Back to the future


I started to play RPG’s some years too late to really experience the old hex crawling games. But for some reason I’ve always liked the simplicity in the world and area maps used by then. So when I was asked to make a map for a Swedish old school adventure called “The valley of the Snake god” (Ormgudens dal) I gladly accepted.

The adventure is a tribute to the old hex crawling ones and I was asked to make the full colour hex map in the middle of the book, yes the one you can see at the top of this blog post as well.

The map was really fun to make and to help me out I used the 2010, July annual from Profantasy. As always when you use a style as your base for a commissioned map there will be symbols that are missing. So to solve this I had to make the symbols myself. That maybe doesn’t sound that hard but the problem you get is that even though I easily can make some hex symbols, the one I made had to fit in with the already existing ones.

If you don’t succeed the new symbols will be in the way for the overall harmony of the map, and I know I at least would get very annoyed by that. Lucky for me I’m quite good at copying a style while drawing and I’m very pleased with the new symbols I made for the style, can you spot them?

The adventure itself is a very good one with some “Alien” influences added to it which make it a bit different from many other fantasy adventures I’ve played. If you’re Swedish, or can read Swedish, I can warmly recommend it, if for nothing else so for the beautiful colour map ;)

Skull Island

skull island2

Earlier this year Profantasy ran a competition where you had to create a map of an island, less than three miles wide. The competition ended in March and the map at the top of this post was my entry.

I saw the competition as a perfect way of trying out some new brushes that I had acquired, and also a good way of getting some training of making a free hand drawing using my Cintiq. The map itself is supposed to look like a worn pirate’s map that will lead you to the location of the treasure, if you can avoid all the dangers that are plotted out.

Everything is made in Photoshop and I had a great time making the map. Of course there are always things you can improve but overall I’m quite pleased with the end result, even though I didn’t win. But that wasn’t the important thing here, the important thing was to have fun and do some mapping. I will definitely make more free hand maps in the future, because it really is great fun to do them.

My online portfolio

imaginary maps
I haven’t blogged much lately, but my blogging time has really been eaten up by the work on my new online portfolio.

I’ve had my blog for a long time now, and it has actually been the reason for quite some jobs ending up on my desk. But I felt that it wasn’t the greatest place to refer to as a portfolio of my maps. Sure you can see a lot of my maps here on the blog, but I felt I wanted to have something that was easier to navigate, where the focus was only on the maps and not so much on techniques and tips and tricks for making maps.

So I decided to make a web site devoted only to my maps, a digital online portfolio. Where potential clients can have a look on what I can do, and where they won’t be distracted by a lot of text.

To accomplish this I acquired the domain, since I call my little one man mapping company imaginary maps it kind of felt right. And I’ve put in some time to try to make a good looking portfolio in wordpress. It has been a lot of work, but I am very pleased with the end result. Even though a site like that never will be finished, more maps will be added, some texts will be changed and so on. But it is good enough now to present it to the world.

So head over and have a look, and if you feel like ordering a map or two you know where to find me :)

Malmö after the war

malmö zon

Sometimes you just have to make a map, the inspiration just demands that you have to do it. You can’t really wait for the next day, you can’t even go to bed until it is finished.

I got that feeling today, and I have to blame the Swedish RPG Mutant year 0 (Mutant år 0).

Last year I backed the re-release of the Swedish game Mutant. I used to play the game when I grew up and I really loved it. It is a game about the world after a big catastrophe, a nuclear war. Or at least that was the story back then in the late 80’s. By then it didn’t feel like an absolutely unrealistic future.

Anyway today I got the PDF’s of the new game in my mail box, the printed game will be released in April this year, and it looks absolutely fantastic. I haven’t read all the rules but the ones I’ve looked at looks very solid and good.

With the game there were also two really nice maps of the Stockholm area after the catastrophe. I really liked the feeling of the maps and just felt that I had to try to make one myself. Also it felt like a shame if you could only play the game in Stockholm, so I made a map of Malmö.

The map is completely made in Photoshop on my Wacom Cintiq. Not much more to say, hope you like it.

Cleaning an old book

book 01
The last couple of weeks I’ve found out that the British library have started to share scans of old manuscripts. First of all this is great from a historical point of view, but secondly it is a gold mine for me as a cartographer. A lot of those scans are absolutely perfect to use as backgrounds for maps. And they are all free to use.

However all of the pages are covered with more or less areas of text. So to be able to use them as a background for a map I first had to clean the book pages so that they appeared to be blank.

I located a scan that wasn’t too covered in text (see picture at the top of this post), so I could start cleaning it. The easiest way of removing the text is to use the patch tool in Photoshop.

To do that, do as follows. First open your picture of the scan and select the patch tool. With the Patch tool you mark out an area with text, not too big. Find a place on the page where there is no text and drag the selection you just made with the patch tool to the empty area and release the left mouse button. The area with the text will now be blank. Continue in this way until the whole page is blank.

The end result will look like the picture below.
book 01 cleaned

Now when you have one side of the book you might also want two sides next to each other, so it looks like an open book. To do this you extend the canvas (image\Canvas size) so it is twice as wide as before. Then copy the layer with the book page and flip the new page horizontally (Edit\Transform\Flip horizontal). Then it is just a matter of making the two pages fit next to each other. It can be a bit fiddly and you have to erase some areas. When you are satisfied with the result just flatten the image. If some areas still look strange or if the pages look too similar next to each other, just use the patch tool again to remove those areas.

When the pages are done it will look something like the picture below.
book 01 cleaned full

Feel free to use the images attached in this post however you wish, after all they are not really mine. Or head over to the British library and get some scans of your own.

Stealing is good!

When you make a map one of the hardest, and most important things, is to get a good coastline. If the coastline isn’t believable the map wont be that either. So how do you get a good coastline. I know for sure that it is hard because this is one of the things I’ve been struggling a lot with since I started to make maps.

Well not anymore, not since I started to steal them. I mean why should I create something that I can steal? Now you might start to consider my moral judgement here, I mean you are not supposed to steal, right? But when it comes to the coastline I think we can make an exception. Of course you don’t do it from other peoples work you do it from maps of the earth.

Earth has so many coastlines and I can assure you that no one will ever see that you stole it in the first place. Just stealing a part of earth, lets say the coastline of Denmark wont work, because then everyone will recognise it, and  the magic of the map will disappear, it will just be an alternative map of Denmark and not your new fancy fantasy region.

To avoid getting caught, getting caught is bad due to the reason mentioned above, this is how I do it.

First of all I’m deciding on what type of map I want to do, for this little tutorial I’ll make a map of a coastal area with some Islands. Lets continue using Denmark as an example, the country has some really nice looking coastal areas that can be used.

Zoom in a bit on the map, I’m typically using Google maps for this, and start looking for some nice areas. When you find one make a screen capture of it and paste it in a new document in Photoshop. Continue in this way until you have a couple of different regions. Cut away all the uninteresting bits, the bits you don’t want to use. Paste all the parts you are going to use into a new document. In the picture below you can see the four different regions I’ve picked for my map.


Now when you have all your pieces in the same file it is time to arrange them together. Do this by rotating them, flipping them and so on until you get a structure that you like. At this stage you might also find out that you need an extra piece or that you have one that don’t work. I for example felt that I needed one more piece of coastline to get it right, so I stole another part of Denmark and added it in. When you are done you will have something that looks like the picture below.


Now it is time for the next step in the process, drawing.The first thing to do is to merge all the layers with maps from Google earth, then I change the opacity of the layer to 50%. Add a new layer and select the brush tool. Now it is time to sketch the actual coastline, I usually do this with a blue colour, that will make it easier to draw in the lines for real later, in black.

I try to just follow the coastline that I see in the merged map pictures, sometimes I do some small free hand changes, but most of the time I follow the real coast line. When you are done it is always good to hide the Google maps layer and look at the coast line you just made. Sometimes you now see things that looks strange, erase those and draw some new lines. I also like to add a pale blue colour to the sea/ocean, so I clearly can see what is land and what is sea in the map. Below you can see my coast line.


Well that is about it. Now it is time to maybe add in some mountains, rivers, forest, cities or what ever you want to fill your world with. When the sketch is done just select the brush you want, change colour to black and start drawing on a new layer.

Making a quick border in Photoshop

Sometimes when you use Photoshop you discover ways of doing things that you didn’t even know were there. One tool I’ve used a lot is the fill tool (edit/fill), usually to just fill areas with a colour. But the other day I discovered that you actually can do a lot more things with the fill tool then just fill in colour. One of the new cool things you can do is to make quick borders.

To make a border with the fill tool you start by clicking edit/fill so that the fill window opens. In the Fill window under Contents/Use you select pattern from the drop down menu.

This will extend the window with a new option called scripted patterns. From the new drop down menu you select picture frame and click OK.

A new window will open where you can change the settings for the frame you are just about to create. I prefer the frames that start with the number 34 and up. Simple ones that fit well with maps. The other ones are a bit too intricate for my taste, but they might work well if you want to add a frame to a photo or something. When you are satisfied with the way your border looks just click OK.

And this is how the finished result looks

It is always fun when you discover new ways of doing things, especially when they are as easy as this.