1/26/2014

A "Work in Progress" Map

A "Work in Progress" Map
I've been completely inspired by the likes of +DysonLogos and +mattjackson both sweet map-makers whose style I really love. Both these guys have Patreon campaigns you should really check out.

This week Matt added a top-down map that also featured a profile view of the cave complex. While I've seen both style of maps before I don't think I've seen them married in such a cool fashion.

Also this week Dyson started a step-by-step progression of his latest map. While I have sketched out a rough map to help me determine how to proceed with the rest of the map, I've never even considered actually drawing the final map over the top of the scribbled rough map.

Of course, now that I think of it, I've seen artists do this type of thing all the time. If you look at any "how to draw" book you see this natural progression. It seems like a no-brainer, but was well above my level of ability. You see......how do I put this delicately.....I'm no artist.

I'm not trying to detract from any natural ability I might have. I'm trying to state the painfully obvious. While I can think of what I want something to look like, the actual creative process, much less the steps to get from point A to point Z pretty much elude me. In order for me to come up with any type of map at all I have to play to my strengths, which usually boils down to breaking a process down into steps I can manage.......and not be too afraid to screw things up experimenting as I go about things.

If I can, I like to document the process so I can attempt to replicate what worked well and improve upon what I think did not live up to my expectations.

Rather ugly doodle....with potentialFriday I started doodling a new map. Since I've never even tried to make a vertical map like Matt's (to be fair Dyson has done some great ones as well), I thought I'd take a stab at it and share my results along the way. Normally I try to use some thicker card stock and some good Prismacolor Fine Line (Premier) Markers. The cardstock isn't the best surface to be using, as the markers bleed a bit, but I like the feel of it. I do have some quality drawing paper I break out from time to time. Friday, however, all I had available was a big legal pad of yellow paper.


Ugh.

Not the prettiest thing, especially the unavoidable folds, but I do like how "organic" this cave complex turned out to be. I'm at least happy with my starting point, which is more than I can say for other efforts.

This picture is scanned on a decent flatbed scanner at 600 dpi. I prefer using high resolution for the initial work and sometimes even save everything at this resolution. I find that the minor issues I have as I go along get smoothed out a lot as I reduce the final resolution. Issues like the aforementioned cardstock bleeding.

Getting to a base file I can later work with is my goal for today and because I used a yellow notepad I have my work cut out for me. In Photoshop I use my Magic Wand Tool, but either I don't get all of the black marker lines, or I get too much of the paper's markings. In the end I just work on getting rid of the yellow and then going in and removing the greenish-blue. Little bits and pieces, small flecks really, of my marker lines go missing when I remove lines and not everything I want gone is taken away. I try several things, but each one doesn't work quite right. My final solution is to just set the Magic Wand at 100 and click on the marker line. Since most of the drawing is interconnected, most everything is captured. I have to zoom in and hit the small lines and cutouts with the Magic Wand.

Cleaning up my scans

An important note is to always work off a copied layer of your last step. This way when you screw up, like accidentally erasing something, you can start fresh with another copy of the last step/layer. Also, make sure to save after each step or two. I usually bundle my projects in their own folder and name them WIP, for Work in Progress. Of course, WIP is also the name of my temp project folder.

Some artifacts I don't want
The next steps are to smooth things out some. I usually use the Filter: Dust and Scratches and then follow up with adjusting the levels. This gives me a mostly black solid line, but there are still small speckles of white and other colors. The picture on the left is a 600 dpi selection blown up to 400%, so you aren't likely to see much. Still, I want a totally smooth & black line so when I do some things later I'm introducing "errors" I want.

I try a bunch of things, but in the end I find adding a complete black layer, which I then hide, and then selecting all the blank areas of my map with multiple clicks of the Magic Wand before right-clicking and selecting "Select Inverse" works. I now have a selection of where my lines should be. I take that selection and after showing the black layer do a simple copy & paste. Now I have a layer of solid black lines.

This is as far as I wanted to get to today. I have my solid framework to play with residing on my computer waiting for me to take the next step. I haven't decided on hatching or even if I want my walls to be solid black. I have a few options to play with, but I needed this base framework to deal with. There might still be some cleanup to do, but I'll save that for if I need it. Right now it'll look good on the web and "good enough" if printed out on paper. At best my finished map will be 300 DPI.
Example of working on a larger scale than needed

2014.01.26 Edit
Shortly after posting +mattjackson brought to my attention, "Hey Dumbass, you could've used Illustrator and saved yourself a heap of trouble!"

 Ok, he did not actually state those exact words, but after reading his suggestion, and his post on the topic, I realized that a) I have Adobe Illustrator to help me out and b) one of the only things I know how to do in Adobe Illustrator is exactly what was needed to make quick work of this  map.

I feel a bit like an idiot, which is actually a good thing because it means I've learned a lesson here and maybe I'll be able to do more since in the future I won't be wasting so much time with the fiddly bits.

Thanks Matt!

Much quicker and better way of getting my base map done!