View Full Version : Symbol Scale Guidelines

04-24-2012, 07:52 PM
Not sure if this has been addressed before; if it has, it's neither in my memory or the search I just did ....

Since I started trying the hand-drawn mapping gig, I've been seriously struggling with symbol scale. Looking back at the one hand-drawn map I've done that I actually liked (Velaidin Empire (http://www.cartographersguild.com/showthread.php?10275-The-Velaedin-Empire)) I realize now that the vast majority of symbols were too small and therefore there was some serious symbol overkill. While I know intellectually that the symbols should be bigger on the page the smaller the area you're mapping, I never seem to get that size right. I've referenced a ton of historical/inspirational maps and for some reason it's just not clicking. Maybe it's my artistically-challenged nature lol, but it seems like most of the folks I really admire seem to just do it right by instinct -- whereas my instincts for this are terminally flawed.

Does anyone have any advice/guidelines/rules they follow to keep everything looking proportional to the size of the map?

Mark Oliva
04-25-2012, 01:18 AM
I suspect this won't address your needs, but the base scaling of the commercial cartographic programs might give you a starting point:

Fractal Mapper (TM) 8: 1 foot = 50 Pixels (can be made flexible by settings in default.xml)
Dundjinni (TM): 1 foot = 40 Pixels
Campaign Cartographer (TM) 3 Dungeon Symbols: 1 foot = 100 Pixels
Campaign Cartographer 3 Other Symbols: 1 foot = 40 Pixels

04-25-2012, 02:01 AM
Well, there are a few things to consider:

First, what is the extent of the map, and how big are the actual features being represented. If you don't know the extent right from the beginning, you are going to be in trouble later for all sorts of reasons. Before you draw anything, you should know where it is on the globe, and how much area it covers. Once you know that, you can calibrate everything else based on it. You can draw any features big enough to be visible on the map at their real size then without any particular difficulty.

Second, if the map is meant to look like a real person in the setting made it with real tools and materials, then you need to have an idea of what those tools and materials can do. This will give you a minimum resolution of sorts that you can produce (Which will probably be quite a bit lower than the actual resolution you work at if using raster graphics). If the notional cartographer has only a particular set of pens, than that defines the range of line widths you can use for instance and so the size you can draw a symbol and have it be recognizable.

Third, consider how the map will be used, again, this may be notional as a nautical chart of Middle Earth will never really be used as a nautical chart, but you still want it to look like it could be. A wall hanging map will probably be seen from further away and so need larger symbols for instance.

04-25-2012, 08:28 AM
Thanks Mark! That will help for battlemat-scale stuff :)

Hai, that helps a lot! There's some stuff in there I wouldn't have considered, thanks!

04-25-2012, 10:25 AM
It also occurs to me that part of my problem is the discrepancy between print resolution and screen resolution. Stuff just looks bigger on screen than it will printed.

04-27-2012, 10:44 PM
It also occurs to me that part of my problem is the discrepancy between print resolution and screen resolution. Stuff just looks bigger on screen than it will printed.

I'm sure dpi settings obscure this a bit, but one thing I've done is to check a ruler against a grid on screen to find out what zoom percentage actually gives me true size. For example, in inkscape for one inch on screen to represent one inch IRL, i need to zoom to 134%, not 100%.

I'm sure you could test this by printing a test page of symbols and comparing them to their on screen size until you found a true-to-sight zoom level.

04-30-2012, 06:02 PM
Ha! Thanks Crudus! I actually found out independently that Gimp has a setting in the preferences that has you do just that (hold a ruler up to the screen to calibrate resolution). I did that, and I'm finding that it's helped *enormously*. Photoshop has a similar setting, but it's not as user-friendly as Gimp's -- so I just typed in the resolution info that Gimp generated for me. Now turning off dot-for-dot (or clicking View Print Size in PS) actually does what it's supposed to!