Lesson 0 – Choosing a Project
Lesson 1A – Research Part 1
Lesson 1B – Research Part 2
Lesson 2 – Topography
Lesson 3 – Form and Style
I realize this is where you all probably thought I was going to start. “How to Draw a Map. Well here are some ways to draw rivers…” No friends. We start from the root here!
But now we are indeed to the point where we get to examine what we want our map to look like. Whatever you choose, make sure that the point of your map, the path, the important landmarks, remain very clear. Don’t obscure your story with stylization.
This step is extremely subjective. As usual, I will walk you through how I went through the process on the Link’s Awakening map below.
Sometimes you know exactly what you want. You want it to resemble modern subway maps. Ancient Viking maps. That cool paper cutout look you saw in a magazine. Pick a reference to emulate. I guarantee that even if you draw trees just like your source, your map with its strong central theme, will look completely different than your reference source.
Subconsciously, I ask myself these questions:
- Will North be at the top of the page?
- Illustrated or topographically focused?
- What angle do I want the perspective to be? (Answer: whatever shows the story the clearest)
- Ancient or modern?
- Based on a specific culture?
- Color or black and white?
This is usually enough to at least find my way through the research so I can find references to use. Once you’ve gotten an overall look in mind, take your specific location reference and start noodling around with how you want each of the features to look. Then it’s on to rendering the whole thing.
So I determined in the last post that the mountains rose up in the North. Since I know for sure that I want it to be illustrated, the mountains will obscure things if I turn it too wildly. So North up top. What perspective angle? I made several sketches to see what looked best. Then I messed with the shape of the island. You can see that in these thumbnails:
I have a tendency to go kind of old world on my maps (though I haven’t taken it all the way with the awesome border. Soon friends. Soon). I started thumbing through some modern maps online and I could feel my shoulders rising and my eyes squinting… Not a good sign. So I kept digging around. Hilariously I landed on something I decided to run with: Dell Mapbacks mystery map illustrations.
An assortment of scans from the web
Now I’m not committing to the color scheme or rendering in the exact same way, but I like how everything is laid out and the angle on the buildings. For this example, I’m going to work on a small area rather than doing the equivalent of “Draw 3 circles, draw the dragon, add detail” by presenting the whole map at once.
This is obviously a sketch. I’ll be honest and say that I haven’t gotten out my big paper to start on the final. But doing a small section can tell you how big a sheet you will need to capture the level of detail you want. Here’s what I took from my resources:
- From an official image of Link on the beach, the shape of those lumpity beach towers
- From the game, the patterned look of the waves
- From the Dell book covers, the outlined form of the foliage mixed with directional shading (messed up a little on the sketch in that aspect) and the regularity of the perspective.
Still working on smashing the elements together but I’m getting there! Oh and this one will be in color which we will tackle soon.
Step 4: Think about your final product and the general style you’re wanting to emulate. Use the landmark references that you’ve collected and meld that into to the look of your artistic reference. Start creating small areas at a time.