Outside my comfort zone

test map dungeon
We all have our comfort zones in everything we do, and so do I when it comes to mapping. Most of the maps I do are either overland or city maps and while doing them I’m feeling very safe. I know what’s looking good and how to accomplish the things I have in mind for the map. But staying inside your comfort zone wont make you better in what you do. You have to force yourself to step outside, to do the things you feel insecure about. That is the best way to improve whatever you do to the next step.

Earlier this year, before the summer, I was asked by a Swedish RPG company to do some old school dungeon maps. I hadn’t done many before and felt a bit insecure about it but I thought I could give it a try. The maps turned out pretty well (you can see them in the book “Monster” for the Swedish RPG Fantasy!) and doing them kind of gave me the urge to do more.

I started to play around with different ideas and made a couple of test maps to see where I could get with this. Around this time I also talked to Ralf at Profantasy to see if they would be interested in me making a Black and White dungeon style for their annuals. I sent him some of the test maps and he thought it’d be a great idea, so we agreed on me making the style, to be released now in October.

evil temple

When you make a style for Profantasy you get a list of things that usually are included, so I started at the top and ticked them off when I had them done. All symbols are made in a program called Artrage that has been a great help while doing the symbols, especially the “Paint symmetry” tool. The tool lets you divide the painting in between 2 and 12 parts. Everything you do in one part will be repeated in the others. So if you for example draw a coffin you divide the painting in two pieces, everything you draw on the left side will be repeated on the right side, and this will make the coffin have the correct proportions.

Making the style has been great fun and I already want to make more symbols to flesh it out. The style includes around 75 unique symbols but as always you cannot get it all in there. You will always miss something. But I think the selection of symbols is more than enough to make it possible to do the map you want. I actually even included a couple of monsters that you can populate your dungeon with.

I feel that I really had to step outside my comfort zone to make this style, and that I have learned a lot from it. Hopefully those experiences will improve my future maps.

I hope you will enjoy the style now in October.


First time in print

As you might have read in an earlier post here on my blog I made a colour map for a Swedish RPG called Fantasy!. After finishing the colour map I was asked if I could do two black and white maps for an upcoming Monster book for the game. The maps should be old school, which means no grey scale. Of course I accepted the offer, making old school maps is kind of fun I think. It is a bit challenging but if you succeed the result is very rewarding.

The maps I was supposed to do was one of a cave system behind a waterfall and lake and one of a cellar in a castle where the players had to break out from the cells where they were imprisoned. The map at the top of this post is of the cave system, but without any numbers.

So this is actually my first maps I’ve done that have made it all the way to a printed publication. I still haven’t seen the book but I’m eagerly waiting for it to arrive in my mail.

The map itself is made in Artrage which I prefer when I do maps “by hand” on the computer. It is a bit more forgiving then Photoshop when it comes to drawing straight lines.

Making a Compass rose in Artrage

compass rose

The other day I decided to upgrade my version of Artrage from 3.5 to the new 4.0. One of the new features in the program is that you can draw in symmetry, or as it is called in Artrage Paint symmetry.

First when I bought the program I didn’t think much of this feature but after some testing I’ve realized that it really has some great potential. For example I started to experiment doing compass roses, and to my surprise the symmetry paint feature is a big help.

Here is a quick tutorial on how to make a compass rose as the one in the picture at the top of this post.

First of all start up Artrage and click Tools-Paint Symetry-Paint Symmetry, as in the picture below.

This will give you the default symmetry where the picture is divided into four squares. This means that if you draw something in one square the stroke will be repeated in the three others. If you like to have a compass rose that only shows N,S,E and W this will do fine. If you however also want the rose to include NE,SE,NW and SW you have to increase the symmetry segments to eight instead of four.

To do this you do the following. Point with mouse at the circle in the middle of the picture and click with the left mouse button. This will open up a new menu as seen in the picture below. Select Set number of Segments and put in the number you like, the maximum number of segments are twelve, but in this case we only use eight.

The work area will now look like in the picture below and it is time to start drawing. At first do some test strokes that you later delete so you understand the logic behind the symmetry, it’s not that complicated. Making a compass rose shouldn’t be too hard, making a good looking one might be a bit trickier.


I can see a lot of things where the symmetry feature can come into good use. Like when you do simple icons for cities or towns for your map, or making intricate borders. Well I think I have some more experimenting to do 🙂

First map made in Artrage

A long time ago before computers all you could do was making maps on paper. When I played RPG’s with my friends during that time I loved doing maps, mostly those where made in inked watercolour. Since then I hardly pick up my analog stuff anymore, it is so much simpler to just do it on your computer. With programs like Photoshop and campaign Cartographer the process of making maps are so much easier.

But sometimes I miss drawing by hand, and Photoshop’s tools just don’t have the right feeling. Luckily enough Jonathan Roberts over at fantastic maps told me about a program called Artrage. It is an illustration program that has an affordable price and a great set of tools to use. Suddenly I’m finding myself drawing again, and it feels like doing it on paper, even though you’re doing it on your computer.

The map included in this post is an example of a quick map of a small village I made in the program while trying to learn it. It is coloured using the watercolour tool which works really nice. It takes some time to learn the way the program behaves but you can find a lot of great tutorials on youtube.  And as soon you get a hang of it, it really works like a charm.