Map Arts


Getting started with making illustrated maps can be quite intimidating. There are so many map-making applications to choose from, which one should you use? Is it really better to make maps by hand in a standard image editing application? Should you plan maps on paper first? Here are a few tips to help you get started.

Choosing The Type of Map

The first thing you need to figure out is the scale of the map you want to create. Are you focusing on one or two buildings, mapping a city, or mapping an area? How much detail do you want to include? Small scale maps can often be drawn by hand quite easily, or created using a simple software package. The best way to create maps of a bigger area will depend on the level of accuracy required and the amount of detail that you plan to include.

Specialist Software vs Photoshop

Specialist software such as Campaign Cartographer is very useful for creating fantasy maps, maps of buildings, and maps of wooded areas, however, it is not so useful for making maps of real-world places unless you have the skills required to create assets for it.
Creating maps in Photoshop can be more time consuming since it is not a specialist mapping program, however, it is easier to manipulate existing resources and you have a lot more freedom in terms of adding backdrops and building your maps.

Tips for Editing Your Map

If you intend to print out your maps, you should work in as high resolution as possible. You can always scale the map down for use on the web once you have finished making it. Use a vector format if possible, so that the map will scale well.

LA Californiamap illustration

Fantastic Map Illustration by RabinkyArt, LLC

Whenever possible, make use of layers. Start by scanning in an outline of the area you are mapping. Put water features on the first layer, then land above that. Add topographic features on the next working layer, and then place details on another layer. If anything goes wrong, you can simply delete one layer instead of losing all your work.
And one more thing regarding map illustrations. Always have your copyright, or even better watermarks, on every map image you’re posting somewhere. Believe us, it will not prevent your maps from being steeling, but sometimes give you the possibility to have your earned benefits even in this case.

World best examples of illustrated maps: