Last month, I wrote about converting my decades old, hand-drawn fantasy map to digital version. Today, I’m sharing the follow-up on the process and how it turned out. For those who may have a similar situation, I’ll include some technical details that may make this process less painful.
I originally had a map that was hand-drawn but had water spots which discolored the paper enough to render it useless for scanning which would have been an easy resolution. So I had to resort to tracing the map by hand using tracing paper purchased at a local craft/art supply store. This process was easy to complete if a little time consuming.
I did have to go over the pencil tracing with a pen and finding the right type to use for tracing paper can be tricky. I found the Paper-Mate Profile worked best. Be careful of smudges though mine seemed to add a bit of character to the map – after all, what’s an old, hand-drawn map without smudges?
Next, since the paper is an odd size I needed to use a special scanner. That meant a trip to Fed-Ex/Kinko’s so I found on in the area. Since I was scanning only to electronic version I needed my own thumb-drive which I usually carry with me everywhere – so make sure to take one if you are doing something like this. Also, scanning paper can be tricky feeding through the particular scanner used – and no, there wasn’t a flat-bed that would accommodate the paper size. However, in this case the scanner had been recently serviced with new rollers so the tracing paper fed without a hitch. The cost was minimal so I easily had a digital version of the map. However I could only get a .tiff of the file instead of .jpg or .png (I didn’t want a .pdf until I had the final version).
At this point, I had a file of the map. I intentionally left the new version without place & geographic names so I could add them via my computer. For this I used a copy of Microsoft Publisher. I added the file as a picture to a blank, custom size and then added text labels for every name on the map. In adding these, I had to adjust size and font to get the necessary result. Also, with publisher it worked best to scroll using the mouse or the scroll-bars in the application since moving the picture threw of the text box alignments. But this same caveat with text boxes proved useful later. Additionally, some places needed to be pointed out in detail so I used the shapes function to select an arrow to indicate specific location details.
Once I finished labeling the map, I could zoom in closer to make screen-shots of specific areas so they would be large enough to see. If I need to enlarge them I’ll use Gimp for the adjustment. However, when zooming I found that larger labels might be partially cut-off the view. I simply moved the text box and re-sized it to fit the area I needed.
Now I have custom maps of various locations that I can use in The Bow of Destiny and An Arrow Against the Wind as well as free, related short-fiction such as What Is Needed . These maps will be added to the final copy for formatting. I’ve included a few screen-shots as final results.
Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comments section.
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About the Author
P. H. Solomon lives in the greater Birmingham, AL area where he strongly dislikes yard work and sanding the deck rail. However, he performs these duties to maintain a nice home for his loved ones as well as the family’s German Shepherds. In his spare time, P. H. rides herd as a Computer Whisperer on large computers called servers (harmonica not required). Additionally, he enjoys reading, running, most sports and fantasy football. Having a degree in Anthropology, he also has a wide array of more “serious” interests in addition to working regularly to hone his writing. The Bow of Destiny is his first novel-length title with more soon to come.
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I drew my map using Corel Painter. I’m not patient enough to draw by hand, nor do I have a drawing table. Your comments about enlarging specific areas will be useful, though. The clips you show are very well done.
Thanks, I drew mine so long ago that I had to go by hand. When I create a new map, I’ll investigate ways to do that digitally. Fellow fantasy author, Russell Kirkpatrick, is also a cartographer and created is own, very detailed maps. I may contact him and do an interview about the subject.
Hi Patrick…I create maps of all of my lands. I started using them solely for reference, but now I include them in my books. I think the readers enjoy seeing the lay of the land that they’ve journeyed through. I used photoshop for my maps.
Great tip, Ed. Maybe I can get you to write a quest blog about your fantasy mapping process. I’ll be creating these for future series so that they are digital from the beginning. I think maps are very important for readers to connect with the story since the world and plot are completely new to them. Thanks for commenting & visiting today.