View Full Version : How do I establish a scale for a map?

09-29-2010, 10:02 PM
I am working on my third place of interest for my Fantasy World Creation Project

The WIP Atlas for which can be found here


And two WIP town/cities found here


and here - http://www.cartographersguild.com/showthread.php?11999-Sweetwater-Port

I am on my third town/city. A run down pirate port of call named Blackfall Point. It can be found on the bottom right hand quadrant of the Atlas Map.

A person participating in the project sent me a rough sketch of the town, but when I go to replicate his basic layout I find myself struggling with the scale perspective of the map. The towers I added to the basic coastline just do not look right to me.

Can someone provide me with basic guidelines on how you go about choosing a sheet size and resolution in Photoshop and your basic approach to deciding building size vs terrain feature size? This is a rather stark desert environment so there is not a lot for my eye to work with and everything I add to the base map just does not look right. Any help provided is very much appreciated.

Thanks All



09-30-2010, 09:35 AM
Hi Raic,

Size / Resolution is primarily driven by whether you want the image for print or web. There's been lots written about it on the guild but if you a search on 'DPI PPI' or similar it should bring out the discussion threads which have lots of good info on them - I think they're in the software subforum. If you're drawing for web, AFAIK there is no magic answer, it depends on your requirements, typically how much detail you want in your picture. One way to test this is to think about the smallest element your picture might have - say a small house. Draw that first - if it looks pixellated at 100% then you need to up your canvas size to a point where it doesn't (that's how I do it anyway, I'm sure there are some better methods out there).

If you want a general procedure, try this:

1. Start with a canvas of 2,000 pix square.
2. Go into Google Earth and find a building / feature reference of a similar size to one you will be using in your map. Use the ruler in Google Earth to measure it.
Copy and paste (print screen) the image into your PS document, trace the outline of your ref building / feature on a new layer and delete the Google Earth image. Use the Analysis / Set Measurement Scale tool (not sure if this is only available in the extended version) to ensure that your reference building / feature is the same size in PS as the reading you got from Google Earth.
3. Take a look at the size and resolution of your ref building / image against the size of the canvas and make a decision as to whether you need a bigger or smaller canvas.
4. Map Away!



09-30-2010, 11:19 AM
Thanks Ravells, I will definately give that a try. I think the issue is that when matching the amount of coastline provided in the sketch it just does not jive with the size of the structures included as well. I think I may do two verions, one with the current base map and much smaller structures and then a zoomed in view with larger, more detailed structures.

Anyway - I am off to dive into some more mapping.

09-30-2010, 12:59 PM
You might find it a good idea to start out at least with a vector map. That way you can adjust everything as you see fit with no resampling problems. If you don't have a vector editor, Inkscape is available for free.

09-30-2010, 05:43 PM
I'm entirely with you there, Hai. I do virtually all my city mapping in vector now. Good luck, Raic!

10-04-2010, 07:47 PM
The first thing I think about is how much detail I want to put into the map, more detail = bigger image size...then I start with a 4,000 x 4,000 image because I can always crop it down. Next I just put down some roads and a coast/river if there is one. The width of the road determines the size of the building shapes. So if my road is drawn with a 9-pixel brush and I want these roads to be main streets then these 9 pixels will roughly equate to a 20 foot wide road (to allow for two carts to go by plus some foot traffic). Thus, my buildings will have to be sized accordingly. If this scale isn't working then I scrap the roads and start over with a different brush and I haven't wasted too much time yet. The terrain features will come later, I just want to get a good layout with approximate scale. Third, I rough in my castle "footprint", cathedral footprint, and some huts and houses. If they look like they fit the roads then I take a few days and put more buildings in.

As to your map, when I look at it, it looks like many miles maybe hundreds of miles. You need more cues to get the visual scale right...roads, buildings, etc. The towers you currently have would make this a small village if done all the way to the end because there isn't enough space. So, just make them smaller, put in some roads, extend that light blue area of the sea, take out the coastal lines, and then see where you stand.

10-04-2010, 08:55 PM
Thanks for the tips everyone. Here is how it ended up turning out.


It looks alright, though before I call it finished I think I need to go back over it and tweak a few of the structures.