Some time ago, I created a small map for my campaign. It was designed for use as a background for my notebook. That way I was always looking at it which kept me thinking about the campaign. :)

Time For a Bigger Map

Now it’s time to start work on a large-scale map. I’m planning on printing it out at 3’ x 3’. When designing images for a computer screen, 72 dots per inch (dpi) is typical. However, if you want to print something out, 300 dpi is pretty much minimum with 600 dpi being preferable.

A 3’ x 3’ drawing, at 600 dpi, equates to 21,600 x 21,600 pixels. A single pixel requires 3 bytes (24-bits) to store the color information. Therefore, this drawing will require 1.4 GB per layer (uncompressed), and could easily require dozens of layers. My antique version of PhotoShop (v7) is sputtering just thinking about it. I could upgrade to a newer version of PhotoShop ($600) plus various filters and add-ons that I use with it ($500+), or use G.I.M.P. (free alternative but then filters and add-ons aren’t compatible).

Fortunately, there is another alternative. Campaign Cartographer 3 (by ProFantasy) is a vector-based mapping program built on top of a powerful CAD engine. Being vector-based, resolution isn’t a consideration. When the drawing is done, you simple export at whatever resolution you want and there is no pixilation from resizing because you don’t resize. You export what you need and the vectors are drawn appropriately to match your selection. That means you can work with a small file and still produce a large-scale image.

Converting My Raster Map to a Vector Map

I already have a raster map (pixel-based) that I created in PhotoShop. I want to use it as a base. The first thing I need to do is convert it to a vector image. If there is a simple automated way of doing this, I don’t know what it is. What I did was create a map in CC3 that is 500 miles square and then loaded the PNG file into CC3 as a symbol, resizing it so it fit appropriately within the constraints of the map. Then I created a landmass in CC3 by tracing the outline from the PNG. When I was done, I could hide the layer with the PNG image and have a raster-based landmass to start from. I will use the same technique when it comes time to do the mountains, forests, etc.

What I Have So Far

A benefit of using CC3 is that it simplifies a great many map-making chores. It has all sorts of tileable textures to choose from making it easy to create a beautifully textured ocean and landmass with a minimum of work. Also, although you can’t see it in this small image, CC3 has powerful effects such as blur, glow, shadow, etc that really make an image pop.

Here is what I have so far. I zoomed in when I created the outline for the landmass, and used the fractal drawing tools, to create a detailed coastline. There is an outer glow that makes the landmass stand out, and an inner glow that gives the impression of beaches at the edge of the coast. Both of these are designed to be seen when printed at 36″ x 36″ so they aren’t really visible in this small version.

As I progress, I will occasionally post updates and describe how certain effects were created. Once, I feel a bit more proficient, I will also start creating tutorials. I’ve already learned to do some really amazing things with lighting as well as some incredible modifications to the menu system that make symbol management much easier (at least for me) to deal with.

Printing a Large Scale Map

Before I started, I drove down to Kinkos to ask about printing. I wanted to know what sort of cost I would be looking at and what limitations (if any) the printers might have. Up to 11″ x 17″ can been done on color laser printer/copiers relatively inexpensively. Beyond that requires more advanced printers that cost more but can handle up to 42″ wide. Up to 60″ can be done but that requires sending it off.

I told them that I wanted a 3’ x 3’ map and that cost was a big concern. The least expensive option was $7.25 per square foot plus $3.00 per square foot if I wanted it laminated. That comes to $65.25 (or $92.25 laminated) for a 3’ x 3’ map. That’s way more than I had anticipated.

I asked for help on the Cartographer’s Guild website. GamerPrinter, one of the members, runs a printshop that specializes in printing fantasy maps. Here is his response:

Except you have to add $10 for shipping (rolled in a tube), I charge $2.99 a square foot printed onto satin gloss 190 gram photo paper, so a 3′ x 3′ map would cost $26.97. Lamination is $6.75 more for 3′ x 3′ using 5 mil lamination. I have shipped throughout US, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Europe and Asia/Australia. Though overseas shipping is USPS is $16+ and takes at least 15 days, doing it faster costs way too much ($100). Also map prints are pretty light weight, so cost of shipping is more size of tube not weight. A single tube can hold many unlaminated maps or three laminated ones for same shipping cost.

Even with shipping, that’s approaching half the cost I was quoted at Kinkos! As an added bonus, I get to go through a CG member in the process. I will do all my printing through him from now on.