Back to the future

Water mill

Before the age of computers I made all my maps with pen and paper. Doing a map the analogue way is not as forgiving as when you do it in for example Photoshop on a computer. With pen and paper you don’t have an undo button, you have to rely on an eraser. When you start to ink the map it gets even worse, one mistake and the map can be ruined. So when computers powerful enough to make it possible to start making digital maps became available it was very tempting to start making digital maps.

But one thing that made the transition very hard was that making maps or illustrations with the mouse never felt like a good alternative. So my move to making digital maps started off first when I bought me a Wacom tablet. Being able to use a pen on the computer was something revolutionizing for me. Suddenly I could draw on the computer and the end result increased a lot.

But this was still not like using pen and paper, I couldn’t look at my hand while drawing due to the design of the tablet. This made it hard for me to reach my full potential in my maps. At least it took me a lot more time than if I sketched on paper. That’s when I discovered that Wacom madesomething called a Cintiq.

A screen you used a pen on and that was pressure sensitive sounded like the perfect tool, there was only one problem they were quite expensive, so I kind of ruled them out as something you could dream about but never could afford.

Then this spring two things happened that made a Cintiq to something more than just a dream. First of all Wacom released a new version of the Cintiq called 13HD, a smaller version of their bigger more expensive versions, and in a price span that actually is a bit closer to affordable. Secondly I decided that I would start to do maps professionally. This meant that I could purchase the Cintiq via my newly started company, my maps would actually pay for my dream come true, that was a great feeling.

It was with some great expectations and excitement that I opened up the box when it arrived, and I must say that it holds up to everything I was hoping for. Finally I can draw as if it was pen and paper again. The only problem now is that my kids have discovered it and they love to draw on it, so I hardly can use it while they are awake, but that is a problem I can gladly live with.

The small map of a water mill at the top of this post is a test map I made in Artrage with the Cintiq, trying to only use black and white to get that old school feeling. Then I couldn’t resist giving it some paper texture, but I’m still very pleased with the experiment. With the Cintiq I feel I can start exploring some areas I found more difficult before with my Bamboo tablet while mapping. And most of all I’m having a great time while doing it.

Going Pro

I have been making maps for as long as I remember. I think my interest in maps started when I discovered the maps in The Lord of the rings. I remember how I used to sneak in to my uncles room together with my cousin to look at the maps in the book. I thought they were amazing.

When I got a bit older I started to play role playing games and making my own adventures and maps came naturally. Making the maps for my worlds was usually where my adventures ended so after a while I only made more maps for adventures that I bought.

In those days all maps were made with pen and paper,this was long before you had any powerful computers at home. But as usually happens the people you play with grow up and start moving around for studies or work so my gaming group kind of disappeared. After that I mainly made maps for myself, sometimes sharing them with friends.

But in 2008 those things were about to change. That was when I discovered the Cartographers guild on the Internet and suddenly I realized that there were a lot of people like me out there. People who sat at home making maps.

The first map I completely made in a digital format was my Etrakien map, a map that also got the Cartographers choice award on the Cartographers guild site. Something I never expected but was deeply honoured by. After some time i started to get asked if I could do commissions but most of the times I turned them down due to lack of time. When having small children it is always hard to find time for other projects then family.

But for some reason this spring the number of people asking for commissioned work has increased a lot. With my kids now being older and also due to some encouragement from my wife I’ve decided to go pro. So from this May I’m running a small one man company doing maps for the ones in need.

My main tools of trade are Photoshop, Art rage 4, Campaign Cartographer 3 with addons and not to forget my Wacom Cintiq 13hd that I’ve now invested in.

So have a look at my blog in the near future for a new page called commissions, where you will be able to find some more information about how to contact me if you like to have a map done.

Going to Never land


One of the most important things to remember when you make maps is that it should be fun. If you don’t have fun, well you won’t continue doing it. One of things I like the most is to make maps for my kids. It doesn’t matter if it is for a RPG session or for an imaginary world they want to play in. If they ask for a map I always try to make one for them.

This spring my oldest daughter turned six and she wanted to invite all her friends for a pirate party. At the moment Jake and the Never land pirates are her favorite show on TV, and of course if you have a pirate party you have to have a treasure hunt.

My kids loves to have treasure hunts and I have made maps of our house that I use when we go treasure hunting. Sometimes I include a riddle to make it a bit harder for them to find the treasure. Because the truth is that they nowadays are so good at reading the maps of our house that they find the treasures in no time. So I have to make it a bit harder for them.

But this time I decided to make something completely different that I hadn’t done before. Jake and his pirates are living in never land, but it is quite hard to get there for a party, so I decided to make a map where I turned our house into Never land. To do this I used Profantasy’s Dungeon Designer 3 program and the Jon Roberts Dungeon style from the 2011 annual (It is free to download by the way). I really like that style and it is very easy to use.

Do I need to say that the map was a real success. The kids loved it and they really played it out well, as if they were in Never land. The treasure was easily found after some exciting adventures and everyone enjoyed the booty, golden coins with chocolate inside. What more can you ask for if your six years old 🙂

Another style coming up

Example map

Lately I’ve been working hard on a new style for Profantasy. As you can see in the test map of the style it is a black and white style that hopefully will work very well in print.

I have always been very fond of the old fantasy maps like the ones you found in the hobbit and the lord of the rings, black and white and very clean looking. Recently I’ve also made some old school dungeon maps so I thought that I’d like to have a black and white style that would work with these.

First I only had some mountains, forest and rivers and simple icons for cities/towns but when I was asked by Profantasy if I could turn it into a style for them I decided I had to expand the number of symbols and textures that could be used. I’m still convinced that you should keep things as simple as possible with this kind of maps, this is really a style where less can be more. Let the negative space in the map do its job. But now this one won’t be just for me, and there might be a million reasons why someone wants to include some symbols that I wouldn’t. So I decided to work through the list of symbols that are the most common in the styles released by Profantasy. Then everyone can decide for them self what to include.

The first map I made in the style had quite a lot of water in it, and while looking at the map I felt that the water area of the map was a bit empty compared to the land area with all its symbols of trees, mountains and hills. So I decided that I would add in some monsters like you have in old maps. The inspiration to the included monsters is from an old Swedish map called the Carta Marina. In this map the sea is full of strange and scary monsters and snakes. Of course there had to be a ship or two as well that fearlessly sails through these dangerous waters.

Making these monsters and ships has been a great challenge for me, I haven’t done anything like it before and I really had to push myself to the next step to make them. But it has been great fun and I must say that the monsters are probably the symbols I’ve enjoyed the most to make in this style. They’ve also inspired me to some more ideas for future maps, but more of that in a later blog post.

The style is not completely done yet, I still have some small things to finish up and I need to make a compass and a scale bar. But you should all be able to see the finished result this summer, if you subscribe to the Annuals.