw top-down cliffs from start to finish, including the line art, colouring and shading.

Step 1: Define the basic shape

Let’s start with a basic shape. This will be the shape that the edge of the cliff will follow. Use a sweeping motion to create a natural looking share.

Step 2: Draw the edges

Now that we’ve decided on the basic shape of the cliff, it’s time to draw the edge. Keep the shape of the edge natural by avoiding straight lines and adding jagged corners. Avoid smooth shapes and curves, the cliffs should be sharp and “edgy”.

Step 3: The drop

A cliff is more than just a line. Beyond the edge is a steep drop. Draw layers of rock going down from the cliff. The more layers you add, the higher the cliffs will look. You can also play with the spacing between the layers. More space between the layers will make it look less steep.

Step 4: Add details

It’s time to add details to you cliff. Try adding some rocks and terrain details around the edges. These details help the cliffs blend in with the surrounding terrain.

Step 5: Flat colors

Time to get started with adding color. The first thing that we need to do is settle on the colors for the cliff. Which color works best depends a lot on what other colors you use in your map, so play around and see what looks best! For this tutorial I used #998675.

Sometimes the black of the line art can look too stark on your map. In this case you may want to change the color of the line art. Take a very dark shade of the original color and apply it to the line art.

Step 6: Shadows

Now let’s add shadows to the icon. I have my light source in the top left corner. This means that in this tutorial, most of the cliff will be covered in shadows. Add dark strokes underneath each layer. Then add a softer shade around the bottom of the cliffs.

Step 7: Highlights

In this step we’ll add the highlights. We’ll do this the same way that we did with the shadows, except we’ll be drawing with a lighter shade of the colors. Add a light stroke around the areas where the light catches the cliffs. This is above each layer and you can add a subtle highlight around the edges.


If you want to learn more about how I draw my maps, visit my Skillshare page, where I have several classes dedicated to drawing fantasy maps!