We've been talking a lot about mapping here in Paizo: what makes a good encounter-level map (like a dungeon, or a starship) and what doesn't. Most of us spend time redrawing at least some maps we get it, and doing that well is important. After all, we don't want to replace a map that isn't in good enough shape to go to a cartographer with a different map that isn't in good enough shape to go to a cartographer, but for different reasons. So we've been talking about standards.

To be clear, this isn't about making maps. Cartographers make maps; we authors and developers simply give drafts to cartographers to create. This discussion is about creating good, clear drafts that someone else will make pretty.

The first thing to touch on is supplies. The best list appears to be the following:

1) A sketching or drawing pencil that erases cleanly.
2) A black Sharpie, for heavier lines.
3) At least one black drawing or drafting pen. Having two of different sizes is good, and having three or four different sizes is even better. Sigma Micron pens are great and come in useful different sizes.
4) A rubber eraser. Rubber erasers are best because you can spread it wide to erase big areas or fold it narrowly for line-length erasures.
5) Graph paper with blue lines.

Now, I don't have most of these and I haven't used them. Here are some questions I had, which I thought I'd share:

Why aren't several pencils of various line widths good enough? Because you don't want to turn over any map in pencil. Everything you do in pencil you should go over in ink later, then use the rubber eraser to erase any pencil that remains. Your final product looks cleaner and clearer when inked.

Why not a mechanical pencil? Because cheap 20-for-a-dollar-pack mechanical pencils don't erase as well as an HB drawing or sketching pencil. Yes, you'll have to sharpen them. So maybe add a sharpener to the list, too.

Why aren't colored pencils on this list? Because you should draw very little--and usually no--color in your map turnover. Identify water with wavy, ripply lines with your finest point pen rather than coloring it blue. Note brick by sketching the bricks rather than coloring something red. Note foliage by practicing techniques to draw trees or bushes, not by painting things green. Colored pencils obscure, rather than promote, detail. I'm not as draconian as others on this point; I feel like judicious use of colored pencil is just fine, particularly when it's important to the adventure (like, the duke's country lodge has blood red bedspreads and upholstery).

Why blue-lined graph paper? Black- and gray-lined graph paper obscures detail, making it unclear what's a line you drew and what's a line on the graph. Particularly dark lines are especially unhelpful; avoid them at all costs. But the reason for blue lines is that your cartographer can easily manipulate it by "deleting" the color blue from the image and be left with just the ink you drew. Lines are important for us, but not quite as important for cartographers doing their job. So blue lines should most times be the only color appearing on your draft map.

I'll speak in a little bit about some other good mapping points.