View Full Version : Mapping a mega-city hand-drawn

07-29-2011, 04:22 PM
So, I find myself working on a huge city as a commercial commission, though even the publisher is letting me decide how big the city really is. First I create a general overview of the city based on available geography, and what geographic elements I can include. After which I create a vector outline shape of the entire city area, cut canals out of the central regions, finally I place 4 point lines for streets to figure out the kind of street grid I want. Then I print this out on a large format laser printer, cover with tracing paper and begin hand-drawing. Because of the commercial nature of the project, I can't really show much (NDA and all) so attached with a close-in view probably one eighth the total city area. Note overall, I've created 8200 buildings for an estimated total city population of 80,000.



07-29-2011, 04:31 PM
Wow, that's quite a task. Especially with what looks like a more "European" street layout, that'll take much longer to do the street layout for than a simple grid.

07-29-2011, 04:36 PM
Well street grid as per publisher's desires, but I created all 8200 buildings, all streets, trees, and georgraphic features in 12 hours of hand-drawing. All I have left to do is create the fortress/palace, samurai district, a temple compound in the imperial district, plus a few temple compounds outside the imperial district - perhaps another 4 hours of work and it will be complete. (Plus I got a raise, based on the quality so far.)

07-29-2011, 04:50 PM
I *really* like the feel of this. It's very convincing. Really nice variety of building and lot shapes and the relative building sizes look great.

Interesting work-flow. Wouldn't it be quicker just to hand draw from the beginning with a pencil, rather than to do it in vector if you're going to trace the result anyway?

07-29-2011, 04:56 PM
All I did for vector was draw the banks of the main river (a second river, not shown in this inset view), the coast, the bridges and the street plan. I did not create any vector buildings. Once I traced the different areas, cut canals, the banks and shores, I traced the streets. Then I started to hand-draw each building individually looking at the street plans. Deciding as I go along where a temple should go, a cemetery or other fiddly details. But I almost never do pencil only, as it would need to be inked afterwards - and I hate drawing things twice. So I always draw with pen from the get-go. The vector was just to aid me in overall layout - not individual building placement.

07-29-2011, 05:01 PM
Ahhh gotcha, that makes a lot of sense. Hand drawing really adds vibrancy to a drawing, especially a city I think.

Steel General
07-30-2011, 08:41 AM
Large cities are a killer, but this is looking quite nice so far.

07-30-2011, 12:48 PM
What a huge project! Looks very good so far.
Have you estimated how long it will take to finish it?

07-30-2011, 01:40 PM
I got the urban sprawl done in 12 hours of hand-drawing. I have been waiting for the adventure's author to send me his maps that I need to include in the final map. He just sent them to me on Friday (so 6 day delay from where I stopped to having his map pieces to include.) I will finish the map on Sunday. Total hours of drawing will likely be 16 hours. Note, while I might finish this map in color with beveled shapes, etc - its not necessary to do for the publisher and I am only being paid for the hand-drawn linework. So once that 16 hours of drawing is done - the map commission will be complete. Anything else I do is just personal work.

That said, I've been notified that the publisher intends to keep me busy all the time. They have a world full cities that haven't been mapped, so it looks like I will be the permanent city cartographer for their entire world. So many more maps to create - and good commissions too. I have never been paid this much for a map before - almost like full time work, or work every single week anyway.

08-06-2011, 09:38 PM
Just got back from one day at Gencon - I have my Kaidan adventures - printed versions in my hands!

Oh, and when I finally talked with Wes Schneider, the managing editor at Paizo who gave me this city map assignment. I learned that Saturday morning, before I finally met him, he gave two seminars on writing adventure material for Paizo, my name came up in both of them. What you don't know, is before I sent him any of hand-work completed. I sent the vector outline shape with rivers and canals cut. Because canals consisted of long straight lines and 90 degree angles, Wes was given some pause, as he definitely did not want a modern square grid for streetplan. I promised him I wouldn't do that, except for straight streets on either side of the canals - and posted photos of old Osaka that showed the same kind of straight canals. However, once he seen the hand-drawn work he flipped out (in a good way). So he brought the avoidance of straight lines in proposed adventure material, but made a point that if done well, he'd have no problem with it. So that's how how my name came up in the seminar discussion. Interesting, didn't imagine my name would come up in a Paizo seminar - I guess they like the map!

Also might be creating some Deadlands old west town maps for Savage Mojo games, also talked with Castles and Crusades publishers, several small 3pps and it looks like I'll be doing one or two annuals for ProFantasy - so made lots of contacts for one days showing. I had a good time.


08-06-2011, 10:02 PM
I had a good time...

Sounds like you had a lot of honor and things to be proud of for one day ;-)
It's awesome that you have those commissions coming up, I hope you'll be able
to show some extracts here.

Because canals consisted of long straight lines and 90 degree angles...

Here in Thailand it was common to build such canals, too. In Chiang Mai (2nd biggest city 'The Rose of the North') you will
find those arranged in several squares. Small bridges are leading over those canals and in cases of invasion it was easy to
destroy these bridges to encapsulate certain parts of the city. (A few other cities here use the same system)


08-06-2011, 10:36 PM
Thanks, Moe!

Also forgot to mention, the city map I did for Paizo was supposed to be a preliminary map so that another cartographer could finish, but now its been decided that I should finish this map and get full credit for the map. It will be a full page in the adventure, as part of the gazetteer I was hired to create it for - as well as included in a map pack with a version of this map at 17" x 22" size - so I've got the full credits as the cartographer (and more pay). Wes also introduced me to their art director whose got ideas for other projects than just Paizo's Adventure Paths - so I really hit it big for Paizo, and being one of the largest RPG companies in the world, this kind of puts me at the top of my game, as a freelancer.

I am very honored with the events of today!


08-06-2011, 11:32 PM
Congrats, GP. I'm looking forward to seeing this city map when you're done with it. Always a big fan of the city map.

08-07-2011, 08:10 AM
Wow, that's great news, GP. Well done and I look forward to seeing your stuff for them. :)

Steel General
08-07-2011, 08:16 AM
Congratz and continued good luck.