View Full Version : Using OpenOffice.org Draw To Create Gaming Maps

06-21-2010, 07:55 PM

I have been planning to introduce my children to the world of desktop gaming for some time now. I want to create my own stories and maps myself so I have been investigating what software will work best for my needs. After trying GIMP, I concluded that I don't have the drawing skills to make that work. Additionally, I want something that will make mapping faster. The software needed to be free and available for any platform.

I finally took a close look at OpenOffice.org Draw, and after several hours of investigation I believe I have finally learned enough about Draw to make the maps I want.

OpenOffice.org Draw on Linux

Reasons To Chose OpenOffice.org Draw

Cost – its free and can be downloaded from OpenOffice.org.
Platform – OpenOffice.org is available for Windows, Mac OS, and Linux.
Shapes – uses shapes to draw images so the need for drawing talent is minimal.
Galleries – offers a “gallery” feature that allows you to group and store shapes for quick reuse later.
Transparency – supports variable transparency on shapes and pictures inserted into a drawing.

How To Use OpenOffice.org Draw

Setup The Options

The first thing I needed to do was set the software options. This is done by going to Tools > Options > OpenOffice.org Draw > Grid. First, I turned on the “Snap to grid” and “Visible grid”. Second, I changed the grid resolution to for both horizontal and vertical to “0.10” of an inch. Third, I changed the “Snap” so it would snap “To the page margins” and “To object points”. I turned off snap “To object frame”.

Option Dialog

06-21-2010, 11:20 PM
I'll have to play around with this - it looks like the sort of thing a lot of my friends would love to use. Thanks for the tutorial, and welcome to the guild!

06-22-2010, 03:37 AM
Hi ubuntu fan - nice little tutorial ... if you want more than 5 images, you just make a second post - then you can have 5 more... and so forth :)
and have some rep for your nice work with my mace of nice repping +4 :)

06-22-2010, 07:38 AM
I decided to create two different kinds of maps. I wanted to be able to make both hexagonal and square maps. Since I only have a simple color printer that can only print on Letter size paper, I opted to make the size of my basic terrain shapes one inch square. I did this by using the “Basic Shapes” found in the toolbar at the bottom of the Draw program. After drawing the basic shape on the canvas I set the properties of the shape. This can be done by selecting the shape and then do one of the following: a) Press the F4 key, b) right click on the shape and select “Position and Size...”, c) using the menus choose Format > Position and Size. Make sure the “Keep ratio” is unchecked, then change the width and height of the shape to one. Since the terrain tiles have to remain the same size, in the Protected section I checked “Size”. This way I will not accidentally change the dimensions of a terrain shape while building maps.

Position and Size Dialog for Shapes

Combine map shapes to create the design you are looking for. When you are satisfied with your shape, select all of the shapes that make up your custom shape, then right click on any one of the selected shapes and select "Group" from the popup menu. All of the individual shapes of your new shape will now behave as a single shape. If you ever need to edit a shape that is combined into a group, simply right click on it and select "Enter Group". You will then be able to edit the individual shapes that make up the group.

Note: Groups can be nested within other groups.

Below are samples of my early attempts at custom shapes. (Compass Rose, Buildings, Terrain Tiles)


06-22-2010, 07:49 AM
After creating shapes that I plan to reuse, I create a gallery to store them for later. Begin by opening the gallery by clicking on Tools > Gallery. In the gallery pane the “New Theme...” button lets you create a new theme that will appear in the scrolling list. Then you can add shapes to the theme by making sure it is selected on the left, then drag the shape from the canvas into the gallery space on the right.


The dragging is a little tricky. It is accomplished by clicking and holding the left mouse button on the shape until the cursor changes appearance. Then it will allow you to drag the shape into the gallery pane.

Note: Since galleries are listed in alphabetical order, I found it helpful to start all of my map galleries with "Map" so they would be listed together.

For my purposes I created the following galleries:

Maps Buildings - contains shapes resembling different roofs.
Maps Cities - contains the silhouette city icons for world/area maps.
Maps Compass - contains compass roses.
Maps Furniture - contains top down views of furniture.
Maps Legends - contains bordered legends in which I display the map name, etc.
Maps Plants - contains top down views of plants similar to those found in landscaping software.
Maps Terrain - contains hexagonal and square terrain shapes for all types of maps (area, indoor, dungeons, caves, etc).

06-22-2010, 08:12 AM
Polygon Line Tool

For the world/area maps I elected to use hexagons. I created terrain shapes that are draw completely using basic shapes. Because I have snap “To object points” turned on, it is easy to arrange the terrain shapes on the canvas. I created silhouette city icons and insert them on top of the terrain shapes. Then I used the polygon line tool to draw the river and roads. The polygon line tool can be found on the toolbar at the bottom of the program window (see insert). Since it is impossible to draw the line when there is an object under it, I draw the line outside of the canvas. Then I turn on “Edit Points” by clicking the 26084 button. This will also make visible the “Edit Points” toolbar. I drag one end of the line to the starting point of the river/road. I then drag the other end of the line to the ending point of the river/road. To make the river/road follow the contours of the hexagons I use the “Insert Points” 26085 button to add a new point to the line, then I drag it to the point on the hexagon. Snap “To object points” makes this easy. I keep inserting points until I have made the line match the path I want for the river/river. I also used a line to emphasize the boundary between the land and the sea.

Sample Area Map

06-22-2010, 08:14 AM
I may need help from an administrator to help me clean this up. I am not sure I have done this tutorial correctly.

06-22-2010, 08:21 AM
you could rewrite the tutorial and post it as a pdf later, then you aren't depeding on how the forum works :)

06-22-2010, 10:49 AM
What tilt said ^ ^

Take a look at the tutorial section and you will see many of the tutorials are done as .pdf

btw, this is pretty neat for what you are using. Have some rep from me too.

06-22-2010, 03:46 PM
I may need help from an administrator to help me clean this up. I am not sure I have done this tutorial correctly.

Your posts were caught up in the moderation queue. Those darn slacker CL's weren't doing their jobs! You just can't get good help when you are paying with rubber bands and navel lint :P

-Rob A>

06-23-2010, 04:40 PM
For finding your own way with an unusual software choice, have some rep.

06-26-2010, 03:35 AM
Cool tut!

Can/would you make your shapes gallery downloadable?