Last week I was asked “How do you get your maps to look so “clean”? Are these maps scanned from your moleskine notepad? If so, what process do you use to produce such a nice map image?”
The majority of my posted maps are actually drawn on plain white paper, some are on graph paper (and most of those these days are drawn on my gridded moleskine). The clean look, however, comes from the tools I use and the scanning method I take.
This week’s map was drawn on yellow cardstock (I’ve mentioned in the past that I draw on just about everything – if you buy used fantasy and science fiction novels at the Book Markets around Ottawa, you may find a few with my maps drawn on the inside covers). Not the best material for scanning since it scans darkly, but what the hell. The actual drawing is all done using a black gel pen. In this case a 0.7mm pen from Staples, but I also use 0.5mm pens on occasion (but generally prefer the smoother flow of the 0.7).
Once I’m done drawing the map (for a tutorial on my drawing style, check out my tutorial dungeon), I reboot to Linux, slap the map down on my scanner and scan it into the gimp as a 300 dpi gray-scale image. It looks something like… this:
Normally the paper doesn’t come across quite so dark, but as I said, this one was on yellow cardstock instead of white paper. So the next trick is to crank up the brightness and contrast. Typically I run with +20-30 Brightness and +40-60 Contrast. This one was at the higher end of both scales because of the darker background. For maps drawn on graph paper, this also removes the graph lines.
The end result is what you typically see on my blog: