16 June, 2017

A LARP Map (part 3)

Once the hand drawn elements of he ma are completed, the image is scanned into the computer.  

Generally the image seems to end up a bit faded, so I increase the contrast to make the dark elements blacker, the pale elements whiter, and fade away the pencil work until it's generally eliminated.

The next step sees a shadowing around the coastlines. I do this with layers.


  • The top layer is the hand-drawn inked map.
  • The second layer is a white block filling the shape of the land mass. his is done by making a complete white layer, then using the "magic wand" tool to select the water and delete the white layer in these parts.
  • A third layer is a duplicate of that white layer, but inverted to black and then blurred a bit. This gives a black nimbus around the coastline.
  • In this case, a fourth layer was created in a very similar manner to the third. For this layer, the blurring was more pronounced. The final effect of this is to make a more pronounced outline that fades quickly to a mid grey, then fades out more gently to a white.
  • The bottom layer is a plain white.


I generally do this for most of my maps that are designed to have a fantasy/medieval look to them (even though it's probably more of a Renaissance look).


At this stage, we don't really have a context of scale for the map. I could add a linear scale somewhere, but for this particular map I've decided to take a different path. Since it's designed to be an recent map from a seafaring culture in the west, I'm adding lines of latitude and longitude.

This was done on a new transparent layer, above everything. I started with a circle representing the Antarctic circle of the world, this is just off the edge of the map and has a diameter roughly equal to the height of the map. I duplicated the circle raised it on the map and doubled it's width. This gives us the southernmost latitude ring seen on the map. The process was repeated, with each new circle raised by the same amount and doubled in width each time. Due to the size of the original circle, and the constant doubling in size, the northernmost latitude ring looks almost like a straight line and make a suitable equator for the map. Based on the way things have worked out, I'll say that each of the marked lines of latitude are at 15 degree intervals.

Longitude is done in a similar way. A circle is drawn centered at the horizontal middle of the map, and the equatorial latitude at the top of the map (it's radius passes the circumference of the circle through the centre of the original "antarctic circle"). This circle is duplicated multiple times, at 80% width, 60%, 40% and 20%, and then a vertical line is drawn. These longitude circles are grouped and adjusted for their width until they "look right" (where I'm defining the right look to be roughly where the 15 degree latitudes at the middle of the map look similar in length to the 15 degree longitudes that these circles form).

It's all a bit technical, but the final result of all these lines and calculations is something like this...



The latitude and longitude lines are faded out a bit (roughly 50% opacity), and now it's time to add a few more details to the map.

I could add borders between kingdoms, or indicate the relative population density of the land. But instead I've chosen to define which areas are more fertile.

This is basically done by "spray-painting" areas of the map. The darker the spray, the more fertile the area, the darker it is. For most fantasy settings, it's probably safe to assume that land fertility roughly corresponds to population density (no, it's not a perfect correspondence, but if there are differences between population density and land fertility, there is probably a good reason for this which can be explored in the history and lore of the setting). Nothing is ever made darker than the hand-drawn linework, so I basically work between a 50% grey shade and white.


Once again, it's worth noting here that the northern wasteland and the southern island are generally unknown to the explorers who have drawn this map.

Next it's time to add names to the map. Call it cultural appropriation if you want, but one of the cultures on the western coast of the continent has been given a distinctly Spanish flavour (the central kingdom which exists to the south of the LARP region was founded by a rebel baroness who left that land centuries ago). Basically this means that most of the regions indicated on the map will be given Spanish translations of simple names. The regional names are in a large font, curved and faded.

The major towns (those with the solid black circles) are named in a smaller font (black), and in their local names. The local town names are kept straight as an added distinction from the regional names.

I've also tinted the back layer to make the land mass a bit more pronounced, and faded the fertility shading further so that it didn't overshadow the regional names.


Final elements are a name for the map and a black border.


I could add more detail, but that's enough for the moment. Since all of the elements are on different layers, I might create political maps, maps of mystical ley lines, or even maps indicating where certain races and creatures are found.


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