Sunday, October 16, 2016

How to go from paper to digital, or, How I make maps

I was recently asked about my process, the way in which I clean my maps. So I will go through the process as much as I am able here. I am starting with a completed piece and simply going over the computer part of the process.

1) Scan your piece and open in am art program, here I am using GIMP because it is awesome.

2) Next I clean it up a little, reducing the image to just the parts you want to use. In this case I have removed the extra parts of my Moleskine journal I draw in so that all that remains are the actual drawing parts. I also rotate the image to how it will appear in the final map.

3) Next I copy the image over to Inkscape, I just use ctrl+c and ctrl+v because I am old school and know all those keyboard shortcuts. Once the piece is in Inkscape, I select "Trace to Bitmap" under Paths in the menu bar.

3.5) Next I change the settings to how they appear here. I up the Threshold slightly and check the remove background. It took me a while to mess around get these settings but this is where I like them.

4) Copy the resulting image back into GIMP. What you should get is a pure black and white version of your image. I am aware there are other ways to accomplish this same feat using filters and whatnot but I have been using this process for about two years now and I am an old grognard. I like this method.
Now, if you look close you will see that some spots that were faint in the original piece look pretty crappy after the Inckscape processing, look at the OCT 8 "Rock" for reference. This I will need to go over in GIMP slightly with the pen tool to fix. Sometimes I will also reproduce the layer and merge it on itself, effectively making the ink thinker/stronger.

5) Next up I use the "Color to Alpha" tool under the Color menu to produce a black only image, allowing me to color on new layers beneath it and not fear ruining the black map layer.

6) The resulting image should look something like this. Here I have pasted it into my 'stock' background that I put all my maps into.

7) The next step is the tedious, but more artistic, of the steps. Coloring. I create new layers such as 'walls', 'floors', etc and color using a brush I made and simply go about coloring the various aspects of the map.

I hope you like this and find it useful. It really is quite an easy process to get your drawn image into GIMP and ready for coloring. If you end up using this process please share it with me, I would love to see what others create using this simple process.

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  1. Replies
    1. Thanks! People seem to be enjoying it because it keeps being shared and plussed.

  2. Back in my college years, I used to draw and color a lot more with Photoshop. Had a filter for removing background. But reading this makes me want to get back into artistry again. I may have to download this!

    1. GIMP is super easy, especially if you have some experience with Photoshop, you should take a stab at it!

    2. I downloaded GIMP a while back in hopes of making cool graphics but it went unused for several years before I finally deleted it. I think I need imaging software with a built-in Inspiration tool.