A mappers review of Ipad Pro

Village 01 grid
It’s been three months since I bought my iPad Pro and Apple Pencil. So I’ve had some time to test it thoroughly.
My expectations for the iPad was really high when I bought it. I had seen a lot of reviews of it and had also tested it shortly at the Apple Store. But even though my expectations were high I was really surprised and a bit shocked on how extremely well it worked.

I’ve had a Wacom Cintiq for nearly three years and most of my maps have been made using it and Photoshop on my computer. The Cintiq works really well but you still have some parallax while drawing. That means that when you press the pen to the screen the actual line comes a bit to the side. In the beginning that was a bit awkward, but I soon got used to it and you could also fiddle a bit with the settings so that the parallax almost disappeared.
So the first thing I realised while using the iPad Pro was the lack of parallax. You put down the pen and that is where the line will appear. This might sound like a very small thing, but believe me if you draw digitally it is a very big thing.
It is also amazing how Apple in their first try can accomplish something that Wacom is still struggling with.

The second thing to do after getting my hands on the iPad was to find the right application for me. I tried out quite many different ones like paper53, Photoshop sketch and Procreate. Quite soon I realised that Procreate was by far the best app for the needs I have. The program runs fantastically smooth even when you have quite many layers to work with. Also the different brushes in the app are really good.

So now when three months have gone by I must say that I found a new fantastic tool in the iPad Pro when it comes to drawing maps, and that I miss my computer and Wacom Cintiq less for every day that goes. I’m actually trying to do most of my work on the iPad these days. But there are some things I still miss. You can’t do everything on the iPad.

I do still miss full Photoshop, it has some really good tools that will speed up your work, tools that don’t exist in Procreate. Also it is hard to add text to the map while using the iPad. But hopefully one day Adobe will release a full version of Photoshop to the iPad, or I think that in the end they will loose a significant amount of users to Procreate. Because Procreate is developing in a very good speed and I guess that some of the tools I miss in the program sooner or later will show up. And for every tool that shows up I will miss Photoshop less.

So is the iPad Pro and Apple Pencil something I recommended for others to try out? I would absolutely say yes, but there is a small but. The iPad Pro is very expensive and if you’re not using it for professional work it is quite some money to host up. If you think it is worth it it is up to you to decide, if you use it for professional art work I think it is a must buy!

A New Years adventure


So has another year passed, and what is a better way to end it then playing an adventure with family and friends.

The rumors in the village is that someone has stolen the New Year, and time is short, this year will soon end and if no one can retrieve the New Year the world will freeze in a constant state where nothing new can happen. The villagers suspect that it is the trolls in the neighborhood that has stolen it, but where can the players find them? And is the truth really so simple…..

And of course does the story need some maps. The map at the top of this post is of the village where the adventure will start out. The map is done in City Designer 3 (CD3) from Profantasy but edited in Photoshop to change colours and adding some effects. I usually do that with all my city maps I make in CD3, the original colours are a bit too bright for my taste.

The map below is made in Dungeon Designer 3 (DD3) and depicts the cave where the two trolls in the adventure are hiding. Of course they are not the culprits they are completely innocent, the real culprit is the evil priest, and he is the one responsible for stealing the New Year.

Everytime I use DD3 I feel like I have to do it more often. It is a very powerful tool and working with it is a lot of fun.

But now it is time to try to save the New Year, so happy New Year to everyone reading this blog and see you next year, if my children and their friends succeed in their quest.

Village training

village test

Last week I was asked to do a commission of a small village for a RPG adventure. The deadline was rather short and this was just before midsummer, so I didn’t have much time available. As you might not know, if you’re not a Swede, midsummer is a very big holiday here in Sweden. Everyone has a day off from work on the Friday that week and dances around the midsummer pole, especially if you have kids. And with three kids in the house that means a lot of dancing for me.

Anyway I decided to take the commission regardless of my lack of time, because I saw this as an opportunity to try to make a village map by hand on my Cintiq. Usually when I draw villages or cities I use City Designer 3 (CD3) from Profantasy. That is an absolutely brilliant program, especially if you make medium sized cities. But I really wanted to try to do this one by hand. Also the map had to be in an old school style, and I don’t think CD3 has any style that fits for that.

After finishing the map, that I managed to do before deadline, I felt that there where areas in the map that could be improved. So I decided to make another one, just for practice. Also this time I made it completely by hand, no premade symbols or brushes. Everything is done as if you were using pen and paper (you can see the map at the top of this post).

There are still things in the map that I want to develop further, for example the hills and farmland. But overall I’m pleased with the result and most of all I feel like I have something good in the works here. So I will definitely continue working on this style in the future.

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.

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.