UKH

/ Map drawing software

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Andy Johnson on 30 Sep 2018

I'm pondering a project that would involve drawing some maps of a landscape that is described in a work of fiction (written by a proper author, not me). I'd need to create some simple OS- style topographic maps, and also some plans of streets and maybe buildings.

I'm a rubbish artist. Can anyone recommend some software that might allow me to produce consistent results? I've found software for generating fantasy Tolkein-style maps but that's not really the visual style that I want. What should I be considering?

wintertree - on 30 Sep 2018
In reply to Andy Johnson:

Pen and paper!  The best maps I’ve ever made (not saying much) were done that way.  

There are a lot of editors and graphics generating packages with different and customisable styles for openstreetmap but it’s a bit of a learning curve!  

My suspicion is fake contours are going to really suck to make look good except freehand inking or tracing over sketches.  You might look in to “procedural” terrain generation and then contour generation with GDAL.

What’s your budget?

what the hex on 30 Sep 2018
In reply to Andy Johnson:

You could throw something together using Illustrator or Corel Draw. Both are vector editing apps, messing around with them could produce some nice, professional looking images. Use the layers to stack different elements (contours on one layer for example, topography on another)

If you don't have access to these then Inkscape is free but I dont know how to use that.

cander - on 30 Sep 2018
In reply to Andy Johnson:

There is a military simulation game called Armed Assault, if I recall it has an add on that is a terrain generator called Visitor 3 contained in BI tools 2.5 , that might be useful for you as it allows you to make your own islands from scratch. 

Jack B on 30 Sep 2018
In reply to Andy Johnson:

These maps:

https://opentopomap.org/#map=13/56.79975/-5.00856

https://www.openstreetmap.org/#map=13/56.8008/-5.0183&layers=C

are both drawn using an open-source (i.e. free) package called Mapnik. I think they look petty good. The downside is that 1)Mapnik is hard to use, even if you start with an existing stylesheet, and 2) it is designed to work with decent quality terrain/map databases, rather than freehand drawing, so you'd need to learn that too. Unless you plan to do a <i>lot</i> of maps, it may not be worth the learning time.

Martin Hore - on 30 Sep 2018
In reply to Andy Johnson:

Hi Andy

Looks like I'm the first to reply with experience of drawing orienteering maps. I do a lot of that. The lead software in this field for ages has been OCAD. The current version OCAD12 will set you back a lot of money. OCAD 6 used to be available as a free download though I can't find it on the current site. They do offer "OCAD starter" and "OCAD trial" though that might work for you.

However, probably better for you is Open Orienteering Mapper (OOM). This is open source software so completely free. I think it's probably easier for a beginner to get to grips with. I think it's also more consistent with general commercial CAD software such as AutoCAD so you might be more able to find someone to help you get started.

The links are below:

https://www.ocad.com/en/

https://www.openorienteering.org/apps/mapper/

Is an option just using a map of a real area - would save you a lot of work. In which case Jack B's suggestions might work for you.

Hope that helps.

Martin

 

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Andy Johnson on 01 Oct 2018
In reply to wintertree:

Thanks for replying. Pen and paper is tempting, and in an ideal world would produce the kind of results I'd like, but I don't think I have the necessary skills. Your mention of contours is interesting as I had't given that any thought, and I'm now thinking about alternative and less literal ways of depicting topography.

> What’s your budget?

Not much. This is a personal amusement project for long winter nights. It wouldn't make any money.

Andy Johnson on 01 Oct 2018
In reply to what the hex:

Thanks. I've used inkscape a fair bit and if I go down that route I'd probably need a basic graphics tablet. I don't think by budget would stretch to buying a copy of Illustrator though! Thanks for the suggestions.

Andy Johnson on 01 Oct 2018
In reply to Jack B:

Mapnik looks very interesting. As far as I can tell from a quick read of the (hard to find) wiki docs, it takes input data defined in something like GDAL and renders it using a stylesheet. The output looks really good. I'm happy working with XML, so this might be an option and something I'd like to know about anyway, but it might also turn into a fascinating distraction from the objective of the project. I'll have a look to see what pre-built stylesheets are available, and what the complexities of generating the input markup are, Thanks for the suggestion!

Andy Johnson on 01 Oct 2018
In reply to Martin Hore:

Thanks! OOM looks like a really strong possibility. The starter edition of OCAD is about £50, which is also doable, I'll have a go with a free trial.

wintertree - on 01 Oct 2018
In reply to Andy Johnson:

> Your mention of contours is interesting as I had't given that any thought, and I'm now thinking about alternative and less literal ways of depicting topography.

I’ve long been a great fan of Tolkein’s style, also seen on old maps.  Have a look at the National Library of Scotland’s historic maps online for examples of other styles.

Googling “fractal landscape” and “procedural terrain” for ways of making nice looking landscapes with a computer.  You can then turn these into shaded relief maps (some lovely OSM / Mapnick stuff linked above and via google), contours with GDAL or computer generated 3D images with fog at sunset for the cover page, perhaps using POV-Ray (although people 20 years my junior all seem to use Blender...)

Edit:  Oh My.  The NLS have now got a modern, seamless dragable and zoomable interface to the late 19th century 1” OS maps for the whole of Great Britain.  It’s gorgeous.  The “OS One-Inch, 1885-1903 Hills” is another mountain style - they draw gradient descent lines (where a marble would roll), not contours.  

Post edited at 11:24
Andy Johnson on 01 Oct 2018
In reply to wintertree:

Me too. I remember drawing Tolkein-style maps in pencil as a child after becoming fascinated by the maps in The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings. I still love those maps and I have a large reproduction of the LOTR Middle Earth map that I really must get framed and hung on the wall. I still like sitting down with a cup of tea and an OS map.

The package that I found for creating that style of map is called Campaign Cartographer (https://www.profantasy.com/products/cc3.asp) and seems to be widely used by fantasy/ D&D game designers/players for constructing worlds.

The NLS collection is fantastic. David Rumsey (https://www.davidrumsey.com/) has a massive collection of old maps that can be viewed and zoomed.

Post edited at 11:55

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