Category Archives: Tips and Tricks

Placing icons on a map in Gimp

Placing Icons on a Map with Gimp

Nikitas Thlimmenos was asking about how to place icons on a map, so here’s the walkthrough! The map is the Iconic Island (http://www.rpgnow.com/product/110804/Fantastic-Maps—Iconic-Island) as that’s the map Nikitas is using. There’s a bare base map in the pack, and all the .pngs come as separate files that you can add. But this also works if you find the CSUAC bundle of pngs or trawl the Dunjinni forums for the amazing art assets there. You can set dress a dungeon pretty quickly this way.

So, how do you add a .png icon to an existing map? Continue reading

Simple Labeling

How to label a map
Eric Quigley asked about labeling recently and that prompted me to think a little about how I actually go about labeling a map. Often it’s the last thing to get done, but it’s also the most important. A map without labels is just a pretty picture, it’s not useful. So, it’s worth taking some care getting labels right.

This is a photoshop tutorial, but these techniques are almost identical in Gimp.

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How to use a map for worldbuilding

Worldbuilding By Map

This article was originally written for Fictorians.com and was pitched at people building their own worlds for novel writing, but the general process should be useful for a broad variety of world builders.

Let’s get one thing out of the way right now.

A map shouldn’t be pretty.

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How to draw featured buiildings

Highlighting Featured Buildings – Shape, Detail and Contrast

Cities and buildings come up a lot in questions. I’ll put together a software specific tutorial on buildings, but today I’m just going to go through my philosophy when illustrating a featured building like a castle or a temple. The process is the same, regardless of software. In this case – ballpoint pen on sketchbook paper.

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How to draw coastlines

Drawing Old-fashioned Coastal Waters

Really quick one today – this is an illustration of how to draw old fashioned coastal waters. Lots of historic maps use rippled lines to indicate the sea. Here’s a couple of quick pointers on reproducing the effect.

1. Add your first ripple
First, draw the coastline in a nice dark brush – or press relatively heavily with your pen (this was a ballpoint on sketchbook paper). Then, pressing more lightly to get a fainter line, draw a parallel line to the coast. Where your coastline is ragged and fractal, this line should be smooth and flowing. Follow the edge, but smooth off the sharper edges. Try to keep the same distance from the coast as you draw.

2. Add in the rest
Now repeat this with successive lines. Each time you add another line, increase the spacing slightly. Also, smooth off the sharper corners of the line inside. If you have an inlet (like I’ve got here), don’t cram the lines in to get through – smooth over the inlet, and draw another set of disconnected ripples within.

This looks good with a light blue wash around the coastal edge, so this doesn’t have to be just a black and white map technique.

Using Mountains to Define the Scale

Defining Scale using Mountains

I’ve been asked a lot about how to depict different scales recently. The question is – how do you tell the viewer of one map that they’re looking at a zoomed in region of a small area, and on another map convince the viewer that they’re looking at a large area, zoomed out. The easiest cue for the viewer is mountain ranges. These are the feature that’s different enough at different scales that they can act as a defacto scale-bar.

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How to use brush dynamics to draw buildings

Drawing Buildings with Dynamic Brushes

Earlier in the week I posted a tutorial on how to draw buildings with the pen tool. But sometimes drawing each building just takes too long. For whole cities, you probably want a quick way to lay in whole blocks of buildings. Photoshop can help – using dynamic brushes. Continue reading